The world's oceans today have become a place for the disposal of toxic waste, which leads to the degradation of marine mammal habitats and populations. Marine mammal cell cultures have proven to be a multifunctional tool for studying the peculiarities of the cell physiology and biochemistry of these animals as well as the destructive effects of anthropogenic and natural toxicants. This review describes the sources of marine mammal live tissues and the methods required for establishing cell cultures, their use, and long-term storage. Approaches to conserving rare animal species by applying cell biology methodologies are also discussed.
Queen conch (Lobatus gigas) is an important food source and export product for Belize, where extraction is regulated by shell length (SL) and market clean weight (MCW) limits. However, lip thickness (LT) limits are used to manage juvenile mortality and reduce risk of growth overfishing in other countries. Empirical studies suggest relationships between LT and sexual maturity vary spatially and need to be determined locally. This study was conducted to determine the most reliable, easily measurable proxy indicator(s) of maturity and associated target size limits in L. gigas that can effectively restrict harvest of juveniles. Morphological measures (SL, LT, lip width, unprocessed meat weight, MCW, operculum dimensions), gonadosomatic index (GSI) and histological evaluations were recorded from L. gigas collected in PHMR before, during, and after the L. gigas closed season. Upon determining Period 2 (during closed season) as the peak reproductive period, relationships between these variables in Period 2 were examined. No relationship was found in males between SL and maturity, and was weak in females, whereas there were significant curvilinear relationships between LT and GSI for both sexes, suggesting urgent need to base size limits on LT not SL. LT at which 50% of the population was mature (LT50) was 15.51 mm for females and 12.33 mm for males, therefore a 16 mm LT limit is recommended. MCW of female L. gigas was also significantly related to GSI, indicating MCW may be an appropriate management tool in conjunction with LT as it can be measured at landing sites whereas shells are usually discarded at sea. However, MCW at which 50% of females were mature (MCW50) was 199 g and many individuals exceeding LT50 had MCW <199 g, suggesting the current 85 g MCW limit is too low to protect juveniles yet 199 g MCW limit would be too high to substitute the recommended LT limit at landing sites. To minimize short-term impacts yet maximize long-term benefits to fishers' livelihoods, multi-stage adaptive management is recommended that integrates initial catch reductions, followed by introduction of size limits of 16 mm LT, and 150 g MCW. Adjustable LT and MCW limits determined by fishery simulation could later be introduced.
We evaluated total mercury (THg) concentrations and trends in polar bears from the southern Beaufort Sea subpopulation from 2004 to 2011. Hair THg concentrations ranged widely among individuals from 0.6 to 13.3 μg g–1 dry weight (mean: 3.5 ± 0.2 μg g–1). Concentrations differed among sex and age classes: solitary adult females ≈ adult females with cubs ≈ subadults > adult males ≈ yearlings > cubs-of-the-year ≈ 2 year old dependent cubs. No variation was observed between spring and fall samples. For spring-sampled adults, THg concentrations declined by 13% per year, contrasting recent trends observed for other Western Hemispheric Arctic biota. Concentrations also declined by 15% per year considering adult males only, while a slower, nonsignificant decrease of 4.4% per year was found for adult females. Lower THg concentrations were associated with higher body mass index (BMI) and higher proportions of lower trophic position food resources consumed. Because BMI and diet were related, and the relationship to THg was strongest for BMI, trends were re-evaluated adjusting for BMI as the covariate. The adjusted annual decline was not significant. These findings indicate that changes in foraging ecology, not declining environmental concentrations of mercury, are driving short-term declines in THg concentrations in southern Beaufort Sea polar bears.
Salps are marine invertebrates comprising multiple jet-propelled swimming units during a colonial life-cycle stage. Using theory, we show that asynchronous swimming with multiple pulsed jets yields substantial hydrodynamic benefit due to the production of steady swimming velocities, which limit drag. Laboratory comparisons of swimming kinematics of aggregate salps (Salpa fusiformis and Weelia cylindrica) using high-speed video supported that asynchronous swimming by aggregates results in a smoother velocity profile and showed that this smoother velocity profile is the result of uncoordinated, asynchronous swimming by individual zooids. In situ flow visualizations of W. cylindrica swimming wakes revealed that another consequence of asynchronous swimming is that fluid interactions between jet wakes are minimized. Although the advantages of multi-jet propulsion have been mentioned elsewhere, this is the first time that the theory has been quantified and the role of asynchronous swimming verified using experimental data from the laboratory and the field.
Coastal marine upwelling famously supports elevated levels of pelagic biological production, but can also subsidize production in inshore habitats via pelagic-benthic coupling. Consumers inhabiting macroalgae-dominated rocky reef habitats are often considered to be members of a food web fuelled by energy derived from benthic primary production; conversely, they may also be subsidized by materials transported from pelagic habitats. Here, we used stable isotopes (δ13C, δ15N) to examine the relative contribution of pelagic and benthic materials to an ecologically and economically important benthivorous fish assemblage inhabiting subtidal macroalgae-dominated reefs along ~1,000 km of the northern Chilean coast where coastal upwelling is active. Fish were isotopically most similar to the pelagic pathway and Bayesian mixing models indicated that production of benthivorous fish was dominated (median 98%, range 69–99%) by pelagic-derived C and N. Although the mechanism by which these materials enter the benthic food web remains unknown, our results clearly highlight the importance of pelagic-benthic coupling in the region. The scale of this subsidy has substantial implications for our basic understanding of ecosystem functioning and the management of nearshore habitats in northern Chile and other upwelling zones worldwide.
The Pacific Lamprey Entosphenus tridentatus, an anadromous fish native to the northern Pacific Ocean and bordering freshwater habitats, has recently experienced steep declines in abundance and range contractions along the West Coast of North America. During the early 1990s, Native American tribes recognized the declining numbers of lamprey and championed their importance. In 2012, 26 entities signed a conservation agreement to coordinate and implement restoration and research for Pacific Lamprey. Regional plans have identified numerous threats, monitoring needs, and strategies to conserve and restore Pacific Lamprey during their freshwater life stages. Prime among these are needs to improve lamprey passage, restore freshwater habitats, educate stakeholders, and implement lamprey-specific research and management protocols. Key unknowns include range-wide trends in status, population dynamics, population delineation, limiting factors, and marine influences. We synthesize these key unknowns, with a focus on the freshwater life stages of lamprey in the Columbia River basin.
“Ocean connectivity” is a dynamic and rapidly evolving field of research in marine science, partly because there is an increasing demand for information on connectivity that informs effective assessment and management of marine resources. Achieving this will require a better alignment between ocean connectivity tools and developments and the needs and challenges of assessments and conservation. For these reasons, the ICES Journal of Marine Science solicited contributions to the article theme set (TS), “Beyond ocean connectivity.” We briefly summarize the nine articles that appear herein, grouping them into four general topics: methodological advances, population dynamics and assessment implications of connectivity, spatial and management implications, and connectivity in ecosystem processes. We also discuss the challenges facing ocean connectivity research if it is to effectively support advancing fisheries assessment frameworks and integrated ecosystem approaches. We hope that the contributions included in this TS serve to convince managers and fisheries scientists of the need to incorporate results from research on connectivity.
Despite major advances in our capacity to measure marine larval connectivity (i.e. the pattern of transport of marine larvae from spawning to settlement sites) and the importance of these measurements for ecological and management questions, uncertainty in experimental estimates of marine larval connectivity has been given little attention. We review potential uncertainty sources in empirical larval connectivity studies and develop Bayesian statistical methods for estimating these uncertainties based on standard techniques in the mark-recapture and genetics literature. These methods are implemented in an existing R package for working with connectivity data, ConnMatTools, and applied to a number of published connectivity estimates. We find that the small sample size of collected settlers at destination sites is a dominant source of uncertainty in connectivity estimates in many published results. For example, widths of 95% CIs for relative connectivity, the value of which is necessarily between 0 and 1, exceeded 0.5 for many published connectivity results, complicating using individual results to conclude that marine populations are relatively closed or open. This “small sample size” uncertainty is significant even for studies with near-exhaustive sampling of spawners and settlers. Though largely ignored in the literature, the magnitude of this uncertainty is straightforward to assess. Better accountability of this and other uncertainties is needed in the future so that marine larval connectivity studies can fulfill their promises of providing important ecological insights and informing management questions (e.g. related to marine protected area network design, and stock structure of exploited organisms). In addition to using the statistical methods developed here, future studies should consistently evaluate and report a small number of critical factors, such as the exhaustivity of spawner and settler sampling, and the mating structure of target species in genetic studies.
The Zoological Department of Oxford University has reviewed and synthesised major marine science findings which have been published since Rio+20 in 2012.
The purpose of this synthesis is to determine how our understanding of the ocean at an Earth System level, with a particular focus on the role of the high seas, has changed in the last five years.
The synthesis has highlighted conclusions from 271 published papers and reports relevant to the functions of the ocean.
Estuarine artificialization eliminates estuarine ecosystems’ original natural attributes on which estuarine health and function are dependent, and induces various ecological and social problems. Preventing estuaries from being overly artificialized and implementing ecological restoration for damaged estuaries is an urgent management concern. This study intended to quantitatively identify the artificialized degree of estuarine areas of interest at different stages to depict their state evolution trajectory by acquiring and analyzing the spatiotemporal maps of estuarine ecosystem naturalness. The Xiaoqinghe estuary, located in the southern coast of Laizhou Bay, was selected as a case study area. The ecosystem naturalness and regional naturalness in this estuary were evaluated through the developed naturalness index, which integrates the dynamic information of land cover and human interference intensity into an assessment framework of ecosystem naturalness spectrum created here. Results showed that the Xiaoqinghe estuary was a relatively natural estuary with higher naturalness in the early 1980s, but was highly artificialized in 2010–2015, with its average naturalness reducing by 43% over the past three decades. Those areas occupied by salt marshes and shrub-grass lowlands in 1984 have greatly deviated from their original natural state due to the highest loss of regional naturalness. The current state characteristics suggest that the Xiaoqinghe estuary has considerably lost its ability to conserve biodiversity and provide ecosystem services, and the intensity and manner of human activities should be adjusted and limited spatially. The findings and methodology illustrated in this paper can also contribute to the sustainable management of artificialized estuaries elsewhere.