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Fri, 03 Apr 2020
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"Stinky Whale" Mystery Stymies Scientists, Aboriginal Hunters

A rancid stench in the meat of some gray whales has made them inedible to Russian aboriginal hunters, according to a new report.

Chemical contamination or disease may be causing the increasing phenomenon of so-called stinky whales, experts say.

A similar stink is also being noticed in the meat of ringed and bearded seals, walruses, and cod, the report by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) adds.

Something Fishy

Aboriginal whalers in Russia's northeastern province of Chukotka first began sensing there was something wrong with the whales in the 1990s.

Since then, many of the mammals they tow ashore from a hunt end up having a foul medicinal odor.

People who eat the meat have reported temporary problems such as numbness in the mouth, skin rashes, and stomach aches. Such whales are of no other use to locals.

"Even dogs will not eat the meat," said Gennady Inankeuyas, a whaling captain and chairman of the Association of Traditional Marine Mammal Hunters of Chukotka. The organization looks after the interests of whale hunters and their families.

Magic Wand

Marine phytoplankton changes form to protect itself from different predators

A tiny single-celled organism that plays a key role in the carbon cycle of cold-water oceans may be a lot smarter than scientists had suspected.

In a paper published June 11 in the online version of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers report the first evidence that a common species of saltwater algae - also known as phytoplankton - can change form to protect itself against attack by predators that have very different feeding habits. To boost its survival chances, Phaeocystis globosa will enhance or suppress the formation of colonies based on whether nearby grazers prefer eating large or small particles.

"Based on chemical signals from attacked neighbors, Phaeocystis globosa enhances colony formation if that's the best thing to do for survival, or it suppresses the formation of colonies in favor of growing as small solitary cells if that's the best thing to do," said Mark E. Hay, Teasley Professor of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "These changes in form made nearly a 100-fold difference in the alga's susceptibility to being eaten. It's certainly surprising that a single-celled organism can chemically sense the presence of nearby consumers, identify those consumers and change in opposing ways depending on which consumers are present."

Cloud Lightning

Britain: Nowhere to go and no way to get there as the June monsoon causes chaos

Torrential rain caused severe flooding across many parts of Britain yesterday. Thousands of people were affected as homes, workplaces and schools were evacuated.

Trains were cancelled and motorists were stranded when railway lines and roads were submerged, causing rush-hour chaos.

The worst-affected areas were the Midlands, Yorkshire and Northern Ireland. The Environment Agency issued 42 flood warnings, including three severe ones - the most serious category, which indicates extreme danger to life and property - for Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.

The Met Office said that the wet weather would continue into the beginning of next week, with some very heavy and thundery outbreaks likely again today.

Snowman

Snow strands 6,100 trucks in the Andes

Heavy snow in the Andes left 6,100 trucks stuck yesterday along the main mountain pass between Argentina and Chile, a transportation official said.

The Christ the Redeemer pass, which at its highest point rises almost 12,500 feet above sea level, has been closed to heavy vehicles for four days and snow kept falling yesterday.

"The trucks can't cross because the storm is still going on. We're only allowing through a few cars with chains," said Ernesto Arriaga, spokesman for Argentina's highway department.

Cloud Lightning

Flooding, More Rain Drench South Florida

More rain is falling in South Florida, on the heels of a line of fierce thunderstorms that flooded several neighborhoods Friday. The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather outlook for South Florida through Saturday night.

Forecasters said thunderstorms with heavy rain and dangerous lightning will stick around most of the day into Sunday morning.

Cloud Lightning

Lightning and torrential rain lashes Germany

Snowploughs were needed to clear hail in Munich and a Berlin museum was flooded when lightning and torrential rain lashed Germany during the night, emergency officials said Saturday morning.

Evil Rays

4 Dolphins Shot to Death in Calif.

Los Angeles - Four dead dolphins have washed ashore with fatal bullet wounds and fifth with lacerations on its pectoral fin, said authorities who have offered a reward for information on the slayings.

Cloud Lightning

Candid storm chief gets a lashing

The new director of the National Hurricane Center, an outspoken critic of his superiors since he took over in January, charged Friday night that they are trying to muzzle him and could be setting him up for termination.

Cloud Lightning

Tornado kills 2, damages hundreds of homes in central Vietnam

A strong tornado struck several villages in central Vietnam, killing two people and damaging hundreds of homes, an official said Friday.

The tornado hit Trieu Son district in Thanh Hoa province Wednesday, collapsing or stripping roofs from nearly 500 houses. It also knocked down electric poles and thousands of trees, district official Le Xuan Duong said.

Cloud Lightning

South Africa: Worst floods in two decades devastate coast

The worst floods in more than 20 years caused damage of at least R85-million over a wide swathe of the Cape west coast and left hundreds of people in need of blankets and food.

Municipal officials from Malmesbury to Vredendal are still counting the cost of the floods that swept the region after a week of storms dumped nearly 300mm of rain on the region.