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Earth Science

Gray Whale, Southern-Hemisphere Algae Seen In N. Atlantic 257

Posted by timothy
from the maybe-it-was-just-on-holiday dept.
oxide7 writes "The gray whale hasn't strayed to the Northern Atlantic since the 18th century. The Neodenticula seminae, a species of algae, hasn't been there in 800,000 years. Now, members of both species have been spotted in the Northern Atlantic."
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Gray Whale, Southern-Hemisphere Algae Seen In N. Atlantic

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  • by caitsith01 (606117) on Monday June 27, 2011 @02:56AM (#36581172) Journal

    Al Gore predicted all of this in An Inconvenient Truth:

    As the planet warms, the ancient machines of the gray whalean master race will begin to stir. Their instruments of death powered by minute rises in sea temperature, they will begin to send their agents of terror out on increasingly bold missions of destruction. At first the human population will be oblivious. The occasional ship sinking or swimmer mauled with characteristic baleen bite marks will be reported locally, but the dots of this sinister global movement will not be connected until it's far too late. Their algal slime will gradually colonise the land, allowing them to slither across huge distances by night. By the time the 2012 Republican presidential candidate is revealed to be a pygmy sperm whale wearing a top hat and monocle, the gray whales will have assumed total dominion over the affairs of humans, or "mega-plankton" as we are known to the grays.

    In 1995 I proposed a bill to impose a 0.2% of surcharge on the use of high fructose corn syrup in candy. The money raised was to be appropriated to fund a crack team of scuba specialists to wage humanity's covert war against whalean infiltrators. The bill was defeated. Now, alas, it may be too late.

    Why won't people listen to this guy? It's like everyone fell asleep or left after the first half of the movie or something.

    • Maybe his script was written by Frank Schätzing. The Swarm hits pretty close to this, and dramatized as it is, it's an awesome novel.

    • by PixetaledPikachu (1007305) on Monday June 27, 2011 @03:03AM (#36581206)

      Why won't people listen to this guy? It's like everyone fell asleep or left after the first half of the movie or something.

      because it's an Inconvenient truth

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why won't people listen to this guy? It's like everyone fell asleep or left after the first half of the movie or something.

      For the same reason people doesn't listen to greenpeace.
      While he says a lot of things that are true the hit/miss ratio is too bad for anyone to be able to take anything he says at face value.
      It's not enough to say a lot of things that are true. If you wan't people to start listening to you you will also have to stop telling things that aren't.

      • For the same reason people doesn't listen to greenpeace.

        Speak for yourself. I don't listen to Greenpeace because they do things like drive motorboats back and forth across the English Channel to prevent oil from coming into the UK.

    • by Disfnord (1077111) on Monday June 27, 2011 @08:38AM (#36582346) Homepage

      Al Gore is, or at least was, a politician. In the U.S., we have what is known as a two party system. Even though those two parties are often in agreement on many issues, the people who vote for those parties can be extremely emotional about their party. Consequently, to maybe 50% of the U.S. population, Al Gore is first and foremost a "Democrat" and therefore the enemy. This makes it incredibly easy to ignore everything he says as lies and liberal propaganda. And that will never change. The issue has now become politicized, there's no going back.

    • I think the answer is unfortunately obvious. There is no profit (supposedly), it is inconvenient, and it is "outside of my control" i believe are the 3 prime reasons people use. I am no socialist, so rather than arguing the earth has rights, i argue that I (and all who desire it) have a right to a livable environment robust with trees and animals of the earth and that I a "Shepard of the Earth" must do my part to ensure its safety in the ways that I can. If more people took this approach and realized tha
  • by ghostdoc (1235612) on Monday June 27, 2011 @02:59AM (#36581180)

    So if a species dies out and disappears from an ecosystem, that's bad for biodiversity and can potentially cause the collapse of the ecosystem.

    Now we find out that if a species that used to be part of an ecosystem re-enters it that's also bad and can potentially cause the collapse of the ecosystem.

    Is there *anything* good that can happen to an ecosystem? Surely *some* changes are good?

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday June 27, 2011 @03:02AM (#36581198)

      Is there *anything* good that can happen to an ecosystem?

      Gradual change.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 27, 2011 @03:32AM (#36581314)

        Is the North Atlantic supposed to get half a whale before it gets a full one?

        • Is the North Atlantic supposed to get half a whale before it gets a full one?

          No, don't be ridiculous.

          One whale is supposed to get right to the northern edge of the South Atlantic and verrrrrrrrrry slowly put first a fluke, then a bit of its tail, and eventually its whole body across the line, as though it's getting into a hot bath. Which, effectively, it is.

          • by Sulphur (1548251)

            Is the North Atlantic supposed to get half a whale before it gets a full one?

            No, don't be ridiculous.

            One whale is supposed to get right to the northern edge of the South Atlantic and verrrrrrrrrry slowly put first a fluke, then a bit of its tail, and eventually its whole body across the line, as though it's getting into a hot bath. Which, effectively, it is.

            The Gray or Schrodinger's Whale is sometimes observed doing the hokey-pokey.

            • by yndrd1984 (730475)

              The Gray or Schrodinger's Whale is sometimes observed doing the hokey-pokey.

              And when not observed, it manages to be both in the North Atlantic and not in the North Atlantic simultaneously.

      • by Krneki (1192201)

        Is there *anything* good that can happen to an ecosystem?

        Gradual change.

        Like the dinosaur extinction?

        • That was bad, in fact. Big asteroid hits, giant dust clouds, 75% of species on the planet go extinct within a few thousand years. It took millions of years for diversity to recover.
          • by fyngyrz (762201)

            Bad? Without that ecosystem change, you wouldn't likely be here. Or if you were, your idea of a "good home" would be a cave high up in a cliff that had a very small diameter tunnel as the entrance. In the current ecosystem, you're top of the line. In a dinosaur ecosystem, you're lunch. Well, a snack, anyway.

      • Ecosystems are driven by exponential processes, change is always "catastrophic".

      • by jd2112 (1535857)
        it's been 800,000 years! Isn't that gradual enough?
      • by ScentCone (795499)
        Like the gradual build-up of a mile-thick sheet of ice over much of the US's most productive farmland? Why is change good just because it happens gradually? That recurring event wasn't good, from many points of view.
    • by Arlet (29997) on Monday June 27, 2011 @03:08AM (#36581218)

      Who said it was bad ? It's just a sign that things are changing, but the return of the whales or algae in itself aren't bad.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by im_thatoneguy (819432)

      It's almost as if the natural world is nothing more than bunch of delicately balanced equilibriums! Who would have thought!?

      • by hawkinspeter (831501) on Monday June 27, 2011 @04:06AM (#36581412)
        This fallacy was explored by a recent BBC documentary (All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace). Ecosystems aren't balanced equilibriums at all - they are constantly changing and have always been changing (i.e. before humans were around).

        However, this doesn't mean that a particular change is going to be good for us humans.
        • Ecosystems aren't balanced equilibriums at all - they are constantly changing and have always been changing

          Balanced doesn't imply static. An acrobat on a wire doesn't stand still, he's constantly making small movements, and yet he doesn't fall.

          Pretty much all ecosystems we can observe change, but only within a limited range. That's because ones that don't do that cease to exist, or at least transition into something else.

          • Sigh (Score:5, Informative)

            by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday June 27, 2011 @05:24AM (#36581636) Journal

            Well smartass, that was EXACTLY what the parent and the documentary are claiming isn't true. Nature was thought for a long time to be a balanced machine (to many rabbits, the foxes do well reducing the number of rabbits and then the excess of foxes dies as there are fewer rabbits to eat allowing the rabbits to restore themselves).

            And the documentary showed how this believe came into being, how it was used and then how it was completely and utter debunked. In nature this does NOT happen. Not that nature doesn't appear to balance out but there is no balancing mechanism in place. It is VERY possible for the foxes to eat all the rabbits. No magic rebalancing act. Nature has plenty of example in all the extinct species.

            Welcome to new century, some old ideas are going to be replaced by new ones. Constantly balancing eco system is so last century.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              Nature IS a balancing act, it only happens to be on a longer period than will be helpful to one species. The earth has mechanisms to handle global warming, increased CO2, et cetera. We will not enjoy them. Indeed, we are already not enjoying them. We may not enjoy them to the point that our industrial society collapses due to our brilliant location of the majority of our population near the coastlines threatened by... our population. Or at least, its careless maintenance.

            • by hey! (33014)

              The claims being disputed here are too vague to be entirely true or false.

              Beyond any reasonable doubt, equilibrium governs many aspects of ecosystems. Looked at different ways, an equilibrium could be called both "static" and "dynamic". An equilibrium could be called "static" in that it maintains certain parameters within a certain narrow range, but it does so by reacting "dynamically" to changes.

              That said, an equilibrium's *tendency* to resist change doesn't mean change is impossible, or even uncommon.

            • by bytesex (112972)

              'It is VERY possible for the foxes to eat all the rabbits.'

              Yes, but it is also statistically anomalous. We're not talking about finding corner-cases, we're debating variations off of the middle of the spectrum.

        • by Cyberllama (113628) on Monday June 27, 2011 @04:37AM (#36581504)

          Depends on what you consider to be an equilibrium. For instance, imagine a teeter-totter. It goes back and forth, but it does so predictably. That, to me, is equilibrium. That's a very simple system, but ecosystems are not simple at all.

          When Steven Jay Gould spoke of stasis and punctuated equilibrium, I don't think he was really using those terms in the way most people might consider them. Certainly, day to day, things change. But in the bigger picture, evolution will naturally drive us towards what, relatively speaking, is equilibrium. There's a steady rhythm, a natural cycle that might not seem very predictable to human eyes.

          Check out this double pendulum.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VmTiyTut6A

          Seems chaotic, right? But its not. It's just complex--too complex for humans. Your average ecosystem is like a ten-thousand part pendulum. One year there might be 10x as many frogs running around as the year before, due to a confluence of other conditions, and the next year there's a drought and there's hardly any. Even though everything seems to be in flux, it's still in a state of equilibrium. From day to day, things seem different, but if you look at a much, much bigger picture, you find that things stay the same for long periods of time until there's some massive disruption.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Check out this double pendulum.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VmTiyTut6A

            Seems chaotic, right? But its not.

            You know, words have meanings, and flatly denying them does not change it, it just makes you look like an idiot.
            Chaos Theory [wikimedia.org]
            Double Pendulum [wikimedia.org]
            Perhaps you meant it's not "random" or "non-deterministic" -- they're different words with different meaning -- but it most certainly is chaotic.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jovius (974690)

      The gist of the article is the opening of North West passage by which the whale and the algae have passed from Northern Pacific to Northern Atlantic.

      The ecosystems always adapt. Some species die out and others find a microscopic ecological niche - it's a natural process. At the moment species are becoming exinct en masse. Are the changes introduced by steady oscillating processes or abruptly as a planet wide catastrophe? The humanity is the unbalancing factor in the process - we are a sort of super predator

    • by pnot (96038)

      TFA states:

      The (re)introduction of a species into any ecosystem is a potentially disruptive phenomenon.

      I don't think any ecologist would disagree with that. Somehow you got from that to

      can potentially cause the collapse of the ecosystem.

      Where did you find that? I can't see it anywhere in the article.

    • by Xest (935314)

      It's a question of rate of change. Whilst long term change is inevitable, if change is happening quickly because of man's actions then those habitats may not have time to adapt. If you consider that coral reefs might be able to adapt to say a 3c increase over 10,000 years, it doesn't mean they will over 100 years- you need a number of generations of a species to adapt to the change, the pressures are just too great over a shorter period.

      This is what many people don't get with the climate change issue- you h

      • by delinear (991444)
        That argument in itself assumes extinction is bad, when in fact extinction is nature's way too. There have been plenty of apocalytpic events in the earth's history that doubtless wiped out many species, yet life goes on and many new species (maybe even our own) exist not despite, but because of these events. Maybe humans are responsible for massive climate change, but then maybe we're just this cycle's equivalent of an asteroid or mega volcano and our actions, while apparently damaging, will trigger the eme
        • No, you're right, probably not. If we cause a mass extinction, wiping ourselves out in the process, that's just life going on, triggering the emergence of new species. Nothing to worry about. Anyway, we don't know and can't know and it's best not to think about.

          Nature is hard, let's go shopping!

        • by Xest (935314)

          Well it is natures way too, but herein lies the problem, it's also natures way of dealing with us as a destructive force on the planet. That is, if we continue to cause other species to go extinct, and continue to cause ecosystem collapse, then there will begin to be food shortages for us, and eventually it may well be our own extinction that comes along.

          The question isn't whether we should try and preserve everything, or try and maintain Earth at a static point in time, but how we can live in a manner wher

          • by nschubach (922175)

            they stripped the earth of more of many types of raw resources in their life times than in the whole of human history combined

            Did they send those resources to the moon? Where did they put all those stripped resources? Mars? I don't think the rovers had that much cargo space.

    • by wrook (134116)

      Is there *anything* good that can happen to an ecosystem? Surely *some* changes are good?

      Depends on who you are. Things change all the time. There are areas that have been grazed as a result of human farming for a couple of hundred years. These have developed into ecosystems that are threatened because farming practices like hill farming (where you let your livestock wander around the hills grazing) has gone out of fashion (we reduced the price of meat to the point where it's no longer sustainable). There are species of birds that are threatened because the way we used to farm has changed.

    • Slow changes are good. Fast changes are bad. Biosystems aren't equipped to handle fast changes, unless they've happened predictably for a long time.

      Especially in marine ecosystems, where there are several layers of predators (as opposed to on land where there's pretty much one), you can not expect to get back the same result if you reintroduce a species after having removed it for a hundred years.

      But either way, you shouldn't worry about the whale. You should worry about the reason the whale is back.

      • by nschubach (922175)

        But either way, you shouldn't worry about the whale. You should worry about the reason the whale is back.

        It's because they have freedom. We should be sending TSA agents out to make travel more difficult for them so they think twice about moving so far away from home. At least we can build a wall to keep them on their homeland. It's either that or remove their fins so they can't follow the algae. We'll keep them in their habitat... one way or another!

  • by cbytes (1736804) on Monday June 27, 2011 @02:59AM (#36581182)
    When I get lost, I only have to answer to my wife...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Gray Whales are returning to the North Atlantic since they're no longer being hunted en masse and now their numbers are rebounding. Southern-Hemisphere algae appears in the North due to ships dumping their ballast water - the same way the zebra mussel has spread EVERYWHERE despite being native to the Black and Caspian Seas.

  • Says who? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Monday June 27, 2011 @03:20AM (#36581268) Journal

    That was a terrible article. It has almost no detail. In particular, the only source given for this information is "scientists".

    Here's [sahfos.ac.uk] a better reference for the algae.

    I find lots of articles online linking the whales and the algae, which, while much better than the one linked to in the summary, don't say much more about the whale than that it was spotted off the coast of Israel.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Pino Grigio (2232472)
      What's more, it was apparently first found in the North Atlantic in 1999. A good 12 years ago. So what, apart from an appeal for funding (and consequently necessary media hype), has prompted this article, apart from the author's 2007 paper attempting to link its arrival to polar ice melting? As someone else has suggested, it's more likely to have arrived from ballast, as many other species have.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 27, 2011 @03:20AM (#36581272)

    I suggest that there was in fact no gray whale. I am no marine biologist, nor have I ever studied marine biology, however I have read a newspaper article on these things and I suggest that whoever claims they saw the gray whale is only doing so that they can receive more government grants. Seriously, these "experts" - if I can use that term - can't get their facts straight. One moment it's a gray whale, the next it's algae. You don't have to be an expert to tell that these things are totally different and the "experts" are obviously confused. I am waiting for Lord Monckton's explanation - now there is true expert on this.

    • by Jesus_666 (702802)
      That's because they're two different lifeforms. Some other user pointed out that the algae spread the same way as zebra mussels do: Via the ballast tanks of freighters. The whale obiously used the same technique, hiding in the ballast tank until the time was right. So what we're seeing here is not a magical transforming animal, it's a coordinated maneuver. The zebra mussels were probably a reconnaissance team sent to scope out the seas of the world for suitable whale field base locations. I'm not certain ho
  • by X.25 (255792) on Monday June 27, 2011 @03:38AM (#36581324)

    The gray whale hasn't strayed to the Northern Atlantic since the 18th century.

    So, what happened in 18th century that made gray whale stray to the Northern Atlantic?

    • Plankton discount coupons.

      • by nschubach (922175)

        No no... Nature increased the distribution of Plankton Stamps but they mandated that they could only be used in neighborhoods of less than N coral density. It was a plot to move all the gray whales out of the better waters of the Pacific into the scummy waters of the North Atlantic. Fortunately, mankind realized what was going on and decided to show Nature that it's plot would not work.

    • by yarnosh (2055818)
      That's where the white female whales at.
    • by ScentCone (795499)

      So, what happened in 18th century that made gray whale stray to the Northern Atlantic?

      Obviously, in the 1800's, we went past a global tipping point of Crisis Doom Climate Change Horror. Until it went away by raising taxes.

  • This whale and that lost penguin in NZ [google.com]. :(

  • Really, roaming the Atlantic for 800,000 years looking for a specific kind of algae? I mean, if they say it hasn't been there during all that time, somebody must have been checking, right? Boy, some people have waay too much time on their hands.
  • OK, I read the article and searched google. How is a city in Israel somehow part of the North Atlantic? I would be more interested in how the whale got that far into the Med without being spotted.

    As for the algae, if ships are making the passage they are doing the same thing they did to the great lakes, bringing lifeforms across that have no natural enemies to an environment similar to the one they left. I really doubt the algae is flowing from the Pacific to the Atlantic, I am more sure its because of the

  • The article doesn't address the most important question. Did the whale cause the algae to drift, or did the algae cause the whale to migrate?

  • Is that we've been lied too...yup.

    This isn't showing that global warming is some how destroying our ecosystem. What this shows is all that BS about it being the hottest ever was bogus. Clearly, if the Gray whales migrated back in the 1800's to the northern Atlantic. And they're "just now" doing it again. Then our global temperatures have really just become on par with the 1800's again.

    Hmm...food for thought rather than hysteria.

    • by pnot (96038)

      Clearly, if the Gray whales migrated back in the 1800's to the northern Atlantic. And they're "just now" doing it again. Then our global temperatures have really just become on par with the 1800's again.

      Grey Whales didn't "migrate" to the North Atlantic in the 1800s; there was a pre-existing native population there which died out in the 18th century (probably due to whaling). Reference here. [jstor.org] Temperature didn't have anything to do with it.

      Hmm...food for thought rather than hysteria.

      I didn't see any hysteria in the article.

    • by Arlet (29997)

      No, what's more likely is that the whales left in the 1800's because they were hunted, and they are returning because they aren't (as much) anymore.

      The article's claim that they returned as a result of higher temperatures isn't very well supported (it certainly doesn't provide any citations). It may be different for the algae, though.

      BTW, nobody ever claimed that recent years were "the hottest ever". The claim was that those years were the hottest in the modern temperature record, which goes back to 1880. B

      • The article's claim that they returned as a result of higher temperatures isn't very well supported (it certainly doesn't provide any citations).

        Here you go. [cambridge.org] Scheinin, A. P. et al. (2011) Gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) in the Mediterranean Sea: anomalous event or early sign of climate-driven distribution change? Marine Biodiversity Records, 4: e28. (Spoiler: they reckon it's probably climate-driven distribution change.)

        I am baffled as to why Slashdot insists on linking to the shittiest, vaguest intermediary sites for any scientific research, but I find that 30 seconds with Google usually turns up the relevant paper.

        • by mangu (126918)

          I am baffled as to why Slashdot insists on linking to the shittiest, vaguest intermediary sites for any scientific research

          I'm baffled as to why so many Slashdotters insist on being fossil fuel industry shills.

          It's good to be skeptical, yes, but they should be skeptical of the propaganda spread by those who have an economic interest in denying anthropogenic global warming, instead of being skeptical of properly conducted scientific research. That's the reason why they link to shitty sites.

      • They didn't leave, they were hunted to extinction. And while they're "returning", the population they're coming from has probably been separated from the north Atlantic one for a longer time than since they were wiped out.

  • The previously known distribution of the algae included the North Pacific (http://us.mirror.gbif.org/species/13292500, click the agreement), not southern oceans as claimed in the title

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 27, 2011 @08:06AM (#36582138)

    The Neodenticula seminae is not a southern-hemisphere algae as the headline says. It belongs in the Bering Sea and at middle to high latitudes of the North Pacific. The news here was that the two species were able to travel through the Northwest Passage to the Atlantic since the ice has melted away.

  • How in hell this can be definitively attributed to "global warming" is beyond the pale. It's much more likely that the lack of whaling activity would eventually lead to increase in population and hence migration.

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