A recipe for the evolution of smaller fish stocks?

fish face a tradeoff of where to use their energy, much like the polluted fish in the Lorax by Dr. Suess

Overfishing is most often implicated as the cause of decreasing fish stocks and that makes a lot of logical sense if you’ve ever seen a large commercial trawler unload its catch. But there very well might be another force at work in the precipitous decline in fish stocks worldwide: pollution. The basic premise is that it takes resources to deal with pollutants that normally would be given to growth and reproduction. Through polluting the ocean, we have selected for the fish individuals that can most effectively divert those resources, inadvertently also selecting for smaller fish that reproduce less. That has huge implications for the fish’s population dynamics and potentially total fish stock. More details below the fold…

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Grampa Hagfish: say hello to your greatest uncle

Image from http://www.zoology.ubc.ca/labs/biomaterials/slime.html

Today is Hagfish Day! Who knew?

What is a hagfish?

Hagfish are primitive eel-like chordates make famous for their relative unattractiveness*, profuse production of slime, and charismatic ability to tie themselves in knots. They are perhaps the only ‘fish’ that possesses a skull, but no vertebral column. But the question “What is a hagfish?” goes much deeper than that and it’s answer is fundamental to the evolution of vertebrates and, ultimately, us.

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Bed Bugs: better bitten than smitten

Common bed bug Cimex lectularius

Bed bugs, the nasty nocturnal nursery rhyme nightmares than are making a comeback throughout the northeastern United States. Infestations, previously relegated to the status of urban legend in much of the developed world, are on the rise due to a combination of more frequent travel, pesticide resistance, and the end of the ‘better living through chemistry” era when DDT was a perfectly acceptable thing to spray into your baby’s crib. They’re mean, nasty blood suckers that have risen over the summer to become the scourge of hotel managers everywhere. Except, they’re really pretty harmless. Most people don’t even have a reaction to the bite, they are shockingly poor vectors for disease, and, when you get past the blood sucking, they’re rather cute as far as bugs go. There is one rather disagreeable feature about these critters, and it’s the reason we should all be thankful that we’re only bitten by them.

Traumatic Insemination.
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Non-Monophyly within Syngnathidae


Objective 1: Develop the least publicly accessible title for a blog post about seadragons, mate selection, and evolution

Objective 1 Status: complete

Objective 2: Draw in whatever readers push passed the unwieldy title with an unconventional narrative structure.

Objective 2 Status: complete

Objective 3: Hook the reader with a fascinating, though brief, background on seahorses, seadragons, and pipefish.

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A new blog joins the Southern Fried Science Network

A new blog has just joined our humble little network. Head over to SouthernPlayalisticEvolutionMusic and give DNLee a hearty welcome!

From the author:

Yea, I love hip-hop and many might be surprised as how knowledgeable I am in all of the various hip-hop and rap demonimations.  I am a Hip-Hop Maven….and I’m also a nerdy girl.  Proud to be both.  So that brings me to my newest blog project – SouthernPlayalisticEvolutonMusic.  It’s a science blog about evolutionary biology explained via hip-hop music examples.  It’s housed at Southern Fried Science Network.

Why a new blog?  It’s a completely different topic – Evolutionary Biology; and it’s new voice for me.  I’m primarily writing to an adult audience.  I’m not using foul language or anything, but the evolutionary topics of sexual selection and mate choice are thoroughly explored. Plus, I will likely be sampling some songs with colorful language.  I wanted to keep the voice clear and respect the following this blog has aquired.  This is an introductory science blog about urban ecology that reaches diverse and family-friendly audiences.


Why are you still reading this? Go check out SouthernPlayalisticEvolutionMusic!

~Southern Fried Scientist

Our favorite sea monsters – The Giant Manta Special Edition

Sea Monsters, mythical beasts of legend and lore that ply the world’s oceans, sinking ships, terrifying sailors, swallowing entire crews whole. Sea monsters occupy a special place in our imagination. The ocean is huge, unfathomable. Of course mighty beast could dwell within, undetected.

Every once in a long while, the myths, the legends, the stories, turn out to be true. This is one of those times.

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Bone-eating worms and contorted creationist thinking

I tend to avoid the creationist blogs. Every time I get sucked into that vortex of pseudoscience, I find the exact same debunked claims that were bunk when I was 12. There are better bloggers out there who have the energy and patience to systematically dissect the same tired old rubbish day after day, but I’m not one of them.

This claim, however, is special. There’s nothing new in the rhetoric behind it, it’s just another “how could this commensalism/symbiosis/mutualism evolve? It must be magic!” mantra. And the analysis isn’t terribly sophisticated, anyone could do the basic googling to find out why every argument in it is either wrong or deceptive. What’s special is that it’s about one of my favorite critters, Osedax – the bone eating worm.

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Chemistry of the Great Big Blue: Plastics

thanks surfrider.org

From the microscopic to the gigantic, plastic debris has plagued our oceans since its invention. Much of the problem originated initially because we didn’t realize that plastics don’t degrade until after we had dumped tons into the ocean, largely off of ships as trash. WHOI offers a good summary of the history of plastic pollution. Many things changed since that first realization and the nature of plastics in the marine environment has a very different face nowadays.

The plastic is smaller and more widely distributed. There are fairly well-known areas that collect the plastics such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  There are also other areas affected that are closer to shore and where people use marine resources. Plastic often settles in seagrass beds that serve as important nursery habitat and on beaches where turtles and shorebirds mistake them for food and nesting material. Need more details on plastic?

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