Description and genetic characterisation of Pulchrascaris australis n. sp. in the scalloped hammerhead shark, Sphyrna lewini (Griffin & Smith) in Australia
Being listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, knowledge on the biology, health and diseases of the scalloped hammerhead, Sphyrna lewini (Griffith & Smith) is limited; this is especially true for its parasites. In this paper, a new species, Pulchrascaris australis, is morphologically described followed by genetic characterisation based on the sequence of the ITS region. The new species can be easily differentiated from its congeners based on the morphology of the mouthpart, spicules, plectanes, eggs and vulva. Phylogenetic analyses clearly distinguish specimens in the present study from other parasitic nematodes found in the Australasian waters and elsewhere. The sequencing data also suggest that Terranova larval type I found previously in various fish from New Caledonian and Australian (Queensland) waters also belong to Pulchrascaris australis n. sp.
Pinpointing drivers of extirpation in sea snakes: a synthesis of evidence from Ashmore Reef
Over the past decade, vertebrate populations globally have experienced significant declines in distribution and abundance. Understanding the reasons behind these population declines is the first step in implementing appropriate management responses to improve conservation outcomes. Uncovering drivers of extirpation events after the fact, however, requires a careful forensic approach to prevent similar declines elsewhere. The once abundant and species-rich sea snake fauna of Ashmore Reef Marine Park, in the Timor Sea, collapsed dramatically in the early 2000s. No such decline has occurred on surrounding reefs. We synthesise the evidence for this collapse and the subsequent slow recovery and evaluate the plausibility of potential drivers for the declines, as well as provide evidence against certain explanations that have been proposed in the past. Our systematic review shows that of seven possible hypotheses considered, at least three are credible and require additional information: (1) stochastic environmental events may have increased the snakes’ susceptibility to pathogens, (2) a resurgence in the abundance of top predators may have induced a localised change in trophic structure, and (3) an acute increase in local boat traffic may have had negative physical impacts. One or more of these factors, possibly acting in combination with as yet other unidentified factors, is the most plausible explanation for the precipitous decline in sea snake populations observed. Based on this position, we identify future research directions with a focus on addressing critical gaps in knowledge to inform and prioritise future management actions.