Coral Reef Alliance | E-Current Newsletter
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May 2014 Crab Wins Photo Contest / Incredible Islands / Fascinating Fish / Protecting Manta Rays—And Marine Biodiversity/ A Diver's Report

An Oates's soft coral crab (Hoplophrys oatesi) in Horseshoe Bay, Komodo National Park, Indonesia; photo by Jim van Gogh
Crab Wins Photo Contest

Can you tell where this Oates's soft coral crab (Hoplophrys oatesi) ends and the soft coral it hides among begins? The brightly colored crustacean has an incredible ability to camouflage itself among the tentacles of soft coral, sometimes even placing coral polyps on its body to aid in the illusion. Fortunately, photographer Jim van Gogh's trained eye spotted the hidden crab in Indonesia's Horseshoe Bay and, after struggling to stay in place in the strong current, Jim captured the winning photo for this month's E-Current photo contest.

Do you have a great coral reef photo? Enter it in our next contest for a chance to have your work featured in the July edition of E-Current. Also, if you submit your photo by May 23, it might wind up in our 2015 calendar! While we can currently only accept contest entries from U.S. residents, we'll consider submissions for the calendar from our supporters anywhere in the world! So if you've been thinking about sharing your underwater photography with us, there's no better time than now. Download Jim's Photo Enter the Contest Submit Your Photos or Portfolio for the Calendar

Their geographic isolation has made islands hotspots for evolution, creating enormous biodiversity on and offshore; photo by CORAL staff
Incredible Islands

May 22 is International Day for Biological Diversity—and this year, the focus is on island biodiversity. Since most of our project sites are located on islands, we thought we’d celebrate this holiday with a deeper dive into what makes life on these places so interesting.

Isolated from their mainland counterparts, island plants and animals evolve independently. Since no genetic mixing occurs with populations in other places, new species unique to the island form over time. This high rate of speciation, or creation of new species, makes islands important drivers of biodiversity. Islands have higher concentrations of endemic species (animals and plants found nowhere else) than continents, and the proportion of endemics increases with an island’s degree of isolation, size, and topographical diversity (which leads to different habitats). Read More

The ancestors of many familiar reef fish were in place about 50 million years ago; photo by Alvin Rosenfeld
Fascinating Fish

Coral reefs are one of the most diverse (possibly the most diverse) ecosystems on the planet, with over 4,500 species of fish living on and around them. A new study by researchers at UC Davis found that reef fish evolved by colonizing reefs in two distinct “waves”—one before and one after dinosaurs were wiped out around 66 million years ago. Reef fish are among the most diverse group of vertebrates, or animals with backbones. Davis researchers developed a family tree for today’s modern ocean fish and calculated the periods when different groups came and went from reefs. The ancestors of most major families of reef fishes, including parrotfishes and clownfishes, were in place about 50 million years ago. Read More

Indonesia recently introduced protections along the migratory routes of manta rays, an area comprising millions of square kilometers of ocean surface; photo by Douglas Richardson
Protecting Manta Rays—and Marine Biodiversity

Talking about marine biodiversity means talking about Indonesia, says CORAL Triangle Regional Manager Naneng Setiasih: the largest archipelago in the world with 17,500 islands, Indonesia also has the highest marine biodiversity in the world, including migratory species like the manta ray.

Indonesia recently declared three million square kilometers of its seas as a manta sanctuary. “The key for managing highly migratory species is to assure that we protect them not only in [specific] sites, but also along their migratory routes,” says Nan. She adds that to truly protect biodiversity, we also need to protect connections between islands—including coral reefs—to make sure corals can regenerate and replenish themselves after events like mass bleachings. Read More

Don Acheson, left, was impressed by the recovery of the reefs off Roatan, Honduras; photo by Leigh Naughton
A Diver's Report

When Don Acheson visited Roatan, Honduras, six years ago he was dismayed to see “a lot of algae on the reef ... and very little elkhorn or staghorn coral; very few anemones, sea urchins, or sea cucumbers; and very few mollusks or even empty shells.”

Fast forward to 2013, when Don decided to visit Roatan again, with his granddaughters and other family members. He wrote about his experience: “It didn’t take long into our first dive before [we] started smiling—reefs that had been covered in algae five years ago were recovering. The big fish—snappers, groupers, and barracuda, and morays—were still there, but the smaller fish and little critters (shrimp, nudibranches, etc.) were there in much larger numbers than before, and the hard corals showed ample new growth.” Read More

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