Reports of two-headed sharks have increased through the years. Is it due to overfishing which reduces the size of the gene pool and allows for more of these genetic mutations to occur (think inbreeding)? Or is it just easier to report these observations (through scientific papers and social media)? It is a difficult topic to research since most of these sharks never survive. But it is a critical question that needs to be answered. Is it overfishing? Increased reporting? Pollution? Or something else entirely. Global shark populations are not doing well as it is, genetic mutations could be an additional silent threat.
Devil Rays (Modula spp.) are one of the species up for discussion during CITES Conference of the Parties 17 in South Africa. CITES stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. An international agreement between governments to make sure trade of wild animals and plants does not lead to extinction. Rays and sharks are not doing well and a number of species are up for discussion during the conference.
About The Illustration: Acrylic Ink with brush and pen.
Earlier this month the United Kingdom announced that microbeads would be banned by 2017 in all personal care and household products. Microbeads are small pieces of plastic incorporated into a variety of products such as face wash, toothpaste, and laundry detergent as an exfoliant. Concern for the environment fueled this policy action as these pieces of plastic go down the drain and eventually end up in the water. The accumulation of microbeads means the likelihood of aquatic life consuming them is pretty high. In addition to the health consequences fish and other aquatic life experience from consuming plastic, microbeads also enter the food chain and end up on our plate.
Being a great Dad is not exclusively a human thing. Consider these three critters: the Seahorse, the Emperor Penguin, and the Giant Water Bug. All great Dads in their own special way. After an egg is laid, the male Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forester) incubates the egg while the female goes to look for food. The pair help raise the chick together. The male Seahorse (Hippocampus sp.) has a pouch where the female deposits her eggs after mating. The male carries the eggs until they hatch releasing tiny, fully developed sea ponies (just joking but it would be awesome if they were called sea ponies). The male Giant Water Bug (family Belostomatidae) carries fertilized eggs post-mating on it’s wings until they hatch. These are just a few examples of awesome Dads in the animal kingdom. This makes me think about Ronald Fisher’s theories on parental care or parental investment but I will save that one for another day. For now give your Dad a hug and some Old Spice soap on a rope (what every Dad needs in his life).
The future doesn’t look so hot for most citizens of the oceans. Ocean acidification, overfishing, marine debris, and many other stressors are taking a toll on aquatic living. However one group appears to be gaming the system and actually proliferating in these days of algal blooms and coral bleaching. Hail the mighty Cephalopods! According to a recent study by researchers from the Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide in Australia, cephalopod (squid, cuttlefish, and octopus) populations are booming around the globe. In the May 2016 issue of Current Biology, the researchers report on their findings on population health trends for 35 species/ genera and six families of cephalopods through the analysis of six decades of global fisheries data. The researchers believe that short life spans, rapid growth, and high adaptability appear to be the recipe for success for these curious creatures of the sea. In addition, the crash of certain fish stocks appear to reduce predation and competition for cephalopods. While the current situation appears to be rosy, ocean acidification and overfishing of cephalopod stocks loom in the horizon like the clouds of an incoming storm. Boo!!!
About This Illustration: A watercolor painting of three cool cephalopods (from left to right: squid, octopus, and cuttlefish). The song “My Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades” by Timbuck 3 was the inspiration for this illustration. For those of you who do not know this great little ditty, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qrriKcwvlY
For More Information: This is actually an open access article! Yippee!!!