As polar seas heat up, mammals will find less slow, stupid prey

A polar bear keeps close to her young in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, in a March 6, 2007 handout photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 29 January 2019

As polar seas heat up, mammals will find less slow, stupid prey

  • The scientists estimated that every one degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) increase in sea surface temperature will lead to a 12 percent decline in the abundance of marine mammals

OSLO: Global warming will make life harder for mammals and birds hunting in polar seas by perking up fish that were slow, stupid and easy to catch in icy waters, scientists said on Thursday.
Seals, whales, penguins and other warm-bodied creatures rule polar seas partly because their constant internal temperatures let them put on bursts of speed and stay more alert than cold-blooded prey, they wrote in the journal Science.
But rising temperatures in the Arctic Ocean and seas around Antarctica are slowly enlivening fish, from small capelin to large sharks, whose bodies and brains go slow in frigid waters.
“Overall, warm-bodied predators are favored where prey are slow, stupid, and cold,” the scientists, led by John Grady at Michigan State University, wrote in the study.
“Being faster than your prey or enemies ... is an important advantage for surviving and getting food,” Grady told Reuters in an email of the findings by scientists in the United States, Germany, Canada and England.
DEADLIER SHARKS “Faster sharks are deadlier sharks. The most vulnerable mammals and birds are those that feed on fast-moving fish and have to worry about shark predators: this includes many penguins, puffins and sea lions,” he wrote.
The wide diversity of marine mammals and seabirds in polar regions is a biological oddity, because species tend to be more varied nearer the equator. The warm-body advantage in frigid waters helps explain the paradox.
The scientists estimated that every one degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) increase in sea surface temperature will lead to a 12 percent decline in the abundance of marine mammals.
Almost 200 governments pledged in the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit a rise in temperatures to “well below” two degrees C above pre-industrial times by phasing out fossil fuels. But governments are lagging behind and temperatures are expected to rise 3C (5.4F) or so by 2100, the UN estimates.
The polar power struggle between warm- and cold-blooded creatures is one aspect of warming that is also driving many species of fish and other marine life toward the poles or to the depths.
And scientists have found that thick layers of blubber, a sign of health for Arctic mammals, have thinned on harp seals and minke whales in recent years. That may signal that they are losing out to rival cod in catching smaller fish.
“Cod have invaded some of the areas where the harp seals and minke whales used to feed without competition,” Tore Haug, a scientist at Norway’s Institute of Marine Research, told Reuters. He was not involved in Thursday’s study.


Married only minutes, Texas newlyweds killed in crash

Updated 25 August 2019

Married only minutes, Texas newlyweds killed in crash

  • Judge who married the couple also pronounced them dead at the scene

ORANGE, Texas: Harley Morgan was still wearing his dark suit and Rhiannon Boudreaux her wedding dress when the Texas “childhood sweethearts” were killed in a crash with a truck minutes after they were married.
Nineteen-year-old Morgan and 20-year-old Boudreaux were pronounced dead Friday at the scene by the same justice of the peace who had just married them.
“I’m talking five minutes. You may kiss the bride,” said Orange Police Cpt. Keith Longlois. “The family was right behind them. They were all going out to go to wherever they were going to have their reception,” he said.
Longlois said they were “childhood sweethearts” who decided to be married by a popular Orange County Justice of the Peace Joy Dubose-Simonton.
He said the groom was driving when he tried to exit the driveway of the Justice of The Peace building onto a five-lane highway. A truck pulling a trailer carrying a heavy tractor slammed into their vehicle. The force was so great that witnesses said the car flipped multiple times before coming to rest in a ditch.
The driver of the truck was not identified but Longlois said he was cooperating with the investigation and there was no sign of wrongdoing. Drug and alcohol tests would be conducted, he said.
“I had to sit there and watch my two babies die,” the mother of the groom, LaShawna Morgan, told the Beaumont Enterprise.