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Contains articles regarding fish and aquariums in the news.

Coral Whisperer

Most of you have probably heard of the Horse Whisperer, and some of you are familiar with the dog whisperer as well. How about the Coral Whisperer? While he may never get a movie made about him, or his own cable television show, Mitch Carl of the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha Nebraska is being recognized for his ability to successfully raise Elkhorn Corals in captivity. I came across an article posted on the Omaha World Review website dubbing Mitch Carl as “The Coral Whisperer” for his ability to raise corals from wild captured eggs and sperm, where many others have had less success.

As part of an international research project which is studying sexual coral reproduction (SECORE), Carl and the Henry Doorly Zoo were one of many facilities that took part in the ongoing project, and received wild harvested Elkhorn coral eggs and sperm to try and raise in captivity. According to the article, 500,000 embryos were collected and distributed, of those only 1,100 were still alive after 3 months; these were Mitch Carl’s corals. As techniques have improved in subsequent harvests, survival rates have dramatically increased since the initial collection. Last year Carl was able to keep 75% on his embryos alive, other facilities involved in the project were still unable to achieve more than a 50% success rate. This is where the legend of the Coral whisperer comes from.

This project is of significance because of the coral species at the heart of the project. Elkhorn Coral is vital to natural reef systems throughout the world. It is not only one of the skeleton building corals that build foundations of the world reefs. The heavily branching Elkhorn coral provides habitat for many fish and other animals, as well as providing shorelines with a barrier from storm and wave action. Some estimates put destruction of the worlds Elkhorn Coral, mostly from human related activities, as high as 90%, and Elkhorn Coral is now an endangered species.

Most coral farming is done using asexual reproduction or cloning, taking small pieces or “frags” from a parent colony and allowing it to grow. This process is repeated time after time, and results in many copies of the original. Coral Farming using this “fraging” method produces coral that is adapted to captive environments, and thrives in aquarium conditions. This process works well for corals that are intended for aquarium or zoo use; however it is not a good method of reproduction for coral that is for reintroduction to the wild. These corals have been in captivity for many generations, and have adapted for unnatural conditions. Asexual reproduction is slow, and there is also the risk of introducing unwanted elements back into natural habitats.

Researchers hope that a viable sexual reproduction strategy can be reached, this will allow for “wild” corals to be grown in captivity in huge numbers, then be reintroduced back to the reefs where the eggs and sperm were collected. The hope is that these corals can be grown in coastal regions, where the eggs were collected, so that conditions can be matched as closely as possible to where they will be “planted” on the reef. Successful sexual reproduction of corals would also be of great value to the aquarium trade, the more captive raised corals become available, the less impact the hobby will have on natural reefs, as well as potentially lowering cost with the ability to mass produce corals sexually.

I hope you enjoyed this story. You can get more inforation about the SECORE project at www.secore.org

Until next blog

Dave

"Shocking" Christmas story

This week at the Aqua Toto Gifu aquarium in Japan, one of the coolest holiday Ideas I have ever seen was introduced to the public. The aquarium has on display, an electric eel in an aquarium that is actually powering lights on a near by christmas tree. In nature the eels have the ability to produce an electric current for the purpose of stunning near bye prey. The aquarium had the ingenious idea to use the eels natural electrical power for holiday cheer, and people are flocking to the aquarium to see this amazing display. The picture to the right was posted in the Mainichi Daily News in Japan.

The aquarium has a copper wire installed into it, so that when the eel rubs up against the wire and produces an electrical current, the electricity travels from the aquarium to the light bulbs. Pretty neat trick

Maybe someday we will be driving around electric eel powered hybrid cars. HMMMM.

Just wanted to share that holiday story with you, until next blog

Dave

Invasive Species: Volitan Lionfish


Environmental responsibility is not something that most people think about when they are purchasing fish or plants for their aquarium, but it should be. Responsible ownership is vital to the long term availability of non-indigenous livestock. Unwanted fish and plants should never be released into the wild. In recent years there have been far too many stories about invasive plants and animals ravaging local ecosystems, with the blame being placed upon negligent or uneducated aquarium owners.
Most of us remember the snakehead stories from a couple of years ago, and all the bad movies that ensued. Florida residents probably hear stories on a daily basis about invasive fish, plants, reptiles, amphibians and other things causing problems.
An emerging story that I have found particularly interesting is the invasion of the Volitan Lionfish into the Atlantic coastal waters of the United States. When I first got into SCUBA diving in the early nineties, I was in school at Coastal Carolina (Go Chants!). I would hear the occasional tourist say that they saw a Lionfish on an offshore wreck while diving. Being both an aquarist, and a skeptic, I had dismissed all those stories as nonsense, after all how could a tropical fish from the Pacific and Indian Oceans be living in temperate Carolina. These people must have mistaken something else for a Lionfish, a Sea Robin, A Sculpin, something.

Believe it! 15 years later, the existence of Lionfish is not only documented, but they are growing in number, and becoming a major problem. NOAA has documented specimens ranging from Florida to New York. Some divers have reported hundreds on the offshore wrecks of the Carolinas. Lionfish are voracious predators, with little who prey on them. These invasive predators have the potential to destroy these sensitive ecosystems.
Speculation as to how they were introduced has developed several theories; the most realistic of these series revolve around intentional releases from aquarium owners, as well as unintentional release from hurricane damage to homes, businesses, and aquariums in Florida and the Caribbean. As unlikely as it seems, the reality is that lionfish are thriving and reproducing in temperate waters.
My point is that release should never be an option for a non indigenous species. Give them to another aquarist who will keep them, approach your local pet store about returning unwanted fish, or consult your veterinarian about humane euthanasia. Plants should be sealed in a plastic bag before throwing them away as well.
I hope that has given you something to think about, until next blog.

Dave