Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Pipefish population explosion will not save starving seabirds

An unexplained population explosion of snake pipefish is occurring in the seas around northern Britain. But the abundance of these fish will not prevent large numbers of puffins, terns and kittiwakes from starving to death.

In a paper submitted to the journal Marine Biology, an international team of scientists led by Professor Mike Harris from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Banchory, reports a dramatic increase in pipefish numbers over the past few years. Pipefish were once rarely seen in British waters but are now frequently caught in trawler nets, with numbers rising 100 fold since 2002, according to some trawl surveys. Even regular divers have reported unusually large numbers along some stretches of coastline.

Dr Doug Beare from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Italy, said that climate change is unlikely to be the primary cause of the dramatic increase. He commented, “There have been changes in water temperature in the North Sea since about 1988 but large numbers of snake pipefish have only appeared during the last three or four years. These major outbreaks of previously rare species do occasionally ‘just happen’ in marine ecosystems and they can have a startling effect on marine food webs. Interestingly, they are often associated with very poor breeding seasons in seabirds.”

Professor Harris said, “ Only in the last 3 years or so have snake pipefish been recorded in the diet of many species of seabird, including puffins, terns and kittiwakes breeding in colonies around UK coastlines, and in Norway, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands. 2006 seems to have been a bumper year, at least in northern Britain, and there is evidence that these birds are turning to the pipefish when their normal prey are in short supply.”

Breeding failures at seabird colonies off the east coast of Britain are becoming common and are thought to be due to low availability of sandeels, their usual and preferred food source. The reasons behind this reduced availability are complex but include effects due to the presence of the North Sea sandeel fishery and climate change.

Professor Harris is pessimistic that the availability of snake pipefish will provide an alternative source of nutrition for the birds during their breeding season. “The nutrient value of the snake pipefish is unknown but their rigid, bony structure makes them difficult for the birds to swallow. There have been numerous sightings of seabirds flying around with these fish protruding from their beaks and chicks, in particular, have great difficulty swallowing them. Many young puffins and kittiwakes have been found starving even when their nests were littered with uneaten pipefish, and tern chicks have been seen choking to death, apparently unable to regurgitate fish stuck in their throats.”

Most pipefish are small and live among seaweed and other marine vegetation close to the coast. The snake pipefish is much larger and can grow to more than 50cm in length and it is these fish that live in the open sea. They are normally found in Atlantic waters spreading from Norway and Iceland in the north to the Azores in the south and eastwards to the Baltic. Close relatives of the seahorse, pipefish are long and thin with segmented and usually hard, armour-cased bodies. Like the seahorse, it is the male that cares for the developing eggs, keeping them in a brood pouch or attached to the underside of his body.

Marion O'Sullivan | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>