Baby Shark Rays Born at Newport Aquarium in Kentucky

Kentucky’s Newport Aquarium has announced that Sweet Pea, the first documented Shark Ray to breed in a controlled environment, gave birth to seven pups on January 24! Three females and three males survived the nearly five-hour birthing process, and are being carefully monitored.

Sweet Pea’s pups arrived during the same week as an IUCN report estimating that one in four shark and ray species are at risk of extinction.

See videos and read more: ZooBorns

palaeopedia
palaeopedia:

The Falcatus (1985)
Phylum : ChordataClass : ChondrichthyesSubclass : ElasmobranchiiOrder : SymmoriidaFamily : FalcatidaeGenus : FalcatusSpecies : F. falcatus
Middle Carboniferous (358,9 - 323,2 Ma)
30 cm long and 1 kg (size)
Bear Gluch bay, Missouri in USA (map)
A close relative of Stethacanthus, which lived a few million years earlier, the tiny prehistoric shark Falcatus is known from numerous fossil remains from Missouri, dating from the Carboniferous period. Besides its small size, this early shark was distinguished by its large eyes (the better for hunting prey deep underwater) and symmetrical tail, which hints that it was an accomplished swimmer. Also, the abundant fossil evidence has revealed striking evidence of sexual dimorphism—Falcatus males had narrow, sickle-shaped spines jutting out of the tops of their heads, which presumably attracted females for mating purposes.

palaeopedia:

The Falcatus (1985)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Chondrichthyes
Subclass : Elasmobranchii
Order : Symmoriida
Family : Falcatidae
Genus : Falcatus
Species : F. falcatus

  • Middle Carboniferous (358,9 - 323,2 Ma)
  • 30 cm long and 1 kg (size)
  • Bear Gluch bay, Missouri in USA (map)

A close relative of Stethacanthus, which lived a few million years earlier, the tiny prehistoric shark Falcatus is known from numerous fossil remains from Missouri, dating from the Carboniferous period. Besides its small size, this early shark was distinguished by its large eyes (the better for hunting prey deep underwater) and symmetrical tail, which hints that it was an accomplished swimmer. Also, the abundant fossil evidence has revealed striking evidence of sexual dimorphism—Falcatus males had narrow, sickle-shaped spines jutting out of the tops of their heads, which presumably attracted females for mating purposes.

Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
In North America, the Great White Shark is primarily found off the coasts of California and the northeast, but they live throughout temperate and tropical oceans and can occur along the length of both coasts. While they can reach 21 ft (6.5 m) long, they actually average a more modest 13-17 ft (4-5 m) when mature.
Great Whites are relatively intelligent and can be fairly social. In South Africa where most Great White research is done, they have been shown to organize into clans like wolf packs, where each individual has a clear rank under an alpha leader. They are typically not violent in their social interactions with other Great Whites - they rely on rituals and displays to establish dominance. Interestingly, females are dominant over males in such situations.
They are ambush predators whose diet is composed of large vertebrates such as seals, dolphins or big fish like tuna. Most prey is taken by surprise from behind or below, typically in the early morning hours when visibility is poorer. Great Whites generally focus on species with higher fat content - humans are too bony to be considered appealing, but since swimmers or surfers can resemble some of their preferred prey (seals) attacks occasionally happen.
photo by Tom Clifton on Flickr
(via: Peterson Field Guides)

Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

In North America, the Great White Shark is primarily found off the coasts of California and the northeast, but they live throughout temperate and tropical oceans and can occur along the length of both coasts. While they can reach 21 ft (6.5 m) long, they actually average a more modest 13-17 ft (4-5 m) when mature.

Great Whites are relatively intelligent and can be fairly social. In South Africa where most Great White research is done, they have been shown to organize into clans like wolf packs, where each individual has a clear rank under an alpha leader. They are typically not violent in their social interactions with other Great Whites - they rely on rituals and displays to establish dominance. Interestingly, females are dominant over males in such situations.

They are ambush predators whose diet is composed of large vertebrates such as seals, dolphins or big fish like tuna. Most prey is taken by surprise from behind or below, typically in the early morning hours when visibility is poorer. Great Whites generally focus on species with higher fat content - humans are too bony to be considered appealing, but since swimmers or surfers can resemble some of their preferred prey (seals) attacks occasionally happen.

photo by Tom Clifton on Flickr

(via: Peterson Field Guides)

alphynix
alphynix:

Daily Paleo Art Month #16: Brochoadmones
Brochoadmones came from the Early Devonian of Canada, about 435-430 million years ago. Around 10cm long (4in), it was a type of “spiny shark" — an extinct group that shared features with both bony and cartilaginous fish.
And it had a lot of extra fins. Six paired “finlets” running from below the gills to the pelvic fins, each consisting of a spine with a web of scaled skin. They look very much like what would be expected for multiple fins evolving from a lateral fin-fold (essentially a single elongated fin subdividing).

alphynix:

Daily Paleo Art Month #16: Brochoadmones

Brochoadmones came from the Early Devonian of Canada, about 435-430 million years ago. Around 10cm long (4in), it was a type of “spiny shark" — an extinct group that shared features with both bony and cartilaginous fish.

And it had a lot of extra fins. Six paired “finlets” running from below the gills to the pelvic fins, each consisting of a spine with a web of scaled skin. They look very much like what would be expected for multiple fins evolving from a lateral fin-fold (essentially a single elongated fin subdividing).

ichthyologist
ichthyologist:

Marbled Electric Ray (Torpedo marmorata)
Electric rays are an order of marine cartilaginous fish known for their ability to generate electrical discharges. The shock can be used to stun prey and predators, and can range from 8 to 220 volts depending on the species (which is comparable to dropping a mains-powered hair dryer into a bathtub.)
The ray produces its electricity with a pair of specialised organs located on either side of the head, which consist of 400-600 columns. Each column is composed of a stack of around 400 gelatinous ‘electroplates’ which function like a battery connected in a parallel circuit.
Philippe Guillaume on Flickr

ichthyologist:

Marbled Electric Ray (Torpedo marmorata)

Electric rays are an order of marine cartilaginous fish known for their ability to generate electrical discharges. The shock can be used to stun prey and predators, and can range from 8 to 220 volts depending on the species (which is comparable to dropping a mains-powered hair dryer into a bathtub.)

The ray produces its electricity with a pair of specialised organs located on either side of the head, which consist of 400-600 columns. Each column is composed of a stack of around 400 gelatinous ‘electroplates’ which function like a battery connected in a parallel circuit.

Philippe Guillaume on Flickr

Indonesia Announces World’s Largest Manta Ray Sanctuary

by Jane J. Lee

One of the world’s largest fishes gets a super-size sanctuary thanks to a decision by the Indonesian government to ban fishing for manta rays within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The move, hailed by conservation organizations and researchers, has resulted in the world’s largest protected area for these migratory animals. Indonesia’s EEZ stretches for almost 2.3 million square miles (6 million square kilometers). (Watch a video to learn more about manta rays.)

Two manta ray species, the reef manta (Manta alfredi) and the oceanic manta (Manta birostris), occur in the waters around Indonesia, and both are afforded protection under this new legislation…

(via: National Geo)

photo: Herman Harsoyo

ichthyologist
naturalose:

Species in the Rhinochimaera family are known as long-nosed chimaeras. Their unusually long snouts (compared to other chimaeras) have sensory nerves that allow the fish to find food. Also, their first dorsal fin contains a mildly venomous spine that is used defensively. They are found in deep, temperate and tropical waters between 200 to 2,000 m in depth, and can grow to be up to 140 cm (4.5 ft) in length.
Chimaeras (also known as ghost sharks and ratfish) are an order of cartilaginous fish most closely related to sharks, but they have been evolutionarily isolated from them for over 400 million years.
(Info from WP and .gif from video by NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer—this is not an animation!)

naturalose:

Species in the Rhinochimaera family are known as long-nosed chimaeras. Their unusually long snouts (compared to other chimaeras) have sensory nerves that allow the fish to find food. Also, their first dorsal fin contains a mildly venomous spine that is used defensively. They are found in deep, temperate and tropical waters between 200 to 2,000 m in depth, and can grow to be up to 140 cm (4.5 ft) in length.

Chimaeras (also known as ghost sharks and ratfish) are an order of cartilaginous fish most closely related to sharks, but they have been evolutionarily isolated from them for over 400 million years.

(Info from WP and .gif from video by NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer—this is not an animation!)

libutron
sheerdarwinism:

Large, well-established and isolated Marine Protected Areas boost shark numbers
The concept itself probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to a lot of us, but a recent comprehensive study has shown that large, established and well-enforced no take zones show 14 times more more sharks and other sea life than commercial fishing areas.
87 marine protected areas (MPAs) were examined over 40 countries, allowing researchers to determine factors contributing to a successful MPA. Successful MPAs typically had five features: no-take zone, well-enforced, over 10 years old, over 100km-sq, and isolated by sand or deep water. 
Of course, most of us also know that the majority of MPAs are not successful, and are in fact only token protected areas - they’re paper parks, meaning they’re only MPAs on paper. And the sea life in these areas is about on the same level as the sea life in the nearby fishing areas. Which is to say, not great; the study shows a 90% decrease in sharks, and 83% decrease in large fish (with a 63% decrease in fish overall). And that’s pretty scary, because it means a lot of MPAs aren’t achieving their conservation goals, if they have them at all.
But it’s not all bad news. Hopefully, this means the study and ones similar to it could be used in the near future to improve current MPAs, increase the number of successful MPAs and reduce the number of paper parks and MPAs like them. Fingers crossed.
(Also, you can read the paper, published in Nature, here.)

sheerdarwinism:

Large, well-established and isolated Marine Protected Areas boost shark numbers

The concept itself probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to a lot of us, but a recent comprehensive study has shown that large, established and well-enforced no take zones show 14 times more more sharks and other sea life than commercial fishing areas.

87 marine protected areas (MPAs) were examined over 40 countries, allowing researchers to determine factors contributing to a successful MPA. Successful MPAs typically had five features: no-take zone, well-enforced, over 10 years old, over 100km-sq, and isolated by sand or deep water

Of course, most of us also know that the majority of MPAs are not successful, and are in fact only token protected areas - they’re paper parks, meaning they’re only MPAs on paper. And the sea life in these areas is about on the same level as the sea life in the nearby fishing areas. Which is to say, not great; the study shows a 90% decrease in sharks, and 83% decrease in large fish (with a 63% decrease in fish overall). And that’s pretty scary, because it means a lot of MPAs aren’t achieving their conservation goals, if they have them at all.

But it’s not all bad news. Hopefully, this means the study and ones similar to it could be used in the near future to improve current MPAs, increase the number of successful MPAs and reduce the number of paper parks and MPAs like them. Fingers crossed.

(Also, you can read the paper, published in Nature, here.)

Years After Mating, Eagle Rays Finally Give Birth
by Stephen Messenger
The marine biologists at Australia’s Oceanworld Manly aquarium may be well-versed in the facts of life, but it’s never too late to learn a bit more about how exactly babies are made. Recently, twelve healthy baby rays were birthed at the facility by a pair of females, much to the confusion of aquarium staff. What’s so puzzling about that? Well, the new mothers haven’t had any contact with a male stingray for over two years.
Researchers point out that some female marine animals, like rays and sharks, have been known to store sperm until just the right moment to conceive. But, according to a report from Australia’s Daily Telegraph, never before have biologists observed rays put off starting a family so long after the initial reproductive deed was done. In fact, pregnancy was the last thing on their minds when they noticed two of their rays were starting to plump up…
(read more: TreeHugger)
Photo: chucklepix

Years After Mating, Eagle Rays Finally Give Birth

by Stephen Messenger

The marine biologists at Australia’s Oceanworld Manly aquarium may be well-versed in the facts of life, but it’s never too late to learn a bit more about how exactly babies are made. Recently, twelve healthy baby rays were birthed at the facility by a pair of females, much to the confusion of aquarium staff. What’s so puzzling about that? Well, the new mothers haven’t had any contact with a male stingray for over two years.

Researchers point out that some female marine animals, like rays and sharks, have been known to store sperm until just the right moment to conceive. But, according to a report from Australia’s Daily Telegraph, never before have biologists observed rays put off starting a family so long after the initial reproductive deed was done. In fact, pregnancy was the last thing on their minds when they noticed two of their rays were starting to plump up…

(read more: TreeHugger)

Photo: chucklepix

Aetobatus narutobiei | Naru Eagle Ray • A New Species of Eagle Ray from the Northwest Pacific: An Example of the Critical Role Taxonomy Plays in Fisheries and Ecological Sciences [2013]

Recent taxonomic and molecular work on the eagle rays (Family Myliobatidae) revealed a cryptic species in the northwest Pacific. This species is formally described as Aetobatus narutobiei sp. nov. and compared to its congeners. Aetobatus narutobiei is found in eastern Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Korea and southern Japan.

It was previously considered to be conspecific with Aetobatus flagellum, but these species differ in size, structure of the NADH2 and CO1 genes, some morphological and meristic characters and colouration. Aetobatus narutobiei is particularly abundant in Ariake Bay in southern Japan where it is considered a pest species that predates heavily on farmed bivalve stocks and is culled annually as part of a ‘predator control’ program.

The discovery of A. narutobiei highlights the paucity of detailed taxonomic research on this group of rays. This discovery impacts on current conservation assessments of A. flagellum and these need to be revised based on the findings of this study…

(read more: NovaTaxa - Species New to Science)

photos via: White, Moore and Moore

rhamphotheca

In the first global analysis of its kind, an international team of researchers found that of the 1,041 species of cartilaginous fishes (chondrichthyans) investigated, 25 species are critically endangered, 43 are endangered, 113 are vulnerable, and 132 species are “near threatened.” That’s a total of 30 percent of the species analyzed; for 487 of the remaining species, there was insufficient data to classify the threat…

(photo; Laszlo Ilyes)

The  elephant shark, Callorhinchus milii 
… is a cartilaginous fish (not actually a shark but a ratfish or chimera) native to the Southwest Pacific off southern Australia and New Zealand. Because of its relatively small genome, this species has been targeted as a model organism for vertebrate molecular evolution. In a whole-genome analysis published in Nature today, Byrappa Venkatesh & colleagues report that the elephant shark has the slowest rate of evolution of any known vertebrate. Its genome has not changed substantially in hundreds of millions of years. Comparison of the elephant shark genome with those of other vertebrates also provides intriguing insights into the evolution of vertebrate skeletons and immune systems. 
Check out the paper for details More about this species: Encyclopedia of LifeImage by fir0002 | flagstaffotos.com.au via Wikimedia Commons 

The elephant shark, Callorhinchus milii

… is a cartilaginous fish (not actually a shark but a ratfish or chimera) native to the Southwest Pacific off southern Australia and New Zealand. Because of its relatively small genome, this species has been targeted as a model organism for vertebrate molecular evolution.

In a whole-genome analysis published in Nature today, Byrappa Venkatesh & colleagues report that the elephant shark has the slowest rate of evolution of any known vertebrate. Its genome has not changed substantially in hundreds of millions of years. Comparison of the elephant shark genome with those of other vertebrates also provides intriguing insights into the evolution of vertebrate skeletons and immune systems.

Check out the paper for details

More about this species: Encyclopedia of Life

Image by fir0002 | flagstaffotos.com.au via Wikimedia Commons 

'Elephant Shark' Takes Record for Slowest Evolution
by Bob Homes
It’s a living fossil to beat all others. The elephant shark, Callorhinchus milii, has the slowest-evolving genome of any vertebrate.
C. milii is not actually a true shark but belongs to a group known as ratfish, which diverged from sharks about 400 million years ago. When a team led by Byrappa Venkatesh of the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Singapore compared its genome with those of other vertebrates, they found it had changed less from its presumed ancestral form than any other.
C. milii outstrips the coelacanth, the fish that previously held the slow-evolution record.
Such limited change means the elephant shark’s genome is the closest yet to that of the first jawed vertebrate, which lived more than 450 million years ago and gave rise to many modern animals including humans. It makes the elephant shark an important reference point for unlocking how this long-lost ancestor evolved. As well as jaws, the earliest fish pioneered bony skeletons and a sophisticated immune system, but it is not known when or how these features appeared…
(read more: New Scientist)
photo: Kelvin Aitken/V and W/Image Quest Marine

'Elephant Shark' Takes Record for Slowest Evolution

by Bob Homes

It’s a living fossil to beat all others. The elephant shark, Callorhinchus milii, has the slowest-evolving genome of any vertebrate.

C. milii is not actually a true shark but belongs to a group known as ratfish, which diverged from sharks about 400 million years ago. When a team led by Byrappa Venkatesh of the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Singapore compared its genome with those of other vertebrates, they found it had changed less from its presumed ancestral form than any other.

C. milii outstrips the coelacanth, the fish that previously held the slow-evolution record.

Such limited change means the elephant shark’s genome is the closest yet to that of the first jawed vertebrate, which lived more than 450 million years ago and gave rise to many modern animals including humans. It makes the elephant shark an important reference point for unlocking how this long-lost ancestor evolved. As well as jaws, the earliest fish pioneered bony skeletons and a sophisticated immune system, but it is not known when or how these features appeared…

(read more: New Scientist)

photo: Kelvin Aitken/V and W/Image Quest Marine