Freaky Fish Friday: the Ratfish

Filed Under (Freaky Fish Friday) by Alexa & Cindy on 18-06-2010

Tagged Under : ,

FFFToday’s FFF is a guest post by the multi-talented science journalist Allie Wilkinson, owner of the blog OH, for the Love of Science! We’ve already got chills and thrills over her Ratfish – check it out, with pics and a video, and see what you think!  Enjoy.

Spotted ratfish are unlike anything you have ever seen before. 

They have smooth, scaleless skin that is silvery-bronze in color, with sparkling shades of gold, blue, green, or a pinky-purple sort of color, and are speckled with white spots.  Their tail is almost half of their body length and looks like a rat’s tail, which is how they get their name. 

They have a long venomous spine in front of the dorsal fin, and their pectoral fins are big triangles, that go straight out from the body and look like airplane wings.  On their cute rabbit-like faces, they have large emerald green eyes that are able to reflect light, similarly to the eyes of a cat.  Oh, and they have an extra sexual organ in the middle of their forehead, like a horn on a unicorn, which they use to hold onto the female’s dorsal fin during mating.  Is that freaky enough for you?

Spotted ratfish are among the deepest living fishes, ranging from depths of 0 to 3,000 feet below sea level.  They are related to sharks and rays, and are considered to be the missing link between the bony and cartilaginous fishes because they have characteristics of both.

Ratfish flap their large wing-like pectoral fins to move, which makes them look incredibly graceful.  Normally, they glide over the seafloor in search for crunchy foods like crabs and clams.  But when I took care of these little guys at the Florida Aquarium, we would feed them shrimp.  Feeding the ratfish was always one of my favorite parts of the day, because they turned into graceful little ballerinas at feeding time.  Imagine water ballet, with all of  its synchronized swimmers.  Well, when I would feed the ratfish, they would swim up to the surface, and bring the tops of their bodies out of the water, twirling around, as if they were dancing.

I’ve been to a LOT of aquariums around the world (about 18 or so!) and the Florida Aquarium is the only one that I’ve been to that has these little guys.  I’m glad they do, because I probably wouldn’t have ever found out about such a cool, cute, weird, and freaky little fish otherwise.  If you get a chance to ever see them in person, make sure you do!


Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

SociBook Digg Facebook Google Yahoo Buzz StumbleUpon

Make a Difference Monday: pint-sized Skylar Fielder-Jones acts BIG for gulf animals.

Filed Under (Activism, Make a Difference Monday) by Alexa & Cindy on 14-06-2010

Tagged Under : ,

Skylar Fielder-Jones is a tiny six year-old from Southern Pines, North Carolina. But you’d be hard-pressed to describe her as such, we think, when you read what she did with a BIG idea she had last month to help wildlife affected by the Gulf oil spill.

It all started, as one might expect, as Skylar, whose favorite ocean playground is Myrtle Beach, viewed TV coverage of marine life swimming in oil last month. Then she saw the Dawn Dishsoap commercial that features volunteers cleaning oil from a baby penguin.

That was enough for this little engine that could become an activist to roar to life. Skylar rushed to her mother with her desire to wash the wildlife with “the blue dishsoap,” and knew if she asked, she would receive the help she needed.

“It was not very scary for me to help the animals and I knew if I asked, my mom would help me do it,” Skylar tells O4E.

For her mother, Kim Fielder-Jones, Skylar’s request was, perhaps, just a touch scarier.

“I took me awhile to understand what she was trying to tell me.  All I could understand was that she was shipping our dish soap to the Gulf Coast.  It took me a minute, because she was talking so fast and trying to show me the Dawn commerical on TV.  Once I put two and two together, I was ready to do anything that she wanted me to do.”

And so the Fielder-Jones family got to work – with one condition – that Skylar herself lead the effort whenever she could, including being her own communications department, while Kim and the rest of the family backed her up behind the scenes. “I told her that she had to do all of the talking to the groups at her school, church, and anyone else to listen.  She had make her posters and make sure that she thank everyone personally that donated.  I was the taxi driver and the adult that spoke for her to other adults.”

So Skylar herself got up and spoke to her class at school, her church, and everyone she could to get donations and began collecting bottles of Dawn®, rubber gloves, paper towel rolls and toothbrushes – along with cash donations – to send to oil spill cleanup workers in the Gulf.

Then it was time for Kim to find somewhere to send it. Surely, BP would be graciously accepting any help they could get. 

Not exactly. When Kim finally got ahold of  a BP company representative, the reception was a bit…unenthusiastic. Kim was told by the representative that BP was handling everything and didn’t need her help.

 ”I think I was in total shock that someone on the other end of the line was being so abrasive,” Kim says. ” I called the volunteer line and thought I was taking all of the right steps in being able to help.  I was so surprised when we were told that they did not want our help.”

Skylar minced fewer words: “”I felt, like, really sad when my mom talked to the lady on the phone, she told my mom that they did not need our help.  I stopped and wanted to know what was wrong with them people.”

Kim and Skylar eventually did find help, in the form of Riverlink, a non-profit organization that works to revitalize the French Broad River in western North Carolina. Riverlink served as courier for the load, sending it to the Western North Carolina Nature Center for transport to the Gulf. 

Skylar, family and friends with her motherload of dishsoap and supplies.

They’re still collecting, too: “Yes we are still collecting more, because we need to make a second trip - the spill is really really bad, says Skylar. ”I just saw two birds on TV that were very sick and sad from all the oil. I think one was dying, so I know I need to keep on working to help the animals with oil on them.” Riverlink received eight bags of supplies just yesterday, and Kim hopes they can duplicate the 80+ bottles of dishsoap, 30+ rolls of paper towel, countless toothbrushes, multitudes of rubber glove pairs and more than $300 in cash for the next load.

We asked Skylar how it feels to have so many adults listening to and taking her direction: “I feel different, but everyone is doing the right thing by helping me help the animals and the earth.  I know it is better to give than to get.  I feel really good about what I have done and I am really proud of myself.  I can’t believe that I am doing this and adults are listening.”

And we had to ask both Skylar and Kim for their views on our country’s future in oil: “I would like for the United States to find another way to handle the oil that is not dangerous to us or to all of the animals,” says Skylar.

” I would love for our government to really step back and take charge in making sure that something like this will never happen again,” Kim echoes. ” They need to pay more attention to the oil companies and have more regulations that protect our environment.”

It can be daunting to figure out what to do when your little one has a big idea, but we like Kim and Sklyar’s family example that underscores the power of a child’s voice in ocean – and any – activism. We asked Kim for her advice to parents with kids who want to help:

I would advise them to listen to their children, and never shoot a child’s dream down.  You may not think their idea is doable, but it is your job to support them while they try to accomplish what ever their goals maybe.  Children learn best by watching those around them.  If we continue to show respect for our oceans and earth, then they will grow up and respect them also.  This huge project has brought the entire family closer.  Kevin (Skylar’s dad), Skylar, Zoie (sister, 5), Zander (brother, 4), and I have bonded over this experience in a way that we have never experienced.  We have always been a team of 5, but now we are all stronger as a family thanks to Skylar and her wonderful idea. 

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

SociBook Digg Facebook Google Yahoo Buzz StumbleUpon

Happy World Oceans Day, part two: Fabien Cousteau’s planting fish, and the future of ocean conservation.

Filed Under (Special People, conservation) by Alexa & Cindy on 08-06-2010

Tagged Under : ,

Part Deux of our WOD double-header may be last, but you know what they say about what you save for last.

What would today be without mention of Jacques Cousteau, who if alive today, would be celebrating his 100th birthday just three days from now.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, don’t stay that way. O4E encourages you to find out all you can about the life and work of this important man, who was a french naval officer turned oceanographer extraordinaire who became an iconic educator of all things ocean via his ten-year television series The World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1966-68) and then The Undersea World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1968-76).  (One of us sat glued to the TV on Sunday nights as a VERY young child; one of us, well, is a bit newer to the Cousteau legacy.)  

Captain Cousteau’s body of work includes more than 120 television documentaries, 50 books and an environmental protection organization, the Cousteau Foundation, which has more than 300,000 members.

He developed the Aqua-lung in 1943 and late in his life, he became an environmental consultant to the United Nations.  Needless to say, he was – and is remembered today as THE steward of our oceans in our lifetimes.

We could fill O4E’s pages for months talking about J.Y. Cousteau, but today we are actually here to talk about – and TO - F. Cousteau – his grandson and oldest of his four grandchildren.

What about?

Give you three guesses.

Yes, he’s carrying on the stewardship, and yes, his mission is to educate – and also empower – the young.

Fabien’s been extremely busy as of late, as one might guess, given his heritage and what’s going on with our oceans this year.

He was practically on the eve of launching his new organization, Plant A Fish, an initiative that will literally replant, restore and protect key components of our ocean ecosystems so they on the whole can have a healthier  future, when we caught up with him.  He made time for our request anyway (made because Alexa is growing a Cousteau fascination and would not give her mother a moment’s peace until we asked – who can blame her). We think you’ll understand why he did shortly.

Listen in on what we asked Fabien, and keep your ears finely tuned to what he thinks about kids and their power to save the ocean…

and change the world.

O4E: Tell us about Plant a Fish. What do you want to instill in people young AND old, and what’s your ultimate goal with this project?

Plant a Fish initiatives empower people around the world to restore our water planet and to become better stewards of our one and only life support system. The ultimate goal is to connect people with their own aquatic “back yard” thru targeted programs to “replant” native plants and animals where depleted. Think of the success of planting trees on land, now lets do that in the oceans.
O4E (from Alexa): What made you follow in your grandfather’s footsteps once you became an adult professional?
I’ve always loved the oceans ever since my first dive on my fourth birthday. My family have been great teachers of the unique beauty of the undersea world, and I have been going on expeditions my whole life.

After university and a brief business world career, the ocean sirens sang, and thier enchanted songs brought me back to them.
O4E: Everyone we talk to is extremely angry and feeling helpless over the disaster in the Gulf. But how about turning anger into action? How about some inspirational words for helping us get moving for oceans?
The most recent disaster in the Gulf only serves as a wakeup call to action.

Many disasters have happened previously, but no one has paid attention until it reached our shores. Anger must be put to use in taking much better care of our one and only life support system, our water planet.

Advocacy, conservation and restoration should be key words we live by in our every decision in life. We can no longer use the oceans as an endless resource and a garbage dump. The Gulf oil disaster is impossible to ignore and will be a reminder for decades of the impact humans are capable of. Its time to get rid of our bad habits.

O4E: What do kids need to know about their power to help oceans (for relief but also in general)? What can they do no matter where they live? How can they make a difference, and can their young age actually be an advantage?
Kids are the most powerful voice on this planet. They have the ear of adults who are polluting and stealing from their future.

I would like to see an international coalition of kids  composed of millions to rise up and say “enough is enough, we are taking back the planet you are spoiling for us.”

I am encouraged that the children of today know much more about our planet than their parents and can teach them to make better decisions.

Kids can start stewardship and restoration initiatives in their schools and their communities to nurse the planet back to health. I would love to see a million kid march on Washington DC to tell policy makers to make decisions based on the future wellbeing of the next seven generations!

I am greatly disappointed, frustrated and often disgusted with paralysis of my generation but I am encouraged and optimistic about the generation of youth who can and want to make big changes now! Don’t let anyone stop you from having a healthy planet to live on!

O4E will be following Fabien as he works his way through several Plant a Fish projects in 2010 and 11. Yesterday, he kicked it all off by replanting the start of what will be 130,000 oysters in New York Harbor with students from the New York Harbor School (catch them in action here).  If successful, these oysters will eventually form a reef.

Coming up are the replanting of mangroves in Florida, coral in the Maldives, and sea turtles in El Salvador

How might you use your power to plant something for our water planet’s future?

We’d love to hear, and we’re sure Fabien would, too.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

SociBook Digg Facebook Google Yahoo Buzz StumbleUpon