The Understanding of Giant Clams’ Contributions to Coral Reef Health Continues to Grow

Figure 2: Epibiota diversity among giant clam species. The ones shown on the giant clams in each picture are: (a) another clam (b) hard coral (c) algae and (d) a variety of encrusting organisms. (Neo et al. 2015)

by James Keegan, RJD intern Coral reefs suffer from a multitude of problems, such as global warming and ocean acidification, which can be deadly for the reefs. Other issues, like losing individual species, although troublesome, do not garner the same attention because they do not cause as much harm. However, each reef organism has their role to play in the ecosystem, and because of their wide range of functions and highly threatened status, giant clams may deserve special consideration. Currently, the 13 known species of giant clams live in the Indo-West Pacific. The largest species, Tridacna gigas, can reach shell … Continue reading

The Consequences of the Indo-Pacific Lionfish invasion into Atlantic Waters

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by Laurel Zaima, RJD intern The introduction of an invasive species into a foreign ecosystem has dire and often unforeseen consequences. An invasive species is considered any living organism that is not native to the ecosystem and causes harm to the local environment (“Invasive Species”). Non-native organisms alter the ecosystem, which affects the native species, habitat structures, human health, and even our economy. Invasive species are actually one of the leading threats to native wildlife and are the primary risk to approximately 42% of threatened or endangered species (“Invasive Species”). The inevitable alteration to the ecosystem from the invasive species … Continue reading

Exploitation and Cooperation by Cleaner Wrasse

A cleaner wrasse and a moray eel. (picture by Albert Kok from wikimedia commons)

By Laura Vander Meiden, RJD Intern The relationship between cleaner wrasse and reef fish has long been one of the textbook examples of mutualism, a partnership in which both individuals benefit. In this relationship, the cleaner wrasses set up “cleaning stations” where they eat parasites and dead skin cells off of willing reef fish. The reef fish benefit through the removal of those parasites, while the wrasses gain a food source. However, the cleaner wrasses’ preferred food source is actually a type of mucus given off by the reef fish. Because of this, the cleaner wrasses sometimes deviate from mutualistic … Continue reading

Evolution of Motherhood: The Importance of Mature Female Fish

BOFFFFs: Big (1.1m), old (ca.100 years), fat (27.2 kg), fertile female fish: Shortraker rockfish (Sebastes borealis). Image Source: Karna McKinney, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries Service

By Daniela Ferraro, RJD Intern Older, female fish are becoming a necessity for the continuation of trophy-fish hunting and sustainable commercial fishing. Looking at both freshwater and saltwater species, the presence of larger, more mature fish increases the productivity and stability of fish populations. Dr. Mark Hixon, of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, refers to the loss of big fish as “size and age truncation.” Big, old, fat, fertile, female fish, affectionately nicknamed BOFFFFs, have proved the ability to produce significantly more eggs than younger fish. They also can spawn at different times and places, allowing them the option … Continue reading

Summary of “Competitive interactions for shelter between invasive Pacific red lionfish and native Nassau grouper”


Hannah Armstrong, RJD Intern Invasive species have the potential to negatively effect normal ecological function in any environment. Marine biological invasions are increasingly common, most notably that of the Pacific red lionfish (Pterois volitans).  While the lionfish invasion and its direct effects on native fish communities has been well researched, there has been little documented evidence regarding non-predatory interactions.  In a 2014 study by Raymond, Albins and Pusack, they observed whether Pacific red lionfish and Nassau grouper, two species that occupy similar habitats, compete for shelter and whether or not the competition is size-dependent. Pacific red lionfish (Pterois volitans) have … Continue reading

Fish are Friends and Food: The rise of the US federal seafood certification

400 tons of Chilean jack mackerel caught in a purse seine. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

by RJD Intern Daniela Ferraro As appetite increases, people are looking towards federally managed fisheries to provide a seafood certification system. With rising levels of overfishing, habitat destruction, and mismanagement, there has been an emphasis placed upon fishing regulations and sustainable fishing practices (Jackson et al 2001). This began with adjustments to the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (MSA) in 2006, giving the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Regional Fishery Management Councils permission to establish annual catch limits. Fishing limits are an attempt at keeping stocks from being overfished. Sustainable fishing is the process of maintaining a balance … Continue reading