31 March 2009

Book of the Month: April 2009

Marine Mammal Research: Conservation Beyond Crisis

by J.E. Reynolds, J.E. Reynolds III, W.F. Perrin, R.R. Reeves, S. Montgomery, T.J. Ragen


The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore


Marine mammal conservation presents a number of challenges for scientists and other stakeholders, especially using natural resources in ways that avoid crisis management. Scientists play the special role of providing vital information to decision makers to help them understand long-term consequences of their actions and avoid crises before they develop. The contributors to this visionary work look beyond the current crises to present a compelling argument about how science, if conducted properly, can provide insights that minimize crisis management and implement more anticipatory actions. Despite the significant reduction of marine mammal harvesting, stocks of some species remain greatly reduced or are in decline. This volume provides an overview of the current state of marine mammal populations and identifies the major obstacles facing marine mammal conservation, including fisheries, sonar and other noise pollution, disease, contaminants, algal booms, and habitat loss. The contributors chart a scientifically-supported plan to direct marine management toward a well-defined recovery protocol. This comprehensive resource will be indispensable for marine mammal biologists, oceanographers, conservation program managers, government regulators, policy makers, and anyone who is concerned about the future of these captivating species. (Review from Google)

James Mead, from the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, said “This book deserves prominent placement on the shelf of anyone who cares about the future of marine mammals. It covers all the major conservation issues of our day and defines a research agenda that should be embraced wherever marine mammals occur. A worthy successor to Twiss and Reeves, we bow have Marine Mammal Research as our touchstone for the challenges that face us.”

30 March 2009

Tethys planet

Image sent by Massimo Demma.

(click to enlarge)

29 March 2009

Ionian Dolphin Project: 2009 research gets started

From April the Ionian Dolphin Project at Galaxidi, Gulf of Corinth, will start its first research season. We are all excited about getting out with our boat and collecting data in this area, which is new to us.

Work in the Amvrakikos Gulf and around Kalamos will start later on, from early May.

The Blog will keep you updated about the developments!

(click on image to expand)

Ionian Dolphin Project

'Delphi's Dolphins' research courses

27 March 2009

Talking about swordfish...

The editorial ‘When swordfish conservation biologists eat swordfish’ editorial published in Conservation Biology by Tethys president Giovanni Bearzi is receiving considerable attention.

A number of blogs - including 'The Great Beyond' by the journal Nature - are discussing the opinions stated in the essay.

Some of the readers commented:

Giovanni here is talking about a real, widespread issue and he has hit the nail on the head. Being a conservation biologist myself I am appalled at how some ecologists leave their passion for conservation behind at the office. When i have confronted friends or colleagues about their questionable practices, the response has been "oh, just one person can't make a difference". As scientists, we need to distinguish ourselves from flag-waving environmentalists, but we still need to apply the same principles to ourselves that we are preaching.


This essay stands out as more inquisitive and though-provoking than nearly any other.

But not everybody liked it:

This proposal is just absurd. No one looks to scientists for advice on how to live their lives - not even other scientists!

So it appears that the editorial generated some wavelets, and people are at least reading it...

The editorial:
Bearzi G. 2009. When swordfish conservation biologists eat swordfish. Conservation Biology 23(1):1-2.

Some blogs:

26 March 2009

How does one become a cetacean researcher?

READ as much scientific literature as possible, so that you know everything about your own field of investigation (and beyond)

ATTEND marine science and conservation conferences and workshops

GET TO KNOW the key players in person

VISIT cetacean laboratories, universities, NGO headquarters, museums, libraries, research centres, field stations

PARTICIPATE in field courses and expeditions

SUBSCRIBE to e-mail lists such as marmam and ecs-talk

LEARN from your peers

DEVELOP multiple skills that can benefit your work and career

WRITE as much as you can, and develop an appreciation for structure, meaning, synthesis, style... and lack of typos

COMMIT to what you do, and spend much time and effort actually doing it

DO YOUR BEST which probably means: do not get attached to what you did, as there is still much you can do to make it better.

"I have done my best." That is about all the philosophy of living that one needs.
-- Lin-Yutang

How does one become a cetacean researcher?

Photo: the late Kenneth S. Norris, world-renowned expert on whales and dolphins

25 March 2009

Don't feed wild dolphins animation

What is a dolphin doing in front of a fireplace with a brown bear, a seagull, another dolphin and two racoons?

He is telling the others 'patients' about his problems, and how it all started...

For me it started with one hit of sardines.
Oooh... Sardines.

That's when I learned to beg.
It was easy to score free fish.
I mean eh, with this dolphin smile... [clicks].
Yeah, it's illegal but no one cares.

I had a monkey on my back and I was "jonesing" for people food...

Hanging out under boats, dodging props and hooks, doing dangerous stuff that I'm ashamed to admit?
Look... I know that I can kick this, if people would just stop feeding me

This animated announcement was produced by a coalition of governmental agencies and private organisations. Through innovative communication, it reminds viewers that feeding wild dolphins or harassing them is illegal and harmful to both dolphins and humans.

Watch the video

Silvia Bonizzoni

For more information: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov

24 March 2009

Advise to a finishing student

This is a message I recently wrote to a student who completed her MSc thesis, which I edited a bit.

It contains some general advise and I thought that this might be useful to others in a similar situation, in addition to the two articles linked below.


We got there, eventually. Quite good this time, but still lots of edits. Style editing is a never-ending process and you are expected to read and read and read, dozens of times, and improve your text every time - something that most people do not do, or do not want to do. Writing well takes tremendous effort, but few realise how important it is. Your written English needs to be improved (as does mine) but what is most important is structure. This is still below perfection, as you note, but quite good considering where we started, your nationality, and the fact that you are still a beginner after all. Personally, I am satisfied with your work and I think that you should be proud of it. What is mandatory now is turning this into something useful (a thesis is not). Whatever you want to do in the future, try to get this published in the best possible journal. The dataset can be improved and more years can be used. Your Summary is certainly the basis of a potentially good publication, and you should go for it. Publications matter, not theses or other unpublished work. So do not stop after the thesis, thinking that you have accomplished something. In science, accomplishing means publishing in refereed journals. Keep hammering the iron until it's hot, as they say in Italy, and start writing your first publication right away. The thesis Summary can be easily edited into an abstract (which you may want to present at the next marine mammal conference). Think about a Title. Write the first sentence of the Methods. Fill in the empty spaces in the Acknowledgements and Literature cited. You will end up with a draft manuscript that can grow and improve every day. And please, never 'like' what you did, at least as long as it isn't truly perfect. The worst offence you can do to your work is falling in love with it, therefore seeing it as something that can't be further improved. Try to see your work as something that can be improved forever, don't get attached to it, and you will become a good writer.


Clapham P. 2005. Publish or perish. BioScience 55(5):390-391.

Surviving Professional Puberty in Marine Mammalogy: Things Mom and Dad Didn’t Tell You - by John E. Reynolds, III

23 March 2009

The Cove

The movie called 'The Cove' features the attempts of a team of activists, filmmakers and freedivers embarked on a covert mission to penetrate a hidden cove in the small vilage of Taiji (Japan). The mysteries they uncover are only the tip of an iceberg...

This documentary on dolphin captivity issues and dolphin meat consumption won the Audience Award at 2009's Sundance Film Festival.

To see the trailer: http://thecovemovie.com/


For more information:

21 March 2009

Synergy and Partnership in Cetacean Science

Between 14-17 March, Tethys researchers Stefano Agazzi and Joan Gonzalvo participated in the workshop "Synergy and Partnership in Cetacean Science" organized by BlueWorld and held in their headquarters on the island of Losinj, Croatia.

The event was organized in the context of the EC project "NGO Capacity Building for Implementation of Natura 2000 Priority Actions".

In addition to Stefano and Joan, other workshop participants included representatives of Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute (Greece), Morigenos (Slovenia) and the entire BlueWorld team.

The aim of the workshop was to present the current research activities carried out by each organization, share methodologies and approaches, explore future collaboration, exchange experiences and problems faced to affectively translate scientific results into conservation action, and discuss the most effective ways to achieve common conservation goals.

This workshop strengthened the friendship among the participating NGOs with the aim of facilitating exchange of students and collaborators and further cetacean research and conservation in the region.

Joan Gonzalvo

20 March 2009

Sprofondo blu

Mi aggiro per un mercato del pesce di Istanbul sotto una pioggia leggera ma insistente. Saranno una ventina di bancarelle strette tra l’incombere di grossi palazzi anonimi e il mare, una lingua di acqua salata che entra dentro la città, la divide in due e che qui chiamano Haliç, il corno d’oro.

Sui banchi trovo un po’ di tutto; orate d’allevamento, spigole, seppie, calamari, astici, tonni, pesci san Pietro, cozze (che qui mangiano crude con una spruzzata di limone), enormi rombi chiodati e cefali. La testa di un piccolo pesce spada fa capolino da una bancarella, ridotta ad una triste attrazione. La gente passa via veloce, pochi comprano, i venditori confabulano tra di loro. Poco più in là, i gatti e i cani aspettano il cibo che verrà lasciato loro la sera. Ogni prodotto ha il suo cartello con il prezzo scritto a mano. Non viene mai indicata la zona Fao di provenienza. Visto così sembra che il mar Mediterraneo (zona FAO 37) abbondi di pesce e che goda di ottima salute. Quanti dei pesci che ho visto sono stati pescati qui, nelle acque della Turchia? Hanno corpi mollici al tatto, gli occhi sono concavi e spenti, le branchie di rosso hanno solo un labile ricordo. Mi viene il dubbio che arrivino da lontano, da altri mari.

La sera ho fatto un giro per i ristoranti e la scena è stata sempre la stessa. Banchi pieni di pesce esposti lungo le vie di passaggio. Le aragoste tenute vive sul ghiaccio e un’abbondanza colorata di pesci abilmente esposti come oggetti nelle vetrine dei negozi alla moda. Così è impossibile avere una percezione della realtà ovvero che i nostri mari sono vicini al collasso. Stasera posso scegliere tra l’aragosta e il pesce spada, così anche domani e il mese prossimo.

Il problema pesca esiste ed è una questione seria riconosciuta dai ricercatori, dai pescatori e dai governi. In realtà si pesca troppo e nonostante questo il settore ha un decifit economico enorme: secondo l’ultimo rapporto Onu del 2008 raggiunge i cinquanta miliardi di dollari all’anno. I governi sono costretti ad intervenire con fiumi di denaro per tenere la pesca ancora in vita. Quel che è peggio è che il 75% delle zone di pesca è al limite dello sfruttamento, gli stock ittici sono collassati, oggetto di anni di attività intensiva. Tuttavia c’è un paradosso che ha dell’incredibile. Di quello che peschiamo buttiamo via quasi il 30%. 20 milioni di tonnellate di pesce vengono ogni anno ributtate in mare. Il danno è biologico ed economico allo stesso tempo. Il perché di questa pratica insensata lo racconta Fabio Fiorentino del CNR dalle pagine del Venerdì, il settimale de “La Repubblica”.

E’ cambiato il nostro modo di mangiare e ci comportiamo con il cibo come con i vestiti. Scegliamo le specie più pregiate, più costose ma facili da preparare e non importa se arrivano sulle nostre tavole facendo il giro del mondo. Il tonno rosso mediterraneo che finisce nei ristoranti giapponesi con prezzi da gioielleria è probabile che sarà la prima vittima di questo comportamento sconsiderato. Nel 2007 nel Mediterraneo ne sono state pescate 61 mila tonnellate. Il doppio di quello consentito dalla comunità europea. Il timore che questa specie abbia la stessa sorte del merluzzo del nord atlantico è fondato.

Nel 2007 la UE ha stanziato il fondo per la Pesca, 420 milioni di euro per sostenere tutto il settore ittico fino al 2013. Secondo Fiorentino una parte dovrebbe venire utilizzata per iniziare una rivoluzione del settore. Fuori dall’acqua e per sempre i vecchi pescherecci, regolamentare severamente lo strascico e le reti derivanti, favorire la pesca artiginale vicino alle coste e investire nella ricerca di base per produrre tecnologie e metodi di pesca meno impattanti.

Mentre il futuro del mare sarà fuori pericolo solo se aumenteremo le zone protette e le quote di pesca di ogni singolo paese saranno decise con rigore scientifico e non con logiche politiche e commerciali.

Mauro Colla

19 March 2009

Interviste a Tethys

Martedì 17 marzo, Repubblica TV ha dedicato la seconda metà del programma ‘Il cerchio da chiudere’ alle balenottere azzurre e al tema della baleneria.

In studio era presente Fabrizio Borsani, biologo marino dell’ISPRA (Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale), mentre in collegamento telefonico è stato intervistato Simone Panigada, vicepresidente di Tethys.

Borsani ha parlato dell’ecologia della balenottera azzurra e le minacce a cui questo cetaceo è soggetto, Panigada invece ha illustrato le recenti decisioni prese dalla Commissione Baleniera Internazionale (IWC) riguardo al futuro della caccia alle balene.


Sabato 14 marzo, Radio 24 ha intervistato Sabina Airoldi, ricercatrice di Tethys e direttrice del progetto ‘Balene e delfini nel Santuario Pelagos’, riguardo all'allarme lanciato da Greenpeace sulla notevole diminuzione di cetacei nel Santuario del Mar Ligure.

Airoldi ha chiarito che, dal punto di vista scientifico, i risultati del survey effettuato da Greenpeace in collaborazione con Tethys suggeriscono un calo statisticamente significativo solo nel numero di stenelle striate, ma non delle altre specie di cetacei. Airoldi ha inoltre sottolineato la necessità di monitoraggi più approfonditi. In questo modo si potrà comprendere se la situazione sia effettivamente allarmante o se si tratti solo di fluttuazioni temporanee.

Silvia Bonizzoni

Il servizio di Repubblica TV: http://tv.repubblica.it

L’intervista di Radio 24: http://www.moebiusonline.eu

Per ulteriori informazioni:
Panigada S., Giannì A., Notarbartolo di Sciara G., Lauriano G. 2009. Abundance of striped dolphins in the Pelagos Sanctuary: insights through line transect surveys. Poster presented at the 23° Conference of the European Cetacean Society in Istanbul, Turkey.

18 March 2009

Campi Tethys in italiano

Sono ora disponibili in italiano tutte le informazioni dettagliate relative ai campi di ricerca condotti da Tethys in Italia e in Grecia.

Nei nuovi documenti, ciascun progetto (Cetacean Sanctuary Research ‘Balene e delfini nel Santuario Pelagos’ e Ionian Dolphin Project ‘I Delfini di Delfi’) è minuziosamente descritto in tutti i suoi aspetti: le tecniche utilizzate per studiare i cetacei, il background scientifico, il programma di ricerca, la località, il modulo di iscrizione, i dettagli e consigli per partecipare e così via.

Per chi fosse interessato, i documenti sono scaricabili alla pagina:

17 March 2009

International Whaling Commission meeting in Rome

Between 9-11 March the Intersessional Meeting of the Commission on the Future of IWC (International Whaling Commission) took place in Rome.

Three main news came after the meeting: 1) Japan may be allowed to conduct commercial whaling near its coast while scaling down its activities in the Antarctic, 2) South Korea said that it is ready to resume commercial whaling, and 3) IWC wants to shortcut the scientific process and authorise a Small Working Group of member countries to continue developing a package deal of proposals for a resumption of commercial whaling, relying instead on ad-hoc catch limits set for five years at a time, without regard to long-term sustainability.

Conservationists consider the decisions taken during this meeting as a dangerous change of course which jeopardises the future of whales. “Coastal whaling for Japan would legitimise what Iceland and Norway are doing” said Nicolas Entrup from WDCS, and his colleague Mark Simmonds added “This is dreadful and terrifying news, South Korea’s announcement fulfils our worst expectations. We feared that the deal-making that has been going on would encourage other countries to join in and in the fullness of time lead to an expansion of whaling and this now seems to be exactly what is happening.”

Conservation and animal welfare organisations point of view are well summarized in a comment by Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Global Whale Programme Director: “Science has been thrown to the whalers like Christians to the lions in ancient Rome... The message from the Commission was forget science, forget sustainability, compromise full steam ahead”.

Silvia Bonizzoni

For more information:

14 March 2009

A Conservation Plan is not a conservation success

"A Plan is not a conservation success. A conservation success is when there is more of the things you want to conserve than it used to be. (...) If your Plan does not work treat it as an experiment and change the rules."

-- Dr. Jeremy Jackson

'Brave New Ocean' lecture at University of California at Los Angeles, February 17th, 2009

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fRPiNcikOU (0:50:20)

13 March 2009

First International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas

The First International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas is going to be held from March 29th to 3rd April, in Maui, Hawaii.

The conference will be characterized by a combination of presentations, panels, posters, workshops and training sessions, conceived by a steering committee of marine mammal and MPA experts from around the world. MPA managers, scientists, and educators and policy-makers will be engaged in sessions that will provide a forum for sharing information, common challenges and solutions on approaches to marine mammal management and conservation. The aim of the meeting is also to foster networking between marine mammal MPAs which share populations and issues.

Two Tethys members have been invited to attend this conference: Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara and Simone Panigada. Giuseppe will bring his experience with the Pelagos Sanctuary during a plenary talk called ‘Managing MMPAs’, Simone will be the panel coordinator of ‘How can networks of MPAs ensure threat mitigation to cetaceans?’

Silvia Bonizzoni

For more information:

12 March 2009

Amvrakikos Gulf: new photo-identification data

The research project ‘Dolphins of Greece’, conducted by Tethys in the Amvrakikos Gulf, has recently completed the analysis of photo-identification data pertinent to the whole 2008.

A total of 3,818 selected digital photos, obtained from January to December during sightings along survey transects that cover the whole gulf, allowed to photo-identify 115 individual bottlenose dolphins.

Most of these recognizable individuals are well-known and were already present in the catalogue started in 2001 , but four of them are new animals never seen before.

Ten of the 115 dolphins were sighted together with immature individuals (newborns, calves or juveniles) and this looks like a promising sign for this highly-resident population that lives in a semi-closed eutrophic gulf.

Photographs included a number of non-identifiable animals, i.e. individuals carrying no distinctive marks on their dorsal fins. These, as well as all the subadult classes, should be added to the number of animals sighted in 2008. So, at present, it appears that the total number of animals seen in the Gulf last year is consistent with the population estimate of 150 made in previous years (Bearzi et al. 2008).

Ongoing monitoring will allow researchers to gain insight into the ecology and trends of this unique bottlenose dolphin community.

Silvia Bonizzoni

For more information:
Bearzi G., Agazzi S., Bonizzoni S., Costa M., Azzellino A. 2008. Dolphins in a bottle: abundance, residency patterns and conservation of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the semi-closed eutrophic Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 18(2):130-146.


11 March 2009

European Cetacean Society Conference 2009 (2)

La città di Istanbul ha ospitato nei giorni scorsi il 23° congresso dell’European Cetacean Society, portando la manifestazione ai confini orientali dell’Europa.

Anche quest’anno Tethys è stata presente con una nutrita delegazione di 14 elementi provenienti da tutti i progetti, confermandosi un istituto di ricerca sempre attivo a livello internazionale. A guidare il gruppo Simone Panigada, presidente dell’ECS, che ha presentato un poster con cui ha spiegato i risultati di un survey riguardo le stenelle nel santuario Pelagos.

Il tema conduttore di quest’anno era incentrato sui cambiamenti climatici e i mammiferi marini, e ha visto la partecipazione come oratori invitati di Temel Oguz, Mads-Peter Heide-Jørgensen e Randy Wells che hanno rispettivamente parlato degli effetti del climate change sulle popolazioni che studiano rispettivamente nel Mar nero, nell’Artico e lungo la costa di Sarasota, in Florida.
I primi due giorni sono stati dedicati a workshop che hanno affrontato sia tematiche tecniche come la foto identificazione e la telemetria, sia argomenti di conservazione delle specie in pericolo come la foca monaca.

Il workshop che ha raccolto più partecipanti è stato dedicato agli zifidi, animali al centro della ricerca acustica negli ultimi anni, a causa degli spiaggiamenti di gruppo connessi con i sonar a media frequenza utilizzati dai militari nelle acque di tutto il mondo. Al termine della giornata è stato redatto un documento a nome dell’ECS da presentare ad ACCOBAMS, per fissare delle linee guida per la tutela degli zifi dalle letali esercitazioni della marina.

Per tre giorni si sono poi alternati 47 oratori, che hanno dato un quadro di altissima qualità sulla ricerca mondiale nel campo cetologico, alternando giovani studenti ad affermati nomi, tra cui Peter Tyack e Jonathan Gordon.

La poster session ha offerto come sempre la possibilità di confrontarsi in modo diretto con gli autori dei lavori, e di dare nuovi spunti a tutti.

I lavori si sono conclusi con una splendida festa danzante a bordo di una barca lungo le rive del Bosforo, perché in fondo, la forza di questo ritrovo annuale è nelle relazioni che si creano tra i partecipanti, ponendo le basi per future collaborazioni e amicizie.

Infine, per i più mattinieri, il giorno seguente una nuova crociera ha permesso di vedere alcune focene nuotare nelle acque sotto il ponte tra Asia ed Europa.

Istanbul si è rivelata agli occhi dei 300 partecipanti per la millenaria città che unisce storia e cultura di due continenti, e invita tutti a rincontrarsi tra un anno a Stralsund nel nord della Germania.

Francesca Zardin

Foto: una parte della delegazione Tethys presente al congresso

European Cetacean Society Conference 2009 (1)

The 23rd annual Conference of the European Cetacean Society has just finished. The Conference was held in Istanbul, Turkey, between the 1st and the 4th of March. This has been the first ECS Conference held in Eastern Europe, at the gate between Europe and Asia.

The Conference has been preceded by two days of workshops focusing on the following aspects: moving towards a standardized population estimate approach for monk seals, beaked whales and active sonar, best practices in marine mammal research, technological advances and related analytical methods in pinniped telemetry, reconciling diverse perspectives for cetacean, and designing behavioural studies on cetaceans in the wild.

The Conference theme was "Climate change and marine mammals" and keynote speakers included Temel Oguz (talking about “Impacts of climate variability on the Black Sea ecosystem”), Mads-Peter Heide-Jørgensen (“Arctic marine mammals and climate change”), and Randy Wells (“How might coastal dolphins be impacted by climate change?”).

The Conference has attracted almost 350 participants from as many as 49 Countries, in spite of the usual 30-32 (click on image to enlarge). Several scientists came from eastern Europe and the Black Sea area.

Simone Panigada

10 March 2009

Brave new ocean re-posted

I am going to re-post this in case some of you missed it. It is 1-hour long but worth watching until the end (when it gets more personal and also global).

Brave New Ocean

Some scientists think that Jeremy Jackson is an "environmentalist", which those scientists do not see as a compliment. You can probably judge for yourself, based on your own experience, whether what Dr. Jackson says makes any sense.

Giovanni Bearzi

09 March 2009

New Tethys leaflet

A new leaflet has been produced to advertise Tethys courses (click on the image to enlarge).

Images include two short-beaked common dolphins gently touching each other with their pectoral fins (photo by Margherita Zanardelli) and a sperm whale surfacing before a deep dive dive near 'Pelagos', the research boat used by Tethys (photo by Vittorio Fadda).

Information on Tethys whale and dolphin field courses in Italy and Greece can be found at: www.tethys.org

08 March 2009

Sardine frenzy

Amazing footage on sardines feast frenzy has been caught by a BBC crew.

Each winter, cool ocean currents drive millions of these small fish northwards along the eastern coast of South Africa. Here, common dolphins, sharks, pinnipeds and marine birds take advantage of this natural migration and feed on sardine schools.

The BBC team used helicopter, boat-based and underwater crews to capture the feeding frenzy in extensive detail. This footage helped to reveal more about the way gannets hunt. They don’t simply dive, catching a fish and bringing it back up to the surface, but they ‘arrow’ down to a depth of 10m, then swim a further 20m and finally they charge around like penguins.

It is really incredible how common dolphins and gannets swim centimetres away from sharks, just ignoring these big predators and focusing only on sardines.

Watch the videos at:



Silvia Bonizzoni

07 March 2009

On the discovery of new species

The discovery of a new mammal species fills us with joy and positive thoughts and we’re curious to see the new ‘arrival’, but most of the time we don’t really think about what this new discovery is teaching us.

In a recent paper, Paul Ehrlich and Gerardo Ceballos, two biologists from Stanford University and Mexico’s National University, respectively, say the assumption that ‘nearly all mammal species are known to science’ is incorrect. They argue that global animal and plant species diversity is badly underestimated, even within well-studied taxa.

"What this paper really talks about is how little we actually know about our natural capital and how little we know about the services that flow from it," said Ehrlich, adding that the diminishment of biodiversity can have very significant impacts on mankind.

"The economy of nature is what allows us to have a human economy. If we let the infrastructure of nature go down the drain, then we just can't make up for it with human infrastructure... It just can't be done."

Watch the interview at: http://news-service.stanford.edu

Silvia Bonizzoni

For more information:
Ceballos G. & Ehrlich P.R. 2009. Discoveries of new mammal species and their implications for conservation and ecosystem services. PNAS: 0812419106v1-pnas.0812419106. (Abstract only)


05 March 2009


Damir Peršić has died yesterday of heart failure.

Damir, together with his wife Nena, has been one of the strongest supporters and promoters of the Adriatic Dolphin Project in Croatia. His death at such young age brings great sorrow. Damir was a fine artist, ceramist and photographer. With his hands, he could do anything from house construction to the nicest of artworks. He was also a great cook, with an outstanding sense for beauty and taste.

Damir has been one of my dearest friends. His intelligence and humour lighted up my years in Croatia. He was always willing to help, bringing creativity into anything he did. With him, you could talk about dolphin conservation, filmmaking, modern art, meditation, science, religion, the meaning of life... whatever, and he would bring insight and good mood into any discussion.

With Damir, Nena, and their daughter Inja I've had a great time. For several years, they have been my Croatian family and their home was the nest where I could find a refuge in my difficult moments. Damir was always there to provide shelter and friendly advice.

While I haven't seen him for ten years or more, it felt reassuring to know that he was there, in his beautiful house of Veli Lošinj. One cannot imagine that good people may leave in such a way.

Giovanni Bearzi

Photo: "Titanic", an early ceramic artwork by Damir

03 March 2009

Pink dolphin

A rare albino bottlenose dolphin was sighted in the Lake Calcasieu, an inland saltwater estuary in Louisiana (USA). The animal is a juvenile, he’s entirely pink in the whole body and has reddish eyes. This strange dolphin, nicknamed 'Pinky', was first spotted late last year and has become such a tourist attraction that conservationists are warning people to leave it alone...


Foto: Olycom/sipa

For more information:

02 March 2009

Grossa è bella

I maschi di megattera (Megaptera novaeangliae) preferiscono accoppiarsi con le femmine più grandi, questo è quanto emerso da uno studio svolto al largo delle coste hawaiane.

Tra il 1997 e il 2002, i ricercatori hanno studiato il comportamento riproduttivo di questi cetacei e hanno scoperto che le femmine più grandi attirano più maschi rispetto alle compagne di normali dimensioni, e che anche i loro piccoli sono più grandi.

La preferenza dei maschi per le maggiori dimensioni femminili viene spiegata dagli studiosi come una tattica riproduttiva: le femmine più grandi sono generalmente quelle con più esperienza e, date le dimensioni, con una maggior quantità di grasso, quindi esemplari più adatti a fornire cure e nutrimento ai loro piccoli. I piccoli, a loro volta, essendo più grandi possono avere superiori probabilità di sopravvivenza, in quanto meno attaccabili da predatori.

Silvia Bonizzoni

Foto: salto di megattera, Chris Johnson (earthOcean)

Pack A.A., Herman L.M., Spitz S.S., Hakala S., Deakos M.H., Herman E.Y.K. 2009. Male humpback whales in the Hawaiian breeding grounds preferentially associate with larger females. Animal Behaviour 77(3): 653-662. (Solo Abstract)

Per ulteriori informazioni:

01 March 2009

Book of the Month: March 2009

Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals – Second Edition

by W.F. Perrin, B. Würsig and J.G.M. Thewissen


Academic Press


The long-awaited 2nd edition of the famous Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals has finally been published!

This 1352 pages-long thorough revision of the classic first edition brings this authoritative book right up-to-date. Over 260 articles describe every species in detail, based on the very latest taxonomy, and a host of biological, ecological and sociological aspects relating to marine mammals. The most recent information on the biology, ecology, anatomy, behavior and interactions with man is provided by a cast of expert authors, all presented in such detail and clarity to support both marine mammal specialists and the naturalists.

William Perrin, one of the authors, said “All articles have been updated. New articles have been added to cover new developments in marine mammal science, such as those related to climate change and the interface of ecology and conservation, as well as some established topics not fully explored in the first edition (2002). Significant changes since the first edition appeared extend to the roster of marine mammsl, with the discovery of new species (e.g., Omura's whale) and the extinction of another (the baiji). These and other changes are fully covered. Most illustrations are now in color.”

The 1352 pages book contains 739 illustrations which show every species and document topical articles.