Navigation Links
FSU marine ecologist wins grant to study endangered sawfish

A scientist at The Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory has won a three-year, $674,989 grant to study the endangered but little-known sawfish, whose numbers are believed to have declined globally more than 90 percent.

The formidable-looking sawfish is related to the stingrays but more closely resembles a shark. It has been overexploited in many parts of the world due to the commercial appeal of its prominent, toothy rostrum (snout). It also has an unlucky affinity for heavily fished tropical waters and ecologically threatened shorelines.

Marine ecologist Dean Grubbs and his Florida State team will focus their research on the ecology of the smalltooth sawfish, the only domestic marine fish currently listed in the U.S. Endangered Species Act but, until now, rarely investigated. Its once-extensive range in the United States now is primarily restricted to southwest Florida and the Florida Keys.

"Worldwide, there are only six or seven extant species of sawfishes and all are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species," Grubbs said. "This means we are in danger of losing an entire order of animals that are among the largest of all fishes, including some sawfish species that reach lengths of more than 20 feet."

Grubbs said populations have declined due to overfishing and habitat loss.

"We could view sawfish as a marine analog to rhinoceros and elephants," he said. "Like the tusks of the elephant or the horns of the rhino, sawfishes have been overfished worldwide primarily for their toothed rostrum, the saw. Sawfish rostra are purchased whole as curios or even powdered for medicinal use and can bring several thousand dollars.

"Their 'saw' also makes these fishes highly susceptible to bycatch in many fishing gears," Grubbs said. "In addition, they depend on habitats such as mangrove-fringed shorelines that are highly sensitive to degradation from pollution and development.

"Sawfish are important upper-level predators in subtropical coastal habitats, and our ability to facilitate their recovery will be an indicator of our ability to promote and maintain healthy coastal ecosystems."

Grubbs noted that the current recovery plan for smalltooth sawfish is hindered by the general lack of information on their life history and ecology. Largely unknown is even basic information concerning seasonal residency, migration patterns and habitat affinities.

"These are the gaps that we hope to fill," he said.

In the Florida Keys, Grubbs will use sophisticated satellite transmitters in collaboration with scientists from the University of Florida to study the movements and migration of the adult fish.

In Everglades National Park, Grubbs and Florida State biology graduate student Lisa Hollensead will work with colleagues from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Panama City Laboratory to delineate critical habitats for juvenile sawfish by employing both passive and active acoustic telemetry transmitters attached to the fish and listening stations to track them.

The nearly $700,000 grant to Florida State is part of $2.4 million in funding that has been awarded to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) from NOAA's Protected Species Cooperative Conservation Grants Program. Grubbs will work with the FWC as a co-investigator on the sawfish study, as will researchers from UF and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

In addition, Grubbs has won a nearly $15,000 grant from the National Geographic Society's Expeditions Council that he will use to lead a voyage to a remote region of the Bahamas in search of smalltooth sawfish.

"Critical to the recovery likelihood for this species is the amount of exchange or degree of isolation between U.S. and adjacent population segments," he said. "My colleagues and I will seek to use telemetry and genetics to investigate the degree of connectivity between sawfish in Florida and the Bahamas."


Contact: Dean Grubbs
Florida State University

Related biology news :

1. Hawaiian submarine canyons are hotspots of biodiversity and biomass for seafloor animal communities
2. A thesis characterizes marine conditions of Aralar mountain range of 120 million years ago
3. A marine Mr. Mom: Male pipefish gives birth, but some are deadbeat dads, study shows
4. Improved near-real-time tracking of 2010 El Niño reveals marine life reductions
5. Scientists find community involvement, not only enforcement, drives success of marine reserves
6. New insights into helping marine species cope with climate change
7. Participaton important for healthy marine parks
8. Genome analysis of marine microbe reveals a metabolic minimalist
9. Marine spatial planning: A more balanced approach to ocean management
10. Local social dynamics key to success of tropical marine conservation areas
11. New study finds link between marine algae and whale diversity over time
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
FSU marine ecologist wins grant to study endangered sawfish
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015   MedNet Solutions ... the entire spectrum of clinical research, is pleased to ... High Tech Association (MHTA) as one of only three ... the "Software – Small and Growing" category. The Tekne Awards ... who have shown superior technology innovation and leadership. ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 2015  Connected health pioneer, Joseph C. Kvedar ... technology-enabled health and wellness, and the business opportunities that ... The Internet of Healthy Things . Long before ... existed, Dr. Kvedar, vice president, Connected Health, Partners HealthCare, ... moving care from the hospital or doctor,s office into ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... October 27, 2015 Munich, ... Gaze Mapping technology (ASGM) automatically maps data from mobile ... Glasses , so that they can be quantitatively ... Munich, Germany , October 28-29, 2015. ... data from mobile eye tracking videos created with ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... CITY , Nov. 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna ... affirms that its business and prospects remain fundamentally ... , Zoptrex™ (zoptarelin doxorubicin) recently received DSMB recommendation ... to completion following review of the final interim ... Phase 2 Primary Endpoint in men with heavily ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 Orexigen® Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: ... a fireside chat discussion at the Piper Jaffray 27th ... . The discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, December 2, ... .  A replay will be available for 14 days ... , Julie NormartVP, Corporate Communications and Business Development , ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... Jessica Richman and ... early in their initial angel funding process. Now, they are paying it forward ... make early stage investments in the microbiome space. In this, they join ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 24, 2015 , ... The United States Golf Association (USGA) today announced Dr. ... Award. Presented annually since 1961, the USGA Green Section Award recognizes an individual’s distinguished ... , Clarke, of Iselin, N.J., is an extension specialist of turfgrass pathology in ...
Breaking Biology Technology: