Round Up: Benthic Ecology Meeting Day 1

Today was a fantastic start to the Benthic Ecology Meeting in Savannah. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the standard of the talks. I should probably give my colleagues more credit! Here’s a quick rundown of my highlights.

Brightly Coloured Warning Signals? Contrary to popular believe, Joseph Pawlik suggests that marine species rarely exhibit warning colouration. On land, many animals display bright colours to tell predators that they are toxic. In the marine world this fact is just assumed, however there is barely any evidence to support this claim (I was surprised!). The only proven example I can think of is the flamboyant cuttlefish, so perhaps he’s right!

Irresistible Habitats – Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): According to a convincing experiment by Mark Hay, coral larvae and juvenile fish prefer MPA water over water from outside MPAs. This attraction seems to be driven by the absence of seaweed and the presence of adult coral cues. On the one hand, this shows that MPAs are desirable habitats for marine life, on the other, it suggests the MPAs might not help recruitment outside of MPAs.

Deforestation vs De-coral-ation: It’s pretty easy to see the effects of deforestation; just compare aerial images from past and present day. But seeing under the water is more difficult … until now! Brooke Gintert showed how zig-zag surveys using something as simple as a Go-Pro camera gives detailed and extremely useful information about coral reef cover. Check out a short video here.

Also, here are some other (not necessarily new) pieces of info that I learnt!

  • Sponges may increase chemical defenses in response to getting eaten.
  • Amphipods navigate using polarised light.
  • Sea hares eat less when danger is increased.
  • Bacteria growths can indicate health of marine environments near fish aquaculture.
  • Ocean acidification affects crab larvae development time, growth of spines and number of larvae hatched.
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