Why Did the Biggest Whales Get So Big?

Ocean Leadership ~

North Atlantic right whale. (Credit: NOAA)

(Click to enlarge) North Atlantic right whale. (Credit: NOAA)

The blue whale grows up to 110 feet in length. Its heart is the size of a small car. Its major artery is big enough that you could wedge a small child into it (although you probably shouldn’t). It’s an avatar of hugeness. And its size is evident if you ever get to see one up close.

(From The Atlantic / by Ed Yong)–From the surface, I couldn’t make out the entire animal—just the top of its head as it exposed its blowhole and took a breath. But then, it dove. As its head tilted downwards, its arching back broke the surface of the water in a graceful roll. And it just kept going, and going, and going. By the time the huge tail finally broke the surface, an unreasonable amount of time had elapsed.

For scientists who study whales—and especially the sieve-mouthed baleen whales like the blue, fin, and humpback—it’s hard to escape the question of size. “They are big!” says Nick Pyenson at the Smithsonian Institution. “As an evolutionary biologist, you always have to wonder why.”

We’re not short of possible answers. Some scientists have suggested that giant bodies were adaptations to the recent Ice Age: At a time of uncertain climate and unstable food supplies, bigger whales could store more fat, and their large bodies  allowed them to more efficiently migrate in search of the best feeding grounds. Some pointed their fingers at competition between early baleen whales, forcing some members to become giant filter-feeders. Others said that whales became big to escape from titanic killers, like the megalodon shark, or the sperm whale Livyatan. Yet others have pointed to Cope’s rule—the tendency for groups of creatures to get bigger over evolutionary time.

But for Pyenson, the secret to really understanding why the baleen whales got so big is to really nail down when they got so big. And more importantly, when did they get really big? The sheer size of the baleen whales can distract us from the fact that some are much bigger than others—there’s a considerable difference between a 20-foot minke and a 100-foot blue. When did the latter titans emerge?

To find out, Pyenson teamed up with Graham Slater and Jeremy Goldbogen to collect data on the size of baleen whales, both past and present. For extinct species, they measured fossils. For living ones, they turned to museum specimens, records of beached whales, and even data from aboriginal harvests. They then mapped these measurements onto a family tree that unites all of these species, showing how they’re related and when each group evolved.

Read the full article here: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/05/why-did-the-biggest-whales-get-so-big/527874/

The post Why Did the Biggest Whales Get So Big? appeared on Consortium for Ocean Leadership.


Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Trump still not backing Paris climate agreement: Italy’s PM

ROME (Reuters) – President Donald Trump still refuses to back the 2015 Paris agreement to fight climate change, blocking efforts by world leaders meeting in Sicily to get the new U.S. leader to endorse the treaty, Italy’s prime minister said on Friday.


Reuters: Environment

New poll shows British voters want a government that cares about the environment – of course they do!

UK politicians (aside from the Green Party) may not have the environment high on the agenda but the British public want to remain part of the Paris Agreement and care deeply about climate change according to a new poll released today. JOE WARE reports
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The Ecologist

From The Federal Register, Public Meeting: Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, CNMI Mariana Archipelago Fishery Ecosystem Plan Advisory Panel (Jun. 7)

Ocean Leadership ~

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

SUMMARY:
The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold a meeting of its Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Mariana Archipelago Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) Advisory Panel (AP) to discuss and make recommendations on fishery management issues in the Western Pacific Region.

DATES:
The CNMI Mariana Archipelago FEP AP will meet on Wednesday, June 7, 2017, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. All times listed are local island times. For specific times and agendas, see SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION.

ADDRESSES:
The CNMI Mariana Archipelago FEP AP will meet at the Saipan Department of Land and Natural Resources Conference Room, Lower Base, Saipan, MP 96950.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Kitty M. Simonds, Executive Director, Western Pacific Fishery Management Council; telephone: (808) 522-8220.

For more information, click here.

The post From The Federal Register, Public Meeting: Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, CNMI Mariana Archipelago Fishery Ecosystem Plan Advisory Panel (Jun. 7) appeared on Consortium for Ocean Leadership.


Consortium for Ocean Leadership

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OSLO (Reuters) – The research arm of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has awarded grants for two projects on how climate change affects the economy and capital markets, it said on Friday.


Reuters: Environment

EFSA dismissed glyphosate cancer study after unsupported ‘viral infection’ slur of ex-EPA official

A 2001 study that showed that glyphosate caused cancer in mice was ignored by the EFSA after the unsubstantiated allegation of a former US-EPA official that the mice used in the study were suffering from a viral infection that might have given them cancer, writes Claire Robinson. The EFSA failed to properly investigate the allegation, which appears to originate in a document linked to Monsanto, maker of the world’s top-selling herbicide, glyphosate-based Roundup.
Environment news & analysis, climate change reports –
The Ecologist

Webinar: COL, MGLS, and C-DEBI Webinar on Proposal Preparation (Jun. 15)

Ocean Leadership ~

MGLS and C-DEBI Webinar on Proposal Preparation

Do you have questions about how to prepare a research proposal? Do you need advice about writing, constructing planning timelines, managing a team through the process, and preparing a budget? The Consortium for Ocean Leadership, Marine Geoscience Leadership Symposium (MGLS), and the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) are pleased to host a webinar to answer your questions. The webinar will take place June 15, 2017 at 3pm Eastern / 12pm Pacific, and will feature Donna Blackman (Scripps Institution of Oceanography) and Beth Orcutt (Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences).

Register to participate at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScA0-jdRhTbWODTiK7A6VMUugBLYtPOGq7rJASEgFNaEHcyoQ/viewform?usp=sf_link

The post Webinar: COL, MGLS, and C-DEBI Webinar on Proposal Preparation (Jun. 15) appeared on Consortium for Ocean Leadership.


Consortium for Ocean Leadership

How Whales Became the Biggest Animals on the Planet

Species like the blue whale became so big only in the past 4.5 million years, a result of changes to the food supply in the oceans, scientists say.
Oceans

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