Unique bowhead whale swims near Cornwall


This video is called Bowhead Whale of the Arctic (Nature Documentary).

From ITV in Britain:

Bowhead whale spotted in Cornish waters

A whale never before seen in European waters has been sighted off the Cornish coast.

The Bowhead whale is usually found in the Arctic. The Sea Watch Foundation made this extraordinary discovery after mysterious pictures were sent in showing an animal whose head shape and jaw line didn’t match with descriptions of any of the expected whale species.

The pictures were sent in by Anna Cawthray, taken on a friend’s mobile phone. They showed the 25 ft long whale that she’d encountered off Par Beach on the island of St Martin’s.

Sea Watch’s Sightings Officer, Kathy James, sent the photos to other experts who confirmed the sighting as a bowhead whale. They say its “extraordinary” to see a bowhead in these waters.

Last updated Sat 28 Feb 2015

BBC – Earth – Do whales have graveyards where they prefer to die? Here.

Smith’s longspurs, Valentine’s Day birds


This video says about itself:

The Smith’s Longspur Project: 2013 Field Season

5 September 2013

© 2013 Jared Hughey
All Rights Reserved

The Smith’s Longspur (Calcarius pictus), one of the least studied songbirds in North America, breeds on the arctic tundra and has become a species of conservation concern. I spent the summer working as a field technician for Heather Craig, a Master’s student at University of Alaska Fairbanks who is studying the breeding ecology of this polygynandrous species in the foothills of the Brooks Range in northern Alaska.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

Record Setting Lovebird! The Smith’s Longspur May Be Nature’s Champion Lover

Posted on Monday, February 09, 2015 by eNature

Are you the type that has an insatiable appetite for lusty affairs?

Do you seek the same qualities in a partner?

Then you’ll probably enjoy the story of the Smith’s Longspur. This bird’s 70’s swinging style is enough to make even Hugh Hefner blush.

Arctic Summers, Midwest Winters

Small like a sparrow, the Smith’s Longspur spends its summers in Alaska and Canada and its winters in the Midwest and the South, often congregating in open fields.

In terms of range, then, it’s a lot like some other species. What sets the Smith’s Longspur apart is its astonishing libido.

An Insatiable Appetite For Love

At the peak of the spring mating season, the typical Smith’s Longspur copulates more than 350 times a week. The females solicit these encounters, and the males cooperate roughly half the time.

Otherwise the creatures are resting and refueling—for their fall migration or just to maintain their busy love lives!

You can always plan eNature’s Mating Game to find what creature you most resemble in love.

As hard as it may be to believe given the cold affecting much of the country, but spring is only a month or so away!

Have you seen any signs of the plants and animals in your neighborhood preparing for warmer times and the new life the spring season brings?

We always enjoy your stories.

John James Audubon named the Smith’s Longspur after his friend Gideon B. Smith.

More about the Smith’s Longspur is here.

Ice Age mollusks discovery in Alaska


This video, from the Harvard Museum of Natural History in the USA, says about itself:

14 October 2014

From tiny snails to the giant clam (Tridacna gigas), mollusks are the most diverse and widely distributed family of marine invertebrates. Professor Gonzalo Giribet, Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at Harvard’s MCZ, discussed how scientists are decoding the Mollusca genetic family tree to learn how they’ve adapted, survived, and thrived since the pre-Cambrian era, and to explore the potential benefits of mollusks from medicine to human health, and other fields.

From Alaska Public Media:

Arctic Expedition Uncovers Previously Undiscovered, Ancient Mollusk Specimens

By Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

December 11, 2014

During a 2010 expedition in the Beaufort Sea’s deep, Arctic waters off Alaska’s northern coast, scientists discovered what turned out to be a previously-unknown, ancient type of mollusk.

The newly-discovered bi-valve mollusk, called Wallerconcha sarae, dates back about 1.8 million years.

Paul Valentich-Scott, is the curator of malacology, which is the study of mollusks, at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History in California. He says the specimens are pretty small – only about an inch across and round-shaped.

“Think of a 1-inch ball bearing, but they’re all white,” Valentich-Scott said. “They do have an outer skin that’s really dark brown and kind of heavy, a little bit hairy-like, actually.”

“And inside, when you open them up, just think of opening up a clam shell that you might eat and they look very much like a clam that you might have for steamers or that kind of thing on the inside.”

This description fits a variety of mollusks, but Valentich-Scott says the specimen does have a few unique traits that warranted both a new species and genus.

“This one had some very unusual characters in the sort of top part of the shell that had not been seen before; so, it’s all shell-based,” Valentich-Scott said. “Since we don’t have an animal, we can’t do any DNA work and compare it that way, we can only compare shells of both fossil species and recent species to this new discovery.”

There are about 75 species of mollusks documented in the region, but Valentich-Scott says new discoveries are rare.

“A few of them have been new, like in the 20th century, but not many,” Valentich-Scott said. “So, in terms of what we know of this group of animals up in the Arctic, this is quite significant.”

Wallerconcha sarae was discovered by scientists on a joint U.S.-Canadian expedition off Alaska’s North Slope aboard the U.S. Coast Guard ice breaker Healy in 2010. Their primary mission was to map the sea floor and sediment below to gain a better understanding of the region’s geology.

Valentich-Scott says the discovery was made when scientists were investigating an interesting spot on the bottom of the Beaufort Sea.

“This is one of the unusual situations where we have essentially an extinct hydrothermal vent system,” Valentich-Scott said. “We’re pretty sure that this was an active vent system somewhere in the 1-2 million years ago.”

The first hydrothermal vents were discovered in the mid-1970s. And since the science is so young, relatively little is known about them. But, by studying this extinct vent system, the picture is gradually becoming a clearer.

Even though researchers only have what are essentially mollusk bones to study, Valentich-Scott says they can still make educated guesses into certain aspects of the animal’s existence based on knowledge of active hydrothermal vents and other comparable mollusk species.

“It probably used the bacteria in the environment of this hydrothermal vent to more or less feed,” Valentich-Scott said. “We know it was a filter-feeding organism and it might have been in fairly warm water, or it could have been a cold seep as well, we’re not quite sure.”

“But, in terms of other types of reproduction or what it did on a daily basis, we just don’t exactly know at this point.”

The shells were found buried as deep as 15 feet in the sea floor’s sediment, but Valentich-Scott says some were discovered much shallower, which opens up some interesting possibilities.

“We also found them within about 1 or 2 inches of the surface of the mud,” Valentich-Scott said. “So, it’s highly suggestive that they could, in the right circumstance, still be found alive.”

There are only about 15 specimens to work with so far, but as scientists delve further into Arctic research, Valentich-Scott believes more will likely be uncovered.

The scientific description of the new species is here.

Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: An encrusted scallop from the Pliocene of Cyprus: here.

Little auks, new research


This video says about itself:

Foraging strategy of the little auk

9 May 2014

Summary of the paper ‘Foraging strategy of the little auk Alle alle throughout breeding season – switch from unimodal to bimodal pattern‘.

Save the Arctic, new Greenpeace video


This 10 November 2014 Greenpeace video is called Why is it important to save the Arctic?