Thursday, 27 January 2011

How the seahorse gained its shapely body - environment - 25 January 2011 - New Scientist

It is easy to forget that the seahorse is a fish. With its equine head, potbelly and prehensile tail, it rivals the platypus in its peculiarity. But the seahorse's form is not just for show: its arched neck acts like a spring that stores energy, ensuring it is ready to strike when it spots a meal.
Striking shape (Image: George Grall/Getty)

Striking shape (Image: George Grall/Getty)

Biologist Sam Van Wassenbergh at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, and colleagues created mathematical models based on the body shape of seahorses and their straight-bodied cousins, pipefish.

The models revealed that seahorses' necks have the elasticity and stability needed to let them lunge forward and grab a passing shrimp, even if it is some distance away. Pipefish, in contrast, cannot strike out so far and must settle for closer prey.

This bend and snap technique is a vital hunting method for most seahorse species, as they are weak swimmers. "Every extra millimetre you can reach becomes important because it means more food," says Van Wassenbergh. Seahorses enjoy a 20 per cent increase in their strike zone thanks to the shape of their head and neck, he says.

"Like everyone, I have always wondered why seahorses look so bizarre," says Adam Jones at Texas A&M University in College Station. "This is the first step in establishing it's an adaptation."

Journal reference: Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1168

How the seahorse gained its shapely body - environment - 25 January 2011 - New Scientist

Monday, 17 January 2011

Divers Secure Win for Sharks

As we approached the end of 2010, AWARE Divers succeeded in securing a win for sharks. 423 Members of European Parliament (MEP's) have listened to our collective scuba diving voice and signed on the Written Declaration for strengthening the European Union ban on shark finning, ensuring a majority needed for further action.

The European Parliament has now endorsed a resolution on shark finning calling on the EU Commission to deliver a proposal prohibiting the removal of shark fins on-board vessels.

AWARE divers, advocates and supporters like you were instrumental in bringing about this change through emails, letters and phone calls to your representatives. Together we have shown the commitment of European citizens around the world to the conservation of shark species.

Why do European fisheries policies make such a significant difference to shark populations worldwide?

Spanish fishing fleet catches account for over a quarter of all shark fins brought into Hong Kong - a hub for at least 50% and possibly up to 80% of world trade in shark fins
  • European fisheries have a major impact on fisheries worldwide - Spain, Portugal the UK and France are among the world's top 20 shark fishing nations responsible for 80 percent of the global catch.
  • Non-EU governments and international fisheries policy bodies all look toward the EU when implementing their shark catch limits and bans.
  • Enforceable finning bans not only effectively halts the practice of finning but also provide important data about the species caught, vital for robust populations assessments and effective shark conservation and management.

This win could not come at a better time. Together we'll continue to battle for improved shark conservation measures, including work to ensure the EU Commission now comes up with an effective finning ban during 2011.

From all of us at Project AWARE Foundation - thank you.

Kind regards

Suzanne Pleydell
Policy Director, Project AWARE Foundation

Monday, 10 January 2011

Leaf Scorpionfish on Great Astrolabe, Fiji