Navigation Links
Batfish to the rescue!

A masked marauder has emerged unexpectedly from the ocean to rescue a dying coral reef from destruction in the nick of time.

With the dramatic flair of comic-book superhero Batman, a batfish has saved a coral reef that was being choked to death by seaweed ?although the fish was never previously known as a weed-eater.

Scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) who were studying how coral reefs are lost to weed were astonished when, after removing a cage from a particularly weedy bit of reef, the rare batfishes emerged out of the blue and cleaned up most of the weed.

"Worldwide, coral reefs are in decline," says Professor Dave Bellwood of CoECRS and James Cook University. "Commonly this takes the form of the coral being smothered by weedy growth, a transition known as a phase-shift which is very hard, if not impossible, to reverse."

"Research internationally has found that a major factor in this shift is the over-fishing of weed-eaters like parrot and surgeon fish ?which normally keep the coral clean of weedy growth."

Prof. Bellwood and colleagues Prof. Terry Hughes and Andrew Hoey were testing a weed-infested patch of coral near Orpheus Island on Australia's Great Barrier Reef to see whether local herbivorous fish could restore it to a normal state.

The ensuing action was captured on underwater TV cameras. When the cage was removed from a particularly weedy patch, local herbivores pecked at it but made little impression on the dense growth of sargassum weed.

"Then these batfish showed up and got stuck into it. In five days they had halved the amount of weed. In eight weeks it was completely gone and the coral was free to grow unhindered," Prof. Bellwood explains.

The turnaround was due mainly to one species of batfish, Platax pinnatus, which is comparatively rare on the GBR and was thought to feed only on invertebrates.

The event surprised the sci entists in two ways, he says. First, it showed that the species one would normally expect to "mow the weeds" may make little impression on a heavily-overgrown reef, dashing researchers' hopes that herbivores may be a way to restore heavily weed-infested reefs.

And second, it shows that in nature, help can come from a totally unexpected quarter ?from a fish that itself may be at some risk.

"Batfish represent a 'sleeping functional group', meaning they are capable of performing a vital role in the life of the reef, but do so only under exceptional conditions," Prof. Bellwood says.

"Platax are relatively rare on the Great Barrier Reef and currently have no specific legal protection. They are vulnerable because their large size makes them attractive to spear-fishers, while they depend as young fishes on coastal mangroves which are in decline in many areas.

"Indeed, the resilience of inshore GBR reefs may be closely tied to the fate of mangroves and their suitability for batfish recruitment."

Batfishes may be one of the last intact herbivore populations capable of reversing serious weed overgrowth of inshore coral reefs, he adds. The reef has already all-but lost one major group of weed-mowers, the dugongs, while another ?green turtles ?is seriously endangered.

"If Platax is the last grazer of dense weedy stands on inshore coral reefs and it goes into decline, the capacity of these reefs to recover from phase-shifts could be lost."

For scientists and reef managers, the batfish has thrown up a new challenge ?how to identify other 'sleeping functional groups' that may prove lifesavers for the reef, but whose habits and abilities we as yet know nothing about.
'"/>

Source:James Cook University


Related biology news :

1. Novel technology detects human DNA mutations
2. Novel antiviral technology inhibits RSV infection in mice
3. The BIOS Initiative - open source biotechnology is born
4. Revolutionary nanotechnology illuminates brain cells at work
5. Study: homemade gene expression technology unreliable
6. First technology to remove prions that cause vCJD from blood launched
7. Integration of Agilents MS technology, Proteome Systems software to help scientists in proteomics research
8. Agilent Technologies new genome analysis technology set to accelerate Australia fight against mesothelioma
9. Recombinant DNA technology may enable oral, rather than injectable, delivery of protein drugs
10. First production of human monoclonal antibodies in chicken eggs published in Nature Biotechnology
11. Vietnam war technology could aid elephant conservation

Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:3/15/2016)... Yissum Research Development Company of the Hebrew University ... University, announced today the formation of Neteera Technologies ... biological indicators. Neteera Technologies has completed its first round ... Neteera,s ... from sweat ducts, enables reliable and speedy biometric identification, ...
(Date:3/11/2016)... http://www.apimages.com ) - --> http://www.apimages.com ) - ... Images ( http://www.apimages.com ) - Germany . ... new refugee identity cards. DERMALOG will be unveiling this device, and ... Hanover next week.   --> Germany ... the new refugee identity cards. DERMALOG will be unveiling this device, ...
(Date:3/10/2016)... BLUE BELL, Pa. , March 10, 2016   ... U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is testing ... in San Diego to help identify ... United States . The test, designed to help determine ... outdoor, pedestrian environment, began in February and will run until ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/26/2016)... -- Q BioMed Inc. (OTCQB: QBIO), a biotechnology ... presenter at the 5th Annual Marcum MicroCap Conference on Thursday, ... at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The Company,s ... is scheduled to begin at 11a.m ET in the Broadway ... developments and outline milestones for the balance of 2016 and ...
(Date:5/26/2016)... ... May 26, 2016 , ... ... Medistem Panama Inc. at the City of Knowledge in Panama, a ... stem cells in the US earlier this year following FDA approval of a ...
(Date:5/26/2016)... ... May 26, 2016 , ... FireflySci has been manufacturing quartz ... all over the globe. Their cute firefly logo has been spreading to more ... makes spectrophotometer calibration standards that never require recalibration. These revolutionary standards have ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Thailand’s Board of Investment’s New York office, ... Located at booth number 7301, representatives from the Thai Government, research organizations, and ... biotechnology and life sciences sector. , Deputy Secretary General of the Thailand ...
Breaking Biology Technology: