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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Creature Feature: Electric Rays

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In this series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.

This month we’re focusing on some shockingly (sorry) awesome rays – the electric rays! 

The electric rays (Torpediniformes) are unique – as they are the only rays who have a specialised electric organ. This means they are able to produce a shock of 20-200 volts! Now there are some skates that can do this. But they don’t produce a shock in quite the same way.

Electric ray bodies are thick and flabby. This generally means they’re not popular for human consumption. Combined with their powerful electric shock, fishers tend to avoid them and quickly discard any that are caught as bycatch.

Their ability to produce a coordinated, external electric shock is known as electrogenesis. It’s a complicated process. But essentially – the ray is able to stimulate modified muscle cells to produce the shock. These muscle cells sit in a honeycomb pattern. Within a kidney-shaped organ in the front of either side of the disc. Used as a defensive or predatory reflex, the shock that species can produce can range from a mild warning pulse all the way up to a 200 volt shock used to incapacitate prey.

Marbled Torpedo Ray (Torpedo marmorata)

The Marbled Torpedo Ray is one species of electric ray. It’s found in the coastal waters of the Eastern Atlantic, from the North Sea and English Channel down to South Africa, including the Mediterranean Sea. Nocturnal and solitary, they reside at depths of 10 – 370m on rocky reefs, seagrass beds and sandy or muddy flats.

The species was used in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, its shocks used to treat conditions like chronic headaches! In the modern world, along with other electric ray species, it is caught and used as a “model organism” in biomedical research. However, the species is not commercially targeted by fishers, and bycatch is discarded due to its low commercial value.

The Marbled Electric Ray feeds predominantly on bony fishes and can produce a shock of up to 70-80 volts. It ambushes its prey from the seabed, then uses its wings to engulf prey whilst emitting electrical shocks to stun them. New-born rays are immediately capable of using electricity to hunt.

Within the Mediterranean Sea it’s the most common species of electric ray, and the population is considered stable. Despite a lack of largescale fisheries targeting this species, the population is thought to be decreasing outside of the Mediterranean. This is suspected to be due to bycatch mortality and pressure from localised fishing.

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Torpedo marmorata

FAMILY: Torpedinidae

MAXIMUM SIZE: 100cm, usually to 60cm.

DIET:   Bony fishes.

DISTRIBUTION:  North Sea and English Channel down to South Africa, including Mediterranean Sea.

HABITAT:  Coastal Waters – rocky reefs, seagrass and mudflats.

GLOBAL CONSERVATION STATUS: Vulnerable

EUROPE CONSERVATION STATUS: Least Concern


For more amazing facts about sharks and what you can do to help the Shark Trust protect them visit the Shark Trust website by clicking here.

Banner Image: Leopard Torpedo Ray – ©Maya Parf via Shutterstock

Image – Marbled Torpedo Ray – © Kim Briers via Shutterstock

The Shark Trust is the leading UK-based shark conservation charity. The team works globally to safeguard the future of sharks, and their close cousins, the skates and rays. Engaging with a global network of scientists, policymakers, conservation professionals, businesses and supporters, to further shark conservation. Established in 1997 to provide a voice for UK sharks, the Shark Trust has an ever-growing number of passionate supporters. And together we're creating positive change for sharks around the world. Want to join us and help protect sharks around the world? Click here! www.sharktrust.org

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The Ocean Cleanup to Complete 100th Extraction Live from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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the ocean cleanup
  • The Ocean Cleanup marks 100th extraction of plastic pollution from the Pacific Ocean by livestreaming entire cleaning operation from start to finish.
  • Occasion brings together supporters, partners, donors and followers as the project readies its cleanup technology for scale-up.
  • Founder and CEO Boyan Slat to provide insight on the plans ahead.

The Ocean Cleanup is set to reach a milestone of 100 plastic extractions from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Extraction #100, scheduled for 28 or 29 May 2024, will be the first ever to be livestreamed direct from the Pacific Ocean, allowing supporters and partners around the world to see up close how the organization has removed over 385,000 kilograms (nearly 850,000 lbs) of plastic from the GPGP so far – more than double the bare weight of the Statue of Liberty.

the ocean cleanup

The mission of The Ocean Cleanup is to rid the oceans of plastic. To do this, the non-profit project employs a dual strategy: cleaning up legacy floating plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (the world’s largest accumulation of floating plastic), while stopping the flow of plastic from the world’s most polluting rivers.

The Ocean Cleanup captured its first plastic (the first ‘extraction’) in the GPGP in 2019 with System 001, following years of trials and testing with a variety of concepts. Through System 002 and now the larger and more efficient System 03, the organization has consistently improved and optimized operations, and is now preparing to extract plastic trash from the GPGP for the 100th time.

the ocean cleanup

Extraction #100 will be an interactive broadcast showing the entire extraction procedure live and in detail, with insight provided by representatives from across The Ocean Cleanup and partners contributing to the operations.

This is an important milestone in a key year for The Ocean Cleanup.’ said Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. ‘We’ve come a long way since our first extraction in 2019. During the 2024 season, with System 03, we aim to demonstrate that we are ready to scale up, and with it, confine the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the history books.

the ocean cleanup

The livestream will be hosted on The Ocean Cleanup’s YouTube channel and via X. Monitor @theoceancleanup for confirmed timings.

www.theoceancleanup.com

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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Book Review: Plankton

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Plankton: A Worldwide Guide by Tom Jackson and Jennifer Parker

This is a book that jumps off the shelf at you. The striking front cover demands that you pick it up and delve further, even if you may not have known you wanted to learn more about the most diminutive life in our ocean, plankton!

Small it might be. Much of the imagery in the book has been taken under huge magnification. Revealing stunning beauty and diversity in each scoop of “soup”. There is lots to learn. Initial chapters include interesting facts about the different vertical zones they inhabit, from sunlight to midnight (the darkest and deepest areas). I loved finding out more about the stunning show that divers oft encounter on night dives – bioluminescence.

The black water images are wonderful. So this is a book you can have as a coffee table book to dip in and our of. But, these tiny organisms are also vital to our very survival and that of all the marine life we love. They provide half the oxygen produced on our planet. They are also responsible for regulating the planets climate. And for a shark lover like me – they are food for charismatic sharks and rays like the Basking Shark and Manta Ray, along with a huge number of other species. This book contains great insight into their biology, life cycles, migration, and how the changes in currents and sea temperatures affects them.

This is a book that is both beautiful and packed with information about possibly the most important group of organisms on our planet. Anyone interested in the ocean should have it one their shelves.

What the publisher says:

Plankton are the unsung heroes of planet Earth. Passive drifters through the world’s seas, oceans, and freshwater environments, most are invisible or very small, but some are longer than a whale. They are the global ocean’s foundation food, supporting almost all oceanic life, and they are also vitally important for land-based plants, animals, and other organisms. Plankton provides an incomparable look at these remarkable creatures, opening a window on the elegance and grace of microscopic marine life.

This engaging book reveals the amazing diversity of plankton, how they belong to a wide range of living groups, and how their ecology, lifestyles, and adaptations have evolved to suit an enormous range of conditions. It looks at plankton life cycles, the different ways plankton feed and grow, and the vast range of strategies they use for reproduction. It tracks where, how, and why plankton drift through the water; shares perspectives on migrations and population explosions or “blooms” and why they happen; and discusses the life-sustaining role of plankton in numerous intertwined food webs throughout the world.

Beautifully illustrated, Plankton sheds critical light on how global warming, pollution, diminishing resources, and overexploitation will adversely impact planktonic life, and how these effects will reverberate to every corner of our planet.

About the Authors:

Tom Jackson is a science writer whose many popular books include Strange Animals and Genetics in MinutesJennifer Parker is a zoology and conservation writer and the author of several books. Andrew Hirst is a leading expert on plankton whose research has taken him around the world, from the Antarctic to Greenland and the Great Barrier Reef.

Book Details

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Hardcover

Price: £25

ISBN: 9780691255996

Published: 9th April, 2024

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