Bites at Animal Planet

Oceans

5 Feb

This Otter Can Dunk Better Than You Can

Dodo Circular

(Guest post by Caitlin Jill Anders from thedodo.com)

An athletic little otter is putting everyone else to shame by showing off his pretty insane basketball skills.

Eddie, who lives at the Oregon Zoo, learned to dunk a ball as part of an exercise to help his arthritic joints. It might be a difficult job for most of us, but Eddie seems to have no trouble at all.

Eddie was rescued after being orphaned as a baby off the coast of California, and has come a long way since then.

Eddie very rarely misses a basket ...

... and even when he does, he keeps trying until he makes it.

This determined otter is having fun and healing his joints at the same time, and that's definitely something to smile about.

Check out the full video of Eddie's mad skills below:

SEA OTTER SLAM DUNKING

First sea otter in the NBA?

Posted by DJ Mosaken on Thursday, March 26, 2015

We're #WildforOtters! Are you? Calling all otter fans! Want to watch cute sea otters romp, wrestle and play every day of the year? Watch this!


Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

4 Feb

This Baby Animal Can Grow Up to be 1,400 Pounds

Dodo Circular

(Guest post by Zainab Akande from thedodo.com)

Did you know? The tiny, baby version of this massive sea creature is small enough to fit on the tip of a human finger.

In an incredible photo by Juan C. Levesque, a marine biologist, we're given a close-up look at the "gladiator of the sea," as Levesque calls him. In other words, a swordfish.

"Overall, swordfish grow rapidly in early years, but then their growth slows with age, which occurs around age 8 or 9," Levesque explained in a post for Florida Sportsman. According to Levesque, on average, swordfish can grow up to a whopping 14 inches per year. Thankfully, he goes on to do the math for us.

"It has been reported that swordfish can top 14 feet and 1,400 pounds in weight, but these large fish are rare these days," Levesque said, adding that female swordfish tend to have the upper hand compared to their male counterparts; they grow faster and bigger, and live longer. Sorry fellas.

"In my 7 years collecting data on commercial fishing vessels, the largest swordfish I ever saw captured was around 500 pounds; it was caught near West Palm Beach, Florida," he said.

Whether at 500 or 1,400 pounds, it's still surreal to think that a baby this small …

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 1.49.29 PM

… can grow up to be this big.

Continue reading >

4 Feb

'Purple Sock' Found on Sea Floor Could Change Our Understanding of Animals

Dodo Circular

(Guest post by Solon Kelleher from thedodo.com)

No brain. No eyes. No face. This creature performs just three simple functions: eat, shit and reproduce.


MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM RESEARCH INSTITUTE

Sound familiar?

It should. The intake of nutrients, the excretion of waste and reproduction are among the defining characteristics of life.

What makes this animal different from most others on Earth is that the asexual creature performs each of these tasks through only one hole.

The extremely simple organism is known as the "purple sock" or, scientifically speaking, the Xenoturbella churro, "named for its resemblance to the popular fried-dough pastry."

Scientists recently discovered that much of life on Earth could be descendants of this sock-like creature. While it's certainly not the oldest animal on Earth, scientists involved in the study found out that the Xenotubella genus, of which the "purple sock" is a member, dates back much farther than most animals on earth today, and has now been placed "near the base of the evolutionary tree of animals."

Continue reading >

22 Jan

Tiniest Arrival Brings New Hope to Endangered Orcas

Dodo Circular

(Guest post by Ameena Schelling from thedodo.com)

There's a bit of good news for a wild orca family that's been fighting for years to survive.

A new calf was born recently to the southern resident orcas, an endangered population of orcas that lives mainly off the coast of Washington and British Columbia, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) fisheries department announced on Tuesday.

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 12.15.59 PM

It's unclear who mothered the little calf, who was named J55, but the NOAA said he appeared to be doing well. "The calf seems to be just a few days old and in good condition," the department wrote.

Unfortunately, news from the southern residents isn't all good. On the same trip that confirmed the birth of J55, researchers witnessed a 20-year-old female, J31, pushing around a deceased newborn calf. J31 has never successfully bred, according to the NOAA,

Yet the successful arrival of J55 is excellent news for the southern residents, who are made up of three smaller groups: the J, K and L pods. The southern residents had their population decimated in the 1960s and 1970s after an entire generation of babies was stolen and shipped off to marine parks; witnesses reported hearing the mother orcas screaming as their babies were captured in nets.

Since then, the family has struggled to rebuild its population, and has been further hindered by a host of human threats including pollution, vessel noise and reduced food availability.

For several years, researchers feared that the southern residents were on their way out; there were no surviving calves from the 2013 or 2014 breeding seasons. But little J55 is the latest in a spurt of births over the past year, bringing the total population up to 85.

Hopefully the little calf is a sign of things to come for the endangered family.

For an up-close look at the southern residents — including some very happy whale jumps — click here and here.

15 Jan

Weird Weather in North Carolina Displaces 600 Juvenile Turtles

Last week, temperatures in North Carolina plummeted 30 degrees. The drastic drop caused havoc in the ocean, shocking the systems of over 600 juvenile turtles and leaving them "cold stunned".

According to Michele Lamping, a aquarist at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, the condition is similar to hypothermia. The turtle is unable to move, floats to the surface of the ocean and is at the mercy of the water current.  

"Some turtles wash ashore, others can be harmed by predators and in some cases, the turtles may die," Lamping added.

Luckily, rescuers were alerted in time to save a large majority of the distressed turtles. They caught more than 600 in two days, CNN originally reported. They were distributed to three aquariums and Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City.

Population explosion at the sea turtle hospital. Major cold stunning along the North Carolina coast. Pictures of lots...

Posted by The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center on Thursday, January 7, 2016

"We want to get as many of them back out there so they can continue their life and have adulthood and reproduce just like all the other turtles," Lamping told WCTI12.

While the fate of the rescued turtles is currently unknown, the North Carolina Aquarium posted a series of tweets yesterday that suggest some of the turtles have been released back into the warmer waters.

 

Unfortunately, this occurrence is a growing trend along the east coast, which saw unusually warm temperatures in November and December. According to Fox5News in New York, 42 turtles have been rescued this month, with only 13 surviving. 

 

15 Jan

Whitespotted Bamboo Sharks Are Having Babies Without Having Sex

Dodo Circular

(Guest post by zainabakande from thedodo.com)

These sharks are saying "no thank you" to baby daddy drama — by skipping out on the daddy part entirely.

For the first time in history, scientists have witnessed a miraculous virgin birth two generations in a row by a captive whitespotted bamboo shark, according to new findings by the Journal of Fish Biology. While virgin births have been seen in other animals before, what makes this shark's ability to reproduce all on her own so incredible is the fact that she was the result of a virgin birth as well. And, to top things off, one of this miracle shark's offspring also went on to reproduce asexually.

Previously, the general consensus among scientists held that invertebrates (animals without backbones) were the primary champions of asexual reproduction, also known as parthenogenesis, or, in layman's terms, having babies without the act of, well, baby-making. Now, it seems this alternative method to producing offspring is en vogue with other vertebrate animals as well, with Komodo dragons, water snakes and, now, these sharks all going 100 percent sperm-free. In the case of the sharks, the study marks the first time scientists have seen two generations of a species — mother, followed by her child — give birth without sex.

So, what do all of these virgin births actually mean? Well, animals conceived in this seemingly miraculous manner are, in fact, capable of reproducing normally. They are not an evolutionary dead end, Nicolas Straube, of the Bavarian State Collection for Zoology in Munich, told the New Scientist. This study brings asexual reproduction in animals to the forefront as an valid alternative to having sex.

In short, just because animals have a virgin birth doesn't mean their offspring will be born infertile — their offspring are just as capable as reproducing with orwithout a mate, continuing an animal's genetic lineage for generations to come.

Love sharks? Watch them live!


Live video by Animal Planet L!ve

14 Jan

Rescuers Rush to Save Over 80 Beached Whales in India

Dodo Circular

(Guest post by Emily Watson from thedodo.com)

And they're running out of time.

Whales Are Beaching Themselves And No One Knows Why

Let's hope they get home safely.

Posted by The Dodo on Wednesday, January 13, 2016

When Sea Shepherd encounters a pilot whale graveyard, it not only takes a toll on their emotions, it prepares them for the battle ahead.

14 Jan

Another Sea Snake Washes Up on Southern California Shore

Yet another yellow-bellied sea snake has appeared on Southern California's shore, this time near Coronado. This is the second snake to wash up in the past month, with the first being found mid-December near Huntington Beach. Before now, a yellow-bellied sea snake hadn't been spotted near the shore since 1972.

El Nino is the most plausible reason for the sudden appearance of these snakes so far north. Yellow-bellied sea snakes are native to the tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, but El Nino has made waters further north much warmer than usual.

While this species of sea snake is highly venomous, there are no recorded human deaths connected to a yellow-bellied sea snake bite.

The 20-inch long snake was barely alive when it was found and passed away shortly after its discovery.

Learn more about sea snakes here:

14 Jan

Dozens of Pilot Whales Beach Themselves, No One Knows Why

Dodo Circular

(Guest post by zainabakande from thedodo.com)

More than 80 whales have washed ashore on this beach — and no one knows exactly why.

On the south coast of India, the whales have been stuck on land since Monday without any way of making it back home to the sea.

"The cause of mass strandings in pilot whales remains one of the great mysteries in the social behavior of whales and dolphins," C. Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, told The Dodo.

"Although strandings of some species, such as beaked whales, are now known to be the result of human disturbance, such as navy sonar or seismic surveys, the mass strandings of pilot whales seems to be a natural phenomenon that results from their strong social bonds," he added.

That means, he said, that they may be intentionally beaching: "The close social bonds presumably results in a kind of 'herd panic' or 'herd cohesion,' bringing the entire social group (the pod) into the shallow waters and at risk of stranding."

Of the dozens of whales who have washed ashore, 45 have died and the remaining 36 have been pushed back out to sea, Al Jazeera reported.

Continue reading >

8 Jan

West Indian Manatee Population Grows, Proposed to be Down Listed from Endangered to Threatened

FOOTT.06987
Photo by Jeff Foote 

Great news about one of the most adorable and recognizable mammals in the sea: the West Indian manatee population in Florida has estimated to have grown by 500%! Due to this growth, The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced their proposal to downgrade the species from endangered to threatened.

According to surveys made in 1991, there were only 1,267 manatees in Florida. Now, there are estimated to be more than 6,300 in Florida! This is largely due to efforts by the Parks Service to reduce manatee collisions with high-speed boats and entanglement in fishing line, as well as enforcing manatee protection areas and work with manatee rescue organizations. 

In the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service press release, they explain that "The ESA defines an endangered species as one currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and a threatened species as one that is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future."

“The manatee’s recovery is incredibly encouraging and a great testament to the conservation actions of many,” said Cindy Dohner, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director. “Today’s proposal is not only about recognizing this progress, but it’s also about recommitting ourselves to ensuring the manatee’s long-term success and recovery."

Congratulations to the manatees!

Learn more endangered species here and take the pledge to #StartWith1Thing to help save the world's animals.

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