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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Daily Drift

Good Dog ...!
Carolina Naturally is read in 197 countries around the world daily.   

Yes, Go plant a tree ... !
Today is - Arbor Day

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The Americas
Armenia, Colombia
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Caracas, Venezuela
Pato Branco, Rio De Janerio and Sao Paulo,  Brazil
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Managua, Nicaragua
Bogota and Monteria, Colombia
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The Bottom, Sint Eustatius and Saba
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Mykolayiv, Kharkiv and Zhvotivody, Ukraine
Bilbao, Madrid and Basauri, Spain
Dublin and Limerick, Ireland
Treviso Ivrea, Rome and Carcare, Italy
Stavanger, Bergen and Oslo, Norway
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Mol, Belgium
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Reykjavik, Iceland
Saint Petersburg, Moscow and Ryazan, Russia
London, England
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Bucharest, Romania
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Kista, Sweden
Muenchen, Germany
Athens, Greece
Warsaw, Poland
Belgrade, Serbia
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Surabaya, Jakarta, Dadaha, Yogyakarta and Besuki, Indonesia
Galkissa, Colombo and Pita Kotte, Sri Lanka
Guangzhou and Beijing, China
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Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Hadong and Hanoi, Vietnam
Thiruvananthpuram, Shillong, Madurai and Jodhpur, India
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
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Tunis, Tunisia
Cape Town, South Africa
Lagos, Nigeria
The Pacific
Sydney, Cessnock, Canley Heights and Melbourne, Australia
Makati, Philippines

Today in History

1590 The Sultan of Morocco launches a successful attack to capture Timbuktu.
1644 The Ming Chongzhen emperor commits suicide by hanging himself.
1707 At the Battle of Almansa, Franco-Spanish forces defeat the Anglo-Portugese forces.
1719 Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe is published in London.
1792 The guillotine is first used to execute highwayman Nicolas J. Pelletier.
1859 Work begins on the Suez Canal in Egypt.
1862 Admiral Farragut occupies New Orleans, Louisiana.
1864 After facing defeat in the Red River Campaign, Union General Nathaniel Bank returns to Alexandria, Louisiana.
1867 Tokyo is opened for foreign trade.
1882 French commander Henri Riviere seizes the citadel of Hanoi in Indochina.
1898 The United States declares war on Spain.
1915 Australian and New Zealand troops land at Gallipoli in Turkey.
1925 General Paul von Hindenburg takes office as president of Germany.
1926 In Iran, Reza Kahn is crowned Shah and chooses the name "Pehlevi."
1926 Puccini's opera Turandot premiers at La Scala in Milan with Arturo Toscanini conducting.
1938 A seeing eye dog is used for the first time.
1945 U.S. and Soviet forces meet at Torgau, Germany on Elbe River.
1951 After a three day fight against Chinese Communist Forces, the Gloucestershire Regiment is annihilated on "Gloucester Hill," in Korea.
1953 The magazine Nature publishes an article by biologists Francis Crick and James Watson, describing the "double helix" of DNA.
1956 Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" goes to number one on the charts.
1959 The St. Lawrence Seaway–linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes–opens to shipping.
1960 The first submerged circumnavigation of the Earth is completed by a Triton submarine.
1962 A U.S. Ranger spacecraft crash lands on the Moon.
1971 The country of Bangladesh is established.
1980 President Jimmy Carter tells the American people about the hostage rescue disaster in Iran.
1982 In accordance with the Camp David agreements, Israel completes a withdrawal from the Sinai peninsula.
1990 Violeta Barrios de Chamorro begins a six year term as Nicaragua's president.

Non Sequitur


This Fish Crawled Out of the Water…and Into Creationists' Nightmares

Some 375 million years ago, Tiktaalik emerged onto land. Today, explains paleontologist Neil Shubin, we're all walking around in modified fish bodies.

by Chris Mooney
Tiktaalik roseae, a transitional fossil showing the link between fish...and us. 
We all know the Darwin fish, the car-bumper send-up of the Christian "ichthys" symbol, or Jesus fish. Unlike the Christian symbol, the Darwin fish has, you know, legs. Har har.
But the Darwin fish isn't merely a clever joke; in effect, it contains a testable scientific prediction. If evolution is true, and if life on Earth originated in water, then there must have once been fish species possessing primitive limbs, which enabled them to spend some part of their lives on land. And these species, in turn, must be the ancestors of four-limbed, land-living vertebrates like us.
Sure enough, in 2004, scientists found one of those transitional species: Tiktaalik roseae, a 375 million-year-old Devonian period specimen discovered in the Canadian Arctic by paleontologist Neil Shubin and his colleagues. Tiktaalik, explains Shubin on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast, is an "anatomical mix between fish and a land-living animal."
"It has a neck," says Shubin, a professor at the University of Chicago. "No fish has a neck. And you know what? When you look inside the fin, and you take off those fin rays, you find an upper arm bone, a forearm, and a wrist." Tiktaalik, Shubin has observed, was a fish capable of doing a push-up. It had both lungs and gills. In sum, it's quite the transitional form.
Shubin's bestselling book about his discovery, Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body, uses the example of Tiktaalik and other evolutionary evidence to trace how our own bodies share similar structures not only with close relatives like chimpanzees or orangutans, but indeed, with far more distant relatives like fish. Think of it as an extensive unpacking of a famous line by Charles Darwin from his book, The Descent of Man: "Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin."
Neil Shubin with Tiktaalik.  
And now, PBS has adapted Your Inner Fish as a three-part series (you can watch the first installment here), using the irrepressible Shubin as a narrator who romps from Pennsylvania roadsides to the melting Arctic in search of fossils that elucidate the natural history of our own anatomy.
"Many of the muscles and nerves and bones I'm using to talk to you with right now, and many of the muscles and nerves and bones you're using to hear me with right now, correspond to gill structures in fish," explained Shubin on Inquiring Minds. Indeed, despite having diverged from fish several hundred million of years ago, we still share more than half of our DNA with them, according to Shubin.
"The genetic toolkit that builds their fins is very similar to the genetic toolkit that builds our limbs," he says. "And much of the evolution, we think, from fins to limbs, didn't involve a whole lot of new genes."
Now, of course, none of this sits well with the Young-Earth creationist crowd, who are continually trying to undermine science education and US science literacy. What do creationists say about Shubin's research, and especially Tiktaalik? Turns out that creationist leader Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis has his answer ready to go: "There are no transitional forms that support evolution," he confidently declares in a minute-long audio track dedicated to debunking the Tiktaalik finding. Why? Because "the Bible says God made fish and land animals during the same week, not millions of years apart." That's just the beginning of the attempted takedowns that creationists have leveled against Shubin's work.
Creationists snipe, raise doubt, and deny almost everything that we know, but the reason that Tiktaalik is such a momentous find appears to be beyond them: Evolutionary theory (complemented by an extensive knowledge of geology) predicted not only that this fish would have existed, but also, that its fossilized remains would probably be found within a specific part of the world, in geological layers of a particular age. Hence, Shubin's many trips with his team to the Canadian Arctic, where those rock layers could be found. "We designed this expedition with the goal of finding this exact fossil," explains Shubin. "And we used the tools of evolution and geology as discovery tools to make a prediction about where to look. And the prediction was confirmed." Thus, Tiktaalik isn't just proof of evolution; it's also proof that the scientific process works.
Shubin and his team working in the landscape where Tiktaalik was discovered. 
Nevertheless, following the announcement of Tiktaalik's discovery in 2006, the creationists pounced. "My inbox is filled with some interesting emails," says Shubin. Over time, as the idea for Your Inner Fish began to gel, Shubin decided to seek out creationists, or less-than-evolution-friendly audiences, in person to try to explain the fossil and what it means. "I decided at that point, I'm going to go give talks in Alabama, in South Carolina, in Oklahoma, in Texas, and elsewhere, where I'll bring Tiktaalik with me, or the cast of Tiktaalik," says Shubin. "And I've done this every year."
Having the fossil to show, says Shubin, changes the entire nature of the discussion. "It's about the data, it's about the evidence, it's about the discovery," he says. "It's about, 'How do you date those rocks, how do you compare that creature to another creature?' Well, if we do that, we kind of win, because what it means is it changes the conversation in a way where it's now about evidence," he continues. "You're not going to change everybody's mind, but you're going to affect a few, most definitely. And that's kind of my passion. That's what I think I can bring to the table."
And as if Tiktaalik doesn't push enough science denial buttons, it turns out that the story of its discovery is also, simultaneously, a story about climate change. The fossil was, after all, unearthed in the Arctic, the part of the world that is undergoing the most rapid climate change. Shubin has been working in this landscape, visiting every summer or every other summer, for years now, making him a firsthand witness to the abrupt transition. "I just feel, my Arctic has changed," Shubin says. "Climate has sort of forced this other set of changes as well, and it's hard to be there and not feel it," he adds, noting a much greater military presence and also a corporate presence from companies in shipping and extractive industries.
But there's a great irony: When it comes to the melting Arctic, what's good for petroleum geologists is also pretty good for paleontologists, Shubin admits. "You look at the aerial photos, that were taken in 1959, and you can compare them to the aerial photos today, well, there's more rock to look at," he says. Glacial retreats may be a global disaster, but there's no denying they're a scientific opportunity.
All of which means: Those who deny climate change, and through their denial, help to worsen it...well, at least they're giving us more evidence for evolution.

The Delicate Beauty Of Poppies

Poppies are herbaceous plants, often grown for their colorful flowers. Poppies can be over 4 feet tall with flowers up to six inches across. The flowers have 4 to 6 petals, many stamens forming a conspicuous whorl in the center of the flower and an ovary consisting of from 2 to many fused carpels.

The Butterfly Orchid

Look at this gorgeous flower! Oh, you thought it was a butterfly? Well, that’s why the flower wants you to think. Or rather, it wants to attract pollinating butterflies by looking like an attractive butterfly. Meet Psychopsis papilio, also known as the Butterfly orchid. There are four species of this highly-coveted orchid, which you can see in all its glory at Kuriositas.

Bear left with a sore head after tree rescue didn't go quite as planned

A large black bear had a less than gentle landing after it was shot out of a tree using a tranquillizer gun.
Animal welfare officials were waiting at the bottom of the tree in Panama City, Florida, with a large tarpaulin to catch the animal.
But the 113kg (250lb) beast ripped straight through it as it fell from the tree, hitting the floor with real force.

Luckily for the animal it was unhurt - and luckily for the rescuers the bear stayed asleep. Wildlife officials later released the bear at Apalachicola National Forest.

Depressed panda provided with television set

A panda that has been suffering from weeks of depression at its foster home has been given a television set. Staff at the Yunnan Wild Animal Park in China said panda Scarlett began displaying boredom and irritability after the last of her two companions, panda Macy, was taken back to Sichuan on March 31st. Scarlett and Macy, along with panda Qianqian, had been living at the Yunnan Wild Animal Park since they were displaced from their home in Sichuan when a magnitude 5 earthquake damaged the area in 2008.
Qianqian returned to Sichuan in 2012. Macy stayed for another couple of years but was likewise taken home to Sichuan last March, leaving Scarlett alone in the Yunnan foster home. A day after Macy left, park staff said Scarlett did not go back to her room, had not been eating well, and was sometimes grouchy. The feeder tried to cheer up the panda by talking and playing with her at a fixed time every day, but Scarlett remained inconsolable.

Some Yunnan residents, sensing that Scarlett might be feeling alone and forsaken, suggested that a mirror be installed on the playground, but one apparently can't fool a panda to mistake its own reflection for company. Other residents suggested installing a swing, a horizontal bar, parallel bars, and a TV near Scarlett's "bed". The park staff also found some childhood video footage of Scarlett and Macy and played them back for her to watch.

So far, Scarlett has been watching the videos while eating and sounding off  a positive response to them. The staff also placed a big panda model at the place where Macy used to live to keep Scarlett company. The Yunnan Wild Animal Park staff management and staff are optimistic that the various recreation facilities they installed will help bring back Scarlett's sunny mood, and vowed to keep thinking of new ways to cheer up the depressed panda.

Council enlists poo-sniffing dog in fight to save koalas

A highly specialized detection dog trained to sniff out koala droppings is on the case in Logan, south of Brisbane, Australia, in a bid to boost protection for the vulnerable species. Logan City Council enlisted conservation canine Maya to help identify koala habitats in the area. Maya's owner is Dr Cristescu, an ecologist who specialises in koala research. "I've spent a lot of my life looking for animal poo, specifically koala poo," Dr Cristescu said. "The reason we look for koala poo is because that gives us where they live, the koala habitat.
"But it's really inefficient for us humans to look for koala poo because we rely on our eyesight, so that takes a lot of time to look for really small koala poo in a really big habitat." On the other hand, specially trained dogs like Maya can canvass a large area of land in a relatively short period of time. Dr Cristescu says using sniffer dogs is an emerging trend in the areas of conservation biology, ecology and pest control. "There are detection dogs from everything from drugs to border security - so why not a koala poo dog?" Dr Cristescu said. Trainer Gary Jackson says Maya represents "the future" of conservation efforts.

Mr Jackson rescued Maya from the pound several years ago before training her to be a detection dog. "These detection dogs do so much better and so much quicker than humans. She's had about three months of solid training to look for koala poop," he said. "And not only to look for koala poop, but also to ignore so many other things in the environment. The dog had to go in a very scent-contaminated area and only be interested in locating the koala poop and showing you exactly where it is." In Maya's case, the behavioural traits which made her a less-than-desirable pet have meant she was a perfect candidate for training as a detection dog.
"You need a dog basically with an OCD on a tennis ball, an absolute nutcase on a tennis ball," he said. "Then you scent-associate the tennis ball with the target odor - which is a koala poop - and then the dog will search for ages just to try to find that odor. She will go into an open area and she just has to find one little koala poop and she will just hit the deck. Maya will do a drop and then when you go up to her she'll go and put her nose over the top of it and pinpoint exactly where it is. You've got a whole acre and you've found one tiny piece of koala poop." The information Maya is able to provide Logan City Council will be used to inform the Koala Conservation Strategy, which is used to manage and improve prospects for koalas. Maya will search for signs of koalas across an area of almost 500 hectares of bushland over a period of two weeks.

Dog left at a loss after removal of fountain

Sunshine the Golden Retriever has been taken to the fountain at Rundle Mall in Adelaide, Australia, by her owner Neville Harris every week for the past eleven years.
She has become a regular attraction with shoppers, old and young alike.
Last week the fountain was removed as part of the mall's renovation. It is to be refurbished and returned later this year

Until then Sunshine will be left at a loss, unable to visit her favorite spot.

Dog taken to animal hospital after getting jaw stuck in Irn Bru can

Vets at PDSA’s Glasgow pet hospital came to the rescue of a dog that was rushed in as an emergency after getting its jaw stuck in a can of Irn Bru. Miniature Dachshund Darcey managed to get her paws on an empty can during a family gathering at her owner Janette Gallacher’s home in the city. But the party lost its sparkle after the can became lodged in her mouth, and the poor dog started to bleed.
Janette Gallacher, 69, said that after attempts to gently remove the can from Darcey’s tiny mouth failed, they rushed her to PDSA’s Glasgow Shamrock Street PetAid hospital for help. PDSA vet Susie Hermit said it was one of the most unusual cases vets at the site have ever come across: “We see all sorts of cases here at PDSA but I’ve never seen a dog with its jaw stuck in a can before”, she said.

“We could see that Darcey was bleeding and was in lots of distress. The can was so firmly wedged that we had to sedate her in order to remove it to prevent any further damage and make sure that Darcey wasn’t too uncomfortable when we took the can off her jaw. She was very lucky that no permanent damage was done, as the inside of the can was very sharp and it could have caused substantial damage to the lining of her mouth and her tongue.”
Janette said she was extremely grateful for the care her beloved dog received from PDSA vets and said Darcey had now gone on to make a full recovery. She said: “Darcey is back to her usual cheerful self now. When I told friends about it they couldn’t believe it. It was very worrying at the time. We’re very careful when we bring out the Irn Bru now.”

Hot Dog

Man bitten by poisonous snake while trying to get a better look at an alligator

A Florida man was bitten by a snake on Saturday night when he and his girlfriend pulled over on the side of Alligator Alley to look at an alligator.

The man, 29, pulled over his car on the road just after 7pm when he and his girlfriend thought they saw an alligator, Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue spokesman Mike Jachles said.
They got out of the car to get a better view of the alligator, but the man unknowingly had stepped on a water moccasin that was on the side of the road. The snake bit him in the foot, Jachles said. The couple snapped a picture of the snake.

Though officials initially suspected it was a pit viper, they later determined it was a water moccasin. First responders treated him on the scene and he was airlifted to the Cleveland Clinic in Weston for further care. Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue's Venom Response Team assisted Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue. The man is in stable condition.

Abandoned Nile crocodile found wandering around Californian open-air shopping mall

A 4-foot crocodile was abandoned outside a reptile business in Roseville, California, on Wednesday morning, and somehow managed to escape its container, wandering around a strip mall. It's not clear who left the animal at the shopping center. People spotted the crocodile wandering around the TJ Maxx Plaza on Douglas Boulevard, and called for help.
"It was most likely a crocodile that was illegally brought into the country or illegally captured elsewhere in the county," said Sgt. Jason Bosworth, with the Roseville Police Department. California Fish and Wildlife officials said the crocodile is very dangerous. "This one is a really nasty crocodile," said Patrick Foy, a game warden. "It's got a really bad attitude. This animal genuinely is a very dangerous animal.

"Leaving it in a parking lot absolutely (puts) the public at risk, especially kids who might think that they can go and touch (it) - people who just don’t know how dangerous these crocodiles really are." Whoever left the animal also included a note reading "call rescue," and identified the reptile as a Nile crocodile. The reptile store in the area is a safe surrender site for animals whose owners can no longer care for them.

An animal control officer lassoed the reptile in the parking lot. The crocodile wasn't happy about returning to a cage, police said. The crocodile was then turned over to California State Fish and Wildlife. Foy said the department believes the animal is indeed a rare Nile crocodile. "It can grow to 15-, 16-, 20-foot type range," Foy said. "They can be enormous." Owning a crocodile is illegal. Fish and Wildlife officials said the animal will most likely end up in a zoo.

Search for the world's 'loneliest whale' who has been singing to himself for 20 years

  • A team of scientists will attempt to find the 'loneliest whale in the world' next Autumn and are able to track its route across the North Pacific Ocean
  • They have been listening to the animal's abnormally high song for over 20 years but have never seen it
  • It is called 'lonely' because it appears to communicate at a frequency not used by any other whale
by Sarah Griffiths

A team of scientists and documentary makers will attempt to find 'the loneliest whale in the world' next autumn by tracking its route across the North Pacific Ocean.
The researchers have been listening to the animal's abnormally high song for over 20 years but have never seen what it looks like.
The unknown whale is called 'lonely' because it appears to communicate at a frequency not used by any other whale in the North Pacific, and so far, it is not thought to have ever got a response to its plaintive cries.
A team of scientists and documentary makers will attempt to find 'the loneliest whale in the world' next autumn
A team of scientists and documentary makers will attempt to find 'the loneliest whale in the world' next autumn. The creature has been calling out at a frequency not used by any other whales in the North Pacific Ocean for the last 20 years
Experts believe the huge mammal is most likely a fin whale, but could be a blue whale, or a hybrid of the two species, Discovery News reported.
The US Navy began passing recordings of whale song to scientists in the late 1980s.
It picked up the haunting noises when trying to listen for submarines in the North Pacific.
In 1989, Dr William Watkins of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution began to sort through the recordings and noticed that one whale's song was much higher in pitch than the others.
Most male fin and blue whales sing at around 17 to 18 hertz, which is too deep for humans to hear, but the 'lonely' whale communicates at 52 hertz.
When more recordings were released in the nineties, Dr Watkins studied the 52 hertz whale more closely.
While scientists have been listening to the whale for two decades
Scientists have been listening to the whale for two decades but no-one has seen it, so they are not sure exactly what species they are looking for. Experts believe the huge mammal is is most likely that it is a fin whale (pictured) but could be a hybrid of a blue and a fin whale
Dr Watkins' team was able to triangulate its movements and track its location across the ocean during mating season, when whales are at their most vocal and published a paper on his findings in 2004.
Mary-Ann Daher, who was involved with the research said that it is usually incredibly difficult to track a whale across the ocean without seeing it as the animals make noises at the same frequency, making it almost impossible to pick out individuals.
The study attracted much media attention and the 52 hertz animal was dubbed 'the loneliest whale in the world' as its high-pitched song did not seem to get a response from other whales.
As Dr Watkins sadly died from cancer before his research captured the imagination of the public, his research assistant  Ms Daher has carried on his scientific legacy.
Most male blue and fin whales (pictured) sing at around 17 to 18 hertz, which is too deep for humans to hear, but one whale was communicating at 53 hertz
Most male blue and fin whales (pictured) sing at around 17 to 18 hertz, which is too deep for humans to hear, but the 'lonely' whale communicates at 52 hertz. Dr Watkins' team has used its song to triangulate its movements and track its location across the ocean during mating season
She said that the team has never seen the whale they have been studying and do not know what species it is.
They do not know if it is medically unusual but she said it is obviously healthy as it has been living for at least two decades.
However, when it came to musing about the creature's loneliness, Ms Daher said: 'Is he alone? I don’t know.
'People like to imagine this creature out there swimming by his lonesome, just singing away and nobody’s listening. But I can’t say that.'
Scientists may find out more about the mysterious whale when they search for it next Autumn.
Scientists cannot say for sure that the creature is completely alone
While the whale has been dubbed the 'loneliest in the world' as its calls seem to be going unanswered, scientists are not so sure. They cannot say for sure that the creature is completely alone. A blue whale is pictured


  • Whale sounds are used by whales for different kinds of communication
  • The word 'song' is used to describe the pattern of regular and predictable sounds made by some species of whales
  • While the complex sounds of the humpback whale and some blue whales are believed to be primarily used in sexual selection, all whales use simpler sounds all year round to communicate
  • Whales occupying the same geographical areas, which can be vast, tend to sing similar songs with only small variations
  • Male humpback whales have been described as 'inveterate composers' of songs and experts have said that their songs are similar to human music in many ways

Humpback whales go for a surf at Pipeline

Mother and calf catch a set wave at the iconic spot on Oahu's North Shore; rare event is photographed by J.T. Gray

by Pete Thomas
Humpback whales go right on a large set wave at Pipeline; photo by ©J.T. Gray/NorthShoreSurfPhotos
A photographer has captured what might be the only image showing large whales riding a wave at iconic Banzai Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore.
J.T. Gray of North Shore Surf Photos arrived Saturday to find a late-season swell had shown, minus the hordes of surfers that generally greet each swell.
As a bodyboarder was catching one wave, two humpback whales materialized in a larger second wave and rode the swell just long enough for Gray to capture the moment.
While it’s common for dolphins to ride waves, this is rare behavior for a large whale species.
“The whales were 75 to 100 yards east of Pipeline and playing for a while, then swam to about 10 yards outside of the lineup,” Gray told GrindTv. “A set came in and the bodyboarder caught the first wave, and the humpbacks caught the second.”
Gray added: “Whales frequent Hawaii in the winter months, but never that close to shore.”
The rare image was posted Ocean Defender–Hawaii’s Facebook page on Monday, and as of Tuesday morning it had been shared more than 4,000 times. Gray gave permission for its use for this story.
He said the whales were a mother and calf, and it’s possible that the whales were just playing, but it’s also possible that the mother was keeping tabs on her stray calf.
Said Ocean Defender’s Oriana Kalama: “Yes, it’s the first time anyone has seen a humpback surf or get that close to the waves, but they do get really close to shore. Humpbacks sing, breach and if you ask me they dance too. If you ever have the chance to see them underwater, you would see how much they seem to enjoy to move their pectoral fins and in a way flirt with each other when in groups.

What Now for Whales?

Japan has agreed not to go whaling in the Antarctic next year. So what happens next?

'Kleptopus,' The Shell-Stealing Veined Octopus

Check out the unique fort-building skills of the veined octopus. Known for unusual behaviour like bipedal walking (and its shameless shell theft), this is definitely not your average cephalopod.

Enormous great white shark grabs spotlight in Western Australia

Photo of 1.6-ton predator being tagged alongside boat sparks fury online

gws1Western Australia has endured months of criticism over a shark-culling program intended to keep swimmers and surfers safe, but now a monstrous great white shark that was tagged and released is making headlines… and causing jaws to drop.
The massively plump predator, estimated to measure at least 16 feet and weigh 1.6 tons, was captured on March 30 off King George Sound, and fitted with an internal tag in a process biologists described as groundbreaking.
But the photo atop this post, revealing the incredible girth of the shark as it was turned over for the tagging process, was released Tuesday, sparking an online media fury.
The female shark’s nickname: Joan of Shark.
Joan is among many sharks that are tagged as part of an alternative to culling, to let biologists know their whereabouts, in part so swimmers and surfers can be warned.
Since Joan was tagged she has been detected near Albany beaches several times, including nine times last Saturday. (Albany is in the extreme south of Western Australia, and is not in the region in which culling is occurring.)
Joan is among several sharks that were drawn last weekend to a whale carcass that ultimately washed onto the beach. Middleton Beach had to be closed during one of Joan’s close approaches.
Biologists, meanwhile, remain optimistic that they will be able to keep tabs on the great white’s movements for up to 10 years, thanks to an acoustic tag that was surgically inserted during an ambitious and precarious day of work.
Mark Kleeman, project manager for the Shark Monitoring Network, said that tagging a shark of this size, in this manner, is almost unprecedented.
“This is very exciting and potentially a world first,” Kleeman told the Newcastle Herald. “Lots of juveniles get tagged, but to have a fully mature female and get 10 years of data out of it is a big thing for us.” (Internal tags are more secure and, thus, longer-lasting than external tags.)
Joan, which had been externally tagged a week earlier after it had approached a Fisheries department vessel near Limestone Head, was hooked on March 30 in shallow water near Mistaken Island.
To insert the internal tag, biologists used heavy ropes to stabilize the predator, and to roll her upside down in the water. Once the shark was turned over, she entered a state of “tonic immobility” and remained stationary.
That process took more than two hours. Inserting the tag, via small incision, required only five minutes.
Joan becomes one of about 340 tagged sharks of various species in Australian waters, and by far the largest. Five great whites have been tagged off Albany during the past year.
“We are excited by the potential of what this shark can give us,” Kleeman said. “We will be able to see where it is traveling and how often. Over time we will be able to build the data and then we can see if there are any pasterns forming, which is a great start for understanding more about them.”
Best of all, for swimmers and surfers, is that Joan will announce her presence each time she approaches a popular area beach.
As for the shark-culling program, Fisheries Minister Ken Baston told ABC News that it will not be expanded to the Albany area despite the presence of Joan.
“At this stage we’re certainly not looking at anywhere else,” Baston said.

New Fossil Takes A Bite Out Of Theory That Sharks Barely Evolved

This mako shark looks like its ancient ancestors, but it's probably evolved to be even more terrifying.
This mako shark looks like its ancient ancestors, but it's probably evolved to be even more terrifying. Sharks have looked more or less the same for hundreds of millions of years. But a newly discovered fossil suggests that under the hood, a modern shark is very different from its ancient ancestors.
The finding, , strongly implies that sharks are not the "living fossils" many paleontologists once thought they were. "They have evolved through time to improve upon the basic model," says , a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History who helped identify the fossil.
A 3-D reconstruction of the skull of a 325 million-year-old shark. The brain case is light gray, the jaw is red, and the gill arches are yellow. The skull shows that modern sharks have evolved significantly from their ancient relatives.
A 3-D reconstruction of the skull of a 325 million-year-old shark. 
The brain case is light gray, the jaw is red, and the gill arches are yellow. The skull shows that modern sharks have evolved significantly from their ancient relatives. AMNH/A. Pradel This newly discovered creature dates back 325 million years. It's no . It was probably just 2 or 3 feet long and its teeth were tiny, "although there are rows of teeth in the mouth, so it would certainly give you a painful nip," Maisey says.
The fossil of this beastie is equally modest: It looks like an . But in recent years, paleontologists have begun using tools like CT scanners to look inside fossils. When Maisey scanned the fossilized head of the new shark, he got a shock. Inside, "it's not like the anatomy of a modern shark at all," he says.
The skeleton supporting this ancient shark's gills is completely different from a modern shark's. In fact, the gill skeleton looks much more like that of an average modern-day fish.
The finding turns old ideas about sharks on their head, says , an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago. Previously, many scientists had believed that shark gills were an ancient system that predated modern fish. But this new work suggests that modern-day fish may actually be the ones with the ancient gill structures. Shark gills are the gills that evolved.
"That bucks a trend that's been in the literature for years and years that sharks are somehow primitive living fossils," Coates says.
Why did sharks change the structure of their gills? Maisey suggests it might be to help them sprint after prey. Or to open their jaws more widely, so they could snap up bigger things, like swimmers.
Whatever the reason, sharks have been changing. at Uppsala University in Sweden says the new work is an important reminder that so-called living fossils like sharks and crocodiles aren't fossils at all. They are constantly adapting to the world around them. "We have to be very, very careful with the idea of living fossils," Ahlberg says.
This ancient little shark shows that evolution is always at work.



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Turn off the maggie gene in fruit flies and larvae will never mature into adults. It's just one of the genes on Joe Hanson's list of best funny gene names.

Fish Exposed to Antidepressants Exhibit Altered Behavioral Changes

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Snake Eats Centipede, Then Centipede Eats Snake

The snake saw the centipede as a large meal. The centipede returned the favor.
A herpetologist in Macedonia found this unusual scene on Golem Grad, an island in that nation also known as "Snake Island." A study published by Dragan Arsovski and his colleagues describes it. They suspect that a female nose-horned viper tried to eat a centipede. It got the centipede down its throat, but the centipede fought back, eventually killing the snake.
Then the centipede, sort of like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, began to eat its way out of the snake. The centipede almost succeeded, breaking free from the snake's body, when the snake's venom finally killed it.
Rest in peace, centipede. We admire your grit.

Tiny Carnivore Evolved Into Huge Vegetarians

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Daily Comic Relief


Geeps and Other Adorable Animal Hybrids

This week in the Republic of Ireland, BBC revealed an interesting animal hybrid. A sheep and a goat bred together to create a baby geep! Join Trace as he discusses this new animal, and lists out a few other adorable hybrids.

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Coming Tomorrow

Coming Tomorrow
  • 9 Incredibly useful Russian words with no English equivalent 
  • A visit to a legal recreational marijuana store
  • How we are dying
  • How airlines treat the one-percenters
And more ...
This lion is our Animal Picture, for today.