When ships pass, whales eat less, says study

NATURE’S BEAUTY: A Humpback whale swimming on the surface of the Pacific Ocean at the Uramba Bahia Malaga natural park in Colombia. (AFP)
Updated 11 August 2016
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When ships pass, whales eat less, says study

PARIS: Noise from ships impedes humpback whales from foraging for food, and could have long-term impacts on the health of these majestic creatures, according to a study released Wednesday.
Shipping lanes overlapping with the coastal migratory paths of whales create a steady source of underwater noise pollution.
Earlier research has shown how this can interfere with the behavior of so-called toothed whales, a category that included dolphins, as well as killer and sperm whales, that emit sonar-like pings to locate prey and communicate.
But very little was known about how the constant, low-frequency drone of ocean vessels might affect baleen whales, the other major category.
These include blue, humpback, right and bowhead whales.
To find out, a team of scientists led by Hannah Blair of Syracuse University in New York attached non-intrusive sensors to 10 humpbacks in the western North Atlantic.
The devices not only picked up and recorded all the sounds heard by the whales, but also tracked their underwater movement.
Humpbacks have a wide array of foraging techniques used to consume a large number of small prey, including one maneuver scientists call the “bottom side-roll.”
To feed on sand lance, bottom-dwelling eel-like fish, “the whale dives and scrapes along the ocean floor,” explained Blair.
A humpback can deep-dive for up to 30 minutes.
“At the same time, it rolls regularly onto its side and opens its mouth, scooping up the fish hidden in the sand,” especially at night, she told AFP.
Every barrel roll is like a meal.
The study found that half of the whales, all of them adult females, failed to execute these important side-rolls in the presence of ship noise on at least one of their deep dives.
Researchers can only speculate as to why.
The humpback may have perceived the ships as a threat. It is also possible, they said, that the prey reacted to the noise too, scattering or digging more deeply into the sand.
Humpbacks have been dealing with chronic noise from ships for decades, and have shown some capacity to adapt.
The new findings, however, “suggest that the whales are unable to completely adjust to this disturbance,” the study concluded.
The paper appears in Biology Letters, a journal published by Britain’s de-facto academy of sciences, the Royal Society.


India to make new bid to launch Moon rocket on Monday

Updated 18 July 2019
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India to make new bid to launch Moon rocket on Monday

  • India would become the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon
  • The project is one of the cheapest amongst its kind internationally

NEW DELHI: India will make a new bid to launch a landmark mission to the Moon on Monday, a week after aborting lift-off at the last minute because of a fuel leak, officials said.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said it had rescheduled the launch of Chandrayaan-2, or Moon Chariot-2, for 2:43 p.m. (0913 GMT) on Monday.
India is aiming to become just the fourth nation after Russia, the United States and China to land a spacecraft on the Moon.
Indian space chiefs called off the planned launch of the rocket 56 minutes before blast-off on Monday morning because of what ISRO called a “technical snag.”
Media reports quoted ISRO scientists saying a helium fuel leak had been detected.
India has spent about $140 million on preparations for the project, which is one of the cheapest among international space powers.
By comparison, the United States spent about $25 billion — the equivalent of more than $100 billion in current prices — on 15 Apollo missions in the 1960s and 70s.
The rocket will launch from a space center in Sriharikota, an island off the coast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
It will carry an orbiter, lander and a rover which has been almost entirely designed and made in India.
The orbiter is meant to keep circling the Moon for about one year, taking pictures of the surface and sending back information on the atmosphere.
A lander named Vikram will take the rover to the surface near the lunar South Pole.
India’s first lunar mission in 2008 — Chandrayaan-1 — did not land on the Moon, but carried out a search for water using radar.
A soft landing on the Moon would be a huge leap forward in India’s space program, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi determined to launch a manned mission into space by 2022.
India also has ambitions to land a probe on Mars. In 2014, India became only the fourth nation to put a satellite into orbit around the Red Planet.