29 April 2009

A big yellow box

Today I was cleaning our research boat when the postman stopped by and informed me that a big box was waiting for me.

After my duties I went to the post office with no idea of what the box could be. I wasn't waiting for anything.

With a nice 'kalimera' the guy gave me a big yellow box sent from Germany to the Tethys research station of Galaxidi. Our first volunteers Gunda and William, who spent with us a lovely spring week immediately came to my mind.

With a happy childish face I opened th box and found: 1) a very useful kettle for tea-addicted staff members, 2) the book 'The Swarm' with a dedication to future IDP volunteers, 3) a bottle of excellent 'Siegburger Liquer' for pleasant drinks after dinner, 4) a postcard from Siegburg, and 5) a long letter by William describing his experience in Greece and his thoughts on environmental conservation.

What an exquisite surprise! A very special thank you to Gunda and William!

Silvia Bonizzoni

28 April 2009

Killer whales and harbour seals

Harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) are one of Britain's largest and most charismatic marine predators but they are facing a dramatic decline in Scotland and eastern England. So far, this decline is unexplained.

Reasons behind this trend could be many: food competition with grey seals (Halichoerus grypus), reduced prey availability, man-made impacts such as legalised shooting of seals to protect fish farms and illegal use of fishing nets, and more.

Another reason could be the presence of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the same area where seals are. These big cetaceans are blamed to have some responsibility.

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen made a study based on inshore sightings of killer whales around Scotland, and in Shetland especially. It showed a correspondence between the seal pupping season and a peak in orca sightings. The study suggests that these cetaceans may prey heavily on harbour seal pups at the pupping season.

However, the situation is complex and it is unlikely that only killer whales, or any other single factor, is responsible for the decline of harbour seals.


Photo: Harbour seal by www.flickr.com

For more information:

23 April 2009

Poisoned Waters

In Poisoned Waters, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith examines the growing hazards to human health and the ecosystem.

"The '70s were a lot about, 'We're the good guys; we're the environmentalists; we're going to go after the polluters,' and it's not really about that anymore," Jay Manning, director of ecology for Washington state, tells FRONTLINE. "It's about the way we all live. And unfortunately, we are all polluters. I am; you are; all of us are."

Through interviews with scientists, environmental activists, corporate executives and average citizens impacted by the burgeoning pollution problem, Smith reveals startling new evidence that today's growing environmental threat comes not from the giant industrial polluters of old, but from chemicals in consumers' face creams, deodorants, prescription medicines and household cleaners that find their way into sewers, storm drains, and eventually into America's waterways and drinking water.

"The environment has slipped off our radar screen because it's not a hot crisis like the financial meltdown, war or terrorism," Smith says. "But pollution is a ticking time bomb. It's a chronic cancer that is slowly eating away the natural resources that are vital to our very lives."


21 April 2009

Cetaceans of the World

The new World Cetacea Database (WCD) is now available online.

Perrin W.F. 2009. World Cetacea Database

WCD has been originated from the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) and it’s primarily a taxonomic facility where its sources include numerous fundamental taxonomic references. Coverage is limited to the living species, although one of them, the baiji or Yangtze river dolphin is possibly now extinct. Coverage of taxa includes families, genera, subgenera, species and subspecies. To help deal with older literature names covered include junior synonyms, unjustified emendations, suppressed names, misspellings and other non-operative names. In WCD is also possible to find also some other information as biology, distribution, images, etc.


19 April 2009

Delphi's Dolphins 02, 12-18 April

I’m not going to talk about the dolphins because everybody knows that all the words that you can spend on them woudn’t be enough to describe the feelings that they inspire and their beauty. So let me write just a few words about this amazing place... If a paradise would exist, it would be probably called Galaxidi, the place where you can see the whitest mountain melting softly into the sea, the clearest waters caressing the myth’s coast and the birds sing to colourful rainbows. The beauty of this place enters in your heart and just anchors in the deepest part of your soul to remain there forever... there’s only a way to describe what I feel: I don't want to go home! And of course all of you guys are amazing... but this is another obvious thing. Thank you so much for everything! I really hope to have the chance to come back again...

Ramona, Italy


Silvia, Giovanni, Joan and Aina, you are some kind of 'Heroes of the Gulf of Corinth'! The stories you tell are outstanding and very worth listening to. I enjoyed every moment I spent with you, even when I was freezing to death in the boat! Thank you very much for providing inspriration!

Dagmar, Germany

16 April 2009

Hippos and whales, common ancestor?

Before the widespread use of DNA data, hippopotami had been thought to be closely related to pigs, but new genetic analysis show that they are more linked to whales. Consequently, the hippo family tree could be different than suggested by previous studies.

In 2007 J. G. M. Thewissen from Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine and colleagues published a paper on Nature where they stated that whales are more closely linked to an extinct pig-like animal (often known as India's pig or Indohyus) while hippos are closely related to living pigs. But a recent paper judged Thewissen’s theory as ‘innacurate’.

Jessica Theodor and Jonathan Geisler, respectively from University of Calgary and Georgia Southern University, agree with Thewissen that Indohyus is the closest relative of whales, but argue on the assumption that ‘hippos are more closely related to true pigs than they are to whales’. The new theory relies on DNA data that show a strong relationship between whales and hippos and place hippos as the closest living relative to whales

The main difference between the two theories is the kind of analysis. Thewissen based his work on fossil evidences while Theodor on genetic. Geisler and Theodor argue that leaving out the DNA data not only ignores important information, it implies that the evolution of swimming evolved independently in hippos and whales, when it may have evolved only once in a common ancestor.

Silvia Bonizzoni

Photo: A hippopotamus in Okavango, Botswana; by iStockphoto/Peter Malsbury

For more information:
Geisler J.H. & Theodor J.M. 2009. Hippopotamus and whale phylogeny. Nature 458: E1-E4. doi:10.1038/nature07776 (abstract only)

Thewissen J.G.M., Cooper L.N., Clementz M.T., Bajpai S., Tiwari B.N. 2007. Whales originated from aquatic artiodactyls in the Eocene epoch of India. Nature 450:1190-1194. (full article)

Thewissen et al. reply to Geisler J.H. & Theodor J.M. 2009.


15 April 2009

Mediterranean region: ever drier by 2100

A new study suggests that the impact of climate change on the Mediterranean region will change precipitation and evaporation rates over land and sea, creating even drier conditions. A greater amount of atmospheric moisture will be lost from the region. Agriculture may suffer as a result, and the salinity of the Mediterranean Sea could increase.

The study suggests that many of the projected changes will have started by 2020-2049, with further changes gradually intensifying until 2070-2099.

Long-term changes project a decrease in precipitation and an equal increase in evaporation over the Mediterranean Sea, making the sea increasingly saline: the degree of salinity will depend on the inflow of fresh water from the Atlantic Ocean through the Gibraltar Strait.

Eleonora De Sabata

For more information:
Original pdf article by EU DG Environment

12 April 2009

Bottlenose dolphin with abnormal flukes

This individual was photographed in the Gulf of Corinth on April 11th, 2009, within a group of 14 bottlenose dolphins including two calves.

The group was observed for a total of 130 min. The behaviour of the animal did not seem to differ from that of others, apart from the frequent lifting of its flukes when surfacing. Like other members of the group, this individual performed dives of approximately 2-3-min and was often accompanied by calves or other group members.


11 April 2009

Delphi's Dolphins 01, 5-11 April

All good things will must come to an end, and so it has happened to our volunteering at the Ionian Dolphin Project Research station in Galaxidi, Greece. After 5 magnificent days I say thanks to Giovanni, Silva, Joan und Aina.

Today was the perfect day. The weather was beautiful, sunny, no clouds, no wind. We had just left the harbour, when Joan shouted “dolphins”. Dolphins were everywhere around us. They were jumping and diving and one of them passed our boat. He was so close, I could almost touch him. My heart is still full of thanks and joy. It was the first time I saw bottlenose dolphins in the wild.

Beside watching the dolphins it was also an interesting week. I learned so much about these magnificent animals and its environment. I really like the computer work, cropping and matching the dolphins photos.

One week full of joy, fun, laughing and experience that I will never forget, comes to an end! We will be back one day! I say now bye-bye, adios, arrivederci and addio.

Gunda, Germany


An experience unsurpassed by any other! I have spent many years working on the waters of the world and have always had some contact to dolphins one way or another. But now after a week here at the Ionian Dolphin Project research station in Galaxidi I see dolphins in a totally different light. Having learned how to spot, classify, and identify dolphins in a way that I never knew existed due to the expert teaching of the people here at the station. It was a feeling of being here not just as an observer, but instead as being an active member of the team being involved in every aspect of the work that makes this type of research possible and at the same time learning so much about how it is done.

It is not only the scientific aspect but also the fun loving atmosphere that being with these people brings. I feel that I have met much more than researchers, I have met new friends that feel as close to as I would feel to my own family. I have enjoyed so much being here and leave tomorrow with a heavy heart, but I know I will be back some day.

Joan, Silvia, Giovanni, and Aina Thank-You so much for such a fantastic experience and being able to be part of the new start and the beginning success of this new station. We WILL be in touch.

William, California

10 April 2009

Slow Fish

Dal 17 al 20 aprile, presso il Quartiere fieristico di Genova, si potrà visitare il salone dedicato al consumo del pesce sostenibile: “Slow Fish: buono, pulito e giusto”.

Molti stock di pesci sono ormai al collasso, mentre per altre specie il problema non è la sopravvivenza ma le tecniche di pesca o di allevamento che hanno pesanti conseguenze sul benessere del pianeta e sulla nostra salute. In entrambi i casi il ruolo dei consumatori è determinante: con i nostri atti di acquisto e consumo consapevole possiamo incidere in modo positivo sullo stato dei mari…’ così si presenta Slow Fish 2009; l’obiettivo è dunque quello di indirizzare il consumatore verso scelte consapevoli e intelligenti.

Nel pomeriggio di sabato 18 si terrà il convegno ‘Guardie e ladri - rafforzare i controlli sulla pesca per difendere le risorse marine’. Durante questo incontro interverranno diversi esperti del settore. Moderatore dell’evento sarà Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, presidente onorario di Tethys.



Per ulteriori informazioni:

09 April 2009

My first sighting

On the 7th of April we left the harbour of Galaxidi early in the morning, with calm waters and cold temperatures. You could feel much silence and concentration on board. In our first attempt we sighted a group of dolphins far away, but they disapeared by the time we got there. But after two and a half hours we spotted a group of thirteen bottlenose dolphins (including two calves and one juvenile). This was the first dolphin sighting in my life and I can just say that it was amazing. The dolphins were awesome and not shy at all!

I must say that at the beginning I was quite nervous, as predicted, but I tried to keep calm and do my best to carry out all my duties. I tried to do everything to the best of my abilities. I felt really excited but at the same time I could feel the responsibility of memorising the behaviour and always keep an eye on the dolphins.

I really enjoyed my first survey and I’m sure I’ll never forget it. I feel really lucky and grateful to have this unique opportunity of learning and being able to share with my colleagues Silvia, Joan and Giovanni the development of this new project in the Gulf of Corinth. I really believe in the aims of this project and I’m glad to be here and to be part of it from the begining.

I can´t wait until tomorrow to find the dolphins again! I hope that the next time I will be the first to spot them, that would be wonderful.

Aina Pascual Cuadras

05 April 2009

The End of the Line

A feature documentary film revealing the impact of overfishing on our oceans. The film shows firsthand the effects of our global love affair with fish as food.

It examines the imminent extinction of bluefin tuna, brought on by increasing western demand for sushi; the impact on marine life resulting in huge overpopulation of jellyfish; and the profound implications of a future world with no fish that would bring certain mass starvation.

Filmed across the world – from the Straits of Gibraltar to the coasts of Senegal and Alaska to the Tokyo fish market – featuring top scientists, indigenous fishermen and fisheries enforcement officials, The End of the Line is a wake-up call to the world.

In the film's web site http://endoftheline.com/ you can preview excellent video shots, waiting for the film to be released.

The web site also allows you to claim your bit of ocean - it's a nice idea and a smart way of making the point.


04 April 2009

Sea lions and marine debris

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game with Sea Gypsy Research produced an educational video called ‘Entanglement of Steller sea lions in marine debris: identifying causes and finding solutions’.

The video describes how Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) become entangled and - most of the time - dye for this reason, which are the most common sources of entangling debris, and what one could do to help reduce the number of entanglements.

These animals are threatened because of us and unfortunately this problem is not only related to sea lions but affects any marine animals such as cetaceans, elasmobranchs, pinnipeds, sea-turtles, marine birds, and big fishes.

As the video says: “... Since many of us live near some types of waterway, enjoy eating seafood and use plastic materials, we all contribute to the problem... Let’s be part of the solution!”


The video (11 min. long)

For more information: