Why You Should Never, Ever Poke A Sleeping Sea Otter

Once upon a time, a sea otter was sleeping while floating in the ocean, peacefully unaware of a nearby boat of gawking, giggling humans.

While the otter napped, possibly dreaming of tasty sea urchins, one brazen onlooker decided to reach out and poke the poor creature. Naturally, the sea otter jolted awake in apparent terror before scurrying away into deeper waters.

A video of the incident was posted to Live Leak on Monday and quickly went viral. The Internet — particularly wildlife experts — had a lot to say about it.

While many laughed off the video for being “hilarious” or “adorable,” marine biologist David Shiffman took to Twitter to scold netizens. He also pointed out that touching a sea otter is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.

This is a clear, unequivocal case of wildlife harassment, illegal under ESA/MMPA. Don’t glorify it. @Mashable @_LLRobertson r @LanceUlanoff

— David Shiffman (@WhySharksMatter) October 6, 2015

According to both acts, it is unlawful to harass, pursue, torment or annoy certain marine mammals, including sea otters, which are considered threatened under the ESA. It is actually unlawful to even attempt to do any of the aforementioned things. Violators could be fined up to $20,000 and face up to a year in jail.

Moreover, human-to-sea otter interactions can end in injury to both the animal and the human.

“If [sea otters] feel unduly threatened, they will get aggressive,” Carrie Goertz, staff veterinarian for the Alaska SeaLife Center, told The Huffington Post. “It’s also just not smart, as they have sharp teeth and claws; some refer to them as ‘chainsaws with fur.'”

Humans —> Read More

New Study Confirms Depressing Truth About Names And Racial Bias

Students with stereotypically “black”-sounding names tend to be labeled as troublemakers by teachers. Job applicants with such names are less likely than their white-sounding counterparts to get called in for interviews. When residents with “black”-sounding names contact their local government for information about schools or libraries, they are less likely to receive a response.

Adding to this troubling compendium of results is a disturbing new study, published Thursday in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. The study of mostly white participants shows that men with black-sounding names are more likely to be imagined as physically large, dangerous and violent than those with stereotypically white-sounding names.

Dr. Colin Holbrook, a research scientist at the UCLA Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture and lead author of the study, said that he has “never been so disgusted” by his own data.

“The participant sample, despite being slightly left of center politically, automatically attributed violence to individuals based solely on having names like Darnell or Juan; whereas names such as Connor automatically led to expectations of prestige and status,” Holbrook told The Huffington Post in an email. “This seems to clearly echo the fear of black and Latino men in our society, which is ironic and disturbing as they are often the victims of violence–precisely because people are afraid of them.”

For the study, the researchers conducted a series of experiments involving about 1,500 mostly white adults. In the first experiment, participants were asked to read one of two nearly identical stories about a main character who bumped into a man at a bar, and the man angrily responded “Watch where you’re going, a–hole!”

In one version of the story, the character’s name was either Jamal, DeShawn or Darnell. In another version, the character’s name was —> Read More

Immune gene prevents Parkinson’s disease and dementia

An estimated seven to ten million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease. More than half of PD patients develop progressive disease showing signs of dementia similar to Alzheimer’s disease. A research team at University of Copenhagen, Denmark, has discovered that non-inheritable PD may be caused by functional changes in the immune regulating gene Interferon-beta (IFNβ). Treatment with IFNβ-gene therapy successfully prevented neuronal death and disease effects in an experimental model of PD. —> Read More

Counting Catsharks in Malaysia

Coral Catshark on Malaysian Reef Photo Courtesy Scubazoo

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Borneo has a shark problem. Over 100 species of sharks live in this region of the Coral Triangle, a region of highest marine biodiversity in the world. Not only do large sharks like hammerheads, tigers and bull sharks swim here, but also endemic species like the Borneo shark, and small bamboo and cat sharks.

Borneo has a shark problem, but it is not the kind you think.

Finned Baby Hammerhead Sharks Photo Courtesy David McGuire

“How much is this?” The scalloped hammerhead shark hangs lifeless from my friend’s hand. “10 Ringgit,“replies the fishmonger, around $3 US a kilo. From the looks of the size of the baby scalloped hammerhead shark she weighs less than 1 Kilo, and may have never been born. Fishmongers chatter around us, singing out their wares at the Kota Kinabalu market in Malaysian Borneo, rhythmically advertising their catch ranging from squid, squirrel fish, blue spotted rays, yellow tail tuna and many, many species in between. The diversity is a macabre mirror of the resplendent coral reef we have just been diving at the world famous Sipadan Island as part of a Sabah shark count.

The baby shark is among a group of finned sharks including bamboo sharks, what looks like a mutilated reef shark, and a large bin of coral catsharks. After searching for them in the wild, we came to investigate whether cat sharks and bamboo sharks were being caught and sold in the local markets. We found the catsharks with their fins are piled alongside the stacked shark corpses. “How much are the fins?” Bertie asks the vendor.

“75 Ringgit.” the man tells us, “100grams.” That is about 25 dollars wet weight for a tiny fin. A set of five could barely make a bowl of shark fin soup. Dried fins can sell —> Read More

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