Sperm whale poonado

ENCOUNTERING a mighty sperm whale is a magical experience. But in this case, it was tempered somewhat by a rarely seen defence mechanism: emergency defecation.

Sperm whales are the largest toothed predators in the world, so what have they got to be scared of? Here it was pesky divers buzzing around them, taking photos.

Canadian photographer Keri Wilk was sailing off the island of Dominica in the Caribbean, hoping to film these gargantuan creatures, when he spotted one and jumped in for some close-ups. The whale approached Wilk and his three colleagues, pointed downwards, and began to evacuate its bowels. To make matters worse, it then started to churn up the water. “Like a bus-sized blender, it very quickly and effectively dispersed its faecal matter into a cloud,” says Wilk.

Defensive defecation has been recorded in pygmy and dwarf sperm whales, which, as their names suggest, are diminutive compared with their cousins. But this is perhaps less surprising, given that they have natural predators. Wilk is unaware of any other reports of sperm whales’ emergency excretion.

Despite what you might think of being enveloped in what Wilk describes as a “poonado”, he cherishes the moment. “I’ve experienced lots of interesting natural phenomenon underwater, all over the world, but this is near the top of the list,” he says. “As long as you didn’t take your mask off, you couldn’t really smell anything. Taste is another matter…”


Adoption at sea: sperm whales take in outcast bottlenose dolphin


A group of sperm whales appear to have taken in a deformed bottlenose dolphin, marine researchers have discovered.

Behavioral ecologists Alexander Wilson and Jens Krause of Berlin’s Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries came across the heartwarming scene some 15 to 20 kilometers off the Azores in the North Atlantic, as they observed the dolphin six times while it nuzzled and rubbed members of the group, reports the journal Science.

“It really looked like they had accepted the dolphin for whatever reason. They were being very sociable,” Wilson told the journal.

The dolphin’s unfortunate deformity — a spinal disfigurement, likely a birth defect, which gives its back half an “S” shape — could help explain how it’s come to be taken in by the sperm whale group, explains Science.

“Sometimes some individuals can be picked on. It might be that this individual didn’t fit in, so to speak, with its original group,” Wilson says, speculating that the deformity could have put the animal at a disadvantage among its own kind — perhaps it had a low social status, or just couldn’t keep up with the other dolphins.

Sperm whales swim more slowly than dolphins, notes the journal, and the pod designates one member to “babysit” the calves near the surface while the other adults dive deep.

But what was in it for the sperm whales? There’s no obvious advantage, Wilson tells Science.

In fact, as cetacean ecologist Mónica Almeida e Silva of the University of the Azores in Portugal tells the journal, sperm whales have good reasons not to like bottlenose dolphins. “Why would sperm whales accept this animal in their group?” she said. “It’s really puzzling to me.”

But maybe we shouldn’t draw too much from this apparent display of affection: as behavioral biologist Luke Rendell of the University of St. Andrews in the U.K. explained to Science, the briefness of the observation, and its rarity, as well as how little is known about these particular whales, makes it hard to interpret. They might simply enjoy the dolphin’s attentions, says Rendell, or “they could just be thinking, ‘Wow, this is a kind of weird calf’.”

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/01/26/adoption-at-sea-sperm-whales-take-in-outcast-bottlenose-dolphin/#ixzz2J7iTuEgQ

8 year old boy finds sperm whale vomit worth over $60,000

A 8-year-old schoolboy could be in the money after discovering a rare piece of whale vomit worth £40,000 ($63,462) on his local beach.

Charlie Naysmith found the ambergris, the technical term for the substance vomited or excreted by sperm whales, while walking along Hengistbury Head, near Bournemouth.

The Daily Mail reports that the lump is potentially worth £40,000 – a pound of ambergris sells for as much as £6,300 ($10,000).

Charlie’s father Alex said that they have contacted the authorities to find out more background on the unusual find:  ‘He is into nature and is really interested in it.
“We have discovered it is quite rare and are waiting for some more information from marine biology experts.”

The substance is sought-after by perfume-makers as it has traditionally been added to fragrances to prolong the scent.

During the time of the Black Plague, it was believed that carrying a ball of ambergris would prevent the spread of the disease, due to the fragrance covering the smell of the air.

Charlie has reportedly said that he is thinking of putting his new-found riches into an animal shelter.