Tag: blue whale

Look at This: Enormous Whales Have Enormous (and Interesting) Poop

By Valerie Ross | August 10, 2012 3:17 pm

Blue whales, the largest animals on Earth, can eat about four tons of food a day—and when they’re done digesting, there’s still a whole lot of stuff left over. This aerial shot, taken by oceanographic consultant Eddie Kisfaludy off the Southern California coast, shows a blue whale and a truly enormous plume of its poop, the same vibrant orange as the krill on which the whales feed.

Whale feces, it turns out, plays a substantial role in ocean ecosystems. Since it floats to the surface, it brings nitrogen whales have taken in when they fed in the ocean’s depths to shallow waters, providing a much-needed nutrient for plankton there. The massive mammals’ poop also serves as a significant carbon sink; one study estimated that excrement from sperm whales in the Southern Ocean alone sequestered 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World

News Roundup: Real-Life Blood Spatter Analysis Catches Up to “Dexter”

By Andrew Moseman | March 1, 2011 2:55 pm


  • Materials violence: NASA will use a million pounds of force to crush a 20-foot-tall aluminum-lithium rocket fuel tank outfitted with sensors (all in the name of science, of course). The idea is to test out how modern composite materials buckle under incredible pressure, in the hope of finding out where the weaknesses might be.
  • Real-life forensic science is rarely as easy or glamorous as its TV counterpart. Actual blood spatter experts, for example, don’t operate with quite the ease of the title character in “Dexter.” But a new study proposes a way to use simple trigonometry to calculate not only the point of origin for blood but also the height above the ground, which previously couldn’t be determined.
  • You knew this day would come: The United States has approved the first deepwater offshore drilling permit given out since the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
  • As strong as metal and as moldable as plastic: Yale scientist Jan Schroers’ new super-alloys.
  • Half of adult males may be carrying the human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a study in The Lancet. It often lingers quietly but is transmitted sexually and is the cause of most cervical cancers in women.
  • Strictly speaking, there should be no blue whales.” So begins DISCOVER blogger Carl Zimmer as he explores the curious question of why blue whales, with so many more cells than human beings and so many chances for those cells to go wrong, are not killed by cancer at an astounding rate.

Image: NASA

The Staggering Calorie Count of a Blue Whale's Dive for Food

By Andrew Moseman | December 9, 2010 11:32 am

BluewhaleIt takes a tremendous amount of energy to move the largest animal on Earth from a standstill to chasing food in a fierce dive. Could the krill that a blue whale catches in its gargantuan mouth really provide a high enough calorie count to make all this effort worthwhile? To find out, Jeremy Goldbogen tagged whales with data recorders and monitored hundreds of their dives. It can take 770 to 1900 calories to get the whale moving, but it’s worth it.

From Ed Yong:

When Goldbogen plugged the data from his recorders into a simulation of a feeding whale, he found that the lunge is staggeringly efficient. Despite the massive outlay in energy, the whale easily recoups anywhere from 6 to 240 times that amount, depending on how big it is and how tightly packed its krill targets are.

If a big whale attacks a particularly dense swarm, it can swallow up to 500 kilograms of krill, eating 457,000 calories in a single monster mouthful and getting back almost 200 times the amount it burned in the attempt. A smaller whale lunging at a sparse collection of krill would only get around 8,000 calories, but that’s still 8 times more than what it burned. Even when Goldbogen accounted for the energy needed to dive in search of prey, the whales still regained 3 to 90 times as much energy as they spent.

Check out the rest of this post at Not Exactly Rocket Science.

Related Content:
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Across an ocean, round a continent – the epic 10,000km voyage of a humpback whale
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Behold Livyatan: the sperm whale that killed other whales
80beats: Climate Scientists Enlist Narwhals to Study the Arctic Ocean

Image: Wikimedia Commons

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World
MORE ABOUT: blue whale, food, ocean, whales
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