Giant Cuttlefish returns to the Spencer Gulf for Coitis

Giant Cuttlefish returns to the Spencer Gulf for Coitis

South Australian scientists are ecstatic to find that the Great Australian Cuttlefish has returned to the Spencer Gulf for breeding this year. Their numbers have been down over the last few years and scientists don’t know why, or where they went.

The Great Australian Cuttlefish can weigh up to 13kg.

The Great Australian Cuttlefish can weigh up to 13kg. Image: Howard Womersley.

The cuttlefish, with it’s blue blood pumped through three hearts, and the ability to change colour at the drop of a shell, makes the cuttlefish an enigmatic creature to say the least.

The increase in the breeding aggregation numbers this year is also a source of interest to scientists.

“We’ve looked at a whole range of biotic and abotic factors that could have contributed to it, but nothing jumps out.” says Professor Bronwyn Gillanders.

Gillanders says she is quite excited to that there were a lot sighted early in the season, but that the proof will be when surveys are completed to estimate the abundances on this years breeding aggregation.

Listen to Bronwyn Gillanders speak about the cuttlefish on ABC Rural.

The South Australian Giant Cuttlefish Needs YOU!

The South Australian Giant Cuttlefish Needs YOU!

The Australian giant cuttlefish is the largest cuttlefish species in the world reaching a total length of up to 1 m and a weight of 15 kg.  Researcher Bronwyn Gillanders at the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute is heading up research on these cuttlefish as part of the Spencer Gulf Ecosystem & Development Initiative (SGEDI).

Giant Cuttlefish logged on REDMAP, April 2013

Giant Cuttlefish logged on REDMAP, April 2013

During May and June, the Australian Giant Cuttlefish (Sepia apama) will form dense spawning aggregations in around Point Lowly, in the northern Spencer Gulf, South Australia. This is the only know site in the world where the cuttlefish congregate to breed.

Over the last few years however, the numbers of these aggregations are on the decline and scientists aren’t sure why. Are the Giant Cuttlefish choosing to lay their eggs somewhere else?

This is where you can help! If you spot a group of 10 or more Giant Australian Cuttlefish in South Australian waters, you can log it on the REDMAP (Range Extension Database and Mapping Project) website.

Recreational and commercial fishers, SCUBA divers, boaters and scientists are being invited to spot, log and map sightings of Giant Australian Cuttlefish. Researchers are interested in sightings of aggregations of more than 10 adult cuttlefish as well as eggs, when spotted in South Australian waters, especially northern Spencer Gulf.

REDMAP Australian CuttlefishREDMAP Australian Cuttlefish2















You can find out more and download the information flyer. We hope to see your sightings pop up over the coming months!

From Birdsong Metrics to Ancient Arctic DNA: Selected Publications from the 1st Quarter, 2014

In the first quarter of 2014, researchers at The Environment Institute have published on a vast array of topics, from Ancient DNA in the Arctic, to birdsongs to  recommendations for improvements to guidelines such as the Ecological Footprint in order to better inform policy makers.

A selection of these publications is listed below.

1. Fifty thousand years of Arctic vegetation and megafaunal diet. Nature
Research into the type of vegetation present during the last 50 thousand years in the Arctic is presented. Rather than using fossilised pollen as the main source of data as has been the case for previous studies, this study used plant and nematode DNA from sites across the Arctic. This data brings into question the diet of megafauna such as the woolly mammoth.

2. Distribution and Diversity of Soil Microfauna from East Antarctica: Assessing the Link between Biotic and Abiotic Factors. PLOS ONE
An investigation into soil microfauna composition, abundance, and distribution in East Antarctica. The study found that where a population exists is likely to be determined by soil geochemistry.

3. Higher Levels of Multiple Paternities Increase Seedling Survival in the Long-Lived Tree Eucalyptus gracilis. PLOS ONE
Data from populations of Eucalyptus gracilis (white mallee or yorrell) across the Murray-Darling Basin in southern Australia was collected in order to gain an understanding of how local environments affect seed quality.

4. Rapid deforestation threatens mid‐elevational endemic birds but climate change is most important at higher elevations. Biodiversity Research
The effect of deforestation and climate change on bird communities in Lore Lindu National Park, Sulawesi, Indonesia was investigated. The National Park is a globally important hotspot of avian endemism, and has lost almost 12% of its forest in the decade of 2000-2010.

5. Does the Shoe Fit? Real versus Imagined Ecological Footprints. PLOS BIOLOGY
This article seeks to demonstrate that “Ecological Footprint” measurements as currently constructed and presented misleading and cannot be used effectively in any serious science or policy context. Outlined are a set of principles that any ecological indicator should be based on in order to be scientifically sound and relevant for use in decision making.

6. Historical changes in mean trophic level of southern Australian fisheries. Marine and Freshwater Research
It is suggested that care in interpretation of mean trophic level (MTL) of catches should be taken because reductions do not necessarily reflect change in species high on the food chain by fishing pressure. They found that the change in MTL is mainly attributable to large catches of sardines.

7. Ecology Needs a Convention of Nomenclature. BioScience
A convention of ecological nomenclature as well as a transnational institution to manage it is proposed, in order to overcome the synonymy and polysemy across disciplines, which currently handicaps the progress of ecology.

8.Emerging Challenges for the Drinking Water Industry Environmental Science & Technology
Three principles that underpin alternative water source choices are introduced: Reliability, thresholds and future projections of water quality and quantity.

9. The evolution of lncRNA repertoires and expression patterns in tetrapods. Nature
The first large-scale evolutionary study of long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) repertoires and expression patterns in eleven tetrapod species is presented. About 400 highly conserved lncRNA’s (of more than 10 000 identified) probably originated an astonishing 300 million years ago at least.

10. Direct evidence for organic carbon preservation as clay-organic nanocomposites in a Devonian black shale; from deposition to diagenesis Earth and Planetary Science Letters
The temperature and oxygenation of the oceans are influenced by one of the most fundamental biogeochemical processes on Earth-the burial of organic carbon in marine sediments. This buried organic carbon also comprises the primary source of hydrocarbons. This paper presents research into the composition of Woodford Shale.

11. A guide to southern temperate seagrasses (Book, CSIRO Publishing)
A reference guide to the diverse seagrasses present in the ocean of the temperate parts of the southern hemisphere. Evolution, biology and ecology of the seagrasses is introduced. This book allows readers to rapidly identify a particular species, including those often confused with others.

12. A Potential Metric of the Attractiveness of Bird Song to Humans. Ethology
Bird species such as the common nightingale and European blackbird have songs that are known to have inspired classical music. Developing a metric for these songs might help identify birds that are present in international bird trade which could contribute to studies of invasion and conservation biology.

13. Genetics in conservation management: Revised recommendations for the 50/500 rules, Red List criteria and population viability analyses. Biological Conservation
A review of recent theoretical and empirical evidence concludes that the population rules for minimising inbreeding and for maintaining evolutionary potential in perpetuity need to be at least doubled and sections of the IUCN Red List criteria require revision, to be more effective conservation tools.

New Review: Parasites as biological tags to assess host population structure: Guidelines, recent genetic advances and comments on a holistic approach

A new review involving Environment Institute member Bronwyn Gillanders, as well as Sarah Catalano, Ian Whittington and Stephen Donnellan of the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity has recently been published in the International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife.

This review, titled Parasites as biological tags to assess host population structure: Guidelines, recent genetic advances and comments on a holistic approach includes a summary of the population studies that have used parasites as biological tags for marine fish and cephalopods. The new ways that parasite genetic data can be incorporated into population structure studies is discussed.

Hundreds of dicyemid parasites (white, fuzzy strands) attached to the renal appendage (in red) of a cuttlefish individual.

Hundreds of dicyemid parasites (white, fuzzy strands) attached to the renal appendage (in red) of a cuttlefish individual.

Download the review to find out more.

New Paper: The impact of food availability on snapper

A new paper titled ‘The use of food resources by 0+ snapper, Chrysophrys auratus, from northern Spencer Gulf, South Australia‘ investigates the availability of food as an important factor in survival and growth of juvenile fish.

Professor Bronwyn Gillanders

Food is proposed to play a major role in shaping the patterns of distribution and abundance of snapper in New Zealand and Japan, and this study aims to investigate this hypothesis using data collected from the northern areas of the Spencer Gulf in South Australia.

The paper involves Environment Institute members Richard Saunders (also of James Cook University) and Bronwyn Gillanders as well as Anthony Fowler (South Australian Research and Development Institute) and has been published in Marine and Freshwater Research.

Download the paper to read about their findings

New Paper: Using fish ear bones to investigate the importance of estuaries

Professor Bronwyn Gillanders

A new paper titled ‘Temporal variability in estuarine fish otolith elemental fingerprints: Implications for connectivity assessments‘ investigates using the chemical composition of fish ear bones to provide important information for understanding the value of estuaries to coastal fishes.

The paper involves Environment Institute members Bronwyn Gillanders and Travis Elsdon as well as Patrick Reis-Santos, Susanne Tanner, Rita Vasconcelos and Henrique Cabral (all of the University of Lisbon) and was published in Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science.

Download the paper to read about their findings

New Report: A stock assessment and future management report on the Australian Sardine

Professor Bronwyn Gillanders

A new report titled ‘Movement patterns and stock structure of Australian sardine, Sardinops sagax, off South Australia and the East Coast: implications for future stock assessment and management‘ helps to determine the structure and movement of sardines off South Australia and the east coast of Australia to provide advice to stakeholders. By analysing the facts relevant stakeholders and the industry can decide on the future of the Australian Sardine.

The report involving Environment Institute members Bronwyn Gillanders, Dr Christopher Izzo (also of South Australian Research and Development Institute) as well as Tim Ward (South Australian Research and Development Institute) has been published in SARDI Research Report Series.

Download the paper to read about their findings

New Paper: Climatic effects on the growth of a temperate reef fish from the Southern Hemisphere: a biochronological approach

Professor Bronwyn Gillanders

A new paper involving Environment Institute member Bronwyn Gillanders as well as Bryan Black (Oregon State University), Dr Mark Meekan (Australian Institute of Marine Science) and Mark Morrison (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd) has been published in Marine Biology.

The paper titled ‘Climatic effects on the growth of a temperate reef fish from the Southern Hemisphere: a biochronological approach‘  illustrates how otolith chronologies provide quality records of annual growth patterns over decadal time scales that can be useful for forecasting the likely effects of climate change on marine ecosystems.

Download the paper to read about their findings

New Paper: Dispersal Patterns of Coastal Fish: Implications for Designing Networks of Marine Protected Areas

A new paper involving Environment Institute member Bronwyn Gillanders, Director of the Marine Biology Program, as well as Antonio Di Franco, Giuseppe De Benedetto, Antonio Pennetta, Paolo Guidetti all from the University of Salento, Italy and Giulio A. De Leo from the University of Parma, Italy has recently been published in the Journal PLoS ONE.

Professor Bronwyn Gillanders

The paper is titled ‘Dispersal Patterns of Coastal Fish: Implications for Designing Networks of Marine Protected Areas’,  this study provides some of the first quantitative evidence of dispersal at both larval and post-settlement stages of a key species in Mediterranean rocky reefs.

Read and dowload the paper to find out more and read about the findings.

Environment Institute members among successful proposals for ARC Grants

The Australian Research Council (ARC) today announced the successful proposals for Discovery Projects, Linkage Projects and LIEF proposals commencing in 2012. Among the successful proposals were the following involving Environment Institute members:

Discovery Projects:

  • Meta-modelling of ecological, evolutionary and climatic systems dynamics (Brook, Prof Barry W; Bradshaw, Prof Corey J; Cassey, A/Prof Phillip; Wigley, Dr Tom; Lacy, Dr Robert C)
  • Is regressive evolution associated with loss of gene function in subterranean animals? (Cooper, A/Prof Steven J; Humphreys, Adj/Prof William F; Austin, Prof Andrew D)
  • The developmental genetics of major evolutionary transitions: a multidisciplinary investigation of limb reduction and loss in lizards (Michael Lee, Adam Skinner)
  • Heat transfer in novel solar thermal reactors to process minerals and solar fuels. (Nathan, Prof Graham ‘Gus’ J; Alwahabi, Dr Zeyad T; Abraham, Prof John; Steinfeld, Prof Aldo)
  • Determining the relative roles of dispersal and vicariance in the assembly of the New Zealand fauna (Trevor Worthy, Suzanne Hand, Sreven Salisbury, Richard Scofield, Alan Tennyson)
  • Diversification and conservation of Australian frogs (Scott Keogh, Steve Donnellan, Conrad Hoskin, Daniel Rabosky) (Through ANU)

Linkage Projects (Round 1):

  • Effects of fire on the reproductive ecology of terrestrial orchids and on their pollinators in fragmented landscapes of southern Australia. (Facelli, A/Prof Jose M; Austin, Prof Andrew D; Cooper, A/Prof Steven J; Stevens, Dr Mark I; Faast, Dr Renate)
  • Seascape genetics for shark management: an innovation in sustainable fisheries modelling. (Gillanders, Prof Bronwyn M; Bradshaw, Prof Corey J; Donnellan, Prof Steven C; Huveneers, Dr Charlie)
  • Temperate trophic cascades: impacts of seal foraging on benthic community dynamics. (Gillanders, Prof Bronwyn M; Kelaher, Adj/Prof Brendan P; Connell, A/Prof Sean D; Figueira, Dr Will F; Coleman, Dr Melinda A; Goldsworthy, A/Prof Simon D)
  • Developing DNA tracking methods to identify illegally logged timber products from Africa. (Lowe, Prof Andrew J; Degen, Prof Dr Bernd)
  • Conservation management of the endangered Pygmy Bluetongue Lizard (Christopher M Bull, Mark Hutchinson) (Through Flinders University)
  • Long-term changes in the phenology of Australia’s temperate marine macroalgae: has climate change impacted the world’s most diverse algal flora? (Thomas Wernberg, Carlos Gurgel)(through the University of Western Australia)
  • Islands of rocks: geckos as a model system to understand patterns of biodiversity, endemism and speciation in the Kimberley (Paul Oliver, Michael Lee, Paul Doughty) (through the University of Melbourne)

LIEF Projects:

  • Stable isotope analysis of environmental and physiological samples. (Gillanders, Prof Bronwyn M; Robinson, Prof Sharon A; Walker, A/Prof Stewart; Kennedy, Prof Martin J; Watling, A/Prof Jennifer R; Soole, A/Prof Kathleen L; Tibby, Dr John; Guan, Dr Huade W; Cooper, Prof Alan; Ball, Prof Andrew S)
  • Enhanced powder X-ray diffraction capabilities for South Australia. (Sumby, Dr Christopher J; Gerson, Prof Andrea R; Doonan, Dr Christian J; Pring, Prof Allan; Ellis, A/Prof Amanda V; Ebendorff-Heidepriem, A/Prof Heike; Zou, Prof Linda Y; Lenehan, Dr Claire E; Chittleborough, Prof David J; Majewski, Prof Peter J)

Full lists of successful proposals can be found on the ARC Website.

The Environment Institute would like to Congratulate all of our members who had success with their proposals!