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Derrick Alcott

Derrick Alcott has written 19 posts for oceanbites

Hide-and-Go-Seek in the Deep Sea

In the deep sea off the coast of Antartica, sea urchins are getting crafty to avoid predation from king crabs. In the face of global climate change, their tactic may become less effective while the predators become more abundant. Find out more here.

School is in Session for Fish

Human school is a place to learn. Fish school is a way of swimming in a group to stay alive. Baby fish are not cared for or taught the skills needed to survive by their parents, they are born with that innate knowledge. Does this mean fish don’t learn? Is their memory to short to learn? Find out here.

Is ‘Shark Week’ Good or Bad for Sharks?

‘Shark Week’ has become a staple of summer television. It is currently the longest continuously running series on television. It is also a rare example of quality scientific research (in any field) getting prime time television coverage. However, scientists and conservationists have highly criticized Shark Week in recent years for ‘fear mongering’ tactics. What does the science say about the impact of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week on the public’s impression of sharks? What can viewers expect from this year’s programming? Find out here.

Scaredy-crab behavior can alter food webs

Being small crab can be tough. Dodging predators from the land, sea, and air is no small task. A new study focuses on the convergence of individual behavior with ecosystem dynamics, showing how mangrove tree crab behavior may link distinct aquatic and terrestrial food webs.

Solving Big Dam Problems

The US has a lot of dams. Probably far more than you ever imagined possible. Many of these dams are around 100 years old. How long does it take to restore a riverine ecosystem to a more natural state after a century of alteration by a dam? Scientists addressed a portion of this question by measuring the return of salmon to a section of river previously blocked by the dam and the use of the nutrients delivered by these salmon by other organisms in the area.

The Codfathers: Holding the Keys to Success in Warming Oceans

Atlantic cod stocks have struggled to recover from overfishing for decades. Warming oceans will make a cod recovery even more difficult as the cold water fish struggle to reproduce in warmer waters. A new study in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology examines if fathers play an important role in generating offspring that are better adapted for warmer waters.

Feeling fishy about our view of fish feelings

Humans are conscious beings that experience a range of emotions. But do other organisms share this quality, or is it unique to humans? A new paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B challenges the long held belief that fish do not experience “emotional fever” – a commonly used indicator of whether or not an animal is capable of experiencing emotions. Read more to find out how this could matter in terms of management and conservation.

Cohos in Dirty Water: Salmon and Pollution

Coho salmon are one of the six species of Pacific salmon. They can be found from California to Alaska, but from California to Oregon their populations are in bad shape. A new study in Applied Ecology tries to determine if pollution from urban runoff may be partly to blame.

Kelps forced into hiding: Underwater forests troubled by warm oceans

Kelp forests are highly productive and diverse ecosystems found in cool coastal waters. A new study suggests that warmer waters allow for great increases in predation on kelps, forcing these plant-like algae into a limited and sheltered life hidden within crevices. This could pose a major problem as global warming is leading to increasing ocean temperatures.

Big Fishing on (Important) Little Fish

Forage fish may be little as individuals, but their big schools have a big impact on marine ecosystems. They serve as an essential link in marine food webs, utilized by all types of predators like sharks, seals, birds, whales, and other large fish. Humans also harvest incredible quantities of these fish each year, potentially putting not just forage fish populations at risk, but the many other species that feed on them as well.

Science Says Fish Should Stay in School!

Is it cool for fish to stay in a school? Many do, but why? Avoiding predators is one reason, but scientists debate on whether fish gain an energetic advantage of easier swimming when in a group. New research published in Fish and Fisheries uses advanced technology to test old and new theories of hydrodynamics and fish schooling, with some surprising results.

Using Robots to Track Sea Turtles

A new technique using underwater robots may be able to teach us about sea turtle behaviors in the wild.

The True Value of Fish Nurseries

Estuaries (where freshwater and seawater mix) are used as nursery grounds to raise many species of young fish around the world. The authors of a new paper in Estuaries and Coasts describe how our currently oversimplified way of determining the value of these ecosystems is inadequate.

Protecting Hometown Herring

River herring are anadromous fish, which means they live most of their life in the ocean but spawn in freshwater streams and rivers. Recent decades have seen a massive decline in river herring populations caused primarily by over-harvesting and decreased access to spawning habitat. These fish are now largely protected in freshwater systems during their spawning migrations, but they are still at risk of bycatch while in the ocean. Little is known about river herring movement behavior while they are in the ocean. Cutting edge technology in chemistry and genetics is helping to shed light on this.

The Advantages of Being a Deceptive Fish: Tales of a Predatory Mimic

Dusky dottybacks are small (8cm/3in) fish found on the Great Barrier reef, but despite their small size, they are fish eating predators feasting on up to 30 juvenile damselfish per day. Dottybacks are able to be so successful at capturing their prey by being masters of deception thanks to their “phenotypic plasticity.”

Protecting Well-Traveled Fishes: A New Approach

Fisheries managers have begun a shift from attempting to protect individual fish species to protecting entire ecosystems. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been highly successful at conserving important species and habitats like coral reefs. Is it possible to utilize relatively small MPAs to protect the 200-300 fish species that regularly travel long distances? New research suggests this approach may be more promising than we once thought.

Complex Relationships in a Changing World: Sponges and Seagrass

Different species within an ecosystem interact with each other. However, their interactions are often more complex than we may realize. Here, we learn how the interaction between sub-tropical seagrass and sponges can be different in different environments, with implications to climate change.

Are Fisheries Scientists Ringing the Dinner Bell for Marine Mammals?

Acoustic telemetry is a valuable technique used by fisheries scientists to track fish movements. However, a new study suggests that these anthropogenic signals may make tagged fish an easy target for marine mammal predators like dolphins and seals.

How Our Love of Living Near Water Impacts Estuarine Ecosystems and Pacific Salmon

We all love a beautiful view from a pier looking out over the water. However, piers are just one example of human development along the waterfront that may be impacting natural aquatic communities.

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