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Research shows clownfish potentially at risk due to environmental changes

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The beloved anemone fish popularized by the movies “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory” don’t have the genetic capacity to adapt to rapid changes in their environment, according to a study by France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and colleagues. Their findings published Nov. 27, 2019, in the journal Ecology Letters.

An international team of researchers monitored clownfish in the lagoons of Kimbe Bay—a biodiversity hot spot in Papua New Guinea—for more than a decade. Using genetic analysis of the population’s DNA, the researchers were able to calculate their potential to adapt to habitat changes and renew their population. They found that big families of clownfish that extended over many generations were linked to high-quality habitats, rather than to shared genes.

“The findings reported here were made possible by a huge sampling and DNA sequencing effort that had not been attempted for any marine species before,” says WHOI biologist Simon Thorrold, a coauthor of the paper. “The biggest surprise to us was also the most troubling: conservation efforts cannot rely on genetic adaptation to protect clownfish from the effects of climate change. It seems that Nemo won’t be able to save himself.”

The quality of the anemone that provides a home to clownfish contributes significantly—on average 50 percent—to its ability to survive and renew its population. If high-quality anemones remain healthy, the clownfish population will persist. However, if the anemones and coral reefs they call home are impacted by a warming climate, the clownfish are in trouble.

“Nemo is thus at the mercy of a habitat that is degrading more and more every year,” says Benoit Pujol, an evolutionary geneticist at CNRS. “To expect a clownfish to genetically adapt at a pace which would allow it to persist in the lagoons would be unreasonable, and thus the ability of these fish to remain in the lagoons over time will depend on our ability to maintain the quality of its habitat.”

Additional coauthors of the paper include colleagues from James Cook University/Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, The Universidad Austral de Chile, and the Université de Perpignan.

This research was supported by: Laboratoire d’Excellence CORAIL; Coral Reef Initiatives for the Pacific; the Global Environment Facility Coral Reef Targeted Research Connectivity Working Group; the U.S. National Science Foundation; the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence Coral Reef Studies; The Nature Conservancy; Total Foundation; James Cook University; King Abdullah University of Science and Technology; and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Find out more about WHOI at www.whoi.edu.

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TRAVEL BLOG: Jeff Goodman Dives SOMABAY, Part 3

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somabay

Today we are diving one of the outer reefs from an inflatable. As we reach the bottom, a reef octopus eases its way into the cover of a small crack in the coral while displaying it’s incredible ability to change colour. They are arguably one of the most charismatic of reef dwellers and it is always exciting for me to simply hover and watch. I would have spent longer and waited for it to come and investigate me, but as dive time is limited we wanted to move on and find a turtle.

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The waters around Somabay are well protected and hold a rich variety of marine life. The reef edges are thriving colonies of coral and shoaling fish, while nearer the sea bed plenty of wildlife is still to be found.

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Then we located the turtles. They are very used to divers and so show little concern when slowly approached. In fact occasionally one will come over to see what you are doing. There is always huge excitement when diving with a turtle. The shear thrill of sharing a moment with another species.

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What a fantastic way to finish a wonderful few days diving and I would like to thank SOMABAY, ORCA DIVING and THE BREAKERS for making my stay such a good one.

I had a great time, with diving everyday either on the house reef or on one of the offshore reefs by inflatable or larger day boat. Orca diving provided high quality equipment and facilities while the staff were all very friendly and welcoming. The Breakers was right on the coast with nice rooms, good food and once again friendly staff making the whole trip a real pleasure.

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Soma Bay covers an entire peninsula and is home to several resorts as well as residential  compounds.

As well as scuba diving, Somabay caters for many other sports and activities, and so is perfect for families as well as individuals and/or groups. And of course there is always time to lay peacefully on the beach under the Egyptian sun.

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Book your next Red Sea dive adventure with SOMABAY! For more information, visit www.somabay.com.

Stay at the Breakers Diving & Surfing Lodge when you visit! For more information, visit  www.thebreakers-somabay.com.

Find out more about ORCA Dive Clubs at SOMABAY at www.orca-diveclubs.com/en/soma-bay-en.

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TRAVEL BLOG: Jeff Goodman Dives SOMABAY, Part 2

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Day three of my trip to Somabay and we were spending the day on the Lady Christina and diving on the wreck of the Salem Express.

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Diving wrecks for me is always one of mixed emotions. The excitement of diving a wreck is more than often tempered by the thought of loss of life when she sank. The Salem Express was a passenger ship and a roll-on/roll-off ferry travelling from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to Safaga, Egypt. Most passengers were of poor class travelling home from their holidays while around 150 people were returning home from their pilgrimage to Mecca.

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The ship struck a reef and sank within 20 minutes. Passengers were trapped below deck and the ship was filled with fear and panic.

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The wreck area is strewn with personal belongings from the crew and passengers such as a transistor radio and a flat iron for clothes. A diver at sometime has put them in a prominent place to be seen.

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Tragically only one life boat was launched while the others went down with the ship. More than 600 men, women and children lost their lives here.

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It’s a stark reminder that the sea can be unforgiving and so when we dive on such wrecks we should do so with humble regard.

Returning to the surface, shoals of fish are gathered under our boat and seem to be welcoming us back into the light.

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Back at the Breakers I sat in the dining area with a beer and a very good meal while my thoughts still remained with the day’s dive on the Salem Express.

Check in for part 3 tomorrow for Jeff’s last day of diving with Somabay on the off-shore reefs looking for turtles.

Book your next Red Sea dive adventure with SOMABAY! For more information, visit www.somabay.com.

Stay at the Breakers Diving & Surfing Lodge when you visit! For more information, visit  www.thebreakers-somabay.com.

Find out more about ORCA Dive Clubs at SOMABAY at www.orca-diveclubs.com/en/soma-bay-en.

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