Last spring, we held an ethical debate focusing on a paper called “Science or Slaughter”. The authors claimed that sometimes it is necessary to kill sharks to answer important scientific questions. One of the authors agreed to be interviewed for Shark Science Monday. Enjoy! As always, feel free to ask questions of the interview subject in the comments and I’ll send them her way.
Apologies for the background noise halfway through the interview- this took place during a World Cup game, and you are hearing excitement from people three floors down in the Providence Convention Center. Background noise filters can only do so much, but what Michelle has to say is important and I wanted to include the entire interview.
While a large percentage of the world’s shark fins pass through Hong Kong fish markets, most come from far-away countries and little attention has been paid to shark populations in adjacent waters. An important new paper, appropriately titled “The sharks of South East Asia – unknown, unmonitored and unmanaged” provides new insight into this problem.
Yesterday afternoon, the Presidents of Honduras and Palau challenged other world leaders to follow their example by protecting sharks. Both nations have banned shark fishing within their territorial waters, and they are encouraging other nations (both rich countries with fishing fleets and poor coastal countries) to do the same. This announcement was timed to coincide with a high-level United Nations meeting to review millennium development and global biodiversity conservation goals.
Sea Otters are turning up dead in central California. In 2007, 11 sea otters were recovered from Monterrey Bay. Over the last three years, dead otters washing up on beaches has reached a record high?
What could be causing all these otter deaths? Are there new predators in the area? Is there some kind of disease? Could increased otter deaths reflect an increase in otter populations, indicating not otter population decline, but otter population growth? The answer turns out to be even more surprising – freshwater algae.
My favorite real sea monster is the Eurypterid, also known as the Sea Scorpion. These fearsome predators were the largest arthropods ever to live- they could grow to over six feet in length! Eurypterids are believed to have crawled along the seafloor using their pincers to grab trilobites and other prey. Sadly (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) these impressive predators have been extinct for hundreds of millions of years.
One of the many frequent claims that crop up in both popular and scientific reports about deep-sea hydrothermal vents is that chemosynthetic ecosystems are independent of photosynthetic ecosystems. Even high quality scientific reporting have been guilty of making this claim: “These animals live completely independent of sunlight” (NOAA Ocean Explorer).
But are chemosynthetic systems totally independent of the sun?
Recall the basic equation for chemosynthesis:
CO2 + O2 + 4H2S -> CH20 + 4S + 3H2O
Now, this is a basic chemosynthesis reaction using hydrogen sulfide as the electron donor, this is not the only possible chemical pathway for chemosynthesis. Notice that one of the required molecules is O2. Where did that oxygen come from? Photosynthesis!
So while chemosynthetic ecosystems are not directly dependent on the sun for energy, a critical part of the chemosynthetic pathways requires a byproduct of photosynthesis, therefore, it is inaccurate to state that “These animals live completely independent of sunlight”
Last weekend, longtime SFS reader Suzy sent me an interesting question. Suzy is Asian, and though she is a committed conservationist, several members of her family regularly eat shark fin soup. One relative just sent her a copy of a news article entitled “Shark Fin Soup: Eat it without guilt” (available here). Suzy asked me if the information in this article is correct, and how she should respond to her family members.
Though it is a few years old, I had never seen this article, and it’s a little shocking. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better example of distorting or ignoring science to promote a political agenda outside of Fox News. In short, Suzy, most of the information in here is either false or intentionally misleading.