Declining survival probability threatens the North Atlantic right whale. (1/600)

The North Atlantic northern right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) is considered the most endangered large whale species. Its population has recovered only slowly since the cessation of commercial whaling and numbers about 300 individuals. We applied mark-recapture statistics to a catalog of photographically identified individuals to obtain the first statistically rigorous estimates of survival probability for this population. Crude survival decreased from about 0.99 per year in 1980 to about 0.94 in 1994. We combined this survival trend with a reported decrease in reproductive rate into a branching process model to compute population growth rate and extinction probability. Population growth rate declined from about 1. 053 in 1980 to about 0.976 in 1994. Under current conditions the population is doomed to extinction; an upper bound on the expected time to extinction is 191 years. The most effective way to improve the prospects of the population is to reduce mortality. The right whale is at risk from entanglement in fishing gear and from collisions with ships. Reducing this human-caused mortality is essential to the viability of this population.  (+info)

Diversity of nitrous oxide reductase (nosZ) genes in continental shelf sediments. (2/600)

Diversity of the nitrous oxide reductase (nosZ) gene was examined in sediments obtained from the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean continental shelves. Approximately 1,100 bp of the nosZ gene were amplified via PCR, using nosZ gene-specific primers. Thirty-seven unique copies of the nosZ gene from these marine environments were characterized, increasing the nosZ sequence database fourfold. The average DNA similarity for comparisons between all 49 variants of the nosZ gene was 64% +/- 10%. Alignment of the derived amino acid sequences confirmed the conservation of important structural motifs. A highly conserved region is proposed as the copper binding, catalytic site (CuZ) of the mature protein. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated three major clusters of nosZ genes, with little overlap between environmental and culture-based groups. Finally, the two non-culture-based gene clusters generally corresponded to sampling location, implying that denitrifier communities may be restricted geographically.  (+info)

Thermococcus barophilus sp. nov., a new barophilic and hyperthermophilic archaeon isolated under high hydrostatic pressure from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent. (3/600)

A novel barophilic, hyperthermophilic, anaerobic sulfur-metabolizing archaeon, strain MPT (T = type strain), was isolated from a hydrothermal vent site (Snakepit) on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (depth, 3550 m). Enrichments and isolation were done under 40 MPa hydrostatic pressure at 95 degrees C. Strain MPT was barophilic at 75, 80, 85, 90, 95 and 98 degrees C, and was an obligate barophile between 95 and 100 degrees C (Tmax). For growth above 95 degrees C, a pressure of 15.0-17.5 MPa was required. The strain grew at 48-95 degrees C under atmospheric pressure. The optimal temperature for growth was 85 degrees C at both high (40 MPa) and low (0.3 MPa) pressures. The growth rate was twofold higher at 85 degrees C under in situ hydrostatic pressure compared to at low pressure. Strain MPT cells were motile, coccoid, 0.8-2.0 microns in diameter and covered by a hexagonal S-layer lattice. The optimum pH and NaCl concentration for growth at low pressure were 7.0 and 20-30 g l-1, respectively. The new isolate was an obligate heterotroph and utilized yeast extract, beef extract and peptone for growth. Growth was optimal in the presence of elemental sulfur. Rifampicin and chloramphenicol inhibited growth. The core lipids consisted of a major archaeol and a complex lipid pattern consisting of a major phospholipid. The DNA G + C content was 37.1 mol%. Sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene revealed that strain MPT belonged to the genus Thermococcus and it is proposed that this isolate should be designated as a new species, Thermococcus barophilus.  (+info)

Niche-partitioning of Prochlorococcus populations in a stratified water column in the eastern North Atlantic Ocean. (4/600)

The in situ community structure of Prochlorococcus populations in the eastern North Atlantic Ocean was examined by analysis of Prochlorococcus 16S rDNA sequences with three independent approaches: cloning and sequencing, hybridization to specific oligonucleotide probes, and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). The hybridization of high-light (HL) and low-light (LL) Prochlorococcus genotype-specific probes to two depth profiles of PCR-amplified 16S rDNA sequences revealed that in these two stratified water columns, an obvious niche-partitioning of Prochlorococcus genotypes occurred. In each water column a shift from the HL to the LL genotype was observed, a transition correlating with the depth of the surface mixed layer (SML). Only the HL genotype was found in the SML in each water column, whereas the LL genotype was distributed below the SML. The range of in situ irradiance to which each genotype was subjected within these distinct niches was consistent with growth irradiance studies of cultured HL- and LL-adapted Prochlorococcus strains. DGGE analysis and the sequencing of Prochlorococcus 16S rDNA clones were in full agreement with the genotype-specific oligonucleotide probe hybridization data. These observations of a partitioning of Prochlorococcus genotypes in a stratified water column provide a genetic basis for the dim and bright Prochlorococcus populations observed in flow cytometric signatures in several oceanic provinces.  (+info)

Genetic and morphometric characterization of mussels (Bivalvia: Mytilidae) from mid-atlantic hydrothermal vents. (5/600)

Mussels were collected from deep-sea hydrothermal vents along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Specimens from the Snake Pit site were previously identified genetically and anatomically as Bathymodiolus puteoserpentis, but the relationships of mussels from other sites (Logatchev and Lucky Strike) were unclear. Molecular genetic and morphological techniques were used to assess differences among these mussel populations. The results indicate that the range for B. puteoserpentis extends from Snake Pit to Logatchev, and that an unnamed second species, B. n. sp., occurs at Lucky Strike. Analysis of mitochondrial NADH dehydrogenase subunit 4 (ND4) revealed 13% sequence divergence between the two species. Nei's genetic distance (D) based on 14 allozyme loci was 0.112. A multivariate morphometric analysis yielded a canonical discriminant function that correctly identified individuals from these sites to species 95% of the time.  (+info)

An ethogram of body patterning behavior in the biomedically and commercially valuable squid Loligo pealei off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. (6/600)

Squids have a wide repertoire of body patterns; these patterns contain visual signals assembled from a highly diverse inventory of chromatic, postural, and locomotor components. The chromatic components reflect the activity of dermal chromatophore organs that, like the postural and locomotor muscles, are controlled directly from the central nervous system. Because a thorough knowledge of body patterns is fundamental to an understanding of squid behavior, we have compiled and described an ethogram (a catalog of body patterns and associated behaviors) for Loligo pealei. Observations of this species were made over a period of three years (> or = 440 h) and under a variety of behavioral circumstances. The natural behavior of the squid was filmed on spawning grounds off Cape Cod (northwestern Atlantic), and behavioral trials in the laboratory were run in large tanks. The body pattern components--34 chromatic (including 4 polarization components), 5 postural, and 12 locomotor--are each described in detail. Eleven of the most common body patterns are also described. Four of them are chronic, or long-lasting, patterns for crypsis; an example is Banded Bottom Sitting, which produces disruptive coloration against the substrate. The remaining seven patterns are acute; they are mostly used in intraspecific communication among spawning squids. Two of these acute patterns--Lateral Display and Mate Guarding Pattern--are used during agonistic bouts and mate guarding; they are visually bright and conspicuous, which may subject the squids to predation; but we hypothesize that schooling and diurnal activity may offset the disadvantage presented by increased visibility to predators. The rapid changeability and the diversity of body patterns used for crypsis and communication are discussed in the context of the behavioral ecology of this species.  (+info)

Thymic cysts in harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) from the German North Sea, Baltic Sea, and waters of Greenland. (7/600)

Thymic cysts have not been previously reported in harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). Two hundred forty stranded or "by-caught" harbor porpoises originating from the German North Sea and Baltic Sea and 14 animals from the waters of Greenland were necropsied. Thymuses of 78 porpoises of the North Sea and Baltic Sea were considered suitable for histopathologic examination based on the extent of postmortem autolysis. Immunohistochemistry using an anti-cytokeratin antibody was employed to demonstrate thymic epithelial structures in selected cases. Thymic macrocysts were rare and were only found in animals > or =7 years of age. Thymic microcysts, lined by a single cytokeratin-positive cell layer, were common in involuting thymuses, and the prevalence increased with advancing age. Thymic cysts might have arisen from degenerating Hassall's corpuscles or condensed epithelial reticulum. Thymuses were easily identified macroscopically in most adult healthy harbor porpoises, suggesting that physiological thymic involution proceeds slowly in this species.  (+info)

Swimming marine Synechococcus strains with widely different photosynthetic pigment ratios form a monophyletic group. (8/600)

Unicellular marine cyanobacteria are ubiquitous in both coastal and oligotrophic regimes. The contribution of these organisms to primary production and nutrient cycling is substantial on a global scale. Natural populations of marine Synechococcus strains include multiple genetic lineages, but the link, if any, between unique phenotypic traits and specific genetic groups is still not understood. We studied the genetic diversity (as determined by the DNA-dependent RNA polymerase rpoC1 gene sequence) of a set of marine Synechococcus isolates that are able to swim. Our results show that these isolates form a monophyletic group. This finding represents the first example of correspondence between a physiological trait and a phylogenetic group in marine Synechococcus. In contrast, the phycourobilin (PUB)/phycoerythrobilin (PEB) pigment ratios of members of the motile clade varied considerably. An isolate obtained from the California Current (strain CC9703) displayed a pigment signature identical to that of nonmotile strain WH7803, which is considered a model for low-PUB/PEB-ratio strains, whereas several motile strains had higher PUB/PEB ratios than strain WH8103, which is considered a model for high-PUB/PEB-ratio strains. These findings indicate that the PUB/PEB pigment ratio is not a useful characteristic for defining phylogenetic groups of marine Synechococcus strains.  (+info)