The Power Of Poop: A Whale Story

It begins with this obvious observation: Whales poop. In fact, they poop mightily.

[Marine biologist Victor] Smetacek proposed that because baleen whales prowl the seas consuming immense quantities of krill, they might, during digestion, concentrate their food into iron-rich deposits which, when the time comes, they eject back into the ocean. Nobody had looked closely at whale poop, but following Smetacek’s article, marine biologist Stephen Nicol foundto quote him, “huge amounts of iron in whale poo.”

Learn more about the significance of whale poop to marine life food chain from Robert Krulwich at npr

The List Of Animals Who Can Truly, Really Dance Is Very Short. Who’s On It?

As the world now knows, when she played “Everybody,” Snowball, perched on the back of a chair, began strutting, Irena got a camera, videoed the bird, sent the tape to YouTube and, skip a beat, a few months later the phone rings and it’s Ani, the professor from California. He tells her he can’t believe this bird can actually dance. He says, “Let’s design an experiment to see if this is real.”

Irena, who had been a molecular biologist, says, “Yeah, let’s.”

Read more from npr's Robert Krulwich.

Why the Zebra Has Its Stripes

"Zebras’ bold striped patterns have puzzled scientists for nearly 150 years. Researchers have offered a lengthy list of possible explanations, from confusing predators by creating a distracting dazzle when a herd gallops away, to helping the animals avoid biting flies. Support for the dazzler hypothesis comes from computer tests using people, who have trouble tracking striped, moving objects on a computer; while other studies have shown that the flies prefer to land on uniformly colored, not striped, surfaces. 

Now, a team of scientists reports online today in Nature Communications that it has tested these hypotheses—as well as suggestions that the stripes might cool zebras down or make them more attractive to mates—to see which one makes the most ecological sense. The winner: those pesky, blood-sucking, disease-carrying (such as parasitic trypanosomiasis) biting flies.”

Dolphin-Squeak-To-English Translator Works In Real Time

"For the first time ever, a device has enabled people to translate a dolphin whistle in real time. The dolphin’s first word was "sargassum," a type of seaweed. 

"I was like whoa! We have a match. I was stunned," researcher Denise Herzing told New Scientist. At the time, in August of last year, she was wearing a prototype dolphin translator called Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry (CHAT). The device is encased in a waterproof shell and contains hydrophones that detect dolphin whistles, which can be up to 10 times higher than the highest pitch a human can make out. The whistle was one that she and others had taught the dolphins and trained them to associate with seaweed. "

Read more from popsci

Which Animal Species Would Fare Best After Noah’s Ark?

Brian Charlesworth, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Edinburgh in the U.K. and the editor-in-chief of the evolutionary biology journal Biology Letters, helped us explore which animals would be best protected from inbreeding after an extreme population drop. Charlesworth told us that the most important thing to look for in repopulation success is not genes—but how fast an animal species reproduces.”

Read more at popsci

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