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DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: Feb 2011 (13)

Blue Groper sightings

Author
by Blair
Publish date
1 March 2011
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Comments (9)

Just like Melbourne loves to steal big sporting events, musicals and exhibitions from other Australian capital cities, now it seems we'd also steal a big fish!

For years I have been sitting in my office in the marine biology area of the museum discretely listening in to my office buddy’s phone calls. There is always something going on but this past week things have gotten more interesting than usual.

“...Another one? ... Where this time? ... Did they give you a photo?... Wow-ee!”

Apparently there have been a number of sightings of Blue Gropers in waters in and around Port Phillip Bay. Once a popular target for spearfishers in the mid 1900s, they are now considered one of the more elusive fish in our waters.

Eastern Blue Groper Eastern Blue Groper, Achoerodus viridis.
Image: Saspotato
Source: Used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 from Saspotato
 

We are thought to have only the Eastern Blue Groper in Victoria (Achoerodus viridis), but that is where the mystery widens.

If the western sightings turn out to be the Western Blue Groper (Achoerodus gouldii), then that would be exciting, because even though some guide books list the species in western Victoria, the museum has no verified records that I could find. Effectively, it would be the first offical indication that we have of the Western Blue Groper extending its range from Western Australia and South Australia into Victorian waters.

Being passionate about all things mariney, I have listened to these recent phone calls more keenly than most because regardless of the exact species, Eastern or Western, they suggest that this iconic giant is back in significant numbers. Perhaps this means marine parks and sanctuaries are helping blue groper populations to increase.

Anyway, I’m heading out next weekend to get wet and see if I can further fuel the enthusiasm in here. Join me and get diving or snorkelling, if you see a groper emerge out of the bay haze, snap a photo and help us solve this mystery.

Eastern Blue Groper A male Eastern Blue Groper (Achoerodus viridis) escorted by juvenile Silver Trevally (Pseudocaranx dentex). Shelly Beach, Manly, NSW.
Image: Richard Ling
Source: Used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 from rling
 

Oh and if you’re interested...

Blue Gropers are large, slow-growing fishes, that reach a metre or thereabouts – gentle giants if you like. They hang around rocky reefs. Funnily enough, their name is misleading because they are not always blue. Sometimes they are green, sometimes grey, sometimes inbetween. They start life as females and turn into males when about half a metre long, about a ten-year wait to manhood. They are more closely related to wrasses and parrotfishes than to the tropical groper commonly seen by divers on reefs in northern Australia. They are now more sought after for viewing on a spectacular dive rather than for dinner. Reef Watch Victoria monitors blue gropers and other marine life along our coasts.

Links:

Australian Museum Eastern Blue Groper video

Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast

Coastlinks Victoria - marine reserves, parks and sanctuaries

REB garden finished!

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
28 February 2011
Comments
Comments (3)

“The fountain is fountaining!” announced a colleague last Thursday. He’d passed the French Fountain in the eastern forecourt of the Royal Exhibition Building and noticed that it was flowing for the first time in ages. Years of drought and water restrictions meant the fountain has been out of action. However now that there are over a million litres of water stored in new tanks under the REB’s western forecourt, the fountain can run again.

It was recomissioned for the opening of the newly-completed German Garden, a careful restoration of the original garden that stood on the site for the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880. You’d never know that under the lush lawns and new garden beds – which follow the exact shape of the 1880 design – there’s a massive water tank and network of pipes to collect and distribute rainwater. Not only the gardens around the REB, but also Melbourne Museum’s Forest Gallery and Milarri Garden will benefit from this new sustainable water supply.

Completed western forecourt garden The Royal Exhibition Building's completed German Garden in the western forecourt on Rathdowne Street.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Thursday’s event marked the completion of the 18-month project World Heritage, World Futures. Even as the speeches were underway, people were wandering through the new landscape after so many months of it being hidden behind construction hoardings. Special guests, Minister for Consumer Affairs, the Hon Michael O’Brien, and Margaret Gardner AO, President of the Museums Board of Victoria, snipped the ceremonial purple ribbon and declared the garden open.

Guests at the garden opening Guests at the garden opening. L-R: Dr Patrick Greene, CEO of Museum Victoria; Dr. Anne-Marie Schleich, German Consul General; Professorr Margaret Gardner AO, President of the Museums Board of Victoria; the Hon Michael O’Brien, Minister for Consumer Affairs and the Right Hon the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Please come and admire the new garden with its restored iron gate, reinstated urns and stately plantings on your next visit to Carlton.

Performers in period costume Performers in period costume test out the new garden.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria
 

TV crew in Bugs Alive

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
25 February 2011
Comments
Comments (0)

What's going on here behind the aquatic invertebrate display?

Water Scorpion in Bugs Alive A Water Scorpion in Bugs Alive hanging out while the TV crew sets up.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Saturday morning TV show Kids' WB have been shooting in Melbourne Museum's Science and Life Galleries today, with a special visit to Bugs Alive this afternoon. Some of the museum's young visitors were very excited to see hosts Lauren and Andrew but for the resident insects, it was all in a day's work.

Chloe, Lauren and Andrew filming Chloe from Live Exhibits and Kids' WB hosts Lauren and Andrew filming in Bugs Alive.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Chloe, one of our Live Exhibits keepers, brought out some special big invertebrates for Lauren and Andrew to hold. Let's just say that Andrew enjoyed this bit more than Lauren...

Chloe Chloe shows Lauren and Andrew a Spiny Leaf Insect.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

You can see Melbourne Museum featured on Kids' WB when this epidsode screens on Channel 9 at 10am on 5 March.

Dinosaur Dreaming

Author
by Priscilla
Publish date
22 February 2011
Comments
Comments (2)

Priscilla is a Program Coordinator for Life Sciences and works on education programs at Melbourne Museum. She has been a regular dinosaur digger for over 10 years!

I'm often asked what it's like at a dinosaur dig. The romantic view most people have, fuelled by films like Jurassic Park, is that we simply sweep away the sand with a brush, use high-tech gadgets to locate the exact location of the bones, and get flown to tropical islands with Jeff Goldblum.

Over 100 years ago the first dinosaur fossil, the Cape Paterson Claw, was found on the coast of Victoria at a site known as Eagles Nest. Nothing much else was found until two young palaeontologists in the making, Tim Flannery and John Long, spent their youth searching the rocks along the coast of Victoria, eventually finding more fossil booty. Their finds have led to decades of dinosaur digs along the coast of Victoria.

From Cape Otway to Inverloch, the Cretaceous-aged sandstone rocks have been blasted, bashed and bored to reveal what life was like 120 million years ago in Victoria. Each year the work at the Dinosaur Dreaming Dig, which is a joint project between Museum Victoria and Monash University, recruits numerous volunteers who spend hours breaking rock. Over the years, the same volunteers return, making the whole experience more like a giant family gathering at Christmas. Uncle Norman, Mother Lesley, Sister Alanna, and Grandma Mary are all there. Gerry and his rock, Doris and her eggnog, Mike and his poems, Nick and his telescope, Nicole and her berry crumble are all part of the experience.

And yes, there are the dinosaur bones. Each year some 800 new bones are found and catalogued. Just like a Christmas stocking, you never know what you are going to find inside each rock – will it be the discovery that changes theories of evolution or another disappointment? Yet despite so many fruitless ‘stocking openings’, I and many others are lured back. After so many years of digging, amazing fossils have been found. Many of these incredible specimens are now on display in 600 Million Years: Victoria evolves. Hopefully, this clip gives you some insight into just how we find them...

Watch this video with a transcript

Links:

Dinosaur Dreaming: the Inverloch Fossil Site infosheet

Fossil collecting sites in Victoria infosheet

Dinosaur Walk

Dinosaur Dreaming blog

Storytelling at its best

Author
by Jackie Gatt
Publish date
21 February 2011
Comments
Comments (2)

Jackie is a volunteer at Museum Victoria. She has been documenting and researching the Newmarket Saleyards Collection.

On Saturday Liza Dale-Hallett and I were lucky enough to head along to the 150th Newmarket Saleyards Reunion. It was a fabulous day under the shady peppercorns and oaks, with a turnout of over 250 drovers, buyers, transporters and auctioneers returning to share stories and catch up with old mates. Chequered shirts, moleskins and akubras set the dress standard for the day while a cold beer in hand was a necessary addition to any reminiscing.

Crowd at 150th anniversary Crowd at the 150th anniversary Newmarket Saleyards Reunion on 19 February.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Although these days some of the ‘boys’ don’t get around that quickly, it was all too easy to imagine them striding around the saleyards, calling out to each other over the fences and down the lanes. They happily recounted anecdotes about their days at Newmarket – some were bold and some were bawdy, many were full of intrigue and most of them gave an insight into the tough life lived by drovers. Some chestnuts were enlightening, explaining things a city-girl would never otherwise know, while some memories were more sombre, recollecting mates that had passed on. I was regaled with yarns from Barney, Knocker and Marbuk; Bluey, Paddy, Waxy and young Strop. And while Jingles had me captivated with stories of getting up to no good, Dick warmed my heart with entertaining tales of his beloved dogs. Brothers Laurie and Lindsay were the gentlemen drovers, eloquent orators and fine historians; and larrikin Spot proudly showed off his new grandson. Men came from as far away as Queensland while others live just up the road and didn’t have so far to get home.

Three attendees at the 15oth Newmarket Saleyards Reunion L-R: Greg Nichols, Peter Woodhead and Graham Spargo.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Volunteer Jackie with Dick Chandler at the reunion. Volunteer Jackie with Dick Chandler at the reunion.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

It was a day of storytelling and reminiscing at its very best and although there wasn’t a sheep dog in sight, it was easy to imagine Newmarket in its glory days as Australia’s premier saleyards.

Some exciting donations were made to Museum Victoria and we look forward to adding them to our Newmarket Heritage Collection.

Links:

Newmarket Saleyards Collection

MV Blog: Newmarket Saleyards turn 150

Brittle star bands

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
18 February 2011
Comments
Comments (1)

Over the past ten years, MV curator Tim O’Hara has been snooping through museum collections all over the world, collecting data about brittle stars for a major mapping exercise. He compiled nearly 7000 samples from 250 common species of brittle stars from 24 different museums and discovered something quite unexpected about their distribution.

Brittle stars, or ophiuroids, are echinoderms closely related to sea stars. They have five long, flexible arms attached to a central body. Unlike sea stars, brittle stars are quite active and fast-moving. They are ideal for this kind of large-scale mapping study because they are found all over the globe in a variety of habitats.

Conocladus australis A brittle star (Conocladus australis) from southern Australia wrapped around a whip-coral.
Image: Julian Finn
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Biogeographers – scientists that study the patterns of distribution of life – have long observed that certain species are associated with particular environments. This makes sense; an animal has particular requirements of temperature, salinity, depth, food availability, and won’t survive where these conditions don’t exist. However in the deep-sea, environmental factors are not very variable - deep water is cold and dark everywhere. Correspondingly, it has been assumed that the fauna in the deep-sea won’t vary much, or at most, certain species would be confined to particular oceans.

It turns out this assumption is not necessarily true. Tim's brittle star study found that there are distinct bands of species distribution not only in shallow water environments, where conditions can be very variable and distinct, but in the deep-sea. Deep-sea brittle stars are found in the same latitudinal bands as their shallow-water relatives, and it’s not yet clear why.

Brittle star distribution map Map showing the overlapping distribution of tropical, temperate and polar brittle stars.
Image: Tim O'Hara
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Tim thinks the pattern he's discovered might be related to the life history of brittle stars. As he explains, the distinct bands might be due to the way currents disperse larvae. “A lot of these animals have very yolky eggs and there’s a theory that in cold water, eggs go into suspended animation and float on the currents for perhaps a year. Some don’t need to feed – they have all the energy they need to go through metamorphosis to juvenile stage.”

“It’s a funny strategy that an animal would just throw eggs into the current and hope for the best, but obviously it’s successful because they get around. We’re doing a lot of genetic work at the moment over this study area and we’re getting things that are almost identical 7000km apart.”

Tim’s study, co-authored by Ashley Rowden and Nicholas Bax, was published in Current Biology. This project was generated as part of the Marine Biodiversity Hub, a multi-institutional research program funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

Links:

O'Hara,Timothy D., Ashley A. Rowden, Nicholas J. Bax. A Southern Hemisphere Bathyal Fauna Is Distributed in Latitudinal Bands, Current Biology, 8 February 2011 (Vol. 21, Issue 3, pp. 226-230)

Marine Biodiversity Hub

Discussion of this study elsewhere:

Deep-sea News

The Age: 'Scientists discover deep-sea creatures play in the same band'

Echinoblog

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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