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.


Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

Updated 20 March 2019
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Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

  • 5G will be used in 30% of big cities in Saudi Arabia by 2020
  • 90% of KSA has 4G technology coverage, including remote centers and villages

RIYADH: Information and communications technology (ICT) is one of the main drivers of development in today’s world, a Riyadh forum on “Digital Transformation for an Ambitious Country” has been told.

In his opening speech to the annual Communications and Information Technology Indicators Forum, Abdul Aziz Al-Ruwais, governor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission, said the ICT sector stimulated productivity, enhanced competitiveness and encouraged innovation.

On Wednesday, the Saudi minister of communications and information technology, Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawaha, joined regional and global leaders in the ICT sector, telecom executives and government officials at the forum.

Al-Ruwais said that ICT has been used to “develop strategies and regulatory policies that can guarantee the availability of infrastructure, basic apparatus and services in all regions of the Kingdom.”

“In order to facilitate the mission of researchers, experts and those interested in telecommunication services indicators, the Communications and Information Technology Commission established an electronic platform that allows the user to have access to indicators and statistics related to the sector. This platform enables the user to view the indicators in the form of tables and detailed graphs,” he said.

Al-Ruwais said the commission has achieved 90 percent coverage of 4G technologies in the Kingdom, including remote centers and villages.

He said the authority has issued temporary licenses for fifth-generation networks, equipping 153 sites with 5G in nine cities. So far, 680 trials were conducted for 5G.

He said that ICT services achieved high indicators during the 2017 Hajj season, with local and international calls totaling 439 million through 16,000 base stations.

Mufarreh Nahari, director of Market Studies at CITC, said: “It is expected that by 2020 the experimental uses of 5G will be fully completed and they will be ready to launch the official 5G sim by then. By the end of 2020 we expect that 5G will be used in 30 percent of the big cities in Saudi Arabia.”

The past three years have seen an increase in internet usage. In 2018, two-thirds of Internet users in the Kingdom used the internet for more than four hours a day, said Nahari.

Ammar Al-Ansari, department head of Country Digital Acceleration at Cisco, said: “The agreements signed by the crown prince during his overseas visits led to the introduction of a number of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, including virtual schools and smart classrooms.” 

Seven schools in Saudi have a live stream for teachers to connect with their students. They may be 250 km to 300 km apart, but an active learning session takes place between students and educators.

Al-Ansari displayed a video from a teacher in Jeddah giving lessons to students in the northern region via a smart board. AI was used to monitor and analyze students’ attention spans. 

The analysis will help educators update traditional teaching methods.