It’s illegal for anglers to land hammerheads in Florida. It’s time that media coverage pointed that out.

On January 1st, 2012, new Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulations came into effect, making it illegal for fishermen to land great, smooth, or scalloped hammerhead sharks in Florida waters. The legal term “land” is clearly defined in the Florida Code:

Land,” when used in connection with the harvest of marine organisms, means the physical act of bringing the harvested organism ashore

“Harvest” means the catching or taking of a marine organism by any means whatsoever, followed by a reduction of such organism to possession. Marine organisms that are caught but immediately returned to the water free, alive, and unharmed are not harvested”

 Florida code section 68B-44  (emphasis mine)

In other words, if a fish is brought out of the water, it is “landed”. If anglers stop the act of releasing a fish to measure it or take a photo, it is not “immediately released.”  If a fish isn’t  “immediately returned alive and unharmed” (and if the extremely physiologically stressful act of bringing a hammerhead out of the water results in it dying after release, it was not released “unharmed,”)  it is harvested. If you drag the shark out of the water and leave it there until it stops moving long enough that you feel safe to approach it, that is not an “immediately released” animal, and it isn’t an animal that is “released unharmed.”  Landing and/or harvesting hammerhead sharks is illegal. This is clear under the law, and has been confirmed by numerous consultations with an FWC Law Enforcement official.

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Watch Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark on Netflix Wednesday at 10 p.m., and tweet along with us!

mechaMega Shark vs. Mecha Shark, the third installment of the amazing “Mega Shark vs.” series, is now on Netflix streaming!

In 2009′s Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, a megaladon and a giant octopus were accidentally released by climate change, which led to a path of destruction around the world… until a scientific team involving Debbie Gibson convinced them to fight each other to the death!

In 2010′s Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus, apparently the megaladon didn’t die, and now there’s also a giant crocodile! Also Jaleel White, TV’s Steve Urkel, played a scientist.

At this point, the military is ready for the megaladon, thanks to a mechanical giant shark they built! Also Debbie Gibson is back! Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark should be as awesome as the first two!

We’ll be watching starting at 10:00 P.M. eastern on Wednesday, 4/23. Please join us, and join the conversation on twitter with hashtag #MegaVsMecha !

My five favorite responses to the Loch Ness Debunking.

I didn’t expect a throw-away post I made last Friday debunking an alleged image of the Loch Ness Monster to go viral, but this is the internet and these things happen. As you might expect, my inbox, social media accounts, and this website have been inundated with comments about that post, how wrong I must be, what’s really going on, and why X theory is clearly the correct one. For the record, it’s still a boat wake, but in light of the amount of attention the post received, I updated it with a bit more information about how that image could occur.

With that out of the way, here are my five favorite responses to the latest Loch Ness Monster sighting:

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Collecting organisms to save their species

 ProsantaDr.Prosanta Chakrabarty is an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University and an ichthyologist and evolutionary biologist. He is also Curator of Fishes at LSU’s Museum of Natural Science. You can learn more about him from his website www.prosanta.net and follow him on Twitter @LSU_FISH.

A recent piece in Science (Minteer et al. 2014) titled “Avoiding (Re)extinction” advocated avoiding collecting specimens for the sake of confirming the existence of a species. In lieu of killing and collecting the animal the authors suggest using “high-resolution photography, audio recording, and nonlethal sampling.” As a natural history curator of fishes I found this to be a pretty bad idea.

My PhD students (Bill Ludt and Caleb McMahan) in Costa Rica collecting specimens for their thesis projects. These guys better not just come back with pictures.

My PhD students (Bill Ludt and Caleb McMahan) in Costa Rica collecting specimens for their thesis projects. These guys better not just come back with pictures.

I don’t like killing animals, I was a strict vegetarian for 10 years (now I just eat sustainable seafood – hey, I live in Louisiana). I certainly wouldn’t want to endanger a species by over collecting it. I know of no scientific collectors who kill rare animals just so he or she can say they have it in their collections. We collect for a few simple reasons: because specimens are not available otherwise via loan, or additional specimens are needed for a comparative study, or because we need vouchers as evidence of the existence of the taxon.

I’ve collected rare species in the past, particularly some of the cavefishes I work on. For one of these species, Typhleotris mararybe, we collected the only two specimens we or anyone ever saw. We were in a very remote part of Madagascar and we were only allowed to collect two specimens from any given locality. I knew these individuals were part of a species new to science as soon as I looked at them. Did removing two samples place this species at risk of extinction? Guessing the population was much larger than what we found just at the surface, I would suppose not. What were we to do? Not collect them and just take pictures? We wouldn’t have been able to do the necessary comparative descriptive analysis to actually prove their novelty required by the ICZN (International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature). We collected these specimens so that we could formally describe this new and fantastic new species so that the world can be aware of their existence and so that measures can be put in place to conserve them and study them further.

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Fun Science Friday – First Female Penis

Happy Fun Science Friday.

You did not mistakenly read the title, today we bring you the discovery of the first female penis in the animal kingdom.

Mating insects of the genus Neotrogla. Photo Credit: Current Biology / Yoshizawa et al.

Mating insects of the genus Neotrogla.
Photo Credit: Current Biology / Yoshizawa et al.

Yoshizawa, from Hokkaido University in Japan, and his team of researchers documented this phenomenon of sexual role reversal in 4 species of rather unassuming insects in Brazil’s Peruaçu River Valley.  When insects of the genus Neotrogla mate, the female mounts the male and penetrates his vagina-like opening with her penis.

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