Apex marine predators choose whom they hang with, researchers reveal. White sharks form communities, researchers have revealed. Although normally solitary predators, white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) gather in large numbers at certain times of year in order to feast on baby seals.
These groupings, scientists had assumed, were essentially random – the result of individual sharks all happening to turn up in the same area, attracted by abundant food.
Now, however, a group of researchers including behavioural ecologist Stephan Leu from Macquarie University in New South Wales, Australia, have used photo-identification and network analysis to show that many of the apex predators hang out in groups which persist for years.
To make the findings, Leu and colleagues including Charlie Huveneers and others from Flinders University and the Fox Shark Research Foundation, both in South Australia, as well as French government research organisation CNRS, spent four and half years taking multiple photographs of almost 300 white sharks gathered around a seal nursery in the Neptune Islands in the Great Australian Bight.
Through the images they were able to identify individual sharks and, to their surprise, found that many were seen in proximity to specific others far more often than chance would determine.
“Rather than just being around randomly, the sharks formed four distinct communities, which showed that some sharks were more likely to use the site simultaneously than expected by chance,” says Dr Leu.
“The numbers varied across time, and we suggest that sex-dependent patterns of visitation at the Neptune Islands drive the observed community structure.
Our findings show that white sharks don’t gather just by chance, but more research is needed to find out why."
The paper – published in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology – is the latest research to change perceptions about the behaviour of apex fish.
In August 2019 another group of scientists, led by Macquarie University’s Robert Perryman, established that manta rays (Mobula alfredi) also have structured and persistent social relationships that can be described as communities.
The discovery of a new fish at a famous WA fossil site is in such good condition that it provides an exciting fresh glimpse into the evolution of species from 380 million years ago. The new fish - named Pickeringius acanthophorus (honouring the late Museums Victoria fossil collection manager David Pickering) - lived in the Late Devonian Period. Its beautifully preserved fossil skeleton was discovered by Flinders University’s Professor John Long at the Gogo Formation, in the Kimberleys of Western Australia. This has become a world famous fossil site, containing superb 3-dimensional preservations of entire fishes in limestone nodules, and has so far yielded more than 50 species.
Pickeringius, about the size of a sardine, was one of the earliest ray-finned fishes – a lineage that accounts for more than 98% of all living fish. There are about 30,000 ray-finned fish species alive today, but in the Devonian period, they were greatly outnumbered by other fish groups, with fewer than 30 species described worldwide.
The new find is especially significant because the braincase of this fish is exquisitely preserved. Devonian ray-finned fishes have mostly been found squashed flat, so the new discovery will enable CT scans of its skull at ANU, allowing palaeontologists to digitally render its endocast, and provide important information on early fish brain evolution. Only two previous Devonian ray-fins (Mimipiscis, from The Gogo Formation, and Raynerius, found in France) have had their brains subject to this level of detail.
The Pickeringius is distinctive for having enormous spiracular openings on the top of its head, though these present a mystery to palaeontologists. Most ray-finned fishes of this period had minute spiracles, and these are now vestigial or lost in most modern forms. The only living ray-finned fishes with well-developed spiracles are African bichirs, which use them to breathe air at the surface. Alternatively, modern rays (which are not ray-finned fishes) use their spiracles to breath while they are on the seabed (with their mouths and gills pressed under their body).
The fish is also excessively prickly, hence the name acanthophorus (which means spine bearer). The top of its skull is covered in little conical denticles. The underside of the pectoral girdle and the belly scales also covered in sharp denticles. Each of the fin-rays has rows of pointy barbs, giving the fins a serrated appearance. Even the bony spines leading to the tail fin (basal fulcra) have rows laterally projecting spikes, meaning that even its spikes have spikes.
Who really understands the inner workings of our “modern vibrant” economy - that finely tuned mechanism that gives everyone a fair go and preserves our way of life? Turns out it’s more like one of those classic Bruce Petty cartoons with machines with lots of levers and belching fumes at the hapless operator.
I was recently surprised to happen upon a lecture given by a real life economist who managed to make the swirling mess make sense – and nothing is at it seems. I’ll try to explain- if you are prepared to accept the opinions of someone like me, who you don’t know and will probably never meet – but hey we do that every day when we swallow the opinions of News Corporation and Fairfax media empires, don’t we?
With charm and enthusiasm, Flinders University Professor of Economics Philip Lawn comprehensively dismantles all the old chestnuts used to justify government’s obsession with debt and deficit, their absolute belief in continued growth, and their lust for scaring the pants off everyone about pesky older people, dole bludgers, and I would add lately Middle Eastern death cults and those who dare ask questions on Q&A.
In explaining government spending, Prof. Lawn refers mainly to pensions, so, for the purposes of this article, which gives my summary of what Prof. Lawn is saying in the videos below, I’ll also refer mainly to pensions, although his explanations hold true for all forms of government spending.
Here's the gist of it: There is no budget emergency. The Australian Federal government cannot go broke. Our taxes aren’t used to fund pensions, and government has access to as much $AUD as it likes, whenever it likes.
The Federal government has access to a bottomless pit of $AUD to finance the aged pension or indeed any of its spending. Although we are encouraged to believe that pensions, Medicare, hospital and school spending is bleeding us taxpayers dry, this is not true. We aren’t paying our taxes so that we can help fund our aged and disabled pensioner incomes, or build hospitals and schools. The truth is that taxes are levied on the private sector and working population to enable the government and other purchasers to spend in a manner that is not undesirably inflationary. Taxes are just a lever, used to quell inflation.
Prof. Lawn on Currency Issuing Central Governments and some macroeconomic facts:
The Federal Government is a Currency Issuing Central Government (CICG) and is the monopoly owner and issuer of $AUD– which is a Fiat currency.
As a CICG, the Federal government does NOT have to tax, borrow or sell assets to finance its spending. Barring obstruction from a hostile Parliament, it has access to as much $AUD as it likes, whenever it likes.
You, I, State and Local governments, banks, businesses, are users of the $AUD. We do not have unlimited access to $AUD, and thus face day to day budget constraint. The Federal government does not. Its circumstances are not like that of a household, bank, businesses etc.
A deficit does not reduce government’s capacity to spend, nor does a surplus increase its capacity to spend. It taxes and sells government securities/bonds (described falsely as government borrowing) for specific purposes but NEVER to finance its spending.
A CICG NEEDS to destroy enough private sector spending power to nullify the inflationary effect of its own spending, so taxes are used to destroy private sector spending power.
Central banks – in our case the Reserve bank- sell government securities/bonds when a CICG operates a deficit in order to control interest rates.
So, CICGs spend first, then tax to the level required to nullify the inflationary effect of their own spending. Then, if required, government will sell government securities to maintain a targeted interest rate.
But- Can’t banks create $ out of nothing? ......Yes, but the money they create (financial asset) is always matched by a financial liability. However, when the Federal government creates $AUD for spending purposes it creates a financial asset but no offsetting financial liability.
Thus, the Federal government is the ONLY creator of net financial assets, which are needed for the private sector, in aggregate, to ‘net save’.
The important issues are:
- Will the real assets exist in the future for retirees (pension/super) to purchase?
- Will the basic G&S, health services, nursing homes, etc. be available for retirees to purchase with their income cheques?
And, as the population ages, and the working population shrinks, the nation’s ability to provide these real assets depends on:
- The productivity of the working population (economy’s sustainable productive capacity), and
- What proportion of the real stuff produced is made available in the form of real stuff needed and desired by retirees.
So you may be wondering, wouldn’t the Federal government’s exploitation of the bottomless pit lead to hyper-inflation a la Zimbabwe? (Called Demand–Pull inflation)
No it won’t........ well only if there is no competent management, because:
- Demand Pull Inflation occurs if net spending of the Federal government pushes Total (public and private sector) spending beyond the economy’s productive capacity (full employment level of GDP)
- If total spending is LESS than the productive capacity of the economy, there is no hyper- inflation, but there is unemployment. As has been the situation in Australia for the last 40 years!
- Ideally we want total spending to exactly equal productive capacity – full employment and minimal inflation, and there is NO REASON why the Federal government cannot manage its spending to ensure this is the case. It faces no financial constraints in doing so
This explains why the huge budget deficits of the US Federal government in 2008-2011 weren’t inflationary. Total spending in the US was still well short of the productive capacity of the economy, as proven by the official unemployment rate in the US at the time being 9-10%.
So in summary:
- A Currency Issuing Central Government can always net spend to a level that ensures total spending equals the full employment level of GDP
- It should never spend beyond this level as this would be inflationary. ....Only a fool would recommend this!
- If, once ensuring total spending equals the full employment level of GDP a CICG operates a budget deficit, so be it. It has access to the bottomless pit of $AUD. It can run deficits forever.
- Taxes paid by the working population do not finance the pension bill
- Taxes paid by working population are required merely to quell the inflationary effect of retirees spending and government spending.
- Federal government spending, including provision of the pension, is financed by creating new money and spending it into existence.
- The Federal government prevents this from being inflationary, and destabilising the economy by reducing the spending power of the working population by taxing it (i.e. it destroys some existing money)
What’s more, it is a furphy that if we get more people onto superannuation, they won’t be a drain on the poor old taxpayer, because:
- Taxes do not finance the pension. Pensions are financed by the Federal government creating new money.
- In order for retirees to spend in a way that is not inflationary, ‘spending room’ must be made available for them, by the Federal government taxing the working population. The working population still has to be taxed even if all retirees were financed by superannuation.
- If the switch to superannuation provides a higher fortnightly spending cheque for retirees, meaning they can purchase more Goods and Services, more spending room must be made available to prevent their spending becoming inflationary. .......
- Resulting in the Federal government having to tax working population more!
Are there other solutions?
- The Federal government could reduce its own spending – meaning fewer public goods and infrastructure – which Lawn believes we are witnessing now
- Increase the productivity of working population, negating the need for the Federal government to create more spending room, and negates the need to increase the tax impost on working population. By increasing productive capacity of working population:
- A smaller working population can produce same/more G&S for all citizens
- Overcomes the concerns about an ageing population
- Overcomes the need to increase tax impost on working population
- May even provide more G&S for retirees to purchase and enable the AFG to increase the pension without having to increase taxes
What really matters is if there are enough real Goods & Services for retirees to purchase with their pension/super cheques. If not, retirees will be forced to compete in the market place with the working population for G&S – which will cause inflation.
Undesirable solutions include increasing tax on the working population or reducing government spending on provision of public goods. The desirable, sustainable, sensible, ethical, call it what you like, outcome is to increase the sustainable productive capacity of the economy (i.e. increase productivity of working population), thus ensuring a smaller working population can provide the real G&S to meet the desires and needs of everyone. Ah yes, I remember when we were told that one day we’d be able to enjoy shorter working weeks and retire younger!
That sounds good, so how do we increase the sustainable productive capacity of the economy? Well, we maintain our Natural capital; improve critical infrastructure - much of which has ‘public good’ characteristics so should be supplied by government; make technological advances –which requires R&D spending; and sustain the workforce - which requires spending on education, training, preventative health etc. This is starting to look like what most people want government to do isn’t it?
So, what is undermining our ability to achieve these things?
- High population growth rate
- Increased rate of resource use and waste generation caused by growth in real GDP
- Inadequate government spending on critical infrastructure, inadequate government spending on R&D, inadequate government spending on education, training, health etc.
Hey, Lawn has just described the government ideology – mind you there’s no resistance from Mr. Short One and his limp opposition. Both sides- the Laborials as Bob Brown once called them- are promoting population growth, promoting GDP growth (even though it no longer increases per capita well being) and cutting government spending!
Indeed, our high population growth rate means a larger proportion of economic activity must be dedicated to expanding infrastructure, equipment, skills etc. Each 1% growth per annum, requires 7-10% of GDP; however government infrastructure spending has been approx. 1.85% GDP per 1% growth per annum...... No wonder we can’t get a seat on the train!
And, how are we travelling at present?
- Labour productivity increasing at a low rate compared with pre GFC years (peaked around 1998-2002 – see Chart 3 Grattan Institute Report ‘Australia’s Productivity Challenge’ Page 14 here)
- Population growth and resources throughput growth is reducing the Natural capital that provides the natural resources needed in future
- The desire for GDP growth isn’t making us better off (GDP vs. GPI Genuine Progress Indicator)
- There is already inadequate spending on R&D, education, health
- Critical infrastructure has been run down due to inadequate government spending on public goods
The Federal government could run a balanced economy if only it wanted to – it just doesn’t want to. Instead it seems hell bent on stripping us down to our underpants and reducing our standard of living and quality of life. With indecent obsession, government is doing almost everything to undermine the ability of a future Australia to cater for the very challenging future we face, and is trying to repair an unbroken and unbreakable budget.
I just can’t get my head around the morals of these people with their hands on the levers of control. There is no budget emergency and the only black hole in Canberra is the bottomless pit of $AUD. We are being encouraged to begrudge spending on essential government services and those in need, misled that our taxes are funding that spending and to top that off a good dose of suspicion and fear towards our fellow citizens. Whoever is managing this climate of fear and suspicion has the morals of an alley cat.
If you’d prefer to hear Professor Lawn direct, without being filtered through my brain, I highly recommend his YouTube (Parts 1&2) which are embedded in this article. The URLs are: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j-cqKQb1Ho and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=et5Kt1NVwlQ