Monday, July 30, 2018

Grieving Orca Carries Dead Calf for More Than 3 Days

Grieving Orca Carries Dead Calf for More Than 3 Days: ‘She’s Just Not Letting Go.’ Mihir Zaveri. The New York Times, Jul 27 2018.

Her dead calf resting on her nose, an orca has swum in mourning for more than three days in the Pacific Northwest.

The calf died Tuesday morning, half an hour after it was born off the coast of Victoria, British Columbia, to a 20-year-old whale called J35. It was the first calf known to have been born to the local population, known as the Southern Resident killer whales, since 2015.

“I think she’s just grieving, unwilling at this point to let the calf go, like, ‘Why, why, why?’” said Ken Balcomb, founder and chief scientist for the San Juan Island-based Center for Whale Research, who has tracked the population for more than 40 years.

Southern Resident killer whales, which consist of three different pods, generally stay near British Columbia and Washington State, though some swim north to Alaska and south to California. Researchers fear the decline of the population, which has been besieged by a shrinking gene pool, dwindling food supply and environmental degradation.

Orcas have been shown to have complex social circles, use vocal communication, and exhibit emotions like grief. The whales do sometimes carry the bodies of their dead calves on the water’s surface — another whale was seen doing so in the Pacific Northwest for a few hours in 2010.

But J35’s sad journey, which began near Victoria and has taken her some 150 miles around the San Juan Islands and Vancouver, has continued for an unusually long time, researchers said. It has become a devastating symbol, and an uncannily pointed one, for the whales’ plight.

“We know it happens, but this one is kind of on tour almost, like she’s just not letting go,” Mr. Balcomb said.

J35 was spotted again Friday morning near the southern end of the San Juan Islands, he said. She has largely been balancing the dead calf on her nose.

“Sometimes she bites the flipper and pulls it up,” he said. “The calf sinks because it doesn’t have enough of a blubber layer, and it goes down. She dives down and picks it back up and brings it to the surface.”

Mr. Balcomb’s team first started monitoring the area’s orca population in 1976. They numbered about 70 at the time, after approximately 50 were removed from the wild to become attractions in marine parks.

About 20 years later, after federal protections were implemented, the number of whales in the population peaked at around 100. Then it started to decline again, and today, there are about 75 left.

Given that number, there should be about nine babies born each year, Mr. Balcomb said. Instead, no calves had been born since 2015.

“Once they stop reproducing, they may still swim around here for 50 more years, but there will be no babies,” he said. “Functionally, they will be extinct.”

The population decline, and the lack of new baby whales, has largely been attributed to their primary prey, the King salmon, or Chinook, dying off.

Jan Ohlberger, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, said that the orcas prefer the larger Chinook salmon that are richer in energy, but that they have steadily declined over the last several decades.

He said it could be because of overfishing or climate. “We don’t really know,” he said. “There’s a lot of hypothesizing about that.”

Conservationists have said the whale population has also declined because of inbreeding, noise pollution from ship traffic, and municipal and industrial waste and other chemicals being spilled into the water.

There are more potential threats on the horizon. A recent agreement to expand the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which carries oil from Alberta to British Columbia, would multiply tanker traffic through the orcas’ habitat and expose them to more noise and potential spills. Construction on that pipeline is expected to begin in August.

In May, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington convened the Southern Resident Orca Task Force, a group of state, tribal, provincial and federal officials, to help protect the region’s orcas.

“The loss of a newborn orca calf from our endangered southern resident killer whale population underscores what’s at stake as we work to protect these iconic, beautiful animals from vanishing completely,” Mr. Inslee tweeted this week.

Mr. Balcomb, who sits on the governor’s task force, said J35’s plight has become a rallying point for the efforts to protect the whales.

“Everybody is devastated,” he said. “This is very, very dramatic, saddening, disheartening.”

Follow Mihir Zaveri on Twitter: @MihirZaveri.

Check also Prolonged transport and cannibalism of mummified infant remains by a Tonkean macaque mother. Arianna De Marco, Roberto Cozzolino, and Bernard Thierry. Primates,

Why are you cheating on Tinder? Between 18-25% of Tinder users is in a committed relationship while on Tinder; non-single Tinder users are more likely to report casual sexual behavior; personality differences were found between non-single users & other groups

Why are you cheating on Tinder? Exploring users’ motives and (dark) personality traits. Elisabeth Timmermans, Elien De Caluw√©, Cassandra Alexopoulos. Computers in Human Behavior,

•    Between 18-25% of Tinder users is in a committed relationship while on Tinder
•    Non-single vs. single Tinder users differ significantly on nine Tinder motives
•    Non-single Tinder users are more likely to report casual sexual behavior
•    Personality differences were found between non-single users and other groups
•    Non-single users’ personality was significantly related to their Tinder motives

Abstract: We present an exploratory study examining why people in a relationship use Tinder and whether they score higher on certain (dark) personality traits compared to single users and non-users in a committed relationship. Our results indicate that non-single Tinder users differ significantly on nine Tinder motives from single Tinder users. Moreover, non-single Tinder users generally report a higher number of romantic relationships, French kisses, one night stands, and casual sexual relationships with other Tinder users compared to single Tinder users. In terms of (dark) personality traits, non-single Tinder users score significantly lower on Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, and significantly higher on Neuroticism and Psychopathy compared to non-users in a committed relationship. For non-single Tinder users, lower scores on Agreeableness and Neuroticism and higher scores on Psychopathy and Machiavellianism are significantly correlated with the sexual Tinder motive. Additionally, Narcissism and Machiavellianism were positively associated with using Tinder for an ego-boost. Non-single users who reported to have had offline encounters with other Tinder users reported higher scores on Extraversion and Openness to Experience compared to non-single users who never had an offline encounter.

Red-fronted lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons) anoint their perianal-genital areas & tails with chewed millipedes, likely to self-medicate against gastrointestinal parasite infections by Oxyuridae nematodes, providing both prophylactic & therapeutic effects

Potential self-medication using millipede secretions in red-fronted lemurs: combining anointment and ingestion for a joint action against gastrointestinal parasites? Louise R. Peckre et al. Primates,

Abstract: Self-anointing, referring to the behaviour of rubbing a material object or foreign substance over different parts of the body, has been observed in several vertebrate species, including primates. Several functions, such as detoxifying a rich food source, social communication and protection against ectoparasites, have been proposed to explain this behaviour. Here, we report observations of six wild red-fronted lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons) of both sexes and different age classes anointing their perianal-genital areas and tails with chewed millipedes. Several individuals also ingested millipedes after prolonged chewing. In light of the features of the observed interactions with millipedes, and the nature and potential metabolic pathways of the released chemicals, we suggest a potential self-medicative function. Specifically, we propose that anointing combined with the ingestion of millipedes’ benzoquinone secretions by red-fronted lemurs may act in a complementary fashion against gastrointestinal parasite infections, and more specifically Oxyuridae nematodes, providing both prophylactic and therapeutic effects.