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Tourists aren’t letting dolphins get their beauty sleep

Becky DiCello greets a resident dolphin at the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon, Florida Oct. 31, 2005.


Dolphins need their sleep

"Tourists in Hawaii often jump on a chance to see spinner dolphins up close, kayaking and snorkelling in bays where the marine animals swim," says Live Science. "But human visitors may might be depriving the dolphins of much-needed daytime rest. Spinner dolphins, famous for their aerial acrobatics, spend their days sleeping in shallow, protected bays and their nights feeding in more open waters. Unfortunately, this schedule clashes with tourists' playtime, and researchers warn that daily harassment by humans during periods of rest could have lasting negative impacts. 'Sleep is essential for most animals,' marine scientist David W. Johnston of Duke University said in a statement. … Spinner dolphins that chronically lack sleep may might seriously suffer in their ability to find food, avoid predators and communicate with other animals."

A video game for fish

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"Researchers have used a video game projected into a fish tank to study the behaviour of predatory bluegill sunfish," BBC News reports. "The team at Princeton University developed a simulation based on the type of prey favoured by the species. The simple 'game' featured red dots that moved and swarmed in different ways against a translucent screen. They found that the fish were less likely to try to attack the dots when they moved in a group formation. The research has been published in the journal Science."

Swapping food for sex

"Swordtail characins (Corynopoma riisei) that live in the rivers of Trinidad feed mostly on hapless bugs that plop into the water from surrounding vegetation," blogs Katherine Harmon for Scientific American. "In areas where streams flow mostly through forests, the characins' main fare is arboreal ants. Characins are unusual in the fish world in that they rely on internal fertilization. For male characins, however, size is beside the point: they do not even have an external organ. Still, they need to do their thing by somehow getting their genetic goods inside the female. How do they do it? The evolutionary answer turns out to be a fishing line and lure. Over the eons the male characins have developed a thin cord that extends from their gill area, on the end of which is an ornament of sorts. When a female bites onto this piece of flesh, she is in close-enough range and a good position for the male to do the deed."

Gulls are dining on whales

"What began as bizarre bird behaviour has turned into something out of a horror film for threatened whales in Argentina, where seagulls have learned that pecking at the whales' backs can get them a regular seafood dinner," Associated Press reports. "Seagull attacks on southern right whales have become so common now that authorities are planning to shoot the gulls in hopes of reducing their population. Environmentalists say the plan is misguided and that humans are the real problem, creating so much garbage that the gull population has exploded. Both sides agree that the gull attacks in one of the whales' prime birthing grounds is not only threatening the marine mammals, but the region's tourism industry as well, by turning whale-watching from a magical experience into something sad and gruesome."

New large predator?

"Pet cats are turning feral and growing to more than four feet [1.2m] in the wild, a British professor has claimed," says The Daily Telegraph. "Stephen Harris, professor of environmental sciences at Bristol University, said that since wolves and other large predators had become extinct in the U.K., a gap had opened for a large predator. He believes the niche could be being filled by previously domesticated cats which have turned feral and grown to large sizes." Prof. Harris claimed he had seen domestic cats growing to more than five feet (1.5m) in Australia.

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Electrified highways

"A scheme to electrify trucks and the highways they travel could help significantly reduce emissions," says The Futurist. "Siemens' eHighway of the Future project, undergoing tests in Germany, involves hybrid diesel-electric trucks that are equipped to connect to overhead wires. The built-in software would recognize when the overhead electricity is available, then switch power mode to electric. 'When most people think of vehicle emissions, they assume cars do most of the damage, but it's actually commercial trucks that are largely to blame,' says Daryl Dulaney, CEO, Siemens Infrastructure & Cities, United States."

The optimal commute time

"How far should you live from work?" asks "Thirty minutes at most, according to the wisdom of the crowds. That comes from reams of data and piles of research that suggests commute times tend to cluster around this point. People tend to be good at weighing their options, economists think. If you live farther from work, you can usually afford a bigger house or apartment. But there's a point where that journey becomes too onerous, and you are willing to sacrifice some of those desires to live closer to your job. That point on average seems to be between 20 and 30 minutes."

Thought du jour

"Ever notice that 'what the hell' is always the right decision?"

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Marilyn Monroe, movie star (1926-62)

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