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12 December 2013 1:00 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
The iconic 125-year-old Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California, is facing the threat of closure...
Recent results from the Curiosity Mars rover have helped scientists formulate a plan for the next phase of its mission...
A new, remarkably powerful drug that cripples the hepatitis C virus (HCV) came to market last week, but it sells for $...
In pretoothbrush populations, gumlines would often be marred by a thick, visible crust of calcium phosphate, food...
Evolutionary biologists have long studied how the Mexican tetra, a drab fish that lives in rivers and creeks but has...
Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping,...
In an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health, researchers are excavating the graveyard of the now...
Stefan Behnisch has won awards for designing science labs and other buildings that are smart, sustainable, and...
- 12 December 2013 1:00 pm , Vol. 342 , #6164
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ScienceShot: Whale Poop Is Ecofriendly
15 June 2010 7:05 pm
Sperm whales are doing their bit for the environment every time they defecate. When the giant mammals blast air from their blowholes, they pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. But a new study of sperm whales in the Southern Ocean indicates that they pay back their carbon debt—and then some. The whales feed at great depths, ingesting squid, octopus, and other animals rich in iron, and then defecate near the water surface where this iron-rich waste fertilizes phytoplankton. The phytoplankton in turn use more carbon for photosynthesis, removing 240,000 metric tons more carbon from the atmosphere annually than the sperm whales respire, the researchers report online tomorrow in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Other marine mammals, such as pygmy and dwarf sperm whales, may also be eco-warriors, the team reports, highlighting another downside to commercial whaling.
See more ScienceShots.