Macro-Micro Special

So we’ve talked about the big…the epic, the apex, the jaw-some carnivores that rule the ocean. But what about the little guys? And better yet, what about the middle guys?

We call these forage fish. Forage fish are the glue that bind many ocean ecosystems together, acting as main food sources for higher tropic level predators. Larger fish, marine mammals, and seabirds can all depend on forage fish to survive. A few years ago, Ellen Pikitch, Konstantine Rountos and scientists set out to understand the ecological importance of forage fish to marine ecosystems and the economic importance of forage fish to marine fisheries. In their results, they found that these “middle” guys contribute a total of $16.9 billion USD to global fisheries every year—directly, being caught and sold, and indirectly, by sustaining larger life that is caught and sold.

But what makes a fish a so-called ‘forage’ fish?

You eat, you get eaten….it’s life—so what’s so special about forage fish? This is the question that Dr. Konstantine Rountos is answering. “There’s no distinct, clear definition” for forage fish, says Rountos. This summer, Rountos analyzed the definition of forage fish from many different angles. Rountos, an undergraduate student, and a high school student (yes, this is where I come in!) drew definitions from several key forage fish papers and, using fish base, looked at the particular specs for each fish. Thousands of forage fish entries later, Rountos will now be looking at commonalities and averages of this data to pull together a better definition for forage fish.

Want to read more about Rountos’s awesome work? Take a look:

Check out these sources for extra information!

Shark Week Special: Will Discovery Disappoint?

It’s that time of year again.

As people enjoy their sunny summer getaways by day, they tune into the dark depths of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week by night. Families sit gathered around the TV, glued to the horrifying madness before them. Shark attack survivors recount vicious tales of hungry creatures that lurked below them. Documentaries detail the violent lives of still-existing Megalodons and thirty-foot Great Whites. Year after year, we are again sucked into the thrilling madness that is shark week.

However, a problem arises when fact and fiction are mixed together, seamlessly tied into one video segment. How would—how could the average person know when to stop believing what these “scientific” documentaries tell them?

For the past few years, Shark Week’s quest to boost ratings has ignited shark conservationists across the world. In a recent NPR segment, it was said that “many scientists think the huge audiences — and the hype — have come at the expense of real science.” The factual errors, over-dramatization and vilifying of sharks have made sharks enemies rather than glorified celebrities.

This year, though, Shark Week producers have promised to take a turn for the better. Discovery insists that Shark Week 2015 will focus on real research and science, promoting shark conservation. So far, the segments look promising. More than ever before, sharks need Discovery on their side this year. Tune in to see for yourself–and comment to let us know what you think!

Want to celebrate these beautiful creatures during one of the best weeks of the year? Buy my new children’s book, A Familiar Fin, on Amazon today. All the profits go to Sharks4Kids!