New whale species discovery off Florida?


This video is called Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera brydei).

From Wildlife Extra:

Possible new whale species could be the world’s most endangered

A new species of whale may have been discovered off the coast of Florida. Scientists previously thought that the group of around 50 whales living in DeSoto Canyon in the Gulf of Mexico were a [sub]species of Bryde’s Whale (pronounced ‘brooda’).

However, new genetic testing indicates that they might in fact be different species, and if so that would make them the most endangered whale on Earth.

The new testing has identified that the whales could be a distinct subspecies of Bryde’s Whale, or they could potentially be a new species altogether.

The DNA sampled in the tests also suggests that there were previously many more of the whales. “It’s unclear based on the genetics exactly when [the decline] occurred,” says Michael Jasny, Director of the Marine Mammal Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), as reported on Mother Nature Network.

“It’s possible humans were involved in the decline, through whaling or industrial activities. There’s a suggestion in the published paper that oil and gas activity might have led to contraction of the range.”

DeSoto Canyon, where the whales live year-round, is adjacent to Mississippi Canyon, where the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred in 2010.

Testing carried out on whales in the area after the spill showed high levels of toxic metals, and it is suspected that the new whale species in the Gulf would also have been affected by the incident.

Jasny, who recently petitioned the US government to list the whales as an endangered species, believes that the whale needs protection from local environmental stressors, including shipping noises and the widespread use of seismic ‘airgun’ surveys for oil and gas exploration. The airguns have been banned in the canyon, but continue in nearby areas.

“Sound travels much farther in seawater than it does in air,” Jasny explains. “We know noise from seismic surveys travels particularly far and can have a large environmental footprint. Great whales are especially vulnerable.

“We know that airguns can destroy the ability of whales to communicate, hundreds of miles or in some cases even thousands of miles from a single airgun array. We know it causes great whales to cease vocalizing, and that it can compromise their ability to feed.

“It’s hard to imagine how this population — or possibly this species — would survive without protection.”

Along with other conservationists, Jasny hopes that the species will be listed as endangered, as this will afford it further protection. However the US Fish and Wildlife Service have a backlog of endangered species, which will mean a long waiting period for adding the whale to the list.

Should it be decided that the whale will be added to the list, it will then go to the US Endangered Species Act, which could take two years to process.

BP oil maybe killed hundreds of thousands of birds


Heavily oiled brown pelicans captured in 2010 at Grand Isle, La., wait to be cleaned. Photo: International Bird Rescue Research Center/Wikimedia Commons

From Science News:

BP oil spill may have killed hundreds of thousands of birds

by Science News Staff

4:31pm, May 7, 2014

Guest post by Beth Mole

Based on two computer simulations, researchers estimate that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico killed around 600,000 to 800,000 coastal birds.

In one simulation, the estimated death toll stemmed from the number of bird carcasses recovered in the area around the spill and other environmental factors. In the other simulation, researchers used bird population numbers and exposure rates to oil slicks. Four species in particular had high death tolls: the laughing gull, royal tern, northern gannet and the brown pelican.

The findings will appear in Marine Ecology Progress Series. The study was funded by two law firms representing clients with claims against BP, the oil company responsible for the spill.

This video from the USA says about itself:

BP Oil Spill Effect on Birds in Alabama Sept. 2011

On a night kayak trip to Sand Island (off Dauphin Island, AL) we found lots of dead birds for no apparent reason. Never seen so many in the same area before.

Recorded on September 10, 2011 using a Flip Video camera.

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