Friday, August 15, 2014

Mystery Fish Baffles Experts -- Encounter w/ 25 ft. Basking Shark -- Shark vs. Dolphin Battles


There is something fishy happening in the waters off Tathra.

A random find on a morning stroll has sparked an international scientific mystery as a fish of unknown origins continues to leave experts baffled.

Tathra local Don Cotterill became involved in this fishy tale when a friend asked him for help identifying a fish.

“A mate John Chapman found this fish washed up on Tathra Beach one morning,” Mr Cotterill said.

“I know a bit about fish so he asked me to have a search in my books, but I couldn’t find a match and I’d never seen anything like it.

“It was pretty odd looking and about 300mm by 100mm.

“My first thought was because of the fishing hook type line that naturally protrudes from near its eyes that it must be some sort of deep-sea fish.

“John put it in metho to preserve it and I sent some pictures to Taronga Zoo in Sydney.”

Mr Cotterill was told by marine experts at the zoo they had no idea what it was and encouraged him to send the pictures to Mark McGrouther, ichthyology collection manager at the Australian Museum in Sydney.

“The first email I got back from him started with ‘Wow!’, he hadn’t seen anything like it.

“He suggested a few things it might be, including a Pacific flounder, but it’s not.

“I agree that it might be from the flounder family, but it’s not like anything I’ve ever seen – or anybody else for that matter!”

In May, Mr Cotterill took the specimen up to Sydney at the request of the museum.

However, being up close to the specimen couldn’t assist any further with identification so Mr McGrouther took a sample for DNA, but is yet to get a match.

“He also showed it to everyone he could think of and basically they were all baffled.

“He’s now sent it off to an expert in Japan, but I haven’t heard anything back yet.”

Neither Mr Chapman nor Mr Cotterill have stumbled across another member of this strange fish’s family, but are keen to hear from anyone else who might know of other sightings of this true mystery from the deep.

Museum website listing

The mystery fish now appears listed on the Australian Museum website.

Here’s the listing:

“The 'underside' of a larval flounder found washed up on Tathra Beach, New South Wales, 28 February 2014. The long 'filament' is an elongate dorsal fin ray.

The fish is most likely a species of Laeops. This conclusion was based on the dorsal ray count, the elongated dorsal ray and the fact that it is 9 cm in length and still has larval characteristics.

Two species in the genus are currently known from Australian waters; the Smallhead Flounder, Laeops parviceps and Kitahara's Flounder, L. kitaharae. The fish has been sent on loan to an expert for his examination.” - Narooma News Online

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Close encounter with rare 25-foot Basking Shark in Puget Sound

A local family’s fish tale is making headlines across the country after a rare sighting of a 25-foot basking shark.

The shark swam right up to the family’s boat, so they turned off the motor and just watched. The family got the show of a lifetime.

“I didn’t really feel scared, just excited,” said Grace Coale who spotted the basking shark. “And just really wanted to get pictures.”

It all started when Coale spotted a fin while out fishing off Haines Wharf in Edmonds.

“When I started to register how big the shark was I realized it couldn’t be a great white,” she said. “It couldn’t be a sixgill. It couldn’t be anything besides a basking shark.”

The basking shark is extremely rare. The creature came close enough to their boat that she could have reached out and touched it.

“There was really no reason to feel afraid unless she or he knocked over the boat and I really didn’t see that happening,” Coale said.

Coale decided to send the picturees to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who confirmed it was indeed a basking shark.

“It was surreal and really special,” she said.

The Puget Sound is home to not just one but eleven different shark species including the sixgill, the third largest predatory shark in the world.

Sharks play a vital role in the ecosystem but are rarely seen from the surface — which is why Coale wants to spread the word about her incredible encounter.

“I hope this makes people be less afraid of sharks,” Coale said.

The basking shark population has been declining since the 1970s. They’ve never recovered from commercial fishing in the 1950s.

So if you do see one, take a picture and send it to NOAA, so they can track the sighting. - q13for

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Shark vs. Dolphin Battles Can Have Surprising Outcomes

Battles between sharks and dolphins appear to pit brawn against brains, with new research finding that many dolphins survive attacks using everything from karate-type moves to ganging up on the shark.

The study, published in the journal Marine Mammal Science, suggests that at least some dolphins are up to the shark challenge.

Lead author Kelly Melillo Sweeting told Discovery News that when dolphins are attacked, they "may cooperate to drive a shark away, whether by chasing or ramming it."

Sharks, Marine Mammals Hang in Paradise

"Some shark-induced scars seen in our study suggest the possibility that a dolphin may roll to try to escape a shark's bite," added Sweeting, who is the Bimini Research Manager at the Dolphin Communication Project.

Sweeting and her team studied shark attack failures by looking at shark bite scars present on healthy Atlantic spotted dolphins swimming in the waters near Bimini, The Bahamas. The scientists discovered that 14 out of the 92 studied dolphins showed some sign of shark attack, while another 15 had scars that could not conclusively be classified as shark induced or not.

Tooth marks and observations at the site suggest that tiger sharks and bull sharks were the ones going after dolphins at this particular area.

"The frequency with which sharks prey on dolphins varies between species and geographies," Sweeting said. "I suspect that off Bimini, bull and tiger sharks prey on dolphins regularly enough that this pressure might cause behavioral changes for the dolphins, such as habitat use."

The researchers could find no difference in shark-induced scars between the sexes, suggesting that the sharks went after both adult male and female dolphins. More scars were, however, detected on dolphin calves, so sharks appear to target smaller dolphin prey.

Another finding is that shark attack "fails" usually happened when the shark bit in or around the dolphin's dorsal fin. The researchers suspect that sharks are more successful when they bite into the softer lower side of the dolphin.

Three Deadliest Sharks Named

While not investigated in this study, dolphins are also known to attack sharks. Sweeting explained that "larger dolphins, like the killer whale -- the largest dolphin species, have successfully preyed on large sharks, but the frequency of this is unknown."

Given that both dolphins and sharks can be formidable on both offense and defense, they likely prefer to seek out other easier-to-kill prey, such as fish and squid. While white sharks often hunt marine mammals, and some sharks consume seabirds, most sharks eat a lot of fish and shellfish.

Kathleen Dudzinski, Director of the Dolphin Communication Project, believes that photographing and examining scars on dolphin bodies that seem to be from sharks could offer clues as to how dolphins and sharks interact.

"We do not fully understand how dolphins might escape or fight off predatory sharks because so few shark attacks on dolphins are directly observed," she told Discovery News.

Once researchers get a better sense of how these kinds of species relate to each other, she explained, we can "better understand how we humans might impact that system." - Discovery


Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink

The Best Book of Sharks

Strange New Species: Astonishing Discoveries of Life on Earth

Discovery Channel Sharkopedia: The Complete Guide to Everything Shark



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