World’s largest whales are mostly ‘right-handed’, study finds

In this Nov. 13, 2017, file photo, rescuers attempt to push stranded whales back into the ocean at Ujong Kareng beach in Aceh province, Indonesia. An official said whales were stranded at the beach and attracted hundreds of onlookers who posed for pictures with them. (AP Photo/Syahrol Rizal, File)
Updated 20 November 2017
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World’s largest whales are mostly ‘right-handed’, study finds

MIAMI, USA: Blue whales, the world’s largest animals, usually favor their right side when they lunge to catch food — a preference similar to right-handedness in people, researchers said Monday.
But on certain occasions while moving upward in shallow water, these righties will almost always shift to their left to keep a good eye on their favored prey — tiny crustaceans known as krill.
The reason for this situation-specific choice is likely simple: to get as much food in their mouths as possible, said the report published in Current Biology.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first example where animals show different lateralized behaviors depending on the context of the task that is being performed,” said co-author James Herbert-Read of Stockholm University in Sweden.
The report was based on analysis of the movement of 63 blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) off the coast of California.
These giant creatures are almost as long as three school buses and weigh as much as 25 elephants.
Scientists analyzed more than 2,800 feeding plunges, in which whales make sharp turns or rolls when passing a patch of krill, in order to eat as many as possible.
Most blue whales veer right in deep water, where it is dark and there are a lot of krill, so visual contact is not as important.
But when the water is between 10 and 100 feet (three to 30 meters), most prefer to roll left at a steep angle.
Researchers think this happens because prey tend to be less plentiful at shallow depth, and moving left allows whales to keep their right eye on their target.
“These are the largest animals on the planet and feeding is an extraordinarily costly behavior that takes time, so being able to maximize the benefit of each feeding opportunity is critical,” said lead author Ari Friedlaender, a cetacean expert with the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University.
“And we believe this left-sided rotation is a mechanism to help achieve that,” he added.
“If the whales turned to the right on approach, they would lose sight of their prey and decrease the ability to forage successfully. By rolling to the left, the whales may be maintaining this visual connection to their prey.”
Researchers say that lefties are unusual in the animal kingdom.
Scientists hope to study more whales to see if other species also exhibit a preference for left turns in some contexts.
“We were completely surprised by these findings, but when considering the means by which the whales attack smaller prey patches, the behavior really seems to be effective, efficient, and in line with the mechanisms that drive their routine foraging behaviors,” Friedlaender said.


King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology unveils self-guided Black Shark boat at 38th GITEX Technology Week

The development of the Black Shark smart boat is part of a KACST initiative to localize and transform transport technology and logistics, to help achieve the aims of Vision 2030. (SPA)
Updated 20 October 2018
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King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology unveils self-guided Black Shark boat at 38th GITEX Technology Week

  • These trucks are equipped with electronic pairing technologies, which effectively improve the shipping and distributing of goods, reduce human error

JEDDAH: King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) has unveiled its Black Shark self-guided boat at the 38th GITEX Technology Week in Dubai. The vessel, which can carry out coastal surveillance and many other tasks, was developed in collaboration with Taqnia for Robotics and Smart Systems.
The development of the craft is part of a KACST initiative to localize and transform transport technology and logistics, to help achieve the aims of Vision of 2030.
The boat includes sensor systems that allow it to monitor and create a 3D map of a 200-meter area surrounding the boat, and automated control technology that gives it the ability to navigate independently and avoid collisions without human input. It can also be equipped with a flexible range of weapons, acting as a firearms platform that uses gyroscopic self-balancing technology. It has the ability to survey beaches at a range of 15 kilometers, in addition to accurately identifying its precise location with a margin of error of less than 20 centimeters using differential GPS, as well as specifying, monitoring and tracking targets.
The Black Shark also has long-range radar that covers up to 150 kilometers, and a telecommunication system to track its location, monitor its status and connect to multiple domains through command centers that allow wireless communication and remote control. It is fitted with a digital camera powered by electro-optic and infrared technology that can produce HD-quality video, and also has night vision capability.
As part of its initiative to develop transport technology and logistics, KACST has also worked on automated control technology, included self-driving heavy-duty trucks, with the University of California, Berkeley. These trucks are equipped with electronic pairing technologies, which effectively improve the shipping and distributing of goods, reduce human error, preserve resources, and reduce harmful emissions and fuel consumption.
The same technology can also, for example, transform a four-wheel-drive vehicle into a remote-controlled vehicle equipped with video cameras, infrared technology, a microphone and a control device wirelessly connected to a command center, where an operator can guide it using images from the video cameras.