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Science Ticker


Science Ticker

Shipping noise can disturb porpoises and disrupt their mealtime

porpoise with tracker attached

TAG TEAM  Researchers tagged seven porpoises with sensors that were attached via suction cups, which detached harmlessly after about a day.

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Harbor porpoises are frequently exposed to sounds from shipping vessels that register at around 100 decibels, about as loud as a lawnmower, scientists report February 14 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Sounds this loud can cause porpoises to stop echolocation, which they use to catch food.

While high-frequency submarine sonar has been found to harm whales (SN: 4/23/11, p. 16), low-frequency noise from shipping vessels is responsible for most human-made noise in the ocean, the researchers say. Porpoises have poor hearing in lower frequencies, so it was unclear if they were affected.

In the first study to assess the effects of shipping vessel noise on porpoises, researchers tagged seven harbor porpoises off the coast of Denmark with sensors that tracked the animals’ movement and echolocation usage in response to underwater noise over about 20 hours.  

One ship created a 130 decibel noise — twice as loud as a chainsaw — that caused a porpoise to flee at top speed. These initial results indicate that ship noise could affect how much food porpoises hunt and consume.

Animals,, Health

Even after bedbugs are eradicated, their waste lingers

By Laurel Hamers 6:30pm, February 12, 2018
Bedbug waste contains high levels of the allergy-triggering chemical histamine, which stays behind even after the insects are eradicated.
Astronomy

SpaceX just launched its biggest rocket for the first time

By Lisa Grossman 4:09pm, February 6, 2018
SpaceX just launched the Falcon Heavy — the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V — for the first time.
Biomedicine,, Animals

Here’s the key ingredient that lets a centipede’s bite take down prey

By Susan Milius 5:25pm, January 22, 2018
A newly identified “spooky toxin” launches a broad attack but might be eased with a version of a known drug.
Biophysics,, Technology

A robotic arm made of DNA moves at dizzying speed

By Maria Temming 2:00pm, January 18, 2018
A DNA machine with a high-speed arm could pave the way for nanoscale factories.
Astronomy

See a 360-degree visualization of the center of the Milky Way

By Emily Conover 6:00am, January 12, 2018
A 360-degree simulation, made with data from several telescopes, shows the center of the Milky Way as seen from the galaxy’s supermassive black hole.
Numbers

The largest known prime number has 23 million-plus digits

By Laurel Hamers 7:00am, January 5, 2018
A newly found prime number smashes the previous record for largest prime.
Planetary Science,, Earth

NASA is headed to Earth’s outermost edge

By Carolyn Gramling 6:03pm, January 4, 2018
NASA’s upcoming GOLD mission will study the charged border between Earth and space.
Health

U.S. life expectancy drops for the second year in a row

By Aimee Cunningham 12:05am, December 21, 2017
Life expectancy for the U.S. population decreased in 2016, the second year in a row this measure has dropped.
Astronomy,, Planetary Science

NASA’s next stop will be Titan or a comet

By Lisa Grossman 4:56pm, December 20, 2017
The finalists for NASA’s next solar system mission aim to send a drone to Saturn’s largest moon or to return samples from a comet.
Astronomy,, Cosmology

The most distant quasar ever spotted hails from the universe’s infancy

By Lisa Grossman 1:00pm, December 6, 2017
The new record-holder for faraway quasars comes from a period of rapid change in the universe.
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