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Sharks dive by the moon: study
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) April 16, 2013


Endangered Sumatran elephant born in captivity
Cisarua, Indonesia (AFP) April 16, 2013 - A baby Sumatran elephant peeps out timidly from between the legs of its mother at an Indonesian zoo, where its birth has given a boost to the critically endangered animal.

Kartini, named after the country's most celebrated feminist, Raden Ajeng Kartini, was born on Friday under a captive breeding programme and is in good health.

"Her birth is the result of conservation efforts at the zoo, and we're all happy to welcome her," Taman Safari zoo spokesman Yulius Suprihardo told AFP.

The zoo said that she seemed happy, and was feeding from her mother every 30 minutes.

The 105 kilogram (231 pound) elephant was born just south of the capital Jakarta, but the animal is native to Sumatra island, where its population has halved in one generation, according to environmental group WWF.

There are fewer than 3,000 Sumatran elephants remaining in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Rampant expansion of palm oil, paper plantations, and mines, has destroyed nearly 70 percent of the Sumatran elephant's forest habitat over 25 years, the WWF says, and the animals remain a target of poaching.

Three of the elephants were found dead in Riau province in November last year, with officials saying they were probably poisoned in a revenge attack by palm oil plantation workers who suspected the animals had destroyed their huts.

The moon and water temperature affect the diving behaviour of sharks, researchers reported Tuesday, in a discovery that could help prevent fishermen from catching the marine predators inadvertently.

A team from the University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute and the government-run Australian Institute of Marine Science spent nearly three years monitoring grey reef sharks off Palau in the Pacific.

They tagged 39 sharks -- common on coral reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific region -- and used acoustic telemetry to follow them, finding they stayed in deep water on full moon nights but rose to the shallows with the new moon.

Similar patterns have previously been recorded in species such as swordfish, yellowfin and big eye tuna, suggesting the reef shark behaviour was related to feeding.

The study also said it may be an anti-predator response where reef sharks seek to avoid increased light nearer the surface that may aid the hunting abilities of larger sharks.

"We also found that the diving behaviour of grey reef sharks was related to water temperature," said lead researcher Gabriel Vianna.

The sharks, mostly adult females, dived to an average depth of 35 metres (114 feet) in winter when deeper water was colder and 60 metres in spring when temperatures warmed up.

In summer, when the warmer layer of surface water expanded, the sharks tended to move in a broader range of depths.

The authors said that because sharks were cold-blooded, they may prefer warmer waters to conserve energy.

The research, published in the science journal PLOS ONE, also found that the time of day could affect how deeply sharks dive.

"We were surprised to see sharks going progressively deeper during the morning and the exact inverse pattern in the afternoon, gradually rising towards the surface," Vianna said.

"This matches how light changes on the reef during the day. To our knowledge, this is the first time such patterns have been observed in detail for reef sharks."

Vianna said the research had conservation implications with their diving behaviour potentially helping prevent sharks being inadvertently caught by fisherman at different times of the day.

"In places such as Palau, which relies heavily on marine tourism and where sharks are a major tourist attraction, the fishing of a few dozen sharks from popular dive sites could have a very negative impact on the national economy," she said.

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