National Geographic’s Great Migrations, a seven part series which premieres November 7th, calls itself a collection of “the most moving stories on Earth”. It focuses on some amazing animals from around the world and the incredible journeys they take to survive. This series was a massive undertaking, with the National Geographic crew spending 2 years traveling more than 420,000 miles over 20 countries. The end result is visually spectacular, full of fascinating science and rich in never-before-told stories of animal behavior. The series itself is an great educational resource, and the website has plenty to offer teachers (particularly the Science page and the Teacher Resources page).
While many of the best-known migrations involve land animals or birds, some marine migrations are also pretty darn great.
Continue reading Great Migrations of the Ocean
Deaths among California’s sea otter populations have been increasing in the last few years. The last few years have set records for dead otters washing ashore on beaches throughout central California. The real reason for this was recently discovered (and covered earlier today by Andrew here), but I wanted to stress what was NOT responsible. For years, many people have been blaming the increased otter deaths on sharks instead of the real culprit, toxic freshwater algae. While great white sharks do bite otters, these predators are drastically declining in population. For this reason, assigning them all the blame for increased otter deaths never sat well with me- if there are fewer sharks, why are more otters being bitten by sharks? Some blame changing migration patterns of sharks due to warming seas, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Fortunately, this mystery has been solved- toxic algae, not sharks, are responsible.
Both species (otters and great whites) are protected due to low population numbers. The suggestion by some to kill great whites to protect otters shows extremely flawed conservation logic.
I should also note that otters are not part of a great white’s usual diet. When sharks bite otters, it is usually a “test bite”. When the sharks realize that otters aren’t the more fatty seals that they resemble, the sharks usually do not bite again. Sometimes, the initial test bite can be fatal.
Last week, I wrote about National Geographic’s Expedition Great White. In that post, I mentioned that the practice of removing great white sharks from the water for research was controversial, and that I would ask the lead scientist in the show about it. Here are answers to my questions from Dr. Michael Domeier and his colleague Nicole Lucas. They also wanted me to point out that their website has an FAQ page about this technique, which can be found here.
Continue reading Expedition Great White: A response from Dr. Michael Domeier
“How do you study one of the world’s fiercest predators in the wild?” the cover of the “Expedition Great White” DVD screener that National Geographic sent me asked. I was delighted to discover that my sarcastic answer of “very carefully” is exactly what the back cover of the DVD case read! I knew I was going to like this show from that point on, and I was right.
Continue reading Check out “Expedition Great White” on the National Geographic Channel!