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Pilot study: tags track whale survivors

Pilot whales that survived a mass stranding in Tasmania are yielding fresh insights into the mammals' little-known deep-sea lives.

Satellite tags attached to five of the surviving whales on Sunday have let scientists track the specie's movements for the first time in Australian waters.

They also worked as beacons, allowing airborne wildlife officers to find and photograph all 11 survivors swimming together.
Pilot Whales beached
© Peter Lord
Tragic … 11 out of 65 whales survived the stranding.

A Tasmanian Government zoologist, Rosemary Gales, said yesterday the findings confirmed for the first time the success of a pilot whale rescue in the state, which is a hot spot for beachings.

"Everybody asks, 'How do you know whether the whales you rescue survive?' " Dr Gales said. "Well these ones have."

The small, dark-skinned pilot whales normally live in open oceans, where they dive up to 1000 metres in search of prey.

Life Preserver

500 trapped narwhals culled in Canada

Cetaceans have a bad habit of stranding themselves. Last week a large pod of 65 pilot whales stranded themselves on a beach in Tasmania. Only 11 survived.

When a similar mass stranding occured in 2003, a predator was suspected of having scared the animals onto the beach. Military use of sonar has also been linked - and cleared of causing - whale strandings.
Narwhals
© Unknown
Narwhals breach.

Now there's another disaster, on a bigger scale: a huge group of about 500 narwhals have trapped themselves in sea ice in Nunavut, in Arctic Canada. The trapped animals are being culled to prevent a more painful death by starvation or suffocation as the ice closes in around them.

Igloo

Mystery of iceberg 'birth' solved

US scientists have figured out how icebergs break off Antarctica and Greenland, a finding that may help predict rising sea levels as the climate warms.

Icebergs form fastest when parent ice sheets quickly spread out over the sea, the scientists say.

It's too late to help the Titanic, but this newly derived, simple law may help researchers improve their climate models and predict ice sheet break-up, they say.

Other factors, such as ice thickness, width of the ice flow, distance from land or waves, are less important, they add.

Ice cracking off into the ocean from Antarctica and Greenland could be the main contributor to global sea level rises in the future. If all the ice in Greenland and Antarctica melted, seas would rise by more than 60 meters.

Frog

Invasive ant ruins gecko's sweet relationship

They say three's a crowd, and that appears to be as true ecologically as it is socially. Researchers have discovered that an invasive ant is ruining the mutualistic relationship that has long existed between a gecko and a critically endangered flower.

The blue-tailed gecko (Phelsuma cepediana) feeds on nectar from the flowers of the Roussea simplex shrub on the island of Mauritius, pollinating the plant and dispersing its seeds.
Geckos
© Dennis Hansen
Geckos have an essential pollination role with this critically endangered flower.

But the invasive white-footed ant (Technomyrmex albipes) that arrived on the island in the last century has disrupted the gecko-flower relationship. The ant builds galleries of dirt on the flower where it can "farm" other insects to feed on honeydew.

Bizarro Earth

President-elect Barack Obama will hasten America's decline

American voters were faced with Hobson's choice in this election as far as global warming was concerned.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 5.8 - Off Coast of Northern California

Date-Time

* Friday, November 28, 2008 at 13:42:18 UTC
* Friday, November 28, 2008 at 05:42:18 AM at epicenter
* Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones

Location 40.336°N, 126.981°W

Depth 10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program

Region OFF THE COAST OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Distances

* 229 km (142 miles) W (271°) from Petrolia, CA
* 232 km (144 miles) W (264°) from Ferndale, CA
* 239 km (148 miles) W (260°) from Humboldt Hill, CA
* 243 km (151 miles) W (259°) from Eureka, CA
* 486 km (302 miles) NW (307°) from San Francisco City Hall, CA
Image
© USGS

Bizarro Earth

5.4 Earthquake recorded off coast of California

Eureka police say they have no reports of any damage or injuries after an earthquake was recorded off the coast.

The U.S. Geological Survey says a quake with preliminary magnitude of 5.4 hit about at 5:42 a.m. Friday about 147 miles west of Eureka.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 6.0 quake hits Indonesia's Sumatra

Jakarta - A magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck off Indonesia's Sumatra island on Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, although there was no tsunami warning or reports of damage or casualties.

The quake was centered 141 km (88 miles) south southwest of Bengkulu city at a depth of 35 km, the agency said in a bulletin on its website.

An official at Indonesia's meteorology agency said the quake could be felt in Bengkulu and Lampung provinces in southern Sumatra, but there was no report of damage or casualties.
Jakarta map
© Reuters

Bizarro Earth

Faroe islanders told to stop eating 'toxic' whales

Chief medical officers of the Faroe Islands have recommended that pilot whales no longer be considered fit for human consumption, because they are toxic - as revealed by research on the Faroes themselves.

The remote Atlantic islands, situated between Scotland and Iceland, have been one of the last strongholds of traditional whaling, with thousands of small pilot whales killed every year, and eaten by most Faroese.
 pilot whale slaughter
© Adam Woolfitt/Robert Harding/Corbis
The traditional pilot whale slaughter may become a thing of the past.

Anti-whaling groups have long protested, but the Faroese argued that whaling is part of their culture - an argument adopted by large-scale whalers in Japan and Norway.

Meteor

Canada: Fragments of last week's 10-tonne meteor found

Remnants of the 10-tonne space rock that lit up the prairie skies last week have been found near Lloydminster.