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Australia’s oceans are home to a startling array of biodiversity — whales, dolphins, dugongs and more. But not all components of Aussie marine life are the charismatic sort of animal that can feature in a tourism promotion, documentary, or conservation campaign.
The echiuran, or spoon worm, is one such animal. It is also called the penis worm.
There is no “Save the Echiuran Foundation” and no influencers selling merchandise to help save them. But these phallic invertebrates are certainly worth your time as integral and fascinating members — of Australia’s marine ecosystems.
August 18 2021
Snorkelers on the Great Barrier Reef have discovered a huge coral more than 400 years old which is thought to have survived 80 major cyclones, numerous coral bleaching events and centuries of exposure to other threats. We describe the discovery in research published today.
Our team surveyed the hemispherical structure, which comprises small marine animals and calcium carbonate, and found it’s the Great Barrier Reef’s widest coral, and one of the oldest.
August 20 2021
A new study has found juvenile marine turtles are ingesting potentially hundreds of pieces of plastic, off both the Eastern and Western Australia coast.
Aug 2 2021
Australia’s marine industry contributes more than $80 billion annually to the national economy according to a report released today. The AIMS Index of Marine Industry is a biannual update of the value the marine sector provides to Australia’s wealth by Deloitte Access Economics, commissioned by AIMS. Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries and for Industry Development Senator Jonathon Duniam, said Australia’s marine industry was one of the most important, vital and fastest-growing parts of the Australian economy.
July 2 2021
Table corals have been dubbed as extraordinary ecosystem engineers, with new research showing these unique corals can regenerate coral reef habitats on the Great Barrier Reef faster than any other coral type. The new study highlights the importance of tabular Acropora, and is led by the Australian Institute of Marine Science in collaboration with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the University of Queensland and The Nature Conservancy. AIMS scientist and lead author Dr Juan Carlos Ortiz said the research showed overall reef recovery would slow considerably if table corals declined or disappeared on the Great Barrier Reef.
June 2 2021
People living near the coast are familiar with the power of ocean waves. What we see when a typical wave breaks on a beach is the endpoint of a global energy conversion story. It starts with the sun’s heat driving winds whose energy generates ocean waves which grow and often travel thousands of kilometres.
In this way, the ocean collects an enormous amount of energy. There’s enough energy in waves coming ashore that every metre of coastline could power around five average homes, and much more during storms.
Capturing this energy is not a new idea, but one that faces many challenges. Our research illustrates the potential of enlisting biology in a reversal of the typical marine engineering view that “bio-fouling is bad”.
June 7 2021
Surveys from the AIMS Long Term Monitoring Program have returned good news from the southern Great Barrier Reef, showing offshore reefs suffered little impact from moderate bleaching during the 2019-20 mass coral bleaching event. AIMS are closely monitoring the recovery of the reefs, spanning over 490 reefs within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
March 2 2021
Artificial intelligence may soon be counting and classifying Australia’s tropical fish populations if at least one of the four Australian technology businesses to receive Australian Government seed funding is successful.
February 8 2021
Scientists at the University of Southampton and University of Edinburgh have developed a flexible underwater robot that can propel itself through water in the same style as nature’s most efficient swimmer – the Aurelia aurita jellyfish.
January 21 2021
An 81-year-old midnight snapper caught off the coast of Western Australia has taken the title of the oldest tropical reef fish recorded anywhere in the world.
The octogenarian fish was found at the Rowley Shoals—about 300km west of Broome—and was part of a study that has revised what we know about the longevity of tropical fish.
December 1 2020
Scientists have collected the first fine-scale maps and imagery of reefs and submarine canyons in the rarely visited Arafura Marine Park, revealing seafloor environments with surprisingly diverse coral and fish communities.
17 November 2020
Whale shark girls overtake the boys to become world’s largest fish
Female whale sharks grow more slowly than males but end up being larger, research suggests.
A decade-long study of the iconic fish has found male whale sharks grow quickly, before plateauing at an average adult length of about eight or nine metres.
Female whale sharks grow more slowly but eventually overtake the males, reaching an average adult length of about 14 metres.
16 September 2020
Mystery circles providing evidence of a potential new species of pufferfish have been discovered in Australia’s north-west by researchers at The University of Western Australia and Australian Institute of Marine Science.
The research, published in the Journal of Fish Biology, placed the discovery at more than 5500km away from the only other similarly described structures off Amami-Oshima Island in southern Japan.
17 September 2020
A new study has found that drones have the potential to contribute to effective shark bite management strategies that do not require culling sharks or killing other animals as by-catch.
15 September 2020
A landmark new study published today in Nature by Global FinPrint reveals sharks are virtually absent on many of the world’s coral reefs. Sharks were not observed on nearly 20 percent of the 371 reefs surveyed in 58 countries, indicating a widespread decline that has largely gone undocumented until this global survey.
23 July 2020
Scientists have discovered a significant coral bleaching event at one of Western Australia’s healthiest coral reefs.
In April and May 2020, the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) conducted surveys of the reef system, supported by Parks Australia and Australian Border Force, to confirm reports of significant coral bleaching.
14 July 2020
A new study published in the journal PeerJ by researchers at the University of Hawaii found that human-induced environmental stressors have a large effect on the genetic composition of coral reef populations in Hawaii.
9 April 2020
Scientists, farmers and volunteers are looking for ways to lessen the impact of climate change as experts warn a third mass bleaching has taken place.
One of the dive instructors points out two blacktip reef sharks circling a docile green turtle busy grazing on algae. Stingrays of various sizes, colours and shapes pass beneath us. Suddenly, a pod of dolphins appears, swimming over the hard corals.
4 April 2020
With the Wuhan coronavirus suspected to have originated from wild animals in the city’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, Chinese authorities have temporarily banned all wild animal trade. Lobster and other wild-caught aquatic products are exempt from the ban, but demand has plummeted due to people staying home and avoiding both markets and restaurants.
19 February 2020
As Australians look forward to the summer beach season, the prospect of shark encounters may cross their minds. Shark control has been the subject of furious public debate in recent years and while some governments favour lethal methods, it is the wrong route.
Our study, published today in People and Nature, presents further evidence that lethal shark hazard management damages marine life and does not keep people safe.
4 December 2019
A Sea Shepherd beach clean-up campaign in Northeast Arnhem Land has further exposed the catastrophic impact of marine plastic pollution on mainland Australia.
Over seven tonnes of marine plastic pollution was removed by ten volunteers from Sea Shepherd Australia and Indigenous Rangers from the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation in a two-week-long collaboration at Djulpan Beach on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Territory.
22 Sep 2019
The rise in sea levels is not the only way climate change will affect the coasts. Our research, published today in Nature Climate Change, found a warming planet will also alter ocean waves along more than 50% of the world’s coastlines.
If the climate warms by more than 2℃ beyond pre-industrial levels, southern Australia is likely to see longer, more southerly waves that could alter the stability of the coastline.
20 August 2019
One hectare of ocean in which fishing is not allowed (a marine protected area) produces at least five times the amount of fish as an equivalent unprotected hectare, according to new research published today. This outsized effect means marine protected areas, or MPAs, are more valuable than we previously thought for conservation and increasing fishing catches in nearby areas.
Previous research has found the number of offspring from a fish increases exponentially as they grow larger, a disparity that had not been taken into account in earlier modelling of fish populations. By revising this basic assumption, the true value of MPAs is clearer.
July 4 2019
Hundreds of juvenile corals bred at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) have survived being transplanted on the Great Barrier Reef, in a promising early test to help corals increase their resilience to marine heatwaves.
2 July 2019
As concern grows over human-induced climate change, many scientists are looking back through Earth’s history to events that can shed light on changes occurring today. Analyzing how the planet’s climate system has changed in the past improves our understanding of how it may behave in the future.
It is now clear from these studies that abrupt warming events are built into Earth’s climate system. They have occurred when disturbances in carbon storage at Earth’s surface released greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. One of the grand challenges for climate scientists like me is to determine where these releases came from before humans were present, and what triggered them. Importantly, we want to know if such an event could happen again.
Humans have a long history of living on water. Our water homes span the fishing villages in Southeast Asia, Peru and Bolivia to modern floating homes in Vancouver and Amsterdam.
As our cities grapple with overcrowding and undesirable living situations, the ocean remains a potential frontier for sophisticated water-based communities.
New research has revealed that marine turtle hatchlings entering the ocean close to jetties have a high likelihood of being eaten.
The study, published today in Biological Conservation, found structures such as jetties are an attractive shelter for hungry fish as they lie in wait for an easy evening meal.
One of the ocean’s top predators – the tiger shark - has been revealed as a relaxed and sometimes lazy hunter by scientists studying their behavior.
Researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and Murdoch University’s Harry Butler Institute attached specialist tags which combined cameras with motion and environmental sensors, to 27 tiger sharks in the Ningaloo Reef off the coast of Western Australia.
More than 70% of recreational fishers support no-take marine sanctuaries according to our research, published recently in Marine Policy.
This study contradicts the popular perception that fishers are against establishing no-take marine reserves to protect marine life. In fact, the vast majority of fishers we surveyed agreed that no-take sanctuaries improve marine environmental values, and do not impair their fishing.
Much of the Great Barrier Reef is legally protected in an effort to conserve and rebuild the fragile marine environment. Marine reserves are considered the gold standard for conservation, and often shape our perception of what an “undisturbed ecosystem” should look like.
However research published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, suggests that “no-take” marine reserves may be failing shark populations on the Great Barrier Reef.
The devastating bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017 rightly captured the world’s attention. But what’s less widely known is that another World Heritage-listed marine ecosystem in Australia, Shark Bay, was also recently devastated by extreme temperatures, when a brutal marine heatwave struck off Western Australia in 2011.
There has been a striking decline in the number of large sharks caught off Queensland’s coast over the past 50 years, suggesting that populations have declined dramatically.
Catch numbers of large apex sharks (hammerheads, tigers and white sharks) declined by 74-92%, and the chance of catching no sharks at any given beach per year has increased by as much as seven-fold.
14 December 2018
The Antarctic Circumpolar Current, or ACC, is the strongest ocean current on our planet. It extends from the sea surface to the bottom of the ocean, and encircles Antarctica.
It is vital for Earth’s health because it keeps Antarctica cool and frozen. It is also changing as the world’s climate warms.
The ACC carries an estimated 165 million to 182 million cubic metres of water every second (a unit also called a “Sverdrup”) from west to east, more than 100 times the flow of all the rivers on Earth. It provides the main connection between the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans
16 Nov 2018
The lost world was uncovered during detailed seafloor mapping by CSIRO research vessel Investigator while on a 25-day research voyage led by scientists from the Australian National University (ANU). The mapping has revealed, for the first time, a diverse chain of volcanic seamounts located in deep water about 400 km east of Tasmania.
11 Oct 2018
Four tiger sharks have now been captured and killed following two separate attacks off the coast of North Queensland last week. Despite being relatively rare, shark attacks, or the threat of attacks, not only disrupt recreational beach activities but can affect associated tourist industries. Shark nets are a common solution to preventing shark attacks on Australian beaches, but they pose dangers to marine ecosystems.
28 Sep 2018 Read More
It’s stunning but true that we know more about the surface of the moon than about the Earth’s ocean floor. Much of what we do know has come from scientific ocean drilling – the systematic collection of core samples from the deep seabed.
This revolutionary process began 50 years ago, when the drilling vessel Glomar Challenger sailed into the Gulf of Mexico on August 11, 1968 on the first expedition of the federally funded Deep Sea Drilling Project.
26 September 2018
Researchers at the Australian Institute of Marine Science have made a significant breakthrough in the war against crown-of-thorns starfish, on the Great Barrier Reef.
AIMS’ senior research leader Dr Sven Uthicke and biochemist Jason Doyle, along with echinoderm expert Dr Miles Lamare from the University of Otago, in New Zealand, have developed a cost effective method for detecting DNA of the coral-eating pest.
18 Sep 2018
The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, but much of its lifecycle remains shrouded in mystery. These gentle giants gather in just a handful of places around the globe – something which has long baffled scientists – but our new research has started to explain why.
Better understanding of whale shark movements could help prevent further population loss in a species that has already experienced a 63% population decline over the past 75 years.
Are there more sharks in Australian waters than there used to be, and are interactions between humans and shark increasing? Some Australian politicians have claimed that to be the case.
Let’s look at the research.
After several sightings of protected Humpback whales migrating along the east coast over the past two weeks, NSW Department of Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair has announced the second NSW North Coast net trial will come to an end. "NSW has removed shark nets whilst only a few kilometres across the border in the Gold Coast bay whale entanglements will continue.
More than 1/3 of recorded Humpback whale incidents along the Queensland coastline are in fact due to the Queensland Shark Control Program and we urgently need to change the current practice in light of an increasing whale population.
4 May 2018