Sharks and forests

No, sharks don’t live in forests: I have two quick stories today, just sharing a couple of recent good-news stories associated with some really nice photos and videos.

First, forests: a 30-year feud between loggers and green groups in Tasmania ended late last month with a deal between the parties. More than 500,000 hectares of native Tasmanian forest will be protected from logging, while about 140,000 cubic metres of sawlogs will be made available to the timber industry. The agreement doesn’t give any group everything they wanted (which suggests to me that it was probably as fair a balance as we could hope for) but the mere fact that we have an agreement is worth something.

But the main reason I wanted to mention it here is that the Wilderness Society, who have been working for the protection of Tasmania’s wild forests for many years put together this amazing slideshow of the forests which will be saved. Do take a look – it’s beautiful.

Closer to home, sharks made a rare – possibly unique – appearance in a feel-good story on the front page of our local paper which was picked up by the ABC and presented on ABC Queensland news.

The sharks were Leopard Sharks from our Reef HQ Aquarium, so I covered the story, too, in the aquarium volunteers’ newsletter and can share photos with you here as well.

Aquarist Hamish with friend
Aquarist Hamish with friend, as seen in our newspaper
one shark biting another on the fin
Standard leopard shark courting behaviour. Most of us wouldn’t like a love bite like this!

For a little more on Leopard Sharks’ courtship, and its relation to our own, click here for my previous story on the subject.

The Rainforest comes to the Aquarium

Reef HQ Aquarium has carried out some major projects recently. Some of them are still under way but I am happy to report the completion of the Rainforest Tree exhibit:

Rainforest tree exhibit
The Rainforest Tree exhibit, modelled after the trunk of a fig tree

One might ask why an aquarium celebrating the Great Barrier Reef should need a rainforest exhibit but the answer is fairly simple: the rainforest is all part of the same ecosystem, intimately linked through the water cycle. Rains fall on the hills, and the water drains through the rainforest, farmlands and mangroves to the coastal waters of the GBR lagoon. What happens to it on the way –  picking up sediments and nutrients, for instance – has immediate effects on the seagrass and corals, and on everything that lives on and amongst them. The aquarium has a lovely freshwater wetlands exhibit next to the tree with a mangrove exhibit not too far away to complete the sequence.

The three glass-fronted display cases contain (left to right) Green Tree Frogs, a Green Python and Red-eyed Tree Frogs. I have already posted a picture of the first of these – here – so here are the other two:

Red-eyed tree frog on branch
Red Eyed Tree Frog, Litoria chloris

Something funny about its eye? Read about the nictitating membrane.

Green Python
Green Python, Morelia viridis

The Green Tree Python is a beautiful creature and has pride of place in the exhibit. She isn’t as thrilled by that as the aquarium’s visitors are by her, being nocturnal by nature. However, she does often sleep where people can see her.

Lionfish

Two lionfish
Two Lionfish, Pterois volitans, in Reef HQ Aquarium

The spectacularly beautiful lionfish are amongst my favourite creatures in Reef HQ Aquarium, Townsville.

They are a local Reef species but are also found all the way round the Australian coast from southern WA to southern NSW (by way of the Kimberley, Darwin and Cape York, naturally) and elsewhere in the tropical Indo-Pacific. They have a bewildering collection of ‘common’ names: Butterfly Cod, Featherfins, Fire Fish, Red Firefish, Scorpion Fish, Scorpion-cod, Turkeyfish, Zebrafish and probably more.

The ‘Scorpion’ names are justified by the fact that they are members of the Scorpion fish family, Scorpaenidae, which includes many other species (including our Stonefish), most of them well armed with poisonous spines. The poison, I suppose, accounts for the ‘Firefish’ names, while ‘Butterfly’,  ‘Turkey’  and ‘Lion’ probably all refer to those gorgeous fins and ‘Zebra’ refers to the stripes. But ‘Cod’? No connection that I can see, except the very basic point that some fish are cod.

More information:

P.S. (19.6.12) showing why they are called ‘Butterfly’ Cod:

Front view of Lionfish with fins spread
Obviously a Butterfly Cod