New ’Ninja’ lanternshark discovered


A new species of lanternshark has been described from the central eastern Pacific Ocean.

The shark has been given the scientific name of Etmopterus benchleyi. The species is named in honour of Peter Benchley, author of Jaws and subsequently an avid shark conservationist. 
The common name of 'Ninja' lanternshark refers to the uniform black colour of the shark and the photophores in its skin it uses to produce a faint glow in the deep, dark water (up to 1443 metres depth) in which it lives. This is thought to act as concealment allowing the shark to blend in with the limited light and making it invisible from below, somewhat reminiscent of the clothes and stealth used by the Japanese ninja. In line with Mr. Benchley’s outreach efforts, the privilege of deciding the common name was bestowed upon four young shark enthusiasts, ages 8 to 14 — relatives of one of the researchers, Victoria Elena Vásquez of the Pacific Shark Research Centre.  
The maximum size of the new shark is at least 51.5cm TL (adult female). 
For more information, see the paper. 
 
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer. 
 
Don't forget PFK is also available in digital format. 
Click here for more information on the iPad or iPhone version.
Alternatively, click here for details of the Android version.  

UK aquatic dealer imported illegal corals


An aquatics dealer from the West Midlands has pleaded guilty to three charges of smuggling endangered corals.

Lee Webster was arrested after officers from the Border Force discovered 24 boxes of live coral at Manchester Airport, due to be delivered to Webster’s business address in Burntwood, Staffordshire, for which he did not have import permits, reports the Manchester Evening News.
The shipment included 136 corals covered by CITES — which means it is illegal to bring them into the EU.
During a raid by officers from the National Crime Agency and Border Force at Webster’s address, evidence was also discovered of two earlier shipments containing endangered corals, which he had smuggled in under a permit for legal species.
Webster admitted the three charges of illegal importation offences and was sentenced last week to 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester.
The corals have been taken to the Blue Planet Aquarium in Cheshire Oaks, where they will go on display.  
The Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association has welcomed the sentence on Webster.
“We do not believe deliberately evading the controls that apply to the import of corals should be regarded as a trivial offence,” said OATA Chief Executive Keith Davenport.
“It adversely impacts the conservation in the wild of the species concerned and undermines honest collectors and exporters in the country of origin. It also clearly jeopardises honest businesses which operate within the law. By offering a wider selection of corals and avoiding the costs of legal imports, this type of operator diverts business away from honest traders.
"And this illegal activity inevitably affects the reputation of the whole industry both in the UK and globally.
"Ultimately we have to ask retailers and hobbyists to be very careful about where they buy unusual or hard-to-get corals from. If what’s on offer seems too good to be true then it probably is and, if you’re a retailer, you should always be asking for the import permit number. Buying from unscrupulous dealers hurts the industry and the hobby, and threatens the conservation of coral species.
"We also have to thank Border Force for pursuing this and we will always support them where there is evidence of criminal activity."
Grant Miller, Border Force’s conservation lead, told Manchester Evening News: "Border Force takes its role in preventing illegal wildlife trafficking very seriously and this seizure of endangered corals shows that we will catch up with criminals who seek to circumvent the law.
"The illicit trade in endangered animals is a serious contributory factor to the threat of extinction faced by many endangered species and something Border Force, together with our partners in the UK and internationally, is determined to stop."
 
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer. 
 
Don't forget PFK is also available in digital format. 
Click here for more information on the iPad or iPhone version.
Alternatively, click here for details of the Android version.  

Video: Cownose ray pup makes history!


A Cownose ray pup is doing swimmingly after being born by caesarian section at an aquarium in the US - and it's thought to be a first!

Staff at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, noticed that one of the female Cownose rays in the 84,000 gal 'Ray Bay' exhibit had not given birth along with the other pregnant rays.
 
Aquarium staff use an ultra sound to track the progress of each female pregnancy. The pup was retained for an extra 6-8 weeks with hopes of a natural birth. When it became clear that wasn't going to happen, the decision was made to perform a caesarian section in the hope of saving both the pup, and its mother.
 
Ripley’s veterinarian Dr. Robert George, performed the operation, assisted by staff. "To our knowledge, this is the first time a caesarian section has produced a live Cownose pup,” said Ryan DeSear, general manager of the aquarium. 
 
Both the pup and the mother are doing well and are both happily swimming together in the tank at Ripley's.
 
You can see a video of the procedure below:
 
 
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer. 
 
Don't forget PFK is also available in digital format. 
Click here for more information on the iPad or iPhone version.
Alternatively, click here for details of the Android version.

Cuttlefish use 'stealth technology' to evade predators


Not only do cuttlefish employ visual camouflage when a predator looms nearby, but new research shows they also manage to cloak their electrical fields.

One of the cuttlefish’s major predators, the shark, has eyes on the side of its head, making it effectively blind straight ahead and near the front of the mouth. So the shark relies instead on a snout studded with sensitive detectors of faint electrical fields to get the meat in the maw.
Consequently, the Common cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis, has figured out a stealth technology to protect itself in the electrical spectrum.
Sharks can sense a faint current emanating from the tube-like siphons on either side of the cuttlefish’s head, the vent where it excretes, and the gap around its mantle. 
These “bioelectric fields” aren’t anything like the 500 volts an electric eel produces. They’re just a tiny electrical artifact of the ion exchanges caused by the animal’s metabolic processes, like respiration. Still, experiments by Christine Bedore at Duke University showed the sharks will bite when they sense these subtle fields.
A common cuttlefish at rest has a bioelectric potential of 10-30 microvolts, Bedore found. That’s about 75,000 times weaker than an AAA battery. But when the animal freezes in place, slows its ventilation, throws its arms around to cover the siphons and clamps down on its mantle, the current drops to about 6 microvolts.
Bedore measured these tiny electrical fields as captive-reared cuttlefish rested comfortably in a tank, and then as they responded to videos from an iPad next to the tank that depicted the dark and growing silhouettes of an approaching grouper, shark or crab 
For the fish and the shark, the cuttlefish froze, covered body openings with their arms and slowed breathing. The crab silhouette inspired no such response.
"There’s a myth that sharks detect the electrical signals of your heartbeat," Bedore said. But skin and other tissues effectively mask those signals. Bedore found that the cuttlefish’s arms over the siphons reduced the bioelectric field by as much as 89 percent.
In an experiment using real sharks and electrodes to simulate a cuttlefish at rest, both juvenile Black tip sharks and adult Bonnethead sharks responded by biting the equipment. But a simulation of the voltage from a cuttlefish’s freezing response resulted in half as many chomps.
Should the freezing trick fail, the cuttlefish’s last-ditch defense is to squirt a cloud of ink and jet away with a powerful blast from its mantle and siphons. But those actions create an electrical signal about four times greater than the resting field, Bedore found. 
"Jetting would only be for use as a last resort," Bedore said. Indeed, the wild-caught Florida test-sharks were excited by the current from jetting and actually seemed attracted to the taste of the ink produced by Common cuttlefish.
The study appears in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
 
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer. 
 
Don't forget PFK is also available in digital format. 
Click here for more information on the iPad or iPhone version.
Alternatively, click here for details of the Android version.  

Pioneering coral research seminar at London store


Charterhouse Aquatics in London recently hosted a captive coral breeding presentation.

On Saturday, November 14, the huge showroom of PFK’s 2015 Retailer of the Year, Charterhouse Aquatics, became the stage to Jamie Craggs, Aquarium Curator of the Horniman Aquarium.
 
 
The team at Horniman Aquarium was the first institution worldwide to purposefully reproduce broadcast spawning corals in captivity.
This significant achievement led to Project Coral, an innovative and forward thinking coral sexual reproductive research project led by Craggs and his team in conjunction with international partners.
Project Coral’s aspiration is to assess the impact of climate change on coral reproduction and develop viable techniques to help ensure the long-term survival of coral reefs.
The team relies on support of partners, both scientific and corporate, and this is how Charterhouse Aquatics became involved. 
Other partners include Ecotech Marine, Triton UK, Secore Foundation, University of Derby and University of Essex.
 
 
The date of the talk coincided with the completion of the overhaul of Charterhouse Aquatics’ showroom of impressive display aquariums, led by Richard Garbutt.
Garbutt says, "We took the decision to focus on few larger displays rather than more smaller displays. Quality over quantity, if you will."
For more information on Project Coral visit the Horniman Museum website.
 
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer. 
 
Don't forget PFK is also available in digital format. 
Click here for more information on the iPad or iPhone version.
Alternatively, click here for details of the Android version.   

Study shows that some corals can survive annual bleaching events


A study has found that corals with high levels of fat or other energy reserves can withstand the impact of annual coral bleaching events, compared to those with lower levels of fat reserves.

Coral bleaching events occur when sea temperatures rise as the result of climate change. This results in the breakdown of the symbiosis between the coral and their zooxanthellae (which gives coral most of its colour) and threatens the survival of the coral. 
The study was carried out by scientists from The University of Western Australia’s Oceans Institute and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, The Ohio State University’s School of Earth Sciences and the University of Delaware’s School of Marine Science and Policy.
Dr Verena Schoepf, a University of Western Australia research associate from the Oceans Institute, who was lead author of the study, said tropical coral is extremely sensitive to heat stress.
“Three global bleaching events have already occurred since the 1980s and will likely occur annually later this century. Therefore, it has become more urgent than ever to know how tropical coral can survive annual bleaching - one of the major threats to coral reefs today,” she said.
“Already bleaching events have resulted in significant amounts of coral dying causing impact to ocean ecosystems, but up until now it was largely unknown whether coral could recover between annual bleaching events.”
Dr Schoepf said the research which simulated annual coral bleaching found some species of coral such as the Mustard hill coral (Porites astreoides) were severely affected by repetitive bleaching events, but other coral such as the Finger coral (Porites divaricata) and the Mountainous star coral (Orbicella faveolata) could recover quickly.
“When coral is bleached, it no longer gets enough food energy and so it starts slowing down in growth and loses its fat and other energy reserves – just like humans do during times of hardship,” she said.
“The coral then becomes increasingly weak and susceptible to disease, and when bleaching is prolonged, it can die.”
Dr Andrea Grottoli from The Ohio State University’s School of Earth Sciences said over the next decades, coral bleaching events were likely to occur more and more frequently and increasingly impact coral reefs around the world, contributing to their worldwide decline.
“Bleaching will significantly change the future of coral reefs with heat sensitive coral unable to recover,” Dr Grottoli said.
“Our research will help with predicting the persistence of coral reefs because knowledge of their capacity to recover from annual bleaching is critical information for these models.”
The research is published in the international journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
 
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer. 
 
Don't forget PFK is also available in digital format. 
Click here for more information on the iPad or iPhone version.
Alternatively, click here for details of the Android version. 

Blue Reef takes stock from closed Isle of Wight aquarium


Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth is to be the new home for the fish and marine life formerly housed at the Fort Victoria Aquarium on the Isle of Wight, which shut earlier this month.

The aquarium at Yarmouth finally closed its doors after more than 30 years of operation, blaming rising costs, zoo licensing regulations and the increase in the number of larger public aquaria on the mainland.
The entire stock will now be housed at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth and will go on display after a period in quarantine.
The Fort Victoria Marine Aquarium mainly displayed native marine life, although it also included a number of tropical set-ups housing clownfish, triggers and puffers.
 
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer. 
 
Don't forget PFK is also available in digital format. 
Click here for more information on the iPad or iPhone version.
Alternatively, click here for details of the Android version.      

Public aquarium on the Isle of Wight has closed


A public aquarium on the Isle of Wight has closed down after more than 30 years, blaming a combination of rising costs, zoo licensing regulation, and the increase in the number of larger public aquaria.

Fort Victoria Marine Aquarium was owned by Nick and Paul Blake, who posted the news of the closure on the aquarium’s Facebook page, saying the decision had been made with “extreme regret”.
"Factors, which include inexorably rising costs and zoo licensing regulation, designed with big zoos in mind, with no corresponding increase in visitor numbers, have combined to make the aquarium no longer viable,” the statement read.
"With very big aquariums, with enormous exhibit budgets, now common on the mainland, we’ve become conscious of an increasing perception by visitors that our aquarium is smaller than expected.
"When we first opened, most visitors had not seen our native marine fish and invertebrates in aquariums. Now, most have already seen them in very large, state-of-the-art attractions.
"Due to the nature and size of our building, even with an unlimited budget, we still could not increase its size. We therefore think the aquarium has had its time and we should now move on.
"New homes will be found for our fish in other aquariums."
 
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer. 
 
Don't forget PFK is also available in digital format. 
Click here for more information on the iPad or iPhone version.
Alternatively, click here for details of the Android version.     

Captive-bred Yellow tangs move one step closer!


It’s one of the most popular marine fish in the hobby, but the Yellow tang has so far evaded attempts to breed it successfully in captivity. Now researchers at Hawaii Pacific University’s Oceanic Institute may have cracked it.

The research at HPU has been ongoing for more than a decade but very few of the fish hatched from the tens of thousands of eggs have made it past the 50-day stage. The problem seemed to lie in getting the balance of food and water right for the developing fish. 
But now the team of scientists working on the FinFish Program at HPU’s Oceanic Institute have finally succeeded in raising a group of Yellow tangs past the critical larval stage.
"While this is now shown to be technically possible, we still have a lot of work ahead to make this commercially feasible," Chatham Callan, director of the FinFish program and leader of the Yellow tang breeding project told the Hawaii Tribune Herald. "The important thing is that, with continued support, we believe it is possible to achieve this."
 
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer. 
 
Don't forget PFK is also available in digital format. 
Click here for more information on the iPad or iPhone version.
Alternatively, click here for details of the Android version.  
 

Sunscreen is 'highly toxic' to corals


A common chemical used in sunscreens and other cosmetic products has been found to pose an existential threat - even in minuscule concentrations - to corals and coral reefs.

"The chemical, oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), is found in more than 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide. It pollutes coral reefs via swimmers who wear sunscreen or wastewater discharges from municipal sewage outfalls and coastal septic systems," said Dr. Omri Bronstein of TAU's Department of Zoology, one of the principal researchers of the new study.
A person spending the day at the beach might use between two to four ounces of sunblock if reapplied every two hours after swimming, towelling off, or sweating a significant amount. Multiply this by the number of swimmers in the water, and a serious risk to the environment emerges.
"Oxybenzone pollution predominantly occurs in swimming areas, but it also occurs on reefs 5-20 miles from the coastline as a result of submarine freshwater seeps that can be contaminated with sewage," said Dr. Bronstein, who conducted exposure experiments on coral embryos at the Inter University Institute in Eilat together with Dr. Craig Downs of the Heretics Environmental Laboratories. "The chemical is highly toxic to juvenile corals. We found four major forms of toxicity associated with exposure of baby corals to this chemical."
Forms of toxicity include coral bleaching, a phenomenon associated with high sea-surface temperature events like El Niño — and with global mass mortalities of coral reefs. The researchers found oxybenzone made the corals more susceptible to this bleaching at lower temperatures, rendering them less resilient to climate change. They also found that oxybenzone damaged the DNA of the corals, neutering their ability to reproduce and setting off a widespread decline in coral populations.
The study also pointed to oxybenzone as an "endocrine disruptor," causing young coral to encase itself in its own skeleton, causing death. Lastly, the researchers saw evidence of gross deformities caused by oxybenzone — i.e., coral mouths that expand to five times their healthy, normal size.
"We found the lowest concentration to see a toxicity effect was 62 parts per trillion — equivalent to a drop of water in six and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools," said Dr. Bronstein. The researchers found concentrations of oxybenzone in the US Virgin Islands to be 23 times higher than the minimum considered toxic to corals.
"Current concentrations of oxybenzone in these coral reef areas pose a significant ecological threat," said Dr. Bronstein. "Although the use of sunscreen is recognized as important for protection from the harmful effects of sunlight, there are alternatives — including other chemical sunscreens, as well as wearing sun clothing on the beach and in the water."
The researchers hope their study will draw awareness of the dangers posed by sunscreen to the marine environment and promote the alternative use of sun-protective swimwear.
The study was conducted by a team of marine scientists from TAU, including Prof. Yossi Loya, also of the Department of Zoology, the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Virginia, the National Aquarium (US), the US. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and other labs in the US.
 
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer. 
 
Don't forget PFK is also available in digital format. 
Click here for more information on the iPad or iPhone version.
Alternatively, click here for details of the Android version. 

Extendable jaws are a recent development


When it comes to catching elusive prey, many fish rely on protruding jaws that quickly extend their reach to snap up that next meal, but evidence suggests that this jaw protrusion skill in fish is relatively new, appearing only in the last 100 million years of their 400-million-year history.

"We take it for granted that all fish can snap up elusive prey," says David Bellwood from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. "But it wasn’t like that millions of years ago."
Based on a careful analysis of the jaws of 60 living fish species, the researchers developed a method to predict a fish’s jaw protrusion ability based on a simple anatomical measurement. It was suddenly possible to predict jaw protrusion in long-lost fish of the ancient past.
"We knew that most [modern] fishes could protrude their jaws," explains Christopher Goatley, co-author of the study, also at James Cook University. "The question was, when did this ability arise, and what anatomical features were required for protrusion?"
The researchers discovered that "one simple measurement of one jawbone explained almost everything. With this we could predict how fish feed today and how they are likely to have fed in the past, over the last 400 million years."
Once protruding jaws did arise, they took off. The researchers’ analyses show an increase in both the average and maximum jaw protrusion over the last 100 million years, making fish more venerable predators over time. At first, the increase in jaw protrusion mostly came from an increase in the proportion of fish with that ability, as spiny-rayed fish won out over other groups. Then the extent of jaw protrusion in those spiny-rayed fish continued to increase.
The findings suggest that this characteristic may have played an important role in the success of the spiny-rayed fishes — now the dominant fish clade in modern oceans, the researchers say. Those extendable, protruding jaws also made prey species more vulnerable to attack. That might explain why many crustaceans today are so small.
"We think [that] over evolutionary time this drove prey to hide by becoming smaller, nocturnal, or hiding in holes," Bellwood says. "Today the average crustacean on a coral reef is less than a millimetre long. This may be a consequence of increasing predation pressure."
Bellwood says this is just the beginning of an in-depth look into fish feeding and the dynamics between fish and their prey in a changing environment.
"There have been major changes in the abilities of fish to feed over time," Bellwood says. "The key to understanding this history is in the workings of a fish’s head."
 
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer. 
 
Don't forget PFK is also available in digital format. 
Click here for more information on the iPad or iPhone version.
Alternatively, click here for details of the Android version.   
 

Fish watch each others' backs while feeding


When it comes to helping each other, it turns out that some fish are better at it than previously thought.

New research from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University has found that pairs of rabbitfishes will cooperate and support each other while feeding.
While such behaviour has been documented for highly social birds and mammals, it has previously been believed to be impossible for fishes.
"We found that rabbitfish pairs coordinate their vigilance activity quite strictly, thereby providing safety for their foraging partner," says Dr Simon Brandl from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.
"In other words, one partner stays 'on guard' while the other feeds — these fishes literally watch each others’ back," Dr Brandl says.
"This behaviour is so far unique among fishes and appears to be based on reciprocal cooperation between pair members."
Reciprocal cooperation, which requires an investment in a partner, which is later reciprocated, is assumed to require complex cognitive and social skills — skills that fishes have been deemed not to have.
Yet, Dr Brandl says their research shows clear coordination and presents intriguing evidence for reciprocal cooperation between the rabbitfish pairs.
"There has been a long standing debate about whether reciprocal cooperation can exit in animals that lack the highly developed cognitive and social skills found in humans and a few species of birds and primates," Dr Brandl says.
"By showing that fishes, which are commonly considered to be cold, unsocial, and unintelligent, are capable of negotiating reciprocal cooperative systems, we provide evidence that cooperation may not be as exclusive as previously assumed."
Co-author, Prof. Bellwood, also from the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, says: "Our findings should further ignite efforts to understand fishes as highly developed organisms with complex social behaviours.
"This may also require a shift in how we study and ethically treat fishes."
 
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer. 
 
Don't forget PFK is also available in digital format. 
Click here for more information on the iPad or iPhone version.
Alternatively, click here for details of the Android version.   

Fish's jawbones left in swimmer's eye


A holidaymaker who collided with a school of fish while swimming at a Red Sea beach later suffered problems with a swollen and droopy eyelid, which was still causing him problems four weeks later.

An imaging test showed a granola in the 52-year-old man’s eyelid — but when doctor’s removed it during surgery they also removed what were described as “two transparent tubular structures”.

Dr. Wolf A. Lagrèze, of the Department of Ophthalmology at Albert Ludwigs University Freiburg in Germany, who treated the man, said he was absolutely surprised to discover the foreign bodies in his eye.

They were later identified by an expert as the jawbones of a halfbeak — a member of the family Hemiramphidae, which are mostly surface-dwelling fish common in shallow and coastal waters, including the Red Sea.

The patient made a full recovery following the operation, according to the report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer.

Don't forget that PFK is available in digital format for the iPad/iPhone and there's also an Android version on the Google Play news stand.

 

The coelacanth has an obsolete lung in its abdomen


Scientists have discovered that the coelacanth has a shrivelled, obsolete lung.

Present day specimens of the deep-sea fish, which was once thought to be extinct, use gills to extract oxygen from the water.

But scientists think that 400 million years ago, the ancestors of the coelacanth probably used the lung to breathe in low-oxygen, shallow waters and that the organ was rendered defunct by evolution.

Dr Paulo Brito of the Rio de Janeiro State University, who co-authored the research, said: "By the Mesozoic Era, adaptation of some coelacanths to deep marine water, an environment with very low variations of oxygen pressure, may have triggered the total loss of pulmonary respiration.

He added that this adaptation to deeper water could explain how it survived the extinction event 66 million years ago that wiped all non-avian dinosaurs and most other life from Earth — and probably also those gill- and lung-breathing coelacanths inhabiting shallow waters.

As the lung shrank in size and became useless, a fatty organ that the fish uses for buoyancy control in deep waters grew to take over the space once occupied by the lung.

Although researchers cannot say for sure whether the fatty organ ever existed in fossil forms, due to its unique soft-tissue constitution, it has a function in buoyancy control in present day lungfish.

Researchers used samples from infant and adult specimens of one of the two species of coelacanth, Latimeria chalumnae, and created 3D reconstructions of the developmental stages of the lung.

They discovered that the obsolete lung is proportionally much larger in the embryo than the adult, indicating that the growth of the organ slows as the fish gets older, eventually becoming a functionless organ.

They also noted the presence of small, flexible plates scattered around this vestigial lung in the adult specimens and suggest they are comparable to the 'calcified lung' of fossil coelacanths.

The evidence of 'calcified lungs' in the fossil record, as well as the developing lung early in the coelacanth’s embryonic development, means that the lung could possibly be a primitive characteristic in bony fish, Brito added.

Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer.

Don't forget that PFK is available in digital format for the iPad/iPhone and there's also an Android version on the Google Play news stand.

 

Scientists describe a bastard of a fish!


Scientists have named this fish Plectorhinchus caeruleonothus - and the species name directly translates as ‘blue bastard’, with Caeruleo meaning ‘blue’ and nothus meaning ‘bastard’.

Apparently the fish, which is a species of sweetlips, lives up to its scientific name. Apart from the obvious blue colour, it has a highly aggressive nature with males locking jaws and violently fighting. But it’s also very difficult to catch and land, and anglers in Australia, where the fish is found, have been referring to it by the name of 'Blue bastard' for this reason alone for decades.

Growing to around 90cm/3ft in length, the fish starts life as a striped juvenile (pictured below) before undergoing an amazing transformation into the bluish adult.

Jeff Johnson from Queensland Museum in Brisbane, Australia, who described the fish, said that the name is "an affectionate turn of phrase."

The fish lives in shallow, murky water in the north of Australia from Cape York on the tip of Queensland to Ningaloo reef off the coast of Western Australia. It feeds on small crustaceans.

The new species is described in the journal Zootaxa.

Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer.

Don't forget that PFK is available in digital format for the iPad/iPhone and there's also an Android version on the Google Play news stand.

 

Video: 'New Great Barrier Reef' discovered in Australia


Marine life has been discovered deep beneath the sea that's so spectacular it rivals even the Great Barrier Reef.

Magnificent reefs containing colourful sponge gardens, corals, and abundant fish species are just some of the features recorded during the recent scientific expeditions to Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park in Victoria (scroll down for video).

The area is famous for its stunning landscapes above the water, but what lives deep beneath the sea had previously been unknown.

Researchers used a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to record the marine life in habitats from 30-100m deep.

It revealed massive coral fans, large sea whips and colourful sponge gardens beyond scientists' expectations, along with extensive walls, house-sized boulders, ridges and caverns with a diverse range of colourful sponges, hard and soft corals and abundant fish life. There were abundant fish species including some that are said to be of conservation significance such as the Australian barracuda, Sphyraena novaehollandiae, and Longsnout boarfish, Pentaceropsis recurvirostris, along with 90m deep holes with big schools of deep sea perch. The were also complex underwater dune systems including one about 30m high and 2km long.

Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park is Victoria's largest Marine Protected Area at 15,550ha. It extends along 17km of mainland coastline and is located around the southern tip of Wilsons Promontory.

 

Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer.

Don't forget that PFK is available in digital format for the iPad/iPhone and there's also an Android version on the Google Play news stand.

 

Can you devise a puzzle to challenge an octopus?


An octopus at a public aquarium in Devon is so intelligent that she has learned how to solve even complex challenges set by her keepers - so they are now looking for new ideas.

Ursula lives at Living Coasts zoo and aquarium in Torquay. She can open jars, arrange blocks in her aquarium, unfasten catches and flip lids, and it took her just ten seconds to remove the waterproof casing from a camera — faster even than the aquarium staff!

Living Coasts’ operations manager Clare Rugg is now asking members of the public to come up with new challenges for the two-year-old octopus.

Safety needs to be considered in the design, of course. The puzzle will need to be non-toxic and contain no metal, sharp or pointed parts.

"Bigger, better, more complicated, more complex plastic tube networks, perhaps where she has to open the ends to get in. Or segments she has to pass through to go further into the tube," said Living Coasts keeper Sarah Tingvoll. "Also, balls and floats, perhaps where food can be hidden inside.”

The person who comes up with the biggest challenge will get to meet Ursula and her keeper.

Living Coasts is situated on Torquay Harbourside on Beacon Quay, Torquay. Tel. 01803 202470.

Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer.

Don't forget that PFK is available in digital format for the iPad/iPhone and there's also an Android version on the Google Play news stand.

 

Video: 'Flying spaghetti monster' filmed underwater


A bizarre marine creature has been caught on film off the Angola coast.

Nicknamed the 'Flying Spaghetti Monster' the weird animal in the video below is actually a Siphonophore — a group which also includes corals and jellyfish. It has been identified as a specimen of Bathyphysa conifera by experts at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton.

The rare footage was shot by a team from BP which was carrying out routine operations using a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) at a depth of 1325 metres.

 

Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer.

Don't forget that PFK is available in digital format for the iPad/iPhone and there's also an Android version on the Google Play news stand.

 

'Octopuses are aliens' say scientists


Scientists studing the DNA of octopuses have concluded that they are so different from any other animal, they are basically aliens.

Researchers studying the California two-spot octopus, Octopus bimaculoides discovered striking differences from other invertebrates, including widespread genomic rearrangements and a dramatic expansion of a family of genes involved in neuronal development that was once thought to be unique to vertebrates. Hundreds of octopus-specific genes were identified, with many highly expressed in structures such as the brain, skin and suckers.

Dr Clifton Ragsdale, from the University of Chicago, and co-senior author of the paper published in Nature, said: "The octopus appears to be utterly different from all other animals, even other molluscs, with its eight prehensile arms, its large brain and its clever problem-solving abilities.

"The late British zoologist Martin Wells said the octopus is an alien. In this sense, then, our paper describes the first sequenced genome from an alien."

Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer.

Don't forget that PFK is available in digital format for the iPad/iPhone and there's also an Android version on the Google Play news stand.

 

The researchers discovered striking differences from other invertebrates, including widespread genomic rearrangements and a dramatic expansion of a family of genes involved in neuronal development that was once thought to be unique to vertebrates. Hundreds of octopus-specific genes were identified, with many highly expressed in structures such as the brain, skin and suckers. - See more at: http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2015/08/13/landmark-sequencing-octopus-genome-shows-basis-intelligence-camouflage?utm_source=newsmodule#sthash.V60cW9nK.dpuf

Could fish evolve to become less catchable?


Intensive fishing prompts much concern and debate over sustainability of fish stocks, but could it also be driving evolutionary changes that render fish of the future less catchable?

There are many examples of an evolutionary 'arms race' between predator and prey, where adaptations that help hunted animals avoid capture prompt changes in hunters that help them become more deadly.

Scientists at the University of Glasgow investigating whether commercial trawling is similarly driving evolutionary change in fish have found fitter fish are better at evading capture. They speculate that, over time, this could lead to physiological changes in future fish populations.

Dr Shaun Killen, who led the study, said: "There is a lot of concern on how overfishing is affecting the abundance of wild fish, consequences for the economy, employment and the ecosystem as a whole.

"But one aspect that is often overlooked is that intense fishing pressure may cause evolutionary changes to remaining the fish that are not captured."

The study used simulated trawling with schools of wild minnows to investigate two key questions around fisheries-induced evolution.

The researchers wanted to know whether some individuals within a fish shoal were consistently more susceptible to capture by trawling than others, and if so, was susceptibility related to individual differences in swimming performance and metabolism?

The researchers measured the swimming ability, metabolic rate, and indicators of aerobic and anaerobic physical fitness of 43 individual fish. They then placed them in a tank with a trawling net in a simulation that was repeated several times, enabling the identification of individuals that were more susceptible to capture.

Dr Killen said: "Fish being trawled will try to swim at a steady pace ahead of the mouth of the net for as long as possible, but a proportion will eventually tire and fall back into the net.

"Fish that escape trawling are those that can propel themselves ahead of the net or move around the outside of the net. The key question is whether those that escape are somehow physiologically or behaviourally different than those that are captured. Most trawlers travel at the about same speed as the upper limit of the swim speed of the species they are targeting.

"While trawling nets can be in the water anywhere between 10 minutes to several hours, whether or not fish enter the net is generally decided within a few minutes of when they end up at the trawl mouth."

The results of the simulation revealed that some fish were indeed more susceptible to capture than others and this was strongly related to anaerobic capacity — the ability to engage in short periods of intense physical activity which demands more oxygen than is available from breathing alone.

Maximum aerobic swim speed was also negatively correlated with vulnerability to trawling. Metabolic rate — an indicator of how much energy an animal needs to live – was highest among fish that were least vulnerable to trawling but this relationship probably arose through correlations with anaerobic capacity.

Dr Killen said: "Humans are effective predators, and selective harvest of animals by humans probably represents one of the strongest drivers of evolutionary change for wild animal populations.

"Hunting and fishing are selective processes which often remove individuals that, under normal circumstances, may have the highest reproductive potential. Available evidence suggests selective harvest can lead to genetic change within wild populations for specific traits.

"Using simulated trawling, our study provides the first evidence better swimming fish, and those with higher metabolic rates, are more likely to escape capture.

"Over time, the selective removal of poor-swimming fish could alter the fundamental physiological makeup of descendant populations that avoid fisheries capture."

The researchers now want to study fish in the wild to see if they get the same results.

The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer.

Don't forget that PFK is available in digital format for the iPad/iPhone and there's also an Android version on the Google Play news stand.