[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Matt Garrett, Boston Man, Spots Great White Shark In North Carolina


Matt Garrett, Boston Man, Spots Great White Shark In North Carolina With His Friends (VIDEO)

11/30/11 05:17 PM ET

The North Carolina coast may not be the first place you would expect to see a great white shark, but it does happen. Matt Garrett, a Boston, Massachusetts resident, and a group of friends went fishing over Thanksgiving weekend and caught the encounter on video.

The group was fishing about 25 miles from Wrightsville Beach in the southern part of the state. Garrett told CNN, "Off in a distance we saw two big fins sticking up in the water. We thought it was a couple Atlantic Sunfish or two dolphins. As the two fins approached a little closer, we noticed it was a giant shark."

Garrett said the shark nudged their boat with his nose before slapping it with his tail and swimming around the boat. He was able to record the encounter using his iPhone. WWAY reports that the shark swam around the boat for nearly 20 minutes.

A spokesman for the North Carolina Aquarium says Garrett and his friends acted appropriately. Paul Barrington said, "They did the right thing. They didn't harass it. They took some great video of it," reports WXII.

Unfortunately, not all shark encounters end positively. In October, an American tourist in Western Australia was killed by a shark near Perth.

Human attacks on sharks are much more common, however. A study by the University of Florida found that up to 70 million sharks are killed annually by fishing fleets.

California recently passed a ban on the sale, trade and possession of shark fins, which are used in a soup traditional to some Asian cultures, to protect diminishing shark populations.


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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Impact of red tide felt on Sanibel Island


Impact of red tide felt on Sanibel Island

Nov 30, 2011 10:10 AM EST

Beachgoers be advised: A red tide is looming in the Gulf of Mexico.

Marine biologists tell us the bloom extends some 40 miles from southern Collier County up to Lee County.

Wednesday morning, many dead fish that had washed ashore on Sanibel Island overnight began to bake under the sun and stink.

Several tourists walking the beach said they had to leave the area because the air was irritating their throats.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was expected to release more information about the bloom Wednesday afternoon.

According to our partners at the Naples Daily News, the Collier County Pollution Control and Prevention Department said this is the first significant bloom that's impacted the county since 2006.

Fish kills causing a stink on Sanibel

Nov 29, 2011 6:10 PM EST
By Joelle Parks, NBC2 Reporter

The effects of red tide are making their way towards Southwest Florida beaches. In fact, dozens of dead fish have already washed ashore on Sanibel Island.

The beach on Sanibel Island is littered with dead fish, crabs and shells - some of them victims of red tide. Others have been dead for a while and were washed up onto the beach by Monday's storm.

And local experts we spoke to say more dead sea life could be headed this way.

"It's really weird to see that much on the beach, really," said tourist Krystal Ferrell, who was on Sanibel Island Tuesday. "We found a lot of starfish and a lot of conch - some things that I guess you wouldn't normally see.

She says those things really stink up the beach.

"Too bad there's not smell-o-vision," said Dr. Bruce Neill, with the Sanibel Sea School.

But Sanibel is not alone in seeing the effects of red tide.

More dead fish were reported belly up on Bonita Beach in Lee County, as well as Barefoot, Tigertail and Conner Park beaches in Collier County.

Experts say that makes sense, given the latest satellite image of red tide taken Sunday.

The red color on the map [shown to the right] indicates red tide. It's about 25 miles off-shore and about 40 miles long.

"We will continue to see small pockets of red tide blooming very efficiently. These are very intensive population blooms of red tide that we're seeing and I would anticipate over the next weeks or so, that we'll see small pockets here and there," said Dr. Neill.

He added those pockets can strengthen or weaken depending on the weather.

"Red tide doesn't do very well in very cold water. So as the water temperature continues to decrease, the likelihood of a big bloom will decrease," Dr. Neill said.

If you come in contact with dead fish, experts say it's best to avoid them.

What you can do is report the fish kill to FWC by calling 800-636-0511

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Activists sue NMFS to free Lolita


(Courthouse News)

Animal Rights Folks Go to Bat for an Orca
SEATTLE (CN) - Animal-rights activists claim an orca is being held in an "inadequate tank" in the Miami Seaquarium. They sued the National Marine Fisheries Service for excluding captive killer whales from listing under the Endangered Species Act.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Individuals and three individuals challenge the NMFS decision "to exclude from the listing of the Southern Resident killer whale population all captive members of that population and their progeny."
The federal complaint focuses on a whale named Lolita, who was captured more than 40 years ago, and has been held at the Miami Seaquarium. The activists claim Lolita is being "kept in an inadequate tank, without companions of her own species or adequate protection from the sun."
Orcas were listed as endangered in 2005, in part because the "capture of killer whales for public display during the 1970s likely depressed their population size and altered the population characteristics sufficiently to severely affect their reproduction and persistence," according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs say that if captive orcas were listed under the Endangered Species Act, the "take" prohibition that prevents harassing and harming the animals would force the aquarium to improve Lolita's habitat.
"When NMFS made its final decision to list the Southern Resident killer whale population as endangered, it excluded from the listing '[r]esident killer whales placed in captivity prior to listing or their captive born progeny,'" according to the complaint.
"In its final listing decision, NMFS provided no explanation for its decision to exclude all of the captive members of the Southern Resident killer whale population from the listing of that population as endangered.
"Because of its final listing decision, NMFS has excluded Lolita from the protections of the ESA, thereby allowing her to be kept in conditions that harm and harass her, and that would otherwise be prohibited under the 'take' prohibition of the ESA, 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a), including, but not limited to, being kept in an inadequate tank, without companions of her own species or adequate protection from the sun."
The plaintiffs say the Endangered Species Act "does not allow a wholesale exemption" for captive members of a listed species.
"In addition, even the limited exception for wildlife held in captivity when the statute was enacted in 1973 does not apply where the holding of such wildlife is done in 'the course of a commercial activity,'" the complaint states.
The plaintiffs claim the Miami Seaquarium has made "tens of millions of dollars" from displaying of Lolita. They says that Orcas can live as long as 90 years in the wild, and that "Lolita has family members who are still living in the wild."
Plaintiff Patricia Sykes she worked for the aquarium when Lolita was captured from the wild in 1970.
"Ms. Sykes personally observed Lolita endure great suffering caused by her capture and the unnatural living conditions in captivity," the complaint states. "Ms. Sykes formed a strong emotional bond with Lolita and wants to do everything in her power to help her. Ms. Sykes can no longer bear to visit Lolita in her current conditions without suffering great aesthetic and emotional harm. Ms. Sykes is aesthetically and emotionally injured by having to make the choice between paying MSQ the cost of admission to visit Lolita in these conditions and refraining from visiting Lolita, with whom she has formed a strong emotional bond. She is also harmed by NMFS's decision to exclude Lolita from the endangered listing of the Southern Resident killer whale population, which allows MSQ to keep Lolita in conditions that harm and harass her, and that would otherwise be prohibited under the 'take' prohibition of the ESA, 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a), if Lolita were included as listed wildlife."
Plaintiff Shelby Proie says she has "observed and photographed Lolita many times in captivity" and has "formed a strong emotional bond with Lolita."
"Ms. Proie's educational and aesthetic interests would be redressed if the captive members of the species were included in the endangered listing of the Southern Resident killer whale population. This would provide the wild population added protection by ensuring that the captive members are preserved and protected for the future research, educational, biological, management and other benefits they provide the wild population. It would also ensure that Lolita could no longer be 'taken' in violation of the statute, and thus ensure that she would be treated humanely and possibly returned to the wild. If Lolita was protected by the ESA, treated humanely, and her living conditions improved accordingly, Ms. Proie would visit and observe her as often as possible," the complaint states.
The plaintiffs say the National Marine Fisheries Service and Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank violated the Administrative Procedure Act by excluding the captive Southern Resident killer whale population. They seek judgment setting aside that part of the final listing decision.
They are represented by Brian Knutsen with Smith & Lowney.

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Morgan takes off for "Parrot Park"


(From the Washington Post)

Plane carrying killer whale Morgan under way to Spanish amusement park

By Associated Press, Published: November 29

AMSTERDAM — A plane carrying a young killer whale has departed the Netherlands Tuesday afternoon heading for a Spanish amusement park after conservationists lost a legal battle to have her released into the open sea.

Around dawn Tuesday, the 1,400-kilogram (3,085-pound) female orca named Morgan was lifted from her tank by a crane, resting in a hammock that restrained her movement and protected her fins. Trainers kept her wet during the transfer into a blue-painted box on a truck, and her breath stood out in plumes as she exhaled through her blowhole from time to time while hanging several meters (yards) aloft in the cool morning air.

More than 50 trainers, handlers and other workers were involved in the operation moving Morgan onto the plane that left Amsterdam around 1 p.m. local time headed for the Spanish island of Tenerife. There Morgan will be transferred again onto a truck and finally hoisted into a much larger tank in Loro Parque by early evening, the Harderwijk Dolphinarium said in a statement.

The city of Harderwijk had issued an emergency ban blocking "Free Morgan" demonstrations during the transfer, though a coalition of conservationists who sought to have her released said they never planned to interfere with the operation.

"We would never do anything that could endanger Morgan," said coalition spokeswoman Nancy Slot.

Morgan, who is estimated to be about 3 years old, weighed only 400 kilograms (880 pounds) when she was rescued in shallow waters off the Dutch North Sea coast in June 2010.

The Dutch government permit that originally approved her capture said the dolphinarium could hold her and restore her health so she could be released. But after the park assembled a team of experts for advice on what to do next, they found she had little chance of survival in the wild unless her natal pod, or family, could be identified.

Analysis of her vocal patterns showed only that she was from Norwegian waters.

Opposing experts for the "Free Morgan" group said the dolphinarium was guided by financial interests, rather than concern for the animal's well-being, and proposed a plan for reintroducing her to the wild.

International treaties prohibit the trade of killer whales — which are actually classified as oceangoing dolphins — without difficult-to-obtain exemption permits. Fewer than 50 orcas are held in captivity worldwide and the bulk of them are owned by SeaWorld, a subsidiary of U.S. private equity giant the Blackstone Group L.P.

A female capable of breeding and introducing new genes into the pool of captive orcas is worth millions of euros (dollars).

The Dutch dolphinarium is owned by France's Compagnie des Alpes. Loro Parque, owned by a German businessman, received four orcas on loan from SeaWorld that Morgan will join. Though Morgan cannot be transferred to the United States, any offspring she has may be.

The Harderwijk Dolphinarium, which put Morgan on display after her rescue, has not disclosed financial details of her shipment to Loro Parque, though spokesman Bert van Plateringen said it will not make money from the deal.

Orcas are thought to be among the most intelligent and social of mammals, and the idea of reintroducing captive whales into the wild garnered widespread public sympathy after the 1993 film "Free Willy."

Real life releases have a mixed record at best, however. Keiko, the animal that starred in "Free Willy," was released in Icelandic waters after 20 years in captivity. He died, apparently of pneumonia, after surviving two months on his own and swimming about 870 miles (1,400 kilometers) to Norway.

Though the "Free Morgan Coalition" says it will continue to seek Morgan's release, it concedes her transfer to Spain is a major blow to its hopes.

Experts agree that chances of a successful release into the wild decline the longer an orca is exposed to humans.

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Genetic Buzzer-Beater Genes May Save Fish


Eugene, OR — Two distinct populations of rainbow trout -- one in Alaska, the other in Idaho -- share a genetic trait that could have huge implications for fisheries conservation and management, report an eight-member research team.

The common trait is a similar rapid rate of development that has allowed these different salmomid subspecies to adapt to their native rivers in Alaska and Idaho. The researchers, in a paper put online ahead of publication in the journal Molecular Ecology, say the similarity, a gene variant, resides in a specific portion of their genomes from where this local adaptation is triggered.

Understanding and applying that knowledge could help guide current and future efforts to save species on the brink of extinction and help rejuvenate dwindling populations, especially as changing conditions alter fish environments, says lead author Michael R. Miller, a National Science Foundation-funded doctoral student in the University of Oregon lab of co-author Chris Doe, a UO biologist and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

The research employed two technologies developed at the UO: the cloning technology pioneered on zebra fish 35 years ago by molecular biologist George Streisinger and a speedy genome-analysis tool known as RAD (restriction-site associated DNA markers). Miller and UO biologist Eric Johnson, with input from William Cresko, also a UO biologist, published their initial RAD-tagging technique in 2005.

The clone lines of rainbow trout used in the study were provided by co-author Gary H. Thorgaard, a fish geneticist at Washington State University. He had worked briefly as a postdoctoral researcher with Streisinger in 1978 to learn about a then-developing zebra-fish cloning technique later detailed in a 1981 Nature paper.

Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are members of the salmon family. They have a natal homing instinct in which they return to their native streams or rivers to spawn. Occasionally, some end up in other locations and have to adapt, or evolve, to survive in a new habitat. In studying the genetics of populations in the North Fork Clearwater River in north-central Idaho and in the Swanson River of south-central Alaska, researchers noted similar, speedy rates of development -- a conserved trait that generally is not the case in rainbow trout, Thorgaard noted.

"We found that these two very distinct populations are using the same conserved variant of the same gene sequence to achieve this adaptation," Miller said. "We have not identified the exact gene or gene mutations, but we have identified a region of the genome that is very similar."

RAD gene-sequencing technology allowed the researchers to sort through the fish genomes -- rainbow trout populations have between 58 and 64 chromosomes -- until they isolated the gene variants, also known as mutations or alleles. "RAD gives us much better details with a much higher resolution on genetic markers than what we could ever see before," Thorgaard said.

"RAD is being applied widely in the field of fisheries genetics," Miller said. "This technology is having a huge impact on salmon genetics, for conservation, management and restoration."

The findings suggest that the same genetic method of adaptation may be used by other salmonids, which includes salmon, steelhead trout, char, freshwater whitefish and graylings. The gene variant found in the study may have arrived just in time for struggling fish populations, researchers said.

"The study suggests that the same genetic types that are associated with adaptation in one population may also be used by another experiencing similar conditions in another area," Thorgaard said. "This increases our understanding of how adaptation occurs and could help in characterizing populations for conservation purposes."

Potentially, Miller said, matching fish with the same genetic variants could prove beneficial in increasing populations in distressed areas. "Many southern populations, in California, for instance, are already extinct or depressed, and these populations likely contain gene variants that may become important for the future adaptation of more northern populations as the environment changes," he said. "If these populations go extinct, we are potentially hindering the future adaptability of other populations."

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Machinations behind Morgan the killer whale's move


(Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog)

Candace Calloway Whiting
Candace Calloway Whiting has studied and trained dolphins, seals, and orca whales. She is currently a volunteer at the Center for Whale Research at Friday Harbor.

Orca Whale Morgan's Fate Follows the Golden Rule: Those Who Have the Gold, Make the Rules

In an ideal world, business interests would not trump common sense, but time and again big business just walks over the rights of the average citizen. Here in the U.S. the wealthy and powerful have even disrupted the political system, leaving too many of us virtually jobless and homeless, and now it appears as though those conglomerates are able to influence decisions affecting the people of Europe as well.

But as the Occupy movement shows, global citizens have reached the limit of patience and tolerance – and now this one lost whale is rapidly becoming a symbol of that movement because despite scientific advice to the contrary, big business was able to prevail and a single Dutch judge was able to have this animal sent to an amusement park instead of setting her free.

Orca Morgan is hoisted by crane into a container on a truck at the Dolfinarium in Harderwijk, Netherlands, early Tuesday Nov. 29, 2011. A Dutch dolphin park has loaded a young killer whale into a container on a truck ahead of her transfer by plane to amusement park Loro Parque on the Spanish island of Tenerife later Tuesday after conservationists lost a legal batter to have her released. (AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski)
In this case, public opinion was up against several financial giants, and gradually the story of how the laws designed to preserve your rights have been sidestepped is beginning to emerge. At first glance the issue seems to involve just a young whale, a small Dutch aquarium, and a handful of conservationists – not of particular interest unless you are passionate about those things – but peel away the veneer and the real issue is revealed: money, and lots of it. This young orca is worth millions of dollars for her ability to bring in box receipts, and millions more for the fresh supply of genetic material she provides to the whole captive industry.

Who are the players? SeaWorld, though taking the heat from conservationists, is a bit player, as is the Dutch Harderwijk Dolphinarium where Morgan has been living, as is Loro Parque where she now lives with SeaWorld's whales. The real money and power belong to the corporations that pull the puppet strings of the theme parks.

SeaWorld is owned by The Blackstone investment group, whose diverse holdings include several marine amusement parks in Europe.

Harderwijk Dolphinarium is owned by a french conglomerate, Compagnie des Alpes, which was established to run ski resorts in 1989, but who bought marine amusement parks throughout Europe from the American corporation Six Flags relatively recently, in 2004. Six Flags had bought the parks around 1994 to 1998.

Loro Parque owner showing plans for the orca pools where Morgan now resides.
Loro Parque in the Spanish Canary Islands is owned by Wolfgang Kiessling, a german born businessman with a background as "an airline manager and flying in German investors", who got around Spanish law prohibiting the amusement park by building it as part of hotel grounds in the 70′s. But in 1994, about the time Six Flags was buying parks in Europe, Loro Parque formed a foundation for research, and at that time they had no orcas.

According to IslandsConnection.eu:

Then around 2003 out of the blue, they were contacted by SeaWorld, "they wanted to place four of their killer whales in appropriate installations that were not in any way competitive to them. Thanks to our quality they decided that Loro Parque would be the right place to bring them to." Eventually they came to an agreement and the orcas were flown to Tenerife in 2006 and have been a monster hit with the public.

In 2010, two months before Dawn Brancheau was killed at SeaWorld Orlando, one of SeaWorld's whales killed a trainer at Loro Parque. In his excellent article, Blood in the Water, journalist Tim Zimmerman reports:

As I learned, SeaWorld was a key partner in the launch of the orca program at Loro Parque, loaning the park four killer whales to help it start Orca Ocean. SeaWorld's vice president of communications Fred Jacobs explained it to me this way in an e-mail: "Loro Parque is a highly respected zoological institution, and we have worked with them for years. The relationship was conceived primarily as a breeding loan and to allow Loro Parque to showcase these remarkable animals." He added, "The deal differed only in scale from the dozens of similar partnerships we are part of at any given time. The addition of Orca Ocean, a facility that is comparable in size and sophistication to anything found in the U.S., also provided us greater flexibility in managing our collection of killer whales.

The idea that SeaWorld "wanted to place four of their killer whales in appropriate installations that were not in any way competitive to them" is pretty amusing, because it implies that SeaWorld/Blackstone has too many whales, and can't take care of them…but SeaWorld is breeding the whales as fast as they can, breeding them too young, and too frequently.

No, more likely, SeaWorld/Blackstone, the Dolphinarium/Compagnie des Alpes, and Loro Parque/Kiessling found a giant loophole in European law that prevents the captive industry from flourishing there; according to sources, the amusement parks must do research in order to house the whales. As convenient as it is that Loro Parque now has a conservation foundation, the research with the orcas is ridiculously simplistic, could be done on any SeaWorld's whales anywhere, and most likely exists to foil the laws.

On a par with Japan's "research" whaling, these heavily invested companies have just managed to skirt the laws and to muffle the voices of those who protest.

It is not too late to return Morgan to her wild family. It is still not clear that this was a legal move, and your opinion counts!

Here is a contact from a FaceBook page:

Under EU [European Union] law, it is illegal for orcas to be traded between parks for commercial purposes. One of the main arguments for sending Morgan was for `scientific research', as a way to get around this law.
Please consider writing a quick email to:
And POLITELY bring to their attention the fact that Loro Parque is NOT a research facility for cetaceans, but in fact a zoo which is accepted to be for commercial purposes. Therefore, under this law, Morgan's transfer is illegal.
Please share!

Also this one lists many contacts, including:

1. Embassy of Norway
Norway was not once consulted during the court and they still have a rightful claim on Morgan, because she is a norwegian orca.

List of embassies in the US: http://www.norway.org/Embassy/Honorary-Consulates-General/

List of embassies in the UK: http://www.norway.org.uk/Embassy/consulates/

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] St Andrews scientists ask if whales have 'dialects'


St. Andrews, SCOTLAND - Members of the public are being asked by scientists at the University of St Andrews to help them investigate the way whales communicate.

So-called "citizen scientists" from across the world are being urged to listen to and help classify sounds made by the mammals.

The St Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit is part of the Whale Project, a global effort to categorise whale calls.

It aims to establish whether calls vary between different groups of whales.

The Whale Project website site displays calls from both Killer Whales and Pilot Whales.

"Citizen scientists" who log on are presented with a whale call and shown where it was recorded on a map of the world's oceans and seas.

After listening to the whale call, members of the public are then asked to listen to a number of potential matching calls from the project's database.

If a match is found the results are stored.

Prof Peter Tyack of the University of St Andrews said: "By asking hundreds of people to make similar judgements, we will learn how reliable the categories are, and they get the fun of hearing these amazing sounds."

Scientists hope to address a number of questions about whale communication.

Biologists studying Killer Whales have reported that each group of whales has its own distinctive dialect of calls, with related groups having dialects that are more similar.

The Whale Project asks "citizen scientists" to test these results by making their own judgements of similarity between calls.

Much less is known about the calls of pilot whales than of killer whales.

Researchers from St Andrews and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts want to know the size of the pilot whales' call repertoire and whether call repertoires vary between groups, as in Killer Whales.

"Most mammals have a fixed species-specific repertoire of calls, but Killer Whales are thought to learn their calls from their group," said Prof Tyack.

The Whale Project is co-sponsored by science magazine, Scientific American.

Those interested in taking part should go to the Scientific American website to set up a login and password.

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Winter vomiting virus: British oysters contain bug


LONDON - Three-quarters of British-grown oysters it tested contained the winter vomiting bug, norovirus, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has found.

The figures are contained in the first systematic analysis of the virus in UK oyster harvesting areas.

The FSA says there is no change in its advice to consumers.

It says people should be aware that there is a risk of food poisoning when eating raw shellfish and the food should be avoided by vulnerable groups.

According to Dr Andrew Wadge, the FSA's chief scientist, the research has not identified any new food safety risk.

"If you are someone who enjoys eating raw oysters and you want to continue there is nothing here to say that you are at more risk or less risk. What we do say is that there is some risk."

Although it is well known that eating raw or lightly-cooked seafood can make you ill, the risks are largely unquantified. Current testing methods cannot distinguish between infectious and non-infectious forms of norovirus. In addition it is still not clear what safe levels of the virus are.

According to Dr Wadge, the FSA's study is the first stage in a process to better understand the risks and take steps to reduce them.

"Ultimately, I'd hope that this would lead to new safety standards across Europe (for norovirus levels) and better monitoring.

"If we can get to that point then people will be able to eat their oysters with more confidence than they are able to at the moment."

Investigators tested 8,000 oysters from 39 harvesting areas across the UK.

One of the aims of the research is to see to what extent seafood contamination contributes to the winter spike in food poisoning.

One theory is that the purification process used by oyster manufacturers is less effective when there is less sunshine because it relies on ultra-violet radiation from the sun killing sea-borne infection.

David Jarrad of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain said the UK oyster industry and the FSA had worked hard to mitigate against the norovirus.

"No one wants to see norovirus in oysters, or illness, and we have to find a way to reduce it, but thankfully there are very few and the main cause of illness is person-to-person contact."

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Marine Biodiversity Loss Due to Global Warming and Predation


Vancouver, BC — The biodiversity loss caused by climate change will result from a combination of rising temperatures and predation -- and may be more severe than currently predicted, according to a study by University of British Columbia zoologist Christopher Harley.

The study, published in the current issue of the journal Science, examined the response of rocky shore barnacles and mussels to the combined effects of warming and predation by sea stars.

Harley surveyed the upper and lower temperature limits of barnacles and mussels from the cool west coast of Vancouver Island to the warm shores of the San Juan Islands, where water temperature rose from the relatively cool of the1950s to the much warmer years of 2009 and 2010.

"Rocky intertidal communities are ideal test-beds for studying the effects of climatic warming," says Christopher Harley, an associate professor of zoology at UBC and author of the study. "Many intertidal organisms, like mussels, already live very close to their thermal tolerance limits, so the impacts can be easily studied."

At cooler sites, mussels and rocky shore barnacles were able to live high on the shore, well beyond the range of their predators. However, as temperatures rose, barnacles and mussels were forced to live at lower shore levels, placing them at the same level as predatory sea stars.

Daily high temperatures during the summer months have increased by almost 3.5 degrees Celsius in the last 60 years, causing the upper limits of barnacle and mussels habitats to retreat by 50 centimeters down the shore. However, the effects of predators, and therefore the position of the lower limit, have remained constant.

"That loss represents 51 per cent of the mussel bed. Some mussels have even gone extinct locally at three of the sites I surveyed," says Harley.

Meanwhile, when pressure from sea star predation was reduced using exclusion cages, the prey species were able to occupy hotter sites where they don't normally occur, and species richness at the sites more than doubled.

"A mussel bed is kind of like an apartment complex -- it provides critical habitat for a lot of little plants and animals," says Harley. "The mussels make the habitat cooler and wetter, providing an environment for crabs and other small crustaceans, snails, worms and seaweed."

These findings provide a comprehensive look at the effects of warming and predation, while many previous studies on how species ranges will change due to warming assume that species will simply shift to stay in their current temperature range.

Harley says the findings show that the combined effects of warming and predation could lead to more widespread extinction than are currently predicted, as animals or plants are unable to shift their habitat ranges.

"Warming is not just having direct effects on individual species," says Harley. "This study shows that climate change can also alter interactions between species, and produce unexpected changes in where species can live, their community structure, and their diversity."

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