Weighing whales with drones


This 2010 video says about itself:

Breeding Southern Right Whales | Attenborough | Life of Mammals | BBC

The Southern Right Whale is an enormous creature – in more ways than one. In this clip, a group of fertile males surround a female who is not initially receptive in order to mate. With a twelve foot long penis and testes that weigh a ton, picking the right moment is critically important.

From the British Ecological Society:

Researchers use drones to weigh whales

October 2, 2019

By measuring the body length, width and height of free-living southern right whales photographed by drones, researchers were able to develop a model that accurately calculated the body volume and mass of the whales.

Because of their large size and aquatic life, previously the only way to obtain data on the body mass of whales was to weigh dead or stranded individuals.

The innovative method can be used to learn more about the physiology and ecology of whales, “Knowing the body mass of free-living whales opens up new avenues of research. We will now be able to look at the growth of known aged individuals to calculate their body mass increase over time and the energy requirements for growth. We will also be able to look at the daily energy requirements of whales and calculate how much prey they need to consume.” said Assistant Professor Fredrik Christiansen from Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies in Denmark and lead author of the study.

Dr. Michael Moore, a Senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and co-author said: “Weight measurements of live whales at sea inform how chronic stressors affect their survival and fecundity, as well as enabling accurate sedative dosing of animals entangled in fishing gear that are aversive to disentanglement attempts.”

The model is already being used to assess the impacts of kelp gull harassment on the health and survival of southern right whale calves. Dr. Mariano Sironi and Dr. Marcela Uhart from the Southern Right Whale Health Monitoring Program and co-authors, emphasized “The use of drones to estimate whale weight and condition, as well as to individually track calves while they grow beside their mothers, has been a real breakthrough in our investigation.”

“In the past we’ve had to rely entirely upon stranded carcasses which added all sorts of uncertainties to our studies.”

The model also allowed the researchers to collaborate with the Digital Life Project at the University of Massachusetts, USA to first recreate a 3D mesh of the whale, and then to work with CG artist Robert Gutierrez to recreate the full-colour 3D model of the right whale. These models can be used for both scientific purposes, such as studying movement, as well as for educational uses.

By adjusting the parameters of the model, the approach could be used to estimate the size of other marine mammals where alternative, more invasive, methods aren’t feasible or desirable.

Baleen whales, which include species like the blue whale, are the largest animals on this planet, with body mass being central to their success as an animal group. However, data on their size has historically been limited to dead specimens, with most samples coming from whaling operations, accidental fisheries bycatch or beach strandings.

Collecting data on dead whales has limitations such as being unable to collect longitudinal data over a whale’s life span and inaccuracies from physical distortion of carcasses caused by bloating and deflation.

Assistant Professor Christiansen explained that “The difficulty in measuring body mass reliably in free-living whales, has prevented the inclusion of body mass in many studies in ecology, physiology and bioenergetics. This novel approach will now make it possible to finally include this central variable into future studies of free-living whales.”

To calculate the body volume and mass of southern right whales the researchers first took aerial photos of 86 individuals off the coast of Península Valdés, Argentina. The clear waters and the large number of whales that gather there every winter for breeding made it an ideal place to collect high quality images of both the dorsal and lateral sides of the whales. From these they were able to obtain length, width and height measurements.

These measurements could then be used to accurately model the body shape and volume of the whales. “We used this model to estimate the body volume of whales caught in scientific whaling operations, for which body girth and mass was known. From these estimates of body volume, we could then calculate the density of the whales, which we in turn could use to estimate the mass of free-living whales photographed by our drones”, said Christiansen.

Although the model yielded body mass estimates to a high-level of accuracy, there were some limitations due to the relative proportion of different tissues in baleen whales. Christiansen said, “We had to assume a constant body density of the whales, which is not realistic as the proportion of different body tissues (fat, muscle etc.) changes seasonally as the whales deposit or lose body condition.”

New Age ‘Warrior Retreat’ costs lives


This December 2013 video from the USA says about itself:

Death Dealer: James Arthur Ray’s ‘self-help’ killed three people. Now he’s back.

More than four years after Oprah-endorsed self-help guru James Arthur Ray killed three people in a heat endurance test outside Sedona, Arizona, he’s been released from prison. While Ray plots his re-emergence into the $11 billion self-help industry, the family of one of his victims is on a crusade to ensure that he — and other like him — don’t kill again.

From Wikipedia:

James Arthur Ray (born November 22, 1957) is a leadership and performance advisor, life coach, and author who was found directly responsible for the deaths of three people and convicted of felony negligent homicide. He is the author of Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want, which was a New York Times bestseller. …

Ray has attracted attention for his advocacy of the New Thought belief that positive thinking can heal physical ailments and his claim to have used willpower to stay free of all illness. …

On October 8, 2009, at a New Age “Spiritual Warrior” retreat

The expression ‘Warrior Retreat’ evokes several things. It tries to attract people by evoking ‘warriors’ like in fiction about native Americans, eg, novels by Karl May. While real native Americans are angry about James Arthur Ray’s practices, as we shall see. ‘Warrior’ also evokes wars, in which people die. Like people die in Ray’s ceremonies.

‘Retreat’ evokes, eg, going to a Roman Catholic monastery. It evokes the religious pretenses of Ray. However, in Roman Catholic monasteries sometimes things go awfully wrong, like in Ray’s ‘retreats’. Ray’s religion looks like a mixture between religion and fraudulent for profit business; somewhat like Scientology, Amway and NXIVM.

conceived and hosted by Ray at the Angel Valley Retreat Center in Yavapai County near Sedona, Arizona, two participants, James Shore and Kirby Brown, died as a result of being in a nontraditional sweat lodge exercise. Eighteen others were hospitalized after suffering burns, dehydration, breathing problems, kidney failure, or elevated body temperature. Liz Neuman, another attendee, died October 17 after being comatose for a week.[24]

The attendees, who had paid up to $10,000 to participate in the retreat, had fasted for 36 hours during what was claimed to be a vision quest exercise before the next day’s purported sweat lodge. During this period of fasting, participants were left alone in the Arizona desert with a sleeping bag, although Ray had offered them Peruvian ponchos for an additional $250.[25] After this experience, participants ate a large buffet breakfast before entering the nontraditional structure built for the sweat lodge.[26] The site owner reported she learned after the event that participants went two days without water before entering the structure.[27]

Following the deaths, Ray refused to speak to authorities and immediately left Arizona.[28] According to participants in the heat endurance exercise (which was misrepresented by both Ray and his organization as a “Native American sweat lodge ceremony”), a note was left that said Ray was unavailable—as he was in “prayer and meditation”.[29] Ray later confirmed, during a 2013 interview with Piers Morgan, that he fled the scene rather than staying to assist with the aftermath, because “I was scared.”.[30]

Print media began reporting that Ray conducted a conference call with some victims, one of whom recorded the call and provided it to the AP. During this call, a self-described channeler said that they had communicated with the dead and they had said they “were having so much fun” out of their bodies that they didn’t want to return.[25

On November 18, 2011, Ray was sentenced to two years in prison.[45]

Native American experts on sweat lodges have criticized the reported construction of the structure, as well as Ray’s conduct of the event as not meeting traditional ways (the words “bastardized”, “mocked” and “desecrated” have been used).  …

The Oglala Lakota delegation holds that James Arthur Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center have “violated the peace between the United States and the Lakota Nation” and have caused the “desecration of our Sacred Oinikiga (onikare, sweat lodge) by causing the death of Liz Neuman, Kirby Brown and James Shore”.[49]

There are fraudulent businessmen cum religious leaders like Ray in other countries as well.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, 3 October 2019:

The fatal victim of a healing session in IJzendijke in Zeeland last Wednesday was a 34-year-old man from Oudewater.

They call it ‘healing’, though the IJzendijke business does not have any medical expertise.

The three people arrested in the case last week are suspected of manslaughter.

One of the suspects, a 36-year-old therapist from Terneuzen, is still detained. He is the owner of the location where the spiritual session took place. He is said to have played the biggest part in the incident. Another therapist, a 35-year-old man from Terneuzen, has been released. In addition to manslaughter, the duo are also suspected of owning and supplying hard drugs.

The third suspect, a 37-year-old Briton, can wait for the trial at home. Just like the victim, he was present at the multi-day ceremony, which also used narcotic and hallucinogenic drugs.

This ceremony by the IJzendijke business Iboga-Farm, is called Warrior Retreat, inspired by Ray. They don’t charge $10,000, like Ray did, for the two-day ‘retreat’: ‘only’ 765 euro.

In April 2019, a 31-year-old man died at such a ‘healing’ session in Eersel town.

This Dutch 25 September 2019 video is a warning about such ‘healing’ by ‘spiritual’ organisation Inner Mastery International.

How great white sharks feed, new research


This 19 September 2019 video says about itself:

Wildlife expert Steve Backshall dives with the ocean’s ultimate predator, the Great White Shark, in the waters off Guadalupe Island, Mexico.

From the Research Organization of Information and Systems:

Technology provides insight into how white sharks hunt

October 2, 2019

White sharks are top predators in the marine environment, but unlike their terrestrial counterparts, very little is known about their predatory activity underwater, with current knowledge limited to surface predation events. Now, a team of international scientists has used video- and data-logging technology to shed new light on predator-prey interactions of these mighty sea creatures.

Their findings were published on July 4, 2019 in Marine Ecology Progress Series.

The white shark is an iconic species found in surface- and deep-waters in all major oceans of the world. With a lifespan that can stretch 70 years or more, these formidable predators can reach over six meters (20 feet) in size when fully mature. They prey on marine mammals, such as seals, as well as fish, and are responsible for more shark bites on humans than any other shark.

“Their breaching behavior — where they jump out of the water to catch seals — observed in South Africa, is especially famous, and has attracted the attention of a lot of people, including scientists,” said Yuuki Watanabe, associate professor in marine biology at the National Institute of Polar Research in Japan and lead author of the study.

“Although breaching behavior can be seen from boats and is well studied, what happens underwater is mostly unknown,” Watanabe added. “Moreover, in other aggregation sites of white sharks, including our study site in Australia, breaching behavior is rarely seen, suggesting that different hunting strategies are employed by these sharks.”

To gain a better understanding of the strategies white sharks use to scout and hunt their prey, the researchers needed to dive deeper — literally. “That’s why we decided to attach video cameras and other sensors to white sharks to directly observe their underwater hunting behavior on seals,” explained Watanabe, who has been engaged in biologging research for many years and has made unique discoveries about the ecology of marine life.

The international research team, including Watanabe and his colleague Charlie Huveneers (associated professor at Flinders University in Australia), lured sharks to their research boat by throwing ‘chum’ into the shark inhabited waters off Neptune Islands Marine Park in Australia. Chum, a fishy bait mixture consisting of fish blood and flesh, is very effective at attracting sharks due to their highly developed sense of smell. Using a deployment pole, metal clamps containing a data logging package were placed onto the front edge of the dorsal fins of eight white sharks. The data loggers included an accelerometer that recorded swim speed, depth and water temperature at one second intervals. It also recorded triaxial acceleration (measurements of body movement across three perpendicular axis) at shorter intervals. The data-logging package fitted onto three of the sharks also contained a tiny video camera, which recorded video footage for six hours at pre-programmed intervals. After 1-2 days, the data logger packages detached from the shark and were located and recovered on the surface using radio signals. The researchers then analyzed the accelerometer records and linked them to the video footage.

Acceleration data recorded by these devices allowed researchers to distinguish behavioral patterns while the animals were out of view by measuring tailbeat movement frequency.

“We obtained video footage showing how a white shark chased a seal in the water. In Japanese, we say ‘seeing is worth of a thousand words.’ This is also the case for ecological studies of marine animals,” said Watanabe.

The video footage showed one of the sharks attacking a seal. During this event, the attached data logger recorded intensive swimming action with a rapid burst in lateral acceleration, tailbeat frequency and swim speed. After analyzing 150 hours of recorded acceleration data, the researchers identified seven potential predation events at various depths ranging from the surface to a depth of 53 meters (174 feet). These predation events occurred both at nighttime and during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk, which partially contrasts with the breaching behavior observed by white sharks hunting seals in South African coastal waters that primarily occurs at dawn and dusk.

These findings suggest that white sharks do not only prey on seals on the surface (attacking from below after searching for a seal silhouetted against the surface, illuminated by the sunlight shining from above) with the momentum of their upward thrust causing them to leap into the air in a breaching motion, as observed in South Africa. At the study site in Australia, sharks also actively search and pursue seals in deeper waters, and this predatory activity is not limited to dawn and dusk but rather also occurs at night, suggesting that white sharks do not depend on vision to locate and hunt their prey.

The researchers would like to get more footage of seal-hunting behavior of sharks to understand variations. “It appears that hunting strategies of white sharks in South Africa are very different to those in Australia, and we would like to understand what kinds of factors (biological or non-biological) are driving the difference,” he explained.

Dutch mosque arsonist convicted


This 25 March 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

‘This could happen anywhere’: Police investigate possible arson at California mosque

Graffiti referencing the terrorist attacks in New Zealand was found March 24 at a mosque fire in Escondido, California, according to police.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

A man from Leeuwarden has been sentenced to 36 months in prison, of which 14 months suspended sentence, for arson at a mosque in his place of residence. He also has to pay compensation of around 1300 euros.

The man went to the mosque on April 23 at night and put a few bags of garbage against the door. He set these on fire, after which he ran away.

A few minutes later a passer-by saw the fire. The passer-by immediately alerted the imam who lived in the mosque. Together they extinguished the fire.

Great danger

… He [the perpetrator] says he thought it was an empty building, but the court does not agree. The man lived close to the mosque and according to the judges he must have seen that several hundred people came to the mosque every week. …

The court says that the man with his action has caused great danger to the mosque and to the imam. In addition, the judges blame the man for causing fear in the local religious community. During the court case, representatives of the mosque said that since the arson, far fewer people come to the mosque, despite the extra security measures that have been taken.

Why no three-legged animal species?


This March 2018 video says about itself:

3-Legged Deer Is So Grateful His Mom Saved Him | This deer lost a leg when he was 2 days old and could barely walk — but he found a mom who helped him RUN.

This deer has only three legs because of a grave injury. How about animals without such injuries?

From the University of California – Davis in the USA:

Why are there no animal species with three legs?

October 2, 2019

If “Why?” is the first question in science, “Why not?” must be a close second. Sometimes it’s worth thinking about why something does not exist.

Such as a truly three-legged animal. Tracy Thomson, graduate student in the UC Davis Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, has been pondering the non-existence of tripeds. He recently published an essay on it, “Three-Legged Locomotion and the Constraints on Limb Number: Why Tripeds Don’t Have a Leg to Stand On” in BioEssays.

Thomson got the idea after taking a graduate class on evolution with UC Davis paleontologist Geerat Vermeij, who challenged the students to come up with a “forbidden phenotype:” an animal or plant that does not and cannot exist.

Thomson points out that there are lots of animals that use a tripod stance to rest. Meerkats in an upright stance rest on their tail and rear feet; woodpeckers use tail feathers to brace themselves against a tree-trunk.

A tripod stance does not require any energy to be stable, Thomson noted. Unlike, for example, standing upright on two feet, which does require some muscle work as well as relatively large feet.

Three-limbed movement is less common. Insects, which of course have six legs, have a mode of movement where their legs move in sets of three: two legs on one side and one on the opposite side are on the ground, with the opposite legs moving, at any time. This is called the “alternating tripod” gait.

Gripping tails and beaks

Many tree-dwelling animals use their tails for additional gripping, although they may be moving with all four of their limbs as well. Parrots are quite tripedal, using their strong, flexible beak as an additional grip to maneuver in tree branches.

Long rear feet make it difficult for kangaroos to “walk” like other mammals. Instead, they use their strong tail and front limbs to push the rear feet off the ground and forwards while grazing.

Given that three-limbed movement does seems to work for some animals, why are there no animals with three legs? That might go back a long, long way, Thomson said.

“Almost all animals are bilateral,” he said. The code for having two sides to everything seems to have got embedded in our DNA very early in the evolution of life — perhaps before appendages like legs, fins or flippers even evolved. Once that trait for bilateral symmetry was baked in, it was hard to change.

With our built-in bias to two-handedness, it can be hard to figure out how a truly three-legged animal would work — although that has not stopped science fiction writers from imagining them. Perhaps trilateral life has evolved on Enceladus or Alpha Centauri (or Mars!) and has as much difficulty thinking about two-limbed locomotion as we do thinking about three.

This kind of thought experiment is useful for developing our ideas about evolution, Thomson said.

“If we’re trying to understand evolution as a process we need to understand what it can and can’t do,” he said.

Why some Renaissance paintings turned brown


This 2014 video from the USA says about itself:

Go behind the scenes with Carnegie Museum Of Art chief conservator Ellen Baxter as she discusses the restoration process of a portrait of Isabella de’ Medici.

Artwork:
Alessandro Allori
Portrait of Isabella de’ Medici, c. 1570-1574
oil on canvas (transferred from panel)
Gift of Mrs. Paul B. Ernst

Filmed in conjunction with the exhibition “Faked, Forgotten, Found: Five Renaissance Paintings Investigated.”

From the American Chemical Society in the USA:

Why some greens turn brown in historical paintings

October 2, 2019

Enticed by the brilliant green hues of copper acetate and copper resinate, some painters in the Renaissance period incorporated these pigments into their masterpieces. However, by the 18th century, most artists had abandoned the colors because of their tendency to darken with time. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ journal Inorganic Chemistry have uncovered the chemistry behind the copper pigments’ color change.

Copper acetate (also known as verdigris) and copper resinate were used in European easel paintings between the 15th and 17th centuries. Artists typically mixed these pigments with linseed oil to make paint. Until now, scientists didn’t know why the green paints often turned brown with time, although they had some clues. Light exposure was thought to play a role because areas of paintings protected by frames remained green. Also, oxygen appeared to contribute to the darkening process, with the brown color spreading from cracks in the paint that exposed the underlying copper pigments to air. So Didier Gourier and colleagues wanted to analyze the chemical changes that occur in the paints upon light exposure.

The team determined that the molecular structures of copper acetate and copper resinate were quite similar: Both had two copper atoms bridged by four carboxylate groups, but there was more space between resinate than acetate molecules. The researchers mixed the pigments with linseed oil and spread them in a thin layer. They then exposed the paint films to 16 hours of 320-mW LED light, which corresponded to hundreds of years of museum light. This illumination caused bridging molecules between the pair of copper atoms to be lost, which were then replaced by an oxygen molecule, creating bimetallic copper molecules responsible for the brown color. This process occurred more readily for copper resinate than for copper acetate. Boiling the linseed oil before mixing, which some artists did to improve the drying process, slowed the darkening reaction.

How deep sea anglerfish ‘lamps’ work


This 2012 video says about itself:

The anglerfish uses a shiny lure to bring prey within range of its sharp teeth. But it also has a weirdly clingy side — after finding a female, the male black devil angler latches on and never lets go!

From Cornell University in the USA:

Glowing bacteria in anglerfish ‘lamp’ come from the water

October 1, 2019

New research shows that female deep-sea anglerfish‘s bioluminescent bacteria — which illuminate their “headlamp” — most likely come from the water.

Scientists who study these fish are still mostly in the dark about the bacteria, which share a symbiotic relationship with the fish. Researchers knew from an earlier study that, based on their genomes, these bacteria did not appear to be fully equipped to live on their own outside of a host.

“In previous work that I had done, we found for the symbionts of deep-sea anglerfish that the bacteria have undergone genomic reductions; they’ve lost a lot of genes, suggesting that they are probably obligately dependent on their host,” said Tory Hendry, assistant professor of microbiology at Cornell University and the paper’s senior author.

A reduced genome is a hallmark of bacteria that live their whole lives inside a host and receive services and nutrients that they no longer need instructions to acquire. Such species then lack the genetic “software” to survive on their own.

In the study, the researchers obtained previously collected specimens of seven species of anglerfish across six families. They also studied the only two species of bioluminescent bacteria known to live within the bulbs of anglerfish. While one species of bacteria was specifically only found in one species of fish, the other bacteria species was found in all six of the remaining species studied.

The fish were each caught in different locations, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Cape Verde islands. While some were caught almost 20 years apart, the bacteria in the bulbs were 99% identical.

Another study by collaborators in the DEEPEND Consortium revealed that anglerfish only acquire bacteria later in life once their light organ has developed. The bulb has a little pore in it, and the researchers wonder if the fish may spew bacteria into the environment once microbe populations grow, possibly to ensure that future generations of young fish have access to the luminous microbes in the water.

A team of engineers and marine biologists built a better suction cup inspired by the mechanism that allows the clingfish to adhere to both smooth and rough surfaces. Researchers reverse engineered the clingfish’s suction disk and developed devices that cling well to wet and dry objects both in an out of water. The devices can hold up to hundreds of times their own weigh: here.