High Noon at Big Blue: Menopausal
Whales & Jellyfish-Murdering Robots
They stand far apart in the immense liquid yonder enveloping the planet. One massive and rare, the other transparent and quasi immaterial. Whales and jellyfish have been around for millions of years, but as one’s likely to outlive us, we miss the other already.
They’re both beautiful, no mistake about it. But while the Medusa and the Man of War are growing strong around the oceans, the majestic blue and the singing humpback, harmless as they are, are swimming to oblivion, and may not get to meet your great-grandchildren.
It doesn’t help that we know so little of either one, and that the very world they inhabit, from which we all draw our sustenance, is on the verge of collapse, victimized by pollution, climate change and overfishing. While we multiply, marine life dwindles, and it’s the fragile among us that’s going first.
For when it comes to survival, size may be a liability. Ours is in the numbers; the whales’ is in the scope of their physicality. Aliens on earth and sea stand a better chance: viruses, bacteria, bugs and jellyfish have proven way more adaptable to beat even a formidable foe as all species have found in us.
The ocean is in fact so broken that a new study found out that an annual ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico, which last year was the size of New Jersey, will continue for several decades.
These areas, which occur when there isn’t enough oxygen in the water to support marine life, are spreading out throughout the oceans and their cause is attributed to nutrient runoff, from agricultural fields which are heavily fertilized during spring.
As these areas grow, marine life recedes, and the natural diversity of the seas becomes severely depleted, even if eventually reasonable levels of oxygen return. Like a change of guard from hell, living creatures, turtles, dolphins, sharks, whales, and their accompanying flurries of feeding birds, are being quickly replaced by plastic, garbage, synthetic rope, and polystyrene foam: the new fruits of the sea.
BLOOD IN A SMALL POND
Blackfish is a documentary about the late Tilikum, an orca whale who spent her 25-plus years in captivity at SeaWorld, which ‘accused’ her of having killed or being involved in the deaths of three of its trainers. The documentary, which in the U.S. became a public television hit, was an indictment on the brutal conditions such wondrous animals are kept in this class of for-profit enterprises.
Forced to a gruesome routine of non-stop training and performing, the 12,000 pound bull, who lived most of her life in a tank the size of bus, had the typical signs of physical and mental deterioration that plague captive animals. The documentary fought SeaWorld to free Tilikum, but she died last year without ever returning to the open sea.
A powerful reason that should’ve ended enslaving whales as toys is the fact that they do share common traits with much smaller-brained humans. They live in highly complex societies, and now researchers found that they also can reach menopause, just like grandma, as one of the few species that live longer than their reproductive years.
A team at the universities of Exeter and of York is undertaking a long-term study to find out exactly how orcas organize themselves (more)
* Close Encounters
* Eerie Impersonation
* The Saddest Song