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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: When Whale Watching Turns Deadly
24 December 2013 1:15 pm
Humpback whales are facing new dangers in Hawaiian waters, where more than 10,000 of the cetaceans congregate from December to April to calve and breed. That’s the conclusion of an analysis of historical records of ship strikes on humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the seas around the Hawaiian Islands between 1975 and 2011. In that 36-year period, 68 such strikes were reported, including the one that injured the humpback calf in the photo above. The scientists have not yet been able to quantify the number of whales lethally wounded or killed outright by such hits. Because more than 63% of the collisions involved calves and subadults, the scientists conclude that these younger animals are particularly susceptible to being struck, most likely because they spend more time at the surface to breathe than do adults. Worryingly, the number of strikes has steadily increased over the years, the team reports in the Journal of Cetacean Research and Management—and not because there are more whales. Instead, the increase is apparently due to tourism. The majority of vessels that have collided with whales in Hawaii are small- to medium-sized boats, less than 21.2 meters in length, the scientists say, which happens to be the size of commercial whale-watching vessels. Federal regulations require these boats to remain at least 100 yards distance from the humpbacks. They may be keeping their distance while observing the whales, but not when under way: The majority of collisions occurred when the vessels were travelling at 10 to 19 knots, the team reports—apparently, too fast to avoid colliding with the very animals the skippers and tourists have come out to watch.