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Tuesday, June 7, 2011


From a delightful photo gallery of sea stars I just came across, one image in particular that struck me was the sight of a Sun Star grasping at and feeding off of the carcass of a penguin.

Those mollusks nearby must have breathed a serious sigh of relief.

'Rare' Fin Whale Grouping Off U.K. Coast

The BBC reports that scientists off the Cornish coast of southwest England were awed by the sight of 21 Fin Whales lunge-feeding together.

In the photo above (taken by La Jolla's Southwest Fisheries Science Center), you can see the telltale markings that distinguish the Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) from the Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus): the animal's white lower-right jaw and the light chevron behind its head.

Fin Whales aren't the type to hang out in stable groups, according to what I've read of them, so this was likely to be an unassociated aggregation that was chasing krill or other smallish schooling fish. The scientists who spotted them were counting sardines at the time, according to BBC. One of them called it an "incredibly rare event."

Seeing so many of the world's second-largest creatures in one spot would be more exciting, however, if it weren't another possible sign of a distressing development:
Dr Colin MacLeod, Marinelife's chief scientific adviser, said the sighting could be part of a wider movement of sea creatures around Britain's coast as a result of climate change.

"These changes indicate the extent to which climate change is affecting our marine animals.

"If it is affecting these top predators to such an extent, it is likely that it is also affecting other marine life further down the food chain, including species which are commercially important for the fishing industry," he said.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

Bad news for one of the Western Hemisphere's best marine conservation success stories, Cabo Pulmo in the Gulf of California, says "National Geographic."

In the comments, the article's author, Enrico Sala, says he and a colleague have a paper due out soon that's full of the "hard data" tracking sea life in Cabo Pulmo between 1999 and 2009.

I didn't see any links to online petition efforts to convince Mexican authorities to abandon plans to sell off this coastline to the hotel industry, though.

Wish I Were Here

Lots of divers will have nothing to do with the small stuff; it's sharks and mantas and such that gets their blood racing. But there's something to be said for those dives that provide big thrills in small packages.

Marine biologist Richard Mooi is enjoying such an excursion, and he's sharing the experience on the "Scientist at Work" blog:
We are focusing our shallow-water survey on the Verde Island Passage, a marine region felt to be the “center of the center” of Indo-Pacific marine biodiversity. The passage is already home to more documented species than any other marine habitat on earth, and its diverse list of species grows by the day. For example, we are just short of 800 species of sea slugs alone (of which a large proportion are new to science). I am astonished by the number of sea urchin species, which reached 37 just today. Although that figure is not as grandiose as other tallies, even in this small region I have seen more echinoderm species than ever before. I learned today from the Philippine scientists working with us here in Mabini that they found more than 50 species of reef-building corals in a single dive just this morning.