Marine science update 12th July 2011

The coolest story in this issue is the all seeing-eye that sea-urchins apparently have, using light sensitive detectors on the tips of each of their tube feet, which are distributed all around their body! Less good is the prediction of a global marine mass extinction event. Otherwise, a few groups are publishing genetic studies increasing our understanding of how marine organisms biomineralise carbonates. Quite imporant given the expected increase in ocean acidification.

Marine science

The all seeing-eye: Instead of having eyes, sea urchins are able to detect light with receptors located at the tips of their tube-feet. The authors speculate that the feet may act like an enormous compound eye, that lets the urchin see in all directions around their body. ScienceDaily (June 30, 2011)

A net of air: Some nice photos and an explanation of how humpback whales use bubble nets to entrap prey. ScienceDaily (June 27, 2011)

A global map of sea-squirts: Looking at the defining characteristics of tunicates, and providing some guides to systematic classification. Currently there are about 3000 species recognised, over half of them discovered since 1950. The hotspot for diversity is Australia, with 717 species, the UK fares comparatively poorly with only 58. [These figures have not been normalised for comparison, but I think Australia would still stand out. There is a lot of information here for anyone with an interest in these distant cousins.]
Shenkar N, Swalla BJ (2011) Global Diversity of Ascidiacea. PLoS ONE 6(6): e20657. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020657

Free swimming tunicates sequenced. This group of 72 known species, called thaliaceans, which includes salps. ScienceDaily (July 1, 2011)

Lectins quick to change: The fastest evolving parts of hard coral genome code for leptins, proteins that recognise sugars. The authors hypothesise that they may be important for recognising their algal symbionts.
Iguchi A, Shinzato C, Forêt S, Miller DJ (2011) Identification of Fast-Evolving Genes in the Scleractinian Coral Acropora Using Comparative EST Analysis. PLoS ONE 6(6): e20140. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020140

Software trained to spot species: Software agents can be trained to report the likely diversity of underwater communities from bathymetric LiDAR data obtained from aircraft. Information can be gained even from turbid waters.
Collin A, Archambault P, Long B (2011) Predicting Species Diversity of Benthic Communities within Turbid Nearshore Using Full-Waveform Bathymetric LiDAR and Machine Learners. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21265. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021265

I know an old lady who swallowed a lion
… Groupers as potential bio-control agents for lionfish.
Mumby PJ, Harborne AR, Brumbaugh DR (2011) Grouper as a Natural Biocontrol of Invasive Lionfish. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21510. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021510

There’s an oyster outside my pearl! The genes that allow oysters to make their shells by biomineralisation have been identified.
Fang D, Xu G, Hu Y, Pan C, Xie L, et al. (2011) Identification of Genes Directly Involved in Shell Formation and Their Functions in Pearl Oyster, Pinctada fucata. PLoS ONE 6(7): e21860. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021860

Dinoflagelates vs diatoms: In most of the world’s oceans diatoms win hands down, and the main spring bloom consists almost entirely of these microscopic plants [I was really pleased when I picked out my first dinoflagelate under the microscope!]. In the Baltic, however, dinoflagelates are often the major component of the bloom. This paper hypothesises that this occurs due to the sequence of early spring events, including proliferation under melting spring ice, that get the dinoflagellates off to a quick start, allowing them to compete more effectively.
Klais R, Tamminen T, Kremp A, Spilling K, Olli K (2011) Decadal-Scale Changes of Dinoflagellates and Diatoms in the Anomalous Baltic Sea Spring Bloom. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21567. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021567

Kelp warning: Injured Laminaria digitata may warn their neighbours to expect predators by releasing chemicals into the surrounding seawater.
Thomas F, Cosse A, Goulitquer S, Raimund S, Morin P, et al. (2011) Waterborne Signaling Primes the Expression of Elicitor-Induced Genes and Buffers the Oxidative Responses in the Brown Alga Laminaria digitata. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21475. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021475

Bugs and phosphorus: How do bacterial communities interact with phosphorus, a common agricultural pollutant that is increasingly important in causing eutrophication in estuarine and coastal waters? This paper starts to define how different forms of phospherous and microbial communities interact.
Sinkko H, Lukkari K, Jama AS, Sihvonen LM, Sivonen K, et al. (2011) Phosphorus Chemistry and Bacterial Community Composition Interact in Brackish Sediments Receiving Agricultural Discharges. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21555. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021555

Biofilms on coral – the first 100 hrs: A study of the early stages of biofilm formation on artificial coralss shows that bacteria are selected from the water column, and this process is dependent upon the physicao-chemical nature of the coral surface.
Sweet MJ, Croquer A, Bythell JC (2011) Development of Bacterial Biofilms on Artificial Corals in Comparison to Surface-Associated Microbes of Hard Corals. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21195. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021195

TOPP program reports: A ten year program to follow predators in the Pacific is published in Nature. ScienceDaily (June 23, 2011)


The end of the world: An IPSO meeting at the University of Oxford predicts globally significant ocean extinction event. 21st June 2011

Tourism to save sharks: Apparently there are now more than 300 eco-tour operators offering shark tours, potentially making the shark an important part of the local economy. The study estimates that each shark is worth $73 per day alive as a tourist attraction, vs $50 one off payment for a dead shark’s fin. [Lets hope the sums work out in practice.]ScienceDaily (June 29, 2011)

Whale on right track for recovery: The southern right whale has re-entered New Zealand waters for the first time after being hunted to local extinction there a century ago. ScienceDaily (June 27, 2011)

300: A research cruise sponsored by Margaret and Will Hearst may have discovered as many as 300 new species during a cruise of the Philippines. ScienceDaily (June 26, 2011)

Clean bill of health: Removing cleaner fish from a reef is associated with reduced stock health, and possibly recruitment.
Waldie PA, Blomberg SP, Cheney KL, Goldizen AW, Grutter AS (2011) Long-Term Effects of the Cleaner Fish Labroides dimidiatus on Coral Reef Fish Communities. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21201. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021201

Fisheries and exploitation

Discards ban boost: Banning discards will both promote fish stocks and increase fishermen’s incomes, according to a new report by the University of York. ScienceDaily (June 22, 2011)

Where have you been? Isotopic analysis helps trace where salmon from British rivers lived when they were at sea. ScienceDaily (June 24, 2011)

Living faster and dying younger: A comparison of modern fish catches with the bones form archaeological sites shows the effect of over-fishing off the coast of Kenya. ScienceDaily (June 25, 2011)

Harvesting kelp for biofuels: July would be the best month for harvesting kelp in Welsh waters, as this matches the peak in sugar concentration in the plant. [While the authors correctly say that switching terrestrial farming from food to fuel would cause starvation for many, the broader impact of farming kelp in the coastal environment really needs to be considered carefully before this proposal can be taken seriously. We have, after all, never tried to farm seaweed in any significant quantity before…]. ScienceDaily (July 3, 2011)

A happy sole: The problem with culturing Solea solea is its slow and variable growth, here growth rate is associated with feeding consistency, swimming activity in the tank, and boldness during behavioral tests.
Mas-Muñoz J, Komen H, Schneider O, Visch SW, Schrama JW (2011) Feeding Behaviour, Swimming Activity and Boldness Explain Variation in Feed Intake and Growth of Sole (Solea solea) Reared in Captivity. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21393. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021393

Scope for adaption: Sockeye salmon face increasing pressure from temperature rises, with a 2°C rise forcing the optimal migration time ahead by ten days. This paper asks what level of genetic mutability is required to preserve natural populations.
Reed TE, Schindler DE, Hague MJ, Patterson DA, Meir E, et al. (2011) Time to Evolve? Potential Evolutionary Responses of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon to Climate Change and Effects on Persistence. PLoS ONE 6(6): e20380. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020380


9%: The percentage of fish with ingested plastic in their intestines. ScienceDaily (July 1, 2011)

Archives for the Deepwater Horizon accident have been consolidated on the NOAA website into two main sub-sections providing an overview of the response to the incident:
Assessment and restoration – news, project suggestions and assessments.
Seafood safety – monitoring data, effects of dispersant and archive of closures (via Deep Sea News, June 28th, 2011)

Climate change

Proton pumps in phytoplankton: Coccolithophores are an integral part of the CO2 regulation, converting massive amounts of the stuff into calcite, which is precipitated as limestone when they die. They produce calcite as coccoliths – intricate protective scales – but to do this they need to pump out the excess acid the process generates in their cytoplasm. Understanding this process will help us evaluate the likely impact of acean acidification (review article)
Taylor AR, Chrachri A, Wheeler G, Goddard H, Brownlee C (2011) A Voltage-Gated H+ Channel Underlying pH Homeostasis in Calcifying Coccolithophores. PLoS Biol 9(6): e1001085. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001085

Plankton on the move: Neodenticula seminae is a phytoplankton common in the northern Pacific Ocean, but only recently found in the Atlantic. The 1999 survey found the plankton in the Labrador Sea, where it is thought to have arrived after travelling on a pulse of warm water formed due to changes in circulation patterns caused by global warming. Marine Conservation News June 27, 2011 (also reported in Science Daily 29th June 2011)

Ocean acidification: A series of posts by Jennifer Langston in Sightline Daily.

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