Inventory and assessment of the marine flora of Macau

November 11, 2014

Inventory and assessment of the marine flora of Macau

This research provided essential baseline information on the diversity, abundance and distribution of the marine flora of Macao. The research project was able to identify mangrove and seaweed species present in the coastal environment of Macao well as map their spatial distribution. Seasonality trends in reproduction on the identified species are also established. The results from this study are important in elucidating relevant ecological areas for marine flora conservation and management in Macao.

Funded by FDCT reference 028/2010/A.

TEAM

Karen Tagulao
M.Sc. Principal Investigator (PI) from ISE, USJ, Macau

Chan Shek Kio
Ph.D. Co-Principal Investigator (PI) from ISE, USJ, Macau

Ang Po
Co-Principal Investigator (PI)

Wong S
Student

Kam K
Student

MANGROVES

Mangrove forests, home to a variety of ecologically important marine and estuarine flora and fauna, are an important component of Macao’s coastal ecosystem. The research project on the marine flora was conducted to help understand, protect and manage these existing mangroves.

A booklet entitled “Macao’s Mangroves” was recently released, which is intended to serve as a good introductory material to enhance environmental awareness within the local community. It is written in both English and Chinese, with a very graphical format and minimal technical descriptions,  as it is meant  for use by members of the general public, including students, teachers and all others who are interested and keen to learn more about Macao’s natural environment, specifically the mangroves forests.

SEAWEEDS

Seaweeds (macroalgae), which are benthic primary producers, are also important in coastal ecosystems. The project identified several species of seaweeds along the coast of Macao, some of which, aside from their ecological value, are also commercially valuable.

The Vocal Brain of Fish

November 11, 2014

The Vocal Brain of Fish

Development of Auditory Processing and Vocal Motor Control

The question of how brain coordinates vocal output is relatively unknown. While human and bird vocal communication is relatively complex, studying simpler models such as fish can provide important insights for understanding the development of fundamental units in the central nervous system for how to build auditory-vocal systems. Feedback from the auditory systems can be critical for the control of vocal behavior in many animals, including humans. In fish, auditory feedback on vocal activity remains unknown. Moreover, the relation between the development of the auditory sense and the vocal differentiation remains uninvestigated in this taxon. Preliminary data shows that the Lusitanian toadfish, Halobatrachus didactylus, uses an unusual sophisticated vocal repertoire for fish (more than five different calls) to communicate during various social contexts and this ability starts remarkably early in life. The aim of this project is threefold: (1) investigate whether and/or how auditory sensitivity, distribution of the inner ear sensory haircells, and auditory processing central units change throughout ontogeny in H. didactylus; (2) study the development of the vocal repertoire, sound generating system (swimbladder), and vocal motor control brain nuclei; and (3) evaluate whether auditory feedback plays a role in shaping vocalizations and vocal neural networks during development.

This work will consist on the first attempt to evaluate the relationship between the development of the auditory and the vocal systems in a fish species and will allow to determine whether both systems have evolved independently or in parallel. As vocal networks in all vertebrates seemed to have evolved from an ancestrally shared brain area originated in fish, we predict that our data will provide valuable insights into the evolutionary history of the brain circuits for complex behaviors such as the use of sound for social communication.

Funded by FDCT, reference 019/2012/A1.

TEAM

Raquel O. Vasconcelos
Ph.D. CoCoordinator from ISE, USJ, Macau

Andreia Ramos
Research Assistant from University of Lisbon, Portugal

Ciara Valdoria
Research Assistant from ISE, USJ, Macau

Patrícia Chaves
Reasearch Assistant from ISPA, Portugal

Paulo J. Fonseca,
Co-investigator from University of Lisbon, Portugal

Joseph A. Sisneros
Co-investigator from University of Washington, WA, USA

November 11, 2014

Behavioral Plasticity Meets Neuroplasticity

Brain Neurogenesis in the polymorphic fish Salaria pavo

Funded by FDCT, reference 012/2012/A1.

ABSTRACT

The study of the mechanisms associated with the production of new neurons in the adult brain, neurogenesis, is of paramount importance both for clinical and non-clinical reasons. Adult mammals, and humans in particular, have a very limited capacity for producing and integrating new neurons in existing networks or in places where neuronal death has occurred. This contrasts with lower vertebrates (fish, amphibian) where neurogenesis is widespread throughout the brain and where regeneration of large portions of the brain after injury, with a concomitant recovery of function, is possible. Interestingly, the high levels of behavioral plasticity observed in lower vertebrates, such as those associated with functional sex-change or alternative reproductive phenotypes, are not found in mammals. This suggests that drastic shifts in behavior within the same animal require a major reorganization of neuronal networks only possible by the recruitment of new neurons. We will test this hypothesis by studying the process of brain neurogenesis in a fish, the peacock blenny Salaria pavo. The project aims to contribute to the general understanding of the functional significance of neurogenesis in the adult brain.

TEAM

David Gonçalves 

Ph.D. Principal Investigator (PI) from ISE, USJ, Macau

Rui Oliveira 

(team member)

Pedro Vieira

Ph.D. Student from ISE, USJ, Macau

Freda Lam

(lab technician)