Yes indeed, whale pooh is good for you!
Apparently, sperm whale pooh is rich in iron, which stimulates phytoplankton to grow and trap carbon. When the phytoplankton die, the trapped carbon sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
Thus, each year, sperm whales in the Southern Ocean remove approximately 400,000 tonnes of carbon from our atmosphere each year – more than double the amount of carbon they add by breathing out carbon dioxide.
Now all we have to do is stop hunting them so we can maximize our whale pooh!
More on whales – this time from Libby Eyre of Macquarie University. Libby has been studying the humpbacks’ songs. The whales sing when they are migrating or breeding. Although to us the songs sound like high-pitched groans, the songs are actually little verses containing individual notes.
In fact, some whale songs which are sung by the males, are so catchy that by the time the pod have finished their long migration journeys, the whole pod are singing the same song.
Libby is travelling to Tonga this year to study the singing behaviour of some Australian east coast humpback whales.
These were the quirky whale stories that I read this week. Another cute story was about the Barbary Macaque. You can read it too at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/15/science/15fath.html?ref=science
In an article in the Journal ‘Animal Behaviour’, Julia Fischer of the German Primate Center in Göttingen, discusses the social behaviour of the Barbary Macaques.
The male macaques use babies as a social networking tool.
You’ve probably seen numerous photos of politicians clutching horrified children (their own and other people’s). Well, the male Barbary Macaque also realizes the social value of children by dragging along the kids to meetings with other males. If they want to impress the boys they take along the kids; if they want to repair a damaged relationship they drag along the kids; and if they want to create new bonds with other macaques they bring the children.
“They will hold up the infant like a holy thing, nuzzling it, chattering their teeth,” Dr. Fischer said. “It can be a bit bewildering to see.”
Considering that children of the human species often complain that their fathers are emotionally detached and would rather work than play with them, it is heart warming to know that this is not the case with all primates.
Certainly not with the male cotton-top tamarin and the common marmoset.
When their mate becomes pregnant, the males’ hormones change and they immediately start to put on weight. This is because the females have twins and the males will have the strength to carry the babies around until they are able to look after themselves. The female has other duties. She has to produce milk for two and also become pregnant about two weeks after giving birth.
Now is that interesting? Unfortunately cotton-top tamarins are endangered as their territory has been severely diminished, but they sound like very nice chaps, as do the Barbary Macaques.