Thousands of fish feared dead following fire


A shop owner from Seattle in the US fears tens of thousands of fish will have died following a fire above his store on Christmas Eve.

The 100-year-old building on South King Street in the Chinatown district, houses eight businesses — one of them an aquatic shop owned by Djin Kwie Liem, which has been trading there since 1979.

But a fire broke out in the vacant upper part of the building at around 4pm on Christmas Eve, causing extensive damage. Dozens of fire trucks attended the scene and people living in surrounding homes had to be evacuated.

Liem was only allowed back into his ground floor shop shop briefly on Thursday to pick up a few personal belongings, cash and receipts.

There's no power to the building following the fire, so the shop's tanks are without heat, oxygen and filtration. Liem had to use a flashlight to see what he was doing. He told The Seattle Times that he couldn't bear to look into any of the tanks to see the fate of the thousands of fish.

Liem had only received a shipment of about 5,000 goldfish the day before the fire, and an additional 4,000 a fortnight earlier, ready for the Chinese New Year. The Chinese consider goldfish good luck, so this is a particularly busy time for him.

He estimates that 20,000 fish may have been lost, including tropical specialities such as Fighters and Corydoras along with fancy goldfish and Koi.

Liem knows there's little hope for the tropicals, but hopes that some of the coldwater fish could still make it.

Fire officials say the upper areas of the building are so damaged that the cause of the blaze may never be known and business owners have been told it could be weeks before they find out if they can ever reopen.

The same building was the site of the Wah Mee massacre in 1983 — the deadliest mass murder in Washington State history — when 14 people were gunned down by three men in the downstairs Wah Mee gambling club. Thirteen died, but the survivor was able to testify against the gunmen.

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70 bathers bitten by piranhas in Argentina


More than 70 people were injured after a school of fish attacked bathers in the Parana River on Christmas Day.

Thousands of bathers are reported to have taken to the water at Rosario — a city located around 185 miles north of Buenos Aires — due to the extreme temperatures, which topped 38°C.

But around mid-morning, people began to shout that they had been bitten.

Medical officials described the attack as "very aggressive", with some of those bitten having lumps of flesh torn from them. Some of the children who were injured are reported to have lost entire digits.

The fish responsible was described by bathers as 'palometa': a carnivorous fish of the piranha family — probably Pygocentrus palometa.

Officials said the unusually warm weather may have been responsible for the fish congregating at the water surface prior to the incident.

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Goldfish abandoned in ditch needs a new home


A 20cm/8" long goldfish had to be rescued after it was abandoned in a ditch in West Sussex.

The fish was discovered swimming in just 10cm/4" of water — barely enough to cover it — by one of the volunteer grounds staff at the WWT Arundel Wetland Centre.

The goldfish has been christened Bauble and is currently swimming in a pond used for pond dipping activities at the centre during the spring and summer months. However, staff are hoping to find a new home for him in another pond and are appealing to members of the public to adopt him.

Sam Halpin, who is the grounds warden at the centre, told the Littlehampton Gazette: "We have to segregate Bauble as he is a non-native species in the UK. Many invasive aquarium plants, non-native fish and water borne diseases are spread by thoughtless people disposing of the contents of their aquariums and ponds into waterways in the countryside."

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Last remaining Madagascan fish discovered following worldwide appeal


Aquarists at ZSL London Zoo are celebrating the phenomenal success of a worldwide appeal to find a female mate for a critically-endangered cichlid species – after a small population was found in remote Madagascar.

Aquarists at ZSL London Zoo are celebrating the phenomenal success of a worldwide appeal to find a female mate for a critically-endangered fish species — after a small population was found in remote Madagascar.


 
The Mangarahara cichlid (Ptychochromis insolitus) was believed to be lost in the wild due to intense deforestation and river diversions created for rice farming and agriculture drying up its native habitat of the Mangarahara River in Madagascar (pictured above) and two of the last known individuals — both male — were residing in ZSL London Zoo’s Aquarium.
 
After launching a desperate appeal in May 2013, hundreds of private aquarium owners, fish collectors, and scientists got in touch with the Zoo’s Aquarium Curator, Brian Zimmerman, to offer up advice, support and suggestions.
 
One of those to respond to the appeal was a farm and business owner in Madagascar, who recognised the fish as one he’d seen in a secluded north-Madagascan town.
 
An exploratory expedition was arranged with vital support from HM Ambassador in the British Embassy of Madagascar, so that, along with aquarists from Toronto Zoo in Canada, Brian Zimmerman and Kienan Parbles from ZSL London Zoo could head off to Madagascar to search for the Mangarahara cichlid.


 
After days of searching empty streams, and rapidly losing hope of finding the cichlid, the team visited a tiny village built on the edge of a now-disconnected tributary from the Mangarahara River.
 
With help from local villagers, areas of water were cordoned off using nets to mark the search areas. Initially finding only other native species, the team were ecstatic when they finally found the first one of the last remaining Mangarahara cichlids in existence.
 
Brian Zimmerman said: "We are simply thrilled that we found the Mangarahara cichlid surviving in Madagascar.


 
"We weren’t holding out much hope of finding any fish in the wild, as so much of the Mangarahara River now resembles the desert because of deforestation and intensive agricultural use.
 
"These cichlids have shown remarkable survival skills, and managed to find one of the very last remaining water sources to live in, but their numbers are tiny and the non-flowing water is not an ideal habitat for them. We’re now doing all we can to protect these remaining fish."  
 
As part of ZSL London Zoo’s Fish Net conservation project, which focuses on protecting freshwater species, Brian and the team moved 18 of the Mangarahara cichlids to a private aquaculture facility in Madagascar, where they will receive specialist care while conservation plans are made to bring the species back from the brink of extinction. 

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Piranhas have a new home at Falmouth Marine School


Students from Falmouth Marine School have been busy catching and moving a shoal of piranha in preparation for a breeding project.

The second year marine biology and ecology students spent the last year accumulating a shoal of piranha and have just finished feeding them a quality diet that has left them in top breeding condition.

The fish have been donated from a range of fishkeepers and businesses from all around Cornwall and were held in a special quarantine tank where their health was closely monitored.

Having recently received a donation of a new filtration unit from Tropical Marine Centre, the students decided to use this in a new aquarium that has been themed to mimic the piranhas' natural habitat of the lower Amazon river.

The aquarium was installed within the purpose built 'wet laboratory' at the Marine School where it sits next to other aquarium filled with species that vary from sharks and lionfish to corals and cuttlefish.

The students finished a final inspection of the health of the fish before they carefully caught them in specially reinforced nets and slowly acclimatised them to their newly established home.

Second year student Amberleigh Bracewell said: "Moving a shoal of piranha was a real once in a lifetime experience. We had to be especially careful as they are one of the few species of fish that will try to bite you even if they jump out of the tank and land on the floor.

"We have a fantastic range of marine species at the college and the breeding programme is superb."

Once settled in the new aquarium, the fish should soon start to spawn and the students will be required to carefully remove the delicate eggs before they hatch. The newly hatched fry will be fed specially prepared foods before they're moved to a larger aquarium where their behaviour and feeding habitats will be studied in a project working with internationally renowned feed manufacturer Zebrafish Management Ltd, based in Hampshire.

Course manager, Craig Baldwin said: "The ability to assess the health of any aquatic organism and be able to provide the correct environmental conditions that will encourage them to breed requires the students to develop a range of academic research and practical husbandry skills. Using a species that has such a bad reputation as the piranha is especially exciting for the staff and students."

If you are interested in studying at Falmouth Marine School visit falmouthmarineschool.ac.uk

Two catfish find new homes at Blue Planet Aquarium


Blue Planet Aquarium in Cheshire Oaks has recently taken in two catfish from separate owners after they grew too big for their tanks.

A Red tail catfish (pictured above with Blue Planet's freshwater aquarist, Steve Chester) was donated to the aquarium by a lady who had inherited it from a previous owner. The fish had been well looked after but had eventually grown too large.

It had originally been bought in a shop as a 5cm/2" baby with no warning of the 60cm/5' fish it could eventually grow into. It devoured all the other fish in its tank and very quickly outgrew the 90cm/36" aquarium it was housed in.

The other fish re-homed at the aquarium is a 60cm/24"-long Giraffe catfish which was being kept in a tank so small it could hardly turn round.

Both the fish will go on display at Blue Planet in an exhibit that's currently being re-stocked with large catfish.

The aquarium receives several offers of tankbusters and large fish every month from members of the public whose fish have outgrown their tanks — and it's the same story at other public aquariums and zoos.

BIAZA (the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) has been raising awareness of the problem with its Big Fish Campaign.

The aim of the campaign is to lessen the number of large tropical and marine fish species which have to be rehomed every year by public aquariums and zoos.

Formed by the public aquariums themselves, and supported by many industry experts and hobbyists, The Big Fish Campaign was forged through concern over the high number of large fish species which are sold at a small size and then later have to be rehomed when they have outgrown their owners' tanks.

Commonly rehomed species include Red tail catfish, Tiger shovelnoses, Giant gourami, Pacu and Pangasius. Other problem fish include Niger catfish, Giraffe catfish, large Clarias, Clown knifefish, Leiarius pictus, marmoratus and Perrunichthys perruno, Red snakeheads and Silver arowana.

The Big Fish Campaign was set up a few years ago after it was discovered that over a period of four months, 11 of the UK’s top aquaria had been asked to take on 144 fish that had outgrown their owners' home aquaria.

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Koi stolen from Lancashire pond


Koi estimated to be worth almost £2,000 have been stolen from a garden pond in St. Annes.

The fish were found to be missing from their pond in Albert Road last week by Peter Jenkins and his partner Elaine Whittle.

The front garden pond contained 14 Koi among other fish, which were popular with local children.

Thieves specifically targeted the Koi, valued at more than £100 each.

Miss Whittle told the Blackpool Gazette: "It’s just despicable what some people do.

"They took all the Koi carp. They obviously knew the value of the fish.

"We can’t afford to replace them. We’re struggling to make ends meet as it is, just before Christmas.

"I just hope whoever has stolen the fish looks after them."

The couple have put up a sign by the pond in their front garden asking anyone with information to contact the police.

The theft is believed to have taken place some time between 5.30pm on Saturday, November 30 and 9am on Monday, December 2.

Lancashire Police are appealing to anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the area or has any other information that might help trace the people responsible to call them on 101.

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Firm fined after giant fish tank crushes worker


A Manchester firm has been ordered to pay nearly £90,000 in fines and costs after an employee was crushed by a huge fish tank, resulting in the amputation of part of his leg.

The 2m-wide tank weighing 200 kg had been specially made by the bespoke services department of Alloy Bodies Ltd — a firm which normally manufactures lorry trailers — for one of its directors.

During a six-day trial, Manchester Crown Court heard how the tank was being loaded into the back of a van in June 2010, when it toppled off a forklift truck, hitting one of the workers and breaking both of his legs. Doctors later had to amputate the man's right leg from the knee down and a pin had to be fitted in his left leg. The 59-year-old employee, who asked not to be named, now has a prosthetic limb and is still unable to return to work, more than three years on from the incident.

The court heard that the fish tank hadn't been secured to a pallet before being lifted and due to its sheer size, workers had struggled to load it onto the van.

The firm was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the work had not been planned, supervised or carried out safely.

On December 9, 2013, Alloy Bodies Ltd., of Clifton Street, Miles Platting, was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £56,621 in costs after being found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Alex Farnhill said: "This was an entirely preventable incident which resulted in an employee having to have part of his leg amputated. His whole life has been affected by the shortcomings of this company.

"No effort was made to plan the work in advance, despite it being a highly unusual activity for employees at the factory. The firm should have considered the risks and found a safe way of moving the fish tank.

"If it had been secured to a pallet and loaded onto a larger vehicle, rather than a van, than the terrible injuries the worker suffered could have been avoided."

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Could 10 tiny fry save Devils Hole pupfish from extinction?


Scientists at a new research facility in the US have managed to hatch eggs from the endangered Devils Hole pupfish, whose adult population fell to an all-time low of just 35 earlier this year.

These eggs were the first to be collected from the wild and hatched in a controlled environment. The team at Ash Meadows Fish Conservation Facility in Nevada is hoping that if the fry can be grown on successfully to adulthood it could be the start of a new captive breeding programme, which could save these fish from extinction.

The $4.5 million facility was opened earlier this year and is located less than a mile from Devil's Hole — the deep, isolated pool in which the entire population of Cyprinodon diabolis feeds and breeds in an area of approximately 20 square metres, meaning it has the most restricted range of any vertebrate.

Ash Meadows Fish Conservation Facility is managed for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and includes a 100,000 gal aquarium designed to be an exact replica of Devil's Hole itself, including dark caverns that extend underground and have to be accessed through a hatch next to the building.

This aquarium ranges in depth from 45cm/18" to 6.6m/22' and it will be used for a captive breeding programme if the fry currently being reared manage to make it to maturity.

According to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, of the eggs harvested, 14 hatched and all but four of the fry have now made it to the three-week-old stage. The aquariums in which the young fish are being grown on are very different to those you'd want in your tank at home. They replicate the extreme conditions in Devils Hole, where the water is a constant 33°C/93°F and carries very little oxygen. Everything is computer controlled with back-up systems and automated alerts in case of problems.

Since population surveys began, numbers of the inch-long Devils Hole pupfish have not exceeded 553 individuals. For reasons that are still unclear, the population began to decline in the mid 1990’s and it hit a record low in spring this year.

With such a tiny population, scientists working at the facility have to ensure eggs are only harvested during periods when research has shown that the resulting fry are unlikely to survive.

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Fish safe after major fire at World of Water Cardiff


World of Water Cardiff is closed until further notice after a major fire destroyed the adjoining Blooms Garden Centre on November 20.

Sadly, most of the garden centre was destroyed. However, the World of Water buildings survived with no internal damage although there was a loss of power to fish systems.

The dedicated staff had no option but to tirelessly work to transfer the fish stocks to other World of Water centres where they have been settling in well.

Rob the manager at Swindon reported: "Although it has not been without its challenges we have coped well with the unexpected arrival of Cardiff tropical fish. With constant monitoring of water quality and fish health the fish are now all settling well after their dramatic arrival."

World of Water hopes to have the Cardiff store open again very soon, however at this stage it is unable to give any further details.

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Denison’s barb gets a new name


In continued tidying of the catch-all genus that is Puntius, two fish have now been renamed as Sahyadria: S. denisonii and S. chalakkudiensis.

Readers of a scientific bent, interested in the long-winded specifics of the morphometric data on the fish can find the full report of how they have been identified.

The more everyday fishkeepers will know S. denisonii as the Red lined torpedo barb, a species now classed as critically endangered through a variety of factors including habitat degradation, range restriction, and over collection for the hobby. In the last five years, some 300,000 fish have been collected and exported. Within the genera, six evolutionarily distinct lineages have been traced, all endemic to the Western Ghats region of India.

Red lines were originally placed tentatively in Puntius, though it was noted originally that the two species had a "strikingly different coloration and mouth shape to all other congeners and are likely to warrant placement in a separate genus in the future" (Pethiyagoda et al. 2012).

Now, based on osteological (osteology is the anatomical study of bones) and molecular evidence, Raghavan et al demonstrate that Redlines comprise a distinct genus. The genus sits close to Dawkinsia, with which some S. denisonii have formerly been cross-bred, to create a golden variant.

For those who have never seen S. chalakkudiensis, the key differences involve the intensity and length of the red stripe (greater in both respects on S. denisonii) and the position of the mouth. S. denisonii has a subterminal (slightly downward, forward facing) mouth, where S. chalakkudiensis has an inferior (clearly downward facing) mouth.

Farming efforts have helped to reduce the pressures on wild caught fish, and it’s strongly advised that aquarists query the source of these fish before committing to buying them.

The proposal for the new name comes from Rajheev Raghavan et al from India’s Conservation Research Group, and appears in the November 26 Journal of Threatened Taxa.

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Buy quality fancy goldfish this weekend!


Surrey-based fancy goldfish specialist Star Fisheries is holding an open day on Sunday, December 1.

On the day hobbyists will be able to gaze at and buy fancy goldfish of all varieties, colours and sizes from China, top UK breeders and Japan.

And for Ranchu lovers Star is offering fish from both Jinchu Kai and Suzuki bloodlines with fish bred by top UK breeder Andrew James.

The open day takes place this Sunday from 10am-3pm. Parking is free.

Star Fisheries is at 94A Benhill Road, Sutton, Surrey SM1 3RX. Tel. 0208 915 0455.

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Trio of freshwater rays donated to aquarium


Three freshwater stingrays have been donated to Blue Planet Aquarium at Cheshire Oaks.

The trio of Polka dot or Black diamond rays (Potamotrygon leopoldi) have come from a large private collection. They have been installed in Blue Planet's Flooded Forest display where they have already become a firm favourite both with staff and visitors.

This species is one of the most stunning and sought after freshwater rays in the hobby, and it generally has a high price tag to match. These mature fish — a male and two females — were donated to the aquarium by a fishkeeper via Pier Aquatics of Wigan. Pier also assisted with the transport of the fish to Blue Planet.

Blue Planet Aquarium’s freshwater aquarist, Steve Chester, told the Chester Chronicle: "As a team we are delighted to receive such beautiful specimens of a superb species.

"The fish are under my care as freshwater aquarist, so it’s a big responsibility but they’re already feeding and acting like they have been here far longer than 48 hours!"

"We would like to thank the collector for his very kind donation and we’d also like to thank Pier Aquatics of Wigan."

P. leopoldi hails from the Rio Xingu basin in South America, a region in some peril from the impending threat of dams and aggressive farming.

Blue Planet hopes these rays will breed at the aquarium, allowing the offspring to be distributed to other public aquariums.

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Fisherman discovers Clown knifefish in US lake


The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is warning people not to release aquarium fish into the state's waterways following the discovery of a dead knifefish last week.

A fisherman discovered the 43cm/17"-long fish at North Montpelier Pond in Vermont. The fish was dead when he found it and he contacted the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife where its identity was confirmed.

Department spokesman Shawn Good said: "This was likely someone’s pet. The Clown knifefish is a popular species when they are young and small, but they can often outgrow the confinement of hobby aquariums."

Clown knifefish (Chitala chitala) can reach 120cm/48", although in captivity they rarely reach more than 60cm/24". They're native to Southeast Asia and require tropical temperatures, which is presumably why this one died.

"If this introduction had been a fish species that is able to survive Vermont’s cold water temperatures such as a snakehead, we may have had to take drastic measures to reclaim the water body," Good continued. "When this happens, we are forced to eliminate all of the fish in the pond and then rebuild the pond’s fish stock with native species."

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Tropiquaria hosts Big Fish Roadshow


Tropiquaria, West Somerset’s own zoo and aquarium, is this week hosting the Big Fish Roadshow.

The roadshow, the brainchild of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria (BIAZA) and the National Aquarium Workshop (NAW), is part of a campaign to try and stop people buying small fish of certain species which can grow into immense fish, far too big for the home aquaria.

The Big Fish Campaign started a few years ago when it was discovered that over a period of four months, 11 of the UK’s top aquaria had been asked to take on 144 fish that had outgrown their (domestic) aquaria.

Tropiquaria director Chris Moiser said: "This is a problem that we have encountered locally and only recently we found one local dealer was selling Red-tailed catfish (which can grow to one and a half metres long), and Giraffe catfish which can make almost a metre. Whether or not the purchasers were aware of this remains to be seen."

Tropiquaria’s aquarist Shaun Stevens said the campaign "does not seek to stop people from keeping fish, just to inform, and to dispel the myth that the fish will only grow to fit their tank. It is not fair to expect the local zoo or aquarium to take on your Arowana or Pacu when it grows to be too big for the home. As part of the display we have Buster, a cuddly toy Red-tail catfish who is just over a metre long, and available for photographs. The real fish can of course grow to be bigger than this toy."

On Saturday, November 9 the roadshow will be taken to the Taunton branch of Maidenhead Aquatics at Blackdown Garden Centre, near Wellington, where children can enter the colouring contest (the prize is a cuddly 'Nemo' toy) and have their picture taken with Buster.

Afterwards it returns to Tropiquaria. Later in the tour it visits Bristol Aquarium and several other venues around the country before ending up at the National Museum in Liverpool next March.

The above picture shows Will Trickett, from Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home series, with Buster. Will endorses the campaign and popped into Tropiquaria on Tuesday.

Tropiquaria is open daily until Monday, November 11 and then on weekends and Mondays until the Christmas holidays.

Tropiquaria is located at Washford Cross, Watchet, Somerset, TA23 0QB. Tel. 01984 640688.

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Now your fish can join in the Halloween fun!


It's still not too late to decorate your aquarium for Halloween with this spooky range of ornaments available from Maidenhead Aquatics!

As the nights grow longer and the scary season is upon us, pumpkins, witches and all manner of ghouls and ghosties are starting to make an appearance in homes and shops everywhere.

Perhaps it's only fitting then that your fish join in the festivities with suitably "spooktacular" decorations for their tank, such as these gloriously gruesome "Jack O'Lantern" ornaments from Superfish. A little imagination can go a long way, as shown by this amazing display in the Maidenhead Aquatics store in Guildford.
 
In addition to the pumpkin ornaments displayed to great effect here, the store has also created a suitably eerie and supernatural mood with blue LED lighting.

Prices for the pumpkin ornaments vary from £6.75 to £7.99.

You can check out the rest of the range of decor on the Maidenhead Aquatics website.

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Alligator gar caught in Malaysian lake


A 75-year-old fisherman caught an Alligator gar while fishing in the Bukit Merah Lake in Perak, Malaysia.

Crowds of people gathered round to take a look at the interesting catch, although no one knew what it was.

A Fisheries Department officer later identified the fish, which is native to North America and has a potential length of 3m/10'.

It's not the first time one of these fish has turned up in Malaysia. In January 2008, a 3kg/6/6lb specimen was caught by fishermen in Pahang, after it became entangled in their net.

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Man almost loses foot following infection caused by fish


An Israeli man nearly lost his foot after he was 'stabbed' by the fin of a live Tilapia he'd bought from a fishmonger.

The 64-year-old was putting the fish into a bag when it caught him on the foot with one of its fins, but at the time he thought nothing of it.

Later he began to feel unwell and was rushed to hospital with a high fever along with swelling and blood-filled blisters on his foot. He was diagnosed as suffering from an infection caused by Vibrio vulnificus bacteria.

He spent two months in hospital where he underwent two operations to save his foot.

Infection with V. vulnificus leads to rapidly expanding cellulitis or septicaemia. It's usually incurred after eating seafood, through open wounds when swimming or wading in infected waters, or via puncture wounds from the spines of fish. Infections through wounds have a mortality of approximately 25%.

Health officials in Israel warn of the dangers of buying live pond fish such as Tilapia from fishmongers and recommend frozen, cleaned fish only, due to the dangers presented by Vibrio bacteria.

Dr. Biviana Hazan, head of the infectious disease unit at the Afula hospital, told the Jerusalem Post that the bacteria thrive in fish pond water and are very virulent. She explained that in recent years, a number of people have had to undergo amputation of limbs as a result of Vibrio infection, which can be fatal without immediate treatment.

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More than 80 new species of fish discovered in the Amazon


At least 441 new species of animals and plants have been discovered over the past four years in the vast, under-explored rainforest of the Amazon.

Discovered by a diverse number of dedicated scientists from 2010 to 2013, and compiled for the first time by WWF, this list includes 84 fish.

All new to science, the recently discovered plants and animals have something else in common too. With very restricted ranges, many of the new discoveries are thought to be endemic to small parts of the Amazon rainforest — and found nowhere else in the world. This makes them even more vulnerable to the threat of deforestation that’s currently destroying three football pitches of rainforest every minute across the Amazon.

Some of the fish discovered include a dwarf cichlid that's adapted to extremely low oxygen levels. Apistogramma cinilabra (pictured above) is found nowhere else in the world and is thought to be unique to one small lake in the Loreto region of Peru.

A strictly herbivorous species of piranha, called Tometes camunani, inhabits rocky rapids its main source of food is found — namely, Podostemaceae aquatic herbs (river weed family). Sadly, damming projects and mining activity is threatening the health and flow of this fish's river habitat.

"With an average of two new species identified every week for the past four years, it’s clear that the extraordinary Amazon remains one of the most important centres of global biodiversity," said Damian Fleming, head of programmes for Brazil and the Amazon at WWF. "The more scientists look, the more they find. "The richness of the Amazon’s forests and freshwater habitats continues to amaze the world. But these same habitats are also under growing threat.

"The discovery of these new species reaffirms the importance of stepping up commitments to conserve and sustainably manage the unique biodiversity and also the goods and services provided by the rainforests to the people and businesses of the region."

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Rainbowfish embryos can smell predators


Rainbowfish embryos are not only able to recognise potential predatory threats, but can also differentiate between them as early as four days after fertilisation, while still inside the developing egg.

Australian researchers bred Crimsonspotted rainbowfish (Melanotaenia duboulayi) in an aquarium and left them to develop for four days before moving them to a water-filled petri dish and then adding scented water samples from various sources to see if the embryos reacted to the smell.

The embryos were observed under a microscope to record their heartbeat.

"Rainbowfish are ideal for studying the early development phase, as the eggs are completely transparent and you can see the embryo growing inside," said lead researcher Culum Brown, Associate Professor of the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University.

"When the embryos detect danger their heart rate increases, just as it does if you or I are frightened. Based on the change in heart rate the researchers can gauge how stressful the embryos find various experiences."

The researchers found that while the developing embryos were most affected by native predators such as the Spangled perch, they also responded to introduced predators such as goldfish.

Lead author, Lois Oulton, says one of the most important skills for newborn rainbowfish’ survival is the ability to recognise predators, with this study demonstrating how this skill develops even prior to birth.

"We have known for a long time that some baby animals have a general innate ability to respond to threats, but this ability is fine-tuned as they grow and come into contact with various predators," says Lois.

"The results of this study are really exciting, as they show us that these embryos are capable of some pretty complicated processing even at this young age. Their nervous system is obviously well formed."

Brown says: "The technique is also very useful for studying stress in these embryos more generally. We are currently developing the technique for studying the effects of pollutants on the aquatic environment with a view to informing policy makers."

The research is published in full in PLOS ONE.

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