Bowmouth guitarfish (Rhina ancylostoma)
The bowmouth guitarfish is a species of ray. This rare species occurs widely in the tropical coastal waters of the western Indo-Pacific.
This large species can reach a length of 2.7 m (8.9 ft). The jaws are heavily ridged with crushing teeth arranged in wave-like rows. Usually found near the sea floor, the bowmouth guitarfish prefers sandy or muddy areas near underwater structures.
It is a strong-swimming predator of bony fishes, crustaceans, and molluscs. This species gives live birth to litters of two to eleven pups, which are nourished during gestation by yolk. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed the bowmouth guitarfish as Vulnerable because it is widely caught by artisanal and commercial fisheries for its valuable fins and meat.
The bowmouth guitarfish, often described as prehistoric in appearance, is considered by some scientists to be the ‘missing link’ between sharks and rays based on the ray-like placement of the mouth and gill openings, and disc shape of the front part of the body and the shark-like streamlined appearance of the rest of the body and the powerful tail.
With a high fatality rate and a terminal phase that causes bleeding and haemorrhagic fever, the Ebola virus has always attracted grisly fascination, yet funding and action against it have never been particularly high. The current outbreak in West Africa is unprecedented – it has now killed more than 1,500 people – and it appears to have stimulated a chain reaction, from treatment using experimental drugs and fast-tracking human trials, to mapping the genomes of the virus in order to gain better understanding of the species involved.
But what has prevented this outbreak from being easily contained is the lack of public health infrastructure in the region.
The current outbreak in West Africa should stimulate a complete shift in public health policy. If future occurrences of this and other emerging diseases are to be prevented or their impact minimised, we need to learn a great lesson now. An effective treatment for Ebola would be good, a vaccine to prevent the disease even better, but the best thing that could come out of this is a more organised and trusted public health system.
First and foremost, none of the developing countries that have been hit, including Liberia, and Sierra Leone, were prepared nor had the capacity to manage the outbreak. For this you need trained personnel and a good public health infrastructure. For example, it was only after the outbreak that many hospitals saw the need to create quarantine units or holding centres, despite Ebola being a real health risk. Getting people to come forward to be immediately isolated has been a problem.
(More from TheConversation.com)