Small coastal dolphins endemic to south-eastern Australia have variously been assigned to described species Tursiops truncatus, T. aduncus or T. maugeanus; however the specific affinities of these animals is controversial and have recently been questioned. Historically ‘the southern Australian Tursiops’ was identified as unique and was formally named Tursiops maugeanus but was later synonymised with T. truncatus. Morphologically, these coastal dolphins share some characters with both aforementioned recognised Tursiops species, but they also possess unique characters not found in either. Recent mtDNA and microsatellite genetic evidence indicates deep evolutionary divergence between this dolphin and the two currently recognised Tursiops species. However, in accordance with the recommendations of the Workshop on Cetacean Systematics, and the Unified Species Concept the use of molecular evidence alone is inadequate for describing new species. Here we describe the macro-morphological, colouration and cranial characters of these animals, assess the available and new genetic data, and conclude that multiple lines of evidence clearly indicate a new species of dolphin. We demonstrate that the syntype material of T. maugeanus comprises two different species, one of which is the historical ‘southern form of Tursiops’ most similar to T. truncatus, and the other is representative of the new species and requires formal classification. These dolphins are here described as Tursiops australis sp. nov., with the common name of ‘Burrunan Dolphin’ following Australian aboriginal narrative. The recognition of T. australis sp. nov. is particularly significant given the endemism of this new species to a small geographic region of southern and south-eastern Australia, where only two small resident populations in close proximity to a major urban and agricultural centre are known, giving them a high conservation value and making them susceptible to numerous anthropogenic threats.
Understanding the foraging ecology and diet of animals can play a crucial role in conservation of a species. This is particularly true where species are cryptic and coexist in environments where observing feeding behaviour directly is difficult. Here we present the first information on the foraging ecology of a recently identified species of dolphin (Southern Australian bottlenose dolphin (SABD)) and comparisons to the common bottlenose dolphin (CBD) in Victoria, Australia, using stable isotope analysis of teeth. Stable isotope signatures differed significantly between SABD and CBD for both δ13C (−14.4‰ vs. −15.5‰ respectively) and δ15N (15.9‰ vs. 15.0‰ respectively), suggesting that the two species forage in different areas and consume different prey. This finding supports genetic and morphological data indicating that SABD are distinct from CBD. In Victoria, the SABD is divided into two distinct populations, one in the large drowned river system of Port Phillip Bay and the other in a series of coastal lakes and lagoons called the Gippsland Lakes. Within the SABD species, population differences were apparent. The Port Phillip Bay population displayed a significantly higher δ15N than the Gippsland Lakes population (17.0‰ vs. 15.5‰), suggesting that the Port Phillip Bay population may feed at a higher trophic level - a result which is supported by analysis of local food chains. Important future work is required to further understand the foraging ecology and diet of this newly described, endemic, and potentially endangered species of dolphin.
A major problem when studying behavior and migration of small organisms is that many of the questions addressed for larger animals are not possible to formulate due to constraints on tracking smaller animals. In aquatic ecosystems, this problem is particularly problematic for zoo- and phytoplankton, since tracking devices are too heavy to allow the organism to act naturally. However, recent advances in nanotechnology have made it possible to track individual animals and thereby to focus on important and urgent questions which previously have not been possible to address. Here we report on a novel approach to track movement and migratory behavior of millimeter sized aquatic animals, particularly Daphnia magna, using the commercially available nanometer sized fluorescent probes known as quantum dots. Experimental trials with and without quantum dots showed that they did not affect behavior, reproduction or mortality of the tested animals. Compared to previously used methods to label small animals, the nano-labeling method presented here offers considerable improvements including: 24 h fluorescence, studies in both light and darkness, much improved optical properties, potential to study large volumes and even track animals in semi-natural conditions. Hence, the suggested method, developed in close cooperation between biologists, chemists and physicists, offers new opportunities to routinely study zooplankton responses to light, food and predation, opening up advancements within research areas such as diel vertical/horizontal migration, partial migration and other differences in intra- and interspecific movements and migration.
Coral reefs worldwide are in decline. Much of the mortality can be attributed to coral bleaching (loss of the coral's intracellular photosynthetic algal symbiont) associated with global warming. How corals will respond to increasing oceanic temperatures has been an area of extensive study and debate. Recovery after a bleaching event is dependent on regaining symbionts, but the source of repopulating symbionts is poorly understood. Possibilities include recovery from the proliferation of endogenous symbionts or recovery by uptake of exogenous stress-tolerant symbionts.
To test one of these possibilities, the ability of corals to acquire exogenous symbionts, bleached colonies of Porites divaricata were exposed to symbiont types not normally found within this coral and symbiont acquisition was monitored. After three weeks exposure to exogenous symbionts, these novel symbionts were detected in some of the recovering corals, providing the first experimental evidence that scleractinian corals are capable of temporarily acquiring symbionts from the water column after bleaching. However, the acquisition was transient, indicating that the new symbioses were unstable. Only those symbiont types present before bleaching were stable upon recovery, demonstrating that recovery was from the resident in situ symbiont populations.
These findings suggest that some corals do not have the ability to adjust to climate warming by acquiring and maintaining exogenous, more stress-tolerant symbionts. This has serious ramifications for the success of coral reefs and surrounding ecosystems and suggests that unless actions are taken to reverse it, climate change will lead to decreases in biodiversity and a loss of coral reefs.
“Super-blooms” of cyanobacteria that produce potent and environmentally persistent biotoxins (microcystins) are an emerging global health issue in freshwater habitats. Monitoring of the marine environment for secondary impacts has been minimal, although microcystin-contaminated freshwater is known to be entering marine ecosystems. Here we confirm deaths of marine mammals from microcystin intoxication and provide evidence implicating land-sea flow with trophic transfer through marine invertebrates as the most likely route of exposure. This hypothesis was evaluated through environmental detection of potential freshwater and marine microcystin sources, sea otter necropsy with biochemical analysis of tissues and evaluation of bioaccumulation of freshwater microcystins by marine invertebrates. Ocean discharge of freshwater microcystins was confirmed for three nutrient-impaired rivers flowing into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and microcystin concentrations up to 2,900 ppm (2.9 million ppb) were detected in a freshwater lake and downstream tributaries to within 1 km of the ocean. Deaths of 21 southern sea otters, a federally listed threatened species, were linked to microcystin intoxication. Finally, farmed and free-living marine clams, mussels and oysters of species that are often consumed by sea otters and humans exhibited significant biomagnification (to 107 times ambient water levels) and slow depuration of freshwater cyanotoxins, suggesting a potentially serious environmental and public health threat that extends from the lowest trophic levels of nutrient-impaired freshwater habitat to apex marine predators. Microcystin-poisoned sea otters were commonly recovered near river mouths and harbors and contaminated marine bivalves were implicated as the most likely source of this potent hepatotoxin for wild otters. This is the first report of deaths of marine mammals due to cyanotoxins and confirms the existence of a novel class of marine “harmful algal bloom” in the Pacific coastal environment; that of hepatotoxic shellfish poisoning (HSP), suggesting that animals and humans are at risk from microcystin poisoning when consuming shellfish harvested at the land-sea interface.
Species Distribution Models (SDMs) aim on the characterization of a species' ecological niche and project it into geographic space. The result is a map of the species' potential distribution, which is, for instance, helpful to predict the capability of alien invasive species. With regard to alien invasive species, recently several authors observed a mismatch between potential distributions of native and invasive ranges derived from SDMs and, as an explanation, ecological niche shift during biological invasion has been suggested. We studied the physiologically well known Slider turtle from North America which today is widely distributed over the globe and address the issue of ecological niche shift versus choice of ecological predictors used for model building, i.e., by deriving SDMs using multiple sets of climatic predictor.
In one SDM, predictors were used aiming to mirror the physiological limits of the Slider turtle. It was compared to numerous other models based on various sets of ecological predictors or predictors aiming at comprehensiveness. The SDM focusing on the study species' physiological limits depicts the target species' worldwide potential distribution better than any of the other approaches.
These results suggest that a natural history-driven understanding is crucial in developing statistical models of ecological niches (as SDMs) while “comprehensive” or “standard” sets of ecological predictors may be of limited use.
This study examined the association between the security of attachment and processes influencing the development of emotion regulation in young children. A sample of 73 4 1/2-year-olds and their mothers were observed in an emotion regulation probe involving mild frustration for children, and mothers and children were later independently interviewed about how the child had felt. Fewer than half the mothers agreed with children’s self-reports in the emotion they attributed to children (a lower rate than the concordance of observer ratings with children’s self-reports), and higher mother-child concordance was associated with secure attachment and mother’s beliefs about the importance of attending to and accepting their own emotions. Mother-child conversations about recent events evoking children’s negative emotion were also analyzed. Children were less likely to avoid conversing about negative feelings when they were in secure attachments and when mothers were more validating of the child’s perspective. Children’s greater understanding of negative emotions was also significantly associated with higher mother-child concordance and less child conversational avoidance. Taken together, these findings underscore the multiple influences of attachment on emotion regulation and the importance of children’s emotion understanding to these processes.
Emotion regulation; Security of attachment; Sensitivity; Emotion understanding
Population control of socially complex species may have profound ecological implications that remain largely invisible if only their abundance is considered. Here we discuss the effects of control on a socially complex top-order predator, the dingo (Canis lupus dingo). Since European occupation of Australia, dingoes have been controlled over much of the continent. Our aim was to investigate the effects of control on their abundance and social stability. We hypothesized that dingo abundance and social stability are not linearly related, and proposed a theoretical model in which dingo populations may fluctuate between three main states: (A) below carrying capacity and socially fractured, (B) above carrying capacity and socially fractured, or (C) at carrying capacity and socially stable. We predicted that lethal control would drive dingoes into the unstable states A or B, and that relaxation of control would allow recovery towards C. We tested our predictions by surveying relative abundance (track density) and indicators of social stability (scent-marking and howling) at seven sites in the arid zone subject to differing degrees of control. We also monitored changes in dingo abundance and social stability following relaxation and intensification of control. Sites where dingoes had been controlled within the previous two years were characterized by low scent-marking activity, but abundance was similar at sites with and without control. Signs of social stability steadily increased the longer an area was allowed to recover from control, but change in abundance did not follow a consistent path. Comparison of abundance and stability among all sites and years demonstrated that control severely fractures social groups, but that the effect of control on abundance was neither consistent nor predictable. Management decisions involving large social predators must therefore consider social stability to ensure their conservation and ecological functioning.
Marine populations have been declining at a worrying rate, due in large part to fishing pressures. The challenge is to secure a future for marine life while minimizing impacts on fishers and fishing communities.
Methods and Principal Findings
Rather than selecting areas where fishing is banned – as is usually the case with spatial management – we assess the concept of designating areas where fishing is permitted. We use spatial catch statistics for thirteen commercial fisheries on Canada's west coast to determine the minimum area that would be needed to maintain a pre-ascribed target percentage of current catches. We found that small reductions in fisheries yields, if strategically allocated, could result in large unfished areas that are representative of biophysical regions and habitat types, and have the potential to achieve remarkable conservation gains.
Our approach of selecting fishing areas instead of reserves could help redirect debate about the relative values that society places on conservation and extraction, in a framework that could gain much by losing little. Our ideas are intended to promote discussions about the current status quo in fisheries management, rather than providing a definitive solution.
Nutrient enrichment of the coastal zone places intense pressure on marine communities. Previous studies have shown that growth of intertidal mangrove forests is accelerated with enhanced nutrient availability. However, nutrient enrichment favours growth of shoots relative to roots, thus enhancing growth rates but increasing vulnerability to environmental stresses that adversely affect plant water relations. Two such stresses are high salinity and low humidity, both of which require greater investment in roots to meet the demands for water by the shoots. Here we present data from a global network of sites that documents enhanced mortality of mangroves with experimental nutrient enrichment at sites where high sediment salinity was coincident with low rainfall and low humidity. Thus the benefits of increased mangrove growth in response to coastal eutrophication is offset by the costs of decreased resilience due to mortality during drought, with mortality increasing with soil water salinity along climatic gradients.
Invasive species are a serious problem in ecosystems, but are difficult to eradicate once established. Predictive methods can be key in determining which areas are of concern regarding invasion by such species to prevent establishment . We assessed the geographic potential of four Eurasian cyprinid fishes (common carp, tench, grass carp, black carp) as invaders in North America via ecological niche modeling (ENM). These “carp” represent four stages of invasion of the continent (a long-established invader with a wide distribution, a long-established invader with a limited distribution, a spreading invader whose distribution is expanding, and a newly introduced potential invader that is not yet established), and as such illustrate the progressive reduction of distributional disequilibrium over the history of species' invasions.
We used ENM to estimate the potential distributional area for each species in North America using models based on native range distribution data. Environmental data layers for native and introduced ranges were imported from state, national, and international climate and environmental databases. Models were evaluated using independent validation data on native and invaded areas. We calculated omission error for the independent validation data for each species: all native range tests were highly successful (all omission values <7%); invaded-range predictions were predictive for common and grass carp (omission values 8.8 and 19.8%, respectively). Model omission was high for introduced tench populations (54.7%), but the model correctly identified some areas where the species has been successful; distributional predictions for black carp show that large portions of eastern North America are at risk.
ENMs predicted potential ranges of carp species accurately even in regions where the species have not been present until recently. ENM can forecast species' potential geographic ranges with reasonable precision and within the short screening time required by proposed U.S. invasive species legislation.
Infestations of the parasitic copepod Lepeophtheirus salmonis, commonly referred to as sea lice, represent a major challenge to commercial salmon aquaculture. Dependence on a limited number of theraputants to control such infestations has led to concerns of reduced sensitivity in some sea lice populations. This study investigates trends in the efficacy of the in-feed treatment emamectin benzoate in Scotland, the active ingredient most widely used across all salmon producing regions.
Study data were drawn from over 50 commercial Atlantic salmon farms on the west coast of Scotland between 2002 and 2006. An epi-informatics approach was adopted whereby available farm records, descriptive epidemiological summaries and statistical linear modelling methods were used to identify factors that significantly affect sea lice abundance following treatment with emamectin benzoate (SLICE®, Schering Plough Animal Health). The results show that although sea lice infestations are reduced following the application of emamectin benzoate, not all treatments are effective. Specifically there is evidence of variation across geographical regions and a reduction in efficacy over time.
Reduced sensitivity and potential resistance to currently available medicines are constant threats to maintaining control of sea lice populations on Atlantic salmon farms. There is a need for on-going monitoring of emamectin benzoate treatment efficacy together with reasons for any apparent reduction in performance. In addition, strategic rotation of medicines should be encouraged and empirical evidence for the benefit of such strategies more fully evaluated.
Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus picocyanobacteria are dominant contributors to marine primary production over large areas of the ocean. Phytoplankton cells are entrained in the water column and are thus often exposed to rapid changes in irradiance within the upper mixed layer of the ocean. An upward fluctuation in irradiance can result in photosystem II photoinactivation exceeding counteracting repair rates through protein turnover, thereby leading to net photoinhibition of primary productivity, and potentially cell death. Here we show that the effective cross-section for photosystem II photoinactivation is conserved across the picocyanobacteria, but that their photosystem II repair capacity and protein-specific photosystem II light capture are negatively correlated and vary widely across the strains. The differences in repair rate correspond to the light and nutrient conditions that characterize the site of origin of the Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus isolates, and determine the upward fluctuation in irradiance they can tolerate, indicating that photoinhibition due to transient high-light exposure influences their distribution in the ocean.
Conservation of marine ecosystems will require a holistic understanding of fisheries with concurrent spatial patterns of biodiversity.
Using data from the UK Government Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) deployed on UK-registered large fishing vessels we investigate patterns of fisheries activity on annual and seasonal scales. Analysis of VMS data shows that regions of the UK European continental shelf (i.e. Western Channel and Celtic Sea, Northern North Sea and the Goban Spur) receive consistently greater fisheries pressure than the rest of the UK continental shelf fishing zone.
VMS provides a unique and independent method from which to derive patterns of spatially and temporally explicit fisheries activity. Such information may feed into ecosystem management plans seeking to achieve sustainable fisheries while minimising putative risk to non-target species (e.g. cetaceans, seabirds and elasmobranchs) and habitats of conservation concern. With multilateral collaboration VMS technologies may offer an important solution to quantifying and managing ecosystem disturbance, particularly on the high-seas.
Refugia have been suggested as priority sites for conservation under climate change because of their ability to facilitate survival of biota under adverse conditions. Here, we review the likely role of refugial habitats in conserving freshwater biota in arid Australian aquatic systems where the major long-term climatic influence has been aridification. We introduce a conceptual model that characterizes evolutionary refugia and ecological refuges based on our review of the attributes of aquatic habitats and freshwater taxa (fishes and aquatic invertebrates) in arid Australia. We also identify methods of recognizing likely future refugia and approaches to assessing the vulnerability of arid-adapted freshwater biota to a warming and drying climate. Evolutionary refugia in arid areas are characterized as permanent, groundwater-dependent habitats (subterranean aquifers and springs) supporting vicariant relicts and short-range endemics. Ecological refuges can vary across space and time, depending on the dispersal abilities of aquatic taxa and the geographical proximity and hydrological connectivity of aquatic habitats. The most important are the perennial waterbodies (both groundwater and surface water fed) that support obligate aquatic organisms. These species will persist where suitable habitats are available and dispersal pathways are maintained. For very mobile species (invertebrates with an aerial dispersal phase) evolutionary refugia may also act as ecological refuges. Evolutionary refugia are likely future refugia because their water source (groundwater) is decoupled from local precipitation. However, their biota is extremely vulnerable to changes in local conditions because population extinction risks cannot be abated by the dispersal of individuals from other sites. Conservation planning must incorporate a high level of protection for aquifers that support refugial sites. Ecological refuges are vulnerable to changes in regional climate because they have little thermal or hydrological buffering. Accordingly, conservation planning must focus on maintaining meta-population processes, especially through dynamic connectivity between aquatic habitats at a landscape scale.
arid environments; climate change; climatic decoupling; freshwater biodiversity; refuges; refugia