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Fri, 17 Aug 2018
The World for People who Think



Whale strandings off the Oregon and Washington coasts highest in nearly 2 decades

Gray whale
© John Weldon
Struck by a ship, entangled in crab pots, stillborn, emaciated: It's been a tough three months for whales.

Since early April, whales — mostly grays and humpbacks — have been entangled or stranded on the beach in Oregon and Washington state in numbers not seen in nearly two decades, with 16 cases of large whale strandings so far, compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Protected Resources.

That is the most strandings in Washington state since 1999-2000
, when there was a big spike in dead whales all along the West Coast. This season, as then, scientists have counted many emaciated calves among the dead in Washington.

Among the lost so far this season: a 31-foot-long yearling gray whale that was hit by a ship and washed ashore, dying hours later. A dead orca calf also recently washed up in Ocean Shores.


Humpback whale carcass washes ashore in Watsonville, California

Beachgoers in Monterey County came across a 29-foot whale carcass while enjoying the surf and sun over the weekend.

Scientists do not always know why whales beach themselves, but they think this one died at sea and then washed ashore.

And while it is a rarity to find a dead humpback on the beach, it was definitely a source of curiosity for beachgoers after it washed ashore this weekend.


Pack of dogs kill 8-year-old boy in Uttar Pradesh, India

canine attack
© Angela Antunes / CC by 2.0
An 8-year-old boy died after being attacked by a pack of stray dogs here, officials said today.

The incident took place in Nandosi village under Ceebeeganj police station when the boy was going to a temple yesterday.

On hearing the shrieks of the boy, people rushed towards him and chased away the canines, but the severely injured child breathed his last at a private nursing home, they said.

District Magistrate Birendra Kumar Singh has sought a detailed report on the incident from ADM, Sadar.

The latest incident has brought back memories of the death of 13 children in such attacks in Sitapur district in the last six months.


Wild elephant targets vehicles in Tamil Nadu, India

Foresters are now escorting buses.

Foresters are now escorting buses.
Jumbo menace resurfaces in newer forms

A wild elephant has begun to target vehicles and motorists in particular in the Mooparkadu village area near here. Foresters are now escorting buses.

While the wild elephant menace has almost become a regular phenomenon in this wildlife rich district of Nilgiris, it was really strange to see this one straying into Mooparkadu village limits, often hiding in bushes near the second hair-pin bend along the narrow Coonoor-Mooparkadu road and then chasing vehicles that happen to pass that area.

Comment: This is interesting in light of the fact that this same strange behavior was filmed last month in Sri Lanka:


Fisherman catch rare 16ft long giant oarfish off coast of Chile

giant oarfish
© Catalina Island Marine Institute / AFP
Fishermen seeking a species of tuna off the coast of Chile got a lot more than they bargained for when a giant 16ft long fish fell into their nets during a routine expedition.

The elongated deep-sea fish, identified as the rare giant oarfish, stunned fishermen by coming into their reach in shallow waters near the resort of Iquique in northern Chile.

Footage from the incident shows the monstrous five-meter long fish sprawled across the deck as curious fishermen surround it. In another image, an angler can be seen lying next to the dead creature.

The fish weighed somewhere between a whopping 265 to 331lb (120-150kg) according to Cavancha Caleta fishery coordinator, Rodrigo Oliva. Given its rarity, the specimen was handed over to marine researcher Miguel Araya from the Arturo Prat University for further analysis, reported La Estrella de Iquique.


The humble worm may hold the secret to longer life

© Flickr/ Lukas Schärer, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
The regenerative abilities of the flatworm Macrostomum lignano serve as a model for how humans might regenerate tissues.
Research into the remarkable regenerative powers of worms and the insights they can give into battling diseases could help humans live longer and healthier lives.

Humans have long dreamed of finding the secret to eternal youth, but despite the benefits of better living conditions and modern medicine, time still takes its unrelenting toll on our bodies.

While people today live longer than ever before, age-related diseases such as dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions rob people of the chance of living healthy lives into old age.

But researchers have a secret weapon in the battle with the ageing process - the humble worm. Flatworms have the ability to regrow large parts of their bodies after losing them. Roundworms, meanwhile, may hold the secret to counteracting neurodegenerative scourges like Alzheimer's disease and conditions such as muscular dystrophy.

Scientists see these creatures as a rich source of potential clues about the ageing process and how we too might regenerate tissues.

In a project called MacModel, researchers are using the flatworm Macrostomum lignano, which is normally found living in the tidal sands of the Adriatic Sea, to investigate ageing mechanisms. Previous research observed that the animals had a remarkable ability to regenerate, and that the worms tended to live for longer after repeated amputation, suggesting that something about the regeneration process also rejuvenated them.

Professor Eugene Berezikov, principal investigator for MacModel and a stem cell researcher at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and his team, tried to investigate further by severing the worms' heads to induce regeneration.

Their findings, however, appeared to contradict the earlier research - after multiple amputations, flatworms had decreased survival compared to intact worms. But there was another major difference with the earlier findings - both worms that underwent amputations and those that did not tended to live longer than the median 200-day lifespan seen in the previous research.

Many of Prof. Berezikov's worms were still alive after a whopping 740 days, including about 70% of the intact worms. This defies the tendency for small organisms to be shorter-lived, explains Prof. Berezikov.

'Macrostomum is very small, about 1 millimetre, so for it to live for more than two years makes it a huge outlier,' he said. Often, a creature of this size would be expected to live just a few weeks.


14 minke whale deaths in Canadian Maritime Provinces this year surpasses annual average

The dead minke discovered July 2 on the shores of Petit-Pokemouche Bay on the Acadian Peninsula was examined by a MARS team.
© Marine Animal Response Society
The dead minke discovered July 2 on the shores of Petit-Pokemouche Bay on the Acadian Peninsula was examined by a MARS team.
Marine Animal Response Society trying to determine 'if there's something bigger going on here'

The Marine Animal Response Society is keeping a close eye on the minke whale population in the Maritimes after at least 14 of them have been observed dead at sea or washed ashore since February.

On Thursday, a dead minke was discovered on Inkerman Beach in northern New Brunswick, but it's not yet clear if it's a new case, or one that was previously reported, said executive director Tonya Wimmer.

Normally, the region sees between five and 10 minke whale deaths per year, she said.

"So it's a little bit higher than our normal sort of average, but you know, we're only partway through the year, so I think that's part of the concern."


Elephant attacks kill 20 over 15 months in forest district in Odhisa, India

Charging elephant
© Getty
Charging elephant
A herd of elephants claimed its 12th human victim in the last six months on Monday night under Bisra forest range prompting Rourkela Forest Division to change its strategy. Rourkela Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Sanjay Swain said the deceased Umesh Munda (40), a resident of Budikani village under Mahipani police limits, was trampled to death by a tusker.

The DFO said after the latest incident, the Forest department is mulling to install high mast lights, solar fencing and elephant proof trenches in the vulnerable villages. Rourkela Assistant Conservator of Forest D K Sahu said between April 2017 and March 2018, about 15 human deaths were reported from Rourkela Forest division.

This year, five deaths have been recorded taking the total toll due to elephant attacks to 20 in 15 months.

Comment: Also in Asia on the island nation of Sri Lanka elephants killed a total of 10 people in just a few days during June. In that same country and in the same month a video emerged of an elephant at the roadside chasing several approaching vehicles.


Dead sperm whale found on beach in Marlborough, New Zealand

How the sperm whale died is unknown.
How the sperm whale died is unknown.
A sperm whale has washed ashore on a beach near Blenheim.

Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers discovered the dead whale at Marfells beach near Blenheim about 8.30am on Saturday.

A Facebook post from marine mammal charity Project Jonah said DOC rangers were quick to the scene but they were unable to assess the condition and species of the whale due to strong swells.

The next step was for the local iwi to bless the whale before deciding on a suitable burial site, the post said.


Global cooling: Excessive spring snowfall results in non-breeding year for shorebirds in north-east Greenland - 1 meter deep snow

The study area in NE Greenland: in mid-June 2018 the tundra surface was close to 100% covered in snow.
© Jeroen Reneerkens
The study area in NE Greenland: in mid-June 2018 the tundra surface was close to 100% covered in snow.
Jeroen Reneerkens of the University of Groningen studies breeding Sanderlings, for the first time in 2003 and since 2007 annually. He works from the Danish Zackenberg Research Station (74°28'N 20°34'W) in NE Greenland that was established in 1996, and is the research base for various experts monitoring the biotic and abiotic environment of NE Greenland.

Jeroen reports about his remarkable 2018 field season:

I study how rising temperatures may affect the reproductive success of Sanderlings in Zackenberg, NE Greenland. Due to a disproportionate degree of climate warming in the Arctic, shorebirds that migrate to the Arctic to breed are strongly suspected to be negatively affected by ongoing climate change. Niels Martin Schmidt and his team have indeed established that the summer temperatures in Zackenberg have steadily increased during the last decades.

Comment: Some additional data just to show the size and extent of the Northeast Greenland national park and how much land surface was (still is?) covered with snow:

Northeast Greenland National Park

Northeast Greenland National Park

From Wikipedia:
Northeast Greenland National Park (Greenlandic: Kalaallit Nunaanni nuna eqqissisimatitaq, Danish: Grønlands Nationalpark) is the world's largest national park and the largest protected land area.[1] Established in 1974 and expanded to its present size in 1988, it protects 972,000 km2 (375,000 sq mi)[2] of the interior and northeastern coast of Greenland and is bigger than all but twenty-nine countries in the world. It was the first national park to be created in the Kingdom of Denmark and remains Greenland's only national park.