save our blue planet

Let's save our blue planet by saving the ocean. Every little step counts.

Hai der Woche: Triton-Epaulettenhai — 4. June 2018

Hai der Woche: Triton-Epaulettenhai

Der andere Epaulettenhai, dessen wissenschaftlicher Name in einer “Blauen Auktion” von Gerald R. Allen versteigert wurde (wie der vor 2 Wochen vorgestellte Hemiscyllium galei – Cenderwasih-Epaulettenhai), wurde nach Wolcott Henry benannt, noch ein berühmter Unterwasser-Fotograf (z.B. für Bücher und National Geographic): der Triton-Epaulettenhai oder Henrys-Epaulettenhai (Hemiscyllium henryi). Vor Triton Bay an der Südküste von Westpapua gefunden, erreicht dieser Hai aus der Familie Lippenhaie (oder Bambushaie, Hemiscylliidae) eine Länge von 81,5 cm, und seine einmalige Musterung enthält zahllose schwarze Punkte und ein Paar von Doppelpunkten an den Seiten.

Hemiscyllium henryi
Hemiscyllium henryi von Triton Bay, West Papua. Photo by M. Erdmann

Es ist kein Zufall, dass diese neue Art vor Papua-Neuguinea gefunden wurde, und das nicht nur, weil Gerald R. Allen hier arbeitet. Das Gebiet um die Raja-Ampat-Inseln zum Beispiel soll die reichhaltigste Meeres-Biodiversität der Erde enthalten, speziell in Bezug auf Korallenriffe (75% aller Korallenarten weltweit können hier gefunden werden). Aber dieses “Kronjuwel der Bird’s Head Seascape” ist in Gefahr. Nicht nur passierte im Jahr 2017 hier ein Kreuzfahrtschiff-Unfall, der die Zerstörung von 1600 Quadratmetern von Korallenriffen verursachte, sondern die Zerstörung des Lebensraumes durch Bergbau und Holzfällerei und zerstörerische Fischfangtechniken wie Dynamit und Zyanid-Fischerei sind zusätzliche Ursachen. Eine Kette von kürzlich eingerichteten oder geplanten Meeresschutzgebieten bemüht sich, dieses Unterwasserparadies zu beschützen. Initiativen, um Bewusstsein zu wecken und sowohl lokale als auch internationale Gemeinden zum Thema Klimawandel und nachhaltiger Tourismus, Jobs und Fischfang aufzuklären und Jobs für Einheimische im Schutz und Renaturierung der Korallenriffe finanziell zu unterstützen, tragen wesentlich dazu bei, lokale Gemeinden ins Boot zu holen und hoffentlich geplante Palmöl-Plantagen zu stoppen.

Vielen Dank, Wolcott Henry, dass Sie diese Bemühungen finanzieren!

Quellen: hierhier und hier

Shark of the week: Triton epaulette shark —

Shark of the week: Triton epaulette shark

The other epaulette shark whose scientific name was auctioned off in the “Blue Auction” by Gerald R. Allen (just like the Hemiscyllium galei – Cenderwasih epaulette shark introduced two weeks ago), was named after Wolcott Henry, another famous underwater photographer (for instance for books and National Geographic): the Triton epaulette shark or Henry’s epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium henryi). Found off Triton Bay on the southern coast of West Papua, this shark of the family longtail carpet sharks (or bamboo sharks, Hemiscylliidae) reaches a length of 32.1 in – 81.5 cm – and it’s unique markings contain numerous fine black spots with a pair of double spots on the sides.

Hemiscyllium henryi
Hemiscyllium henryi from Triton Bay, West Papua. Photo by M. Erdmann

It is no coincidence that this new shark species had been found off Papua New Guinea, too, but that’s not only due to Gerald R. Allen’s work there.  The area around the Raja Ampat Islands, for instance, is said to contain the richest marine biodiversity on earth, especially coral reef related (75% of all coral species worldwide can be found here). But this “Crown Jewel of the Bird’s Head Seascape” is in danger. Not only occurred there a Cruise ship incident in 2017, causing the destruction of 1,600 square meters of coral reef, but habitat degradation due to mining and logging and destructive fishing practices like dynamite or cyanide fishing are reasons, too. A chain of recently established or planned marine protected areas strives to protect this underwater paradise. Initiatives to raise awareness and educate both local and international communities on climate change and sustainable tourism, jobs and fishing, and funding jobs for locals in reef protection and restoration go a long way to bring local communities in and hopefully stop planned palm oil plantations.

Thank you, Wolcott Henry, for funding this efforts!

Sources: herehere and here

Shark of the week: Cenderwasih epaulette shark — 21. May 2018

Shark of the week: Cenderwasih epaulette shark

Another shark of the family Hemiscylliidae (also called longtail carpet sharks or bamboo sharks) recently found is the Cenderwasih epaulette shark, named after the small bay in western Papua New Guinea where this cute litte shark (up to 22.4 in -56.8 cm-) lives in reefs at depths of 6 ft 7 in to 13 ft 1 in -2 to 4 m. It is of the same genus like last week’s shark (Epaulette sharks or Hemiscyllium), looks a lot like it too (but mit different markings), is also a walking shark and was in 2008 also named by Gerald Allen.

Hemiscyllium galei from Cenderawasih Bay, West Papua. (C) G. Allen

But the Hemiscyllium galei wasn’t named after its discoverer, or to honor a colleague or former scientist, but the scientific name was auctioned of at a “Blue Auction”. That is not common, but it succeeded to raise enough money to protect the Raja Ampat Islands, after all, which are now part of a marine reserve. So, thank you, Jeffrey Gale, according to “an avid underwater photographer, shark enthusiast, and benefactor of the marine realm” whose films can be found, for instance, here, and photographs here (and I could link his own picture, too, the internet is fascinating and frightening, isn’t it?).

Sources: herehere and here

Shark of the week: Pacific smalltail shark — 6. November 2017

Shark of the week: Pacific smalltail shark

The Pacific smalltail shark (Carcharhinus cerdale), sister species of the Smalltail shark from last week, is an example for a misguided believe in authorities, in this case the experts Henry Bryant Bigelow and William Charles Schroeder. What happened? After this species was first described in 1898 by Charles Henry Gilbert, colleague Seth Eugene Meek and his assistant Samuel Frederick Hildebrand discovered between 1910 and 1912 several specimen on a fish market in Colón on the Caribbean side of Panama and reasoned that this species lived on both side of the Isthmus of Panama. Maybe they made an error in identification, or wrongly assumed the fish was also caught there, we will never know. Since the Panama Canal had not opened yet, neither the sharks nor the fishing vessel was able to reach the Atlantic side of Panama from the Pacific side afloat, but a fish transporter ashore sure did. Anyway, in 1948 Bigelow and Schroeder not only repeated the mistake of their colleagues, but insinuated that Meek and Hildebrand considered therefore the Pacific smalltail shark not as an own species but as synonymous with the closely related, on the Atlantic side native Smalltail shark. Only in 2011 this mistake was remedied by José I. Castro, but such important websites like the IUCN or the Florida Museum still don’t feature that fact and need an urgent update.

Carcharhinus cerdale SI.jpg
Carcharhinus cerdale by D Ross Robertson, Public Domain, Link

Just like its sister species,the Pacific smalltail shark is a requiem shark and viviparous. It inhabits coastal waters of the eastern Pacific from the Gulf of California to Peru.

Sources: here, here and here

Shark of the week: Smalltail shark — 30. October 2017

Shark of the week: Smalltail shark

Another example to prove the Plate tectonics, anyone? Well, the Smalltail shark (Carcharhinus porosus – named after really big pores behind its eyes) was considered, until 2011, to live in coastal waters on both sides of the Isthmus of Panama: in the western Atlantic Ocean from the northern Gulf of Mexico to southern Brazil as well as in the eastern Pacific from from the Gulf of California south to Peru. A momentous mistake that seems to continue until now (see IUCN Red list and homepage of the Florida Museum). In fact, its sister species Pacific smalltail shark (Carcharhinus cerdale) can be found in the eastern Pacific, and the Smalltail shark lives only in the western Atlantic part. Both had been separated around 2.8 million years ago and developed into different species (just like the Whitenose shark and the Blacknose shark a proof of evolution, as well).

Carcharhinus porosus SI.jpg
Carcharhinus porosus by D Ross Robertson, Public Domain, Link

This small (generally only up to 3.6 ft -1.1 m- long) requiem shark is slow growing and viviparous with two to nine young every two years after an approximately 12-month gestation period. It can be found near the bottom of coastal waters and estuaries and forms large aggregations segregated by sex.

Along the northern Brazilian coast, where some of its nursery areas are, the Smalltail shark is the most common shark, and in Trinidad the most economically important shark (under the name puppy shark). Fishing pressure as bycatch as well as targeted (for its meat, fins, cartilage and liver oil) caused a significant decline in numbers, resulting in an ICUN-classification as vulnerable in Brazil, where mostly juveniles have been caught, but only data deficient overall. Since its habitat is much more narrow as previously assumed (see above), the IUCN should revise that urgently (in my opinion).

Sources: here and here

National Geographic: study about plastic waste| Studie über Plastik-Abfall — 7. October 2017

National Geographic: study about plastic waste| Studie über Plastik-Abfall

Mass production of plastics, which began just six decades ago, has accelerated so rapidly that it has created 8.3 billion metric tons … 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste. (Half of all plastic manufactured becomes trash in less than a year)… Of that, only nine percent has been recycled.


And this recycling can make matters even worse: In China fleece are made of disposable water bottles from Germany (as part of the recycling quota) and sold back to Germany, where they pollute the waste water and lastly the sea with micro fibers (microbeads) due to cleaning and still end up as waste, but already broken down in small particles (instead of after 450 years like the original water bottle).
Waste minimisation instead of recycling, I say!

Die Massenproduktion von Kunststoff, die erst vor 6 Jahrzehnten begann, hat sich so rasant beschleunigt, dass sie 8,3 Milliarden metrische Tonnen erschaffen hat… 6,3 Milliarden metrische Tonnen davon sind zu Müll geworden (Die Hälfte alles hergestellten Kunststoffs wird innerhalb von weniger als einem Jahr zu Abfall)…Davon sind nur 9 Prozent recycled worden.


Und dieses Recycling kann alles noch schlimmer machen: In China werden aus Einweg-Wasserflaschen aus Deutschland (als Teil der Recycling-Quote) Fleece hergestellt und wieder nach Deutschland zurück verkauft, wo sie das Abwasser und letztlich das Meer mit Mikro-Fasern (Mikroplastik) beim Waschen verschmutzen und doch wieder als Abfall enden, aber schon in kleine Teilchen zersetzt (anstatt nach 450 Jahren wie die originale Wasserflasche).
Müllvermeidung anstelle von Recycling, sage ich!

Shark oft the week: Silvertip shark — 2. October 2017

Shark oft the week: Silvertip shark

The Silvertip shark (Carcharhinus albimarginatus), despite being easily recognized due to its eponymous white margins on all fins (even pectoral fins, unlike all other “whitetip” shark species), it often confused with its smaller brother Grey reef shark. Both are requiem sharks and can be found on or near coral reefs in the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans. They are known to form mixed-species aggregations and both perform (slightly different) ritual threat displays to chase away threats (like other sharks or divers) and protect their personal space. The mock attack of an up to 10 ft -3 m- long Silvertip shark (as described here) remind me of male gorillas. While it seems aggressive, I consider this as defensive behavior. Remarkable that they rather flee or chase away instead of attack, in which case they would, more often than not, prevail due to their size.

0979 aquaimages.jpg
Silvertip shark, Image taken by Clark Anderson/Aquaimages – Originaly uploaded to the english wikipedia, Image:0979 aquaimages.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

Like all other requiem sharks, Silvertip sharks are viviparous. Females bear every other year litters of around five young after a gestation period of about one year. They grow slowly and mature at around 6.6 ft -2 m- with 20 years.

Silvertip sharks are caught in direct shark fisheries, as bycatch and by illegal practices (IUU) mostly for their fins and meat, but also for cartilage, liver, teeth, jaws and skin. This resulted in areas like Scott Reef off northern Australia, where they are now extinct because of Indonesian fishers. Hence the IUCN considers them as “Vulnerable“. However, there are no species-specific management measures in place.

Despite their inquisitive and aggressive behavior (see above) and being able to take on large prey (due to their dentition, size and power), Silvertip sharks are not known to attack humans. The ISAF lists only 4 provoked, none fatal attacks under this species.

Sources: here and here

Shark of the week: Carribean reef shark — 13. March 2017

Shark of the week: Carribean reef shark

Despite being the most common shark in reefs of the Caribbean Sea, the Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezii) is one of the least-studied large requiem sharks. It looks a lot like its sister species Dusky shark, but lives solely on or near coral reefs in the tropical western Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Brazil.

Carcharhinus perezi bahamas feeding
Caribbean reef sharks by Greg Grimes from Starkville, MS, USA – pic_0655, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Caribbean reef sharks are nocturnal and can be found resting in caves or on the sea floor by day (once famous in Mexico as “sleeping sharks”). They mature at 5 to 5.5 ft -1.5 to 1.7 m- (males) or around 6.5 ft -2.0 m- (females) and can reach a length of up to 9.7 ft -3 m, making them one of the largest apex predators in the reef ecosystem. Females are ovoviviparous and give birth to 3 to 6 24 to 30 inches -61 to 76 cm- long living pups every 2 years.

Despite their size Caribbean reef sharks are normally unaggressive toward divers, except in the presence of food – spear fishermen can get accidentally bitten (there are 4 registered unprovoked non-fatal attacks by this species), but sometimes also members of baited diving tours. Attracting sharks by feeding is a controversial by-product of ecotourism (and banned in Florida). Associate humans with food by the sharks (like by bears) seems only a problem if the species usually feed on mammals (like White sharks), but the artificial concentration of predators (like in the image above) and the intensified removal of fishes from the environment for use as shark bait (instead of using fish offal) could be a concern. Showing sharks to tourists, but also photographers and filmmakers, is more profitable than killing them – and provides a sustainable livelihood for ex-fishermen in times of overfishing. Unless, of course, their colleagues exploit this changed behavior of sharks to catch them all, not on film but on the thousands of baited hooks of longlines.

Because Caribbean reef sharks have been targeted by longline and gillnet for their meat, skin, jaws, fins and liver oil or taken as bycatch, resulting in its Near Threatened status. It is the most common shark species landed in Colombia, but protected in the U.S., Bahamas and some marine protected areas off Brazil. Illegal fishing and habitat degradation (coral bleaching) are dangers, too. Caribbean reef sharks off the coast of Florida have been found with dangerous levels of methyl mercury – higher than the FDA guidelines, anyway, the European guidelines are different and incomprehensibly (imo) permit higher levels for large predator species.

Sources: herehere and here


integrate compassion, listening and creativity into our actions | mit Mitgefühl, Zuhören und Kreativität handeln – from hundredgivers — 17. February 2017

integrate compassion, listening and creativity into our actions | mit Mitgefühl, Zuhören und Kreativität handeln – from hundredgivers

I think that these thoughts of an US-American, although triggered by recent political changes there, are absolutely true worldwide. Strategies for peaceful solutions of conflicts are more necessary than ever.

With our beloved democracy quickly descending into fear and clashing ideologies, I’ve begun to hunt for survival techniques. Instead of rocks and shouting matches, are there more effective ways to resolve our differences? Now would be a good time to get back to the basics, educate our hearts and minds and begin to integrate compassion, listening and creativity into our actions…

via How to Educate our Hearts and Minds to Bring More Compassion and Peace to the World — Hundredgivers

Ich denke, dass diese Überlegungen einer US-Amerikanerin, wenn auch angestoßen durch die kürzlichen politischen Veränderungen dort, durchaus weltweit gelten. Strategien zur friedlichen Lösung von Konflikten sind nötiger denn je.

Während unsere geliebte Demokratie rasch in Furcht und Ideologiekämpfe herabsinkt habe ich angefangen, nach Überlebensstrategien zu suchen. Gibt es effektivere Wege, anstelle von Steinen und lautstarken Auseinandersetzungen, um unsere Unterschiede zu überwinden? Jetzt wäre eine gute Zeit, um zu den Grundlagen zurückzukehren, unsere Herzen und unseren Verstand in die richtige Richtung zu formen und damit zu beginnen, mit Mitgefühl, Zuhören und Kreativität zu handeln…

siehe How to Educate our Hearts and Minds to Bring More Compassion and Peace to the World — Hundredgivers

Shark of the week: Bull Shark — 5. December 2016

Shark of the week: Bull Shark

It is well-known that sharks live in saltwater. Sure, there is such a strange thing as a river shark (like the Ganges shark) that seems to tolerate only fresh water (but, as has been proved, can migrate through saltwater, too). But all other sharks live solely in the ocean or in brackish nursing grounds to protect their young, right? Sadly this is wrong.

Because there is the Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas). Even if their nursery habitats are in brackish water, older Bull sharks can tolerate high salinity as well as zero salinity, which enables them to live worldwide in coastal areas of tropical to subtropical oceans as well as in rivers and lakes.

(Video S3 of a pregnant bull shark from Brunnschweiler J, Baensch H (2011). “Seasonal and Long-Term Changes in Relative Abundance of Bull Sharks from a Tourist Shark Feeding Site in Fiji“. PLOS ONE. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0016597. PMID 21346792. PMC: 3029404., CC by 2.5 )

Bull sharks are able to retain salt through their kidneys, liver, gills and a special gland near their tail (requiring a greatly increased production of highly dilute urine and is energetically very demanding). That’s the reason they survive and even thrive in fresh water as much upstream as 2,360 miles -3,800 kilometres- up the Mississippi River or 2,610 miles -4,200 kilometres- up the Amazon River. There is even a population of Bull sharks in the Lake Nicaragua in Central America, seemingly separate, but tagging showed that they wander between the lake and the Caribbean Sea back and forth, conquering 8 rapids on the way. Since a flood in the 1990s even a golf course lake in Queensland, Australia is the home to several bull sharks.

The Bull shark is a stout species with small eyes and a blunt snout (thus the name) and an average length of 7.9 ft – 2.4 m- (female) and 7.4 ft -2.25 m- (male), but there is a single record of a pregnant female specimen of 13 ft -4 m- in an African river. Their age of maturity seems to be varying according to geographic location, up to 14-15 years for males and 18 years for females. Bull sharks are ovoviviparous, like other requiem sharks.

Being opportunistic feeders, Bull sharks eat everything from bony fish and other sharks (even young Bull sharks), to turtles, birds, dolphins and terrestrial mammals like dogs and hippos, but also carcasses and (in case of Indian rivers) bodies. They have to (as mentioned above) in order to survive in fresh water with its zero salinity and significantly greater negative buoyancy. In the ocean their metabolism can slow down.

Based on their habitat, Bull sharks come in frequent contact with humans. In the clear waters of the Bahamas, for example, divers regularly interact with crowds of bull sharks without problems. Some researchers speculate that this non-threatening behavior may be because the sharks can clearly see people and recognize that they are not a typical food source. In murkier waters, however, incidents happen, and humans get bitten and sometimes die. Some Bull sharks being territorial and having virtually no tolerance for provocation doesn’t help matters, either.

Due to its habitat, but also its size, strength and teeth, the Bull shark has been considered by many experts to be the most dangerous shark in the world. If there is such a thing as a Man eater shark it would be the Bull shark and not the White shark. The latter may not in fact be responsible for many of the attacks pinned on the species (including the famous 1916 shark attacks in New Jersey that may have served as inspiration for Jaws), but the Bull shark with its nearly identical dentition. It’s amazing that we don’t have more incidents, and it just reconfirms that they really aren’t interested in us and usually an attack is a mistake.

The Bull shark is caught as bycatch in longline-fisheries, but more often targeted in small artisanal fisheries because of its abundance in nearshore environments and rivers for its meat, fins and skin. Additionally, it is a popular game fish. Due to pollution of their habitat in shallow costal waters, rivers and lakes, and overfishing of their nursery grounds, Bull sharks numbers have significantly declined.

Sources: herehere, here and here