Cyclone Hamish dissipates

After threatening to cross land in as a category 4 cyclone with winds >200km/hr, Cyclone Hamish made a dramatic turn westwards and is now winding down towards a Category 1 cyclone out into the Pacific Ocean. After the damage caused by Cyclone Larry in 2006, it seems that South-East Queensland can breath a sigh of relief after evacuation warnings were issued from Bundaberg to Hervey Bay. No news yet on the impact of the cyclone on the reef, although the earlier (March 8th) the cyclone crossed within the marine park, between the mainland and the Swains Reefs as a category 4, and narrowly missed the Whitsunday Islands. More reports and hopefully photographs as they come.

Rare form of albinism breeds ‘pink’ dolphin


Multiple news sources are reporting on a rare form of albinism in a bottlenose dolphin from Lake Calcasieu in Louisana, America. Apparently the dolphin (imaginatively named ‘Pinky’, which I guess is better than ‘Flipper’) was first spotted in 2007 in the saltwater inland estuary, and is part of a healthy and active pod of bottlenose dolphins.  Caused a lack of melanin production in the eyes and skin, albinism is present across a whole group of organisms (see examples in penguins, sea turtles, alligators and humans), although is incredibly rare – about 1 in 17,000 humans are born with a form of albinism. Whilst ‘Pinky’ stands out from the crowd for fairly obvious reasons (pictured above with its dark grey mother), interestingly the other known albino dolphins (only 14 have ever been spotted in the wild) are pure white.

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Update (12/03/09):

Thanks to Claire for pointing out that Hong Kong sustains large populations of ‘pink’ dolphins, and that this phenomena might not actually be all that rare at all. See here for video footage of pink dolphins in Hong Kong Harbour. Furthermore, according to a Washington Post article:

Technically, Hong Kong’s famous pink dolphins are white. One of the first things Ho explained to us is that when they swim, blood rushes to the surface of their pale skin, lending them a rosy glow. “Just like when we exercise and our faces get red,” she said. “They’re blushing.”

The reef science corner


Dr. John Bruno’s column “Reef Science Corner” on all things coral, climate, and conservation are coming to a close on The Reef Tank blog and we’re sad to see it go!  What originally started as merely an excerpt of a modified version of an article Dr. Bruno published last year on the Earth Portal and archived here in the Coral Reefs Collection of the Encyclopedia of Earth, which became a vast, educational tool to provide awareness of two very pertinent topics that TRT holds near and dear to its heart!

Moving from an introduction to corals on coral reefs and patterns of coral loss to climate change and all of it’s repercussions (which circles back to coral loss and also focuses on other marine conservation matters), Dr. Bruno (ironically, no pun intended) shifts from one course of action to the other, first speaking specifically about the history of corals, why they have formed where they are found to this day, and where prominent patterns of coral loss reside to the concerns raised by the world’s climate change, which are affecting these corals and also causing problems like patterns of coral loss and the threat that the world’s oceans are becoming more acidic—ocean acidification.

We learned about what could potentially happen in the future to our marine life, corals, and big, beautiful ocean if we don’t start becoming aware and doing something about these repercussions, and we learned why corals are so important to our world.  Finally, we will soon learn why we should continue to remain optimistic despite all of the troubles our marine existence is experiencing today.  That last and final post will be coming up next week.

We had an exceptional marine ecologist, conservation biologist, associate professor of Marine Science, and Climate Shifts blog ( contributor on hand to provide us with all the information that goes into understanding and conserving the essence of marine communities and for that we are truly grateful! He has truly opened our eyes and we encourage you to read his work on The Reef Tank and continue to read his interesting, educated, and thought-provoking posts on Climate Shifts!

  1. Benefits/Ecosystem Services of Coral Reefs
  2. Local Threats of Reef Management
  3. Future Climate Scenarios and Coral Reef Decline
  4. Ocean Acidification
  5. Climate Change and Coral Loss
  6. Patterns of Coral Loss

—– Guest posting by Ava, The Reef Tank Blog

Cyclone Hamish update


It seems like Cyclone Hamish has taken an unexpected turn eastwards, with the eye of the storm now projected to miss the Capricorn Bunker islands. Heron Island and other coral islands have been evacuated, and residents across the Bundaberg – Hervey Bay region are bracing themselves for the impact as Hamish crosses the in the next 48hrs. The impact of a category 4/5 cyclone on the Great Barrier Reef is likely to be huge – especially as Hamish has tracked parallel to the coastline for over 1000km, straight over the outer reef. The midshelf reefs at Mackay are currently being hit by 6m waves, and Flinders Reef near the eye of the storm recorded 154km/hr winds. More updates as they come keep – meanwhile keep an eye on the Bureau of Meteorology homepage, Earth Snapshot and the Weatherzone forums for up to the minute info.

Update @ 7.55pm:

Looks like the Bureau of Meteorology weather station at Creal Reef (directly in the path of the Hurricane) has been destroyed – the last recorded gust at 1.02pm was 189km/hr!


Queensland bracing for category 5 Cyclone ‘Hamish’

Only two weeks ago, 60% of Queensland was inundated with flood waters, whilst the south of Australia was hit by record high temperatures and bushfires. Now, the Queensland coastline is currently under cyclone watch as Cyclone Hamish is pushing south along the Great Barrier Reef, and has intensified to a category 5 cyclone, with winds reaching above 280kmh and waves >7m.

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Cyclone Hamish missed the Whitsunday Islands, instead heading offshore and weakening to a category 4, but has now veered south-easterly and is currently heading towards the Capricorn Bunker group, directly in the path of Heron Island Research Station. More updates as they come – although no one is certain when the cyclone will cross the coastline, the news are predicting an impact similar if not larger than Cyclone Larry (the last cat 5 cyclone to cross the coast) in 2006.


Two new fish identified from Indo-Pacific coral reefs

a20087951741New fish is psychadelica” (Seattle Times, Feb 28th 2008)

There are 320 known species of anglerfish, and Ted Pietsch can describe each one down to the number of spines on its dorsal fin. So, when the picture from Indonesia flopped into his e-mail, his pulse started pounding.

“I pretty much freaked out,” the University of Washington fish biologist said.

With its flattened face, undulating stripes and turquoise-rimmed eyes that peer straight ahead, this fish looked like something out of a fever dream — and like nothing Pietsch had ever seen before. Now, after a year of lab work, DNA analysis and a race halfway around the globe, he and his colleagues have confirmed the find as a new species. And they have given the 4-inch fish a name that fits its style: psychedelica.

“This is such an amazingly different fish that people immediately get excited when they see it,” Pietsch said.

The first to lay eyes on the new species were commercial divers on the small island of Ambon, at the eastern edge of the Indonesian archipelago. The owners of Maluku Divers discreetly circulated photos early last year to see if anyone could identify the unfamiliar fish. The photos made their way to Jack Randall, a famed ichthyologist at Honolulu’s Bishop Museum. (Read more)

afangblenny-470x01Fang Blenny has coat of many colours” (SMH, March 3rd 2008)

A MASTER of disguise has been uncovered living in Australian waters. The blue-striped fangblenny is the first fish found to be able to change its colour at will to mimic a variety of other fish.

Its repertoire of colour changes includes olive, orange, and black and electric blue, and it appears to use colour vision to achieve its incognito exploits, new research shows.

University of Queensland biologist, Karen Cheney, said that her examination of the little fish’s eyes showed they should be able to detect different hues. They also have a habit of curling their tail around to touch their head, so they can see their body. “It is possible that fangblennies can view some of their own colouration,” Dr Cheney said.

The only other creature known to be able to imitate other species is the mimic octopus, which alters its colour and shape to resemble lionfish, flatfish and sea snakes. Dr Cheney and her colleagues had studied the habits of fangblennies on coral reefs in Australia and Indonesia. Their results are published in the journal Proceedings Of The Royal Society.

For food, fangblennies dart out and attack larger reef fish, nipping off tiny pieces of their fins, scales or mucus. In olive mode they tend to hang out in shoals of similarly coloured damselfish, and in orange mode they mingle with yellow anthias. (Read More)