Newly discovered 'bubble shark' part of Philippines' rich, threatened biodiversity
Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia New Network
May 6, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
MANILA--This creature has a humble moniker but it's part of the Philippines' wondrous wealth in marine life. It's called the "bubble shark" (because it can puff up to twice its size when threatened), and it's a brand-new species discovered only last year in the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor (VIPMC).
"It's a wonderful sign," said Lynette Laroya of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau. "It's a good indication that we have good diversity, and ... that perhaps there are a lot of species that have not been discovered out there."
The VIPMC, which runs between Batangas and Mindoro, stretches over more than a million hectares. The 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition, mounted by scientists from both the University of the Philippines and the California Academy of Sciences, found a treasure trove of marine life there that had not been documented before, including over a hundred possibly new species. "We still keep finding new things," an American researcher said.
Indeed, the Philippines is one of only 17 countries classified as "mega-diverse," hosting 70-80 percent of the world's biodiversity.
But this fabulous natural wealth is also one of the world's most endangered, with all sorts of mishaps and predators coming together to inflict the most damage. Whether on land (deforestation brought about by illegal logging, resulting in flooding and extinction of certain animals) or at sea (damage to our coral reefs or overfishing, to name a few), the destruction continues.
Even our most high-profile natural treasures are being damaged. In January, a U.S. Navy minesweeper, the USS Guardian, inexplicably ran aground in Tubbataha Reef, destroying precious living corals.
The U.S. government eventually decided to break up the Guardian and extricate it from the protected area section by section, with the last part finally removed in March.