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Maharashtra: Researchers spot blue whales after hundred years

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

A group of researchers claimed to have spotted a mother-calf pair of blue whales, between March and May, 3 km away from the Sindhudurg coast in Maharashtra after nearly 100 years. Bryde’s whales were also seen by the researchers during the same period.

The findings were conducted by the Cetacean Population Study team, positioned at the Sindhudurg coast since the beginning of this year under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project on Mainstreaming Coastal and Marine Biodiversity, which was brought into action by Maharashtra State Mangrove Cell.

Ketki Jog, a member of Cetacean Population Study team said, “The blue whale sighting was that of a mother-calf pair. They were seen near Kunkeshwar, 2.7km offshore, at a depth of 16m.”

According to N Vasudevan, Chief Conservator of Forest, Maharashtra State Mangrove Cell, the last reported sighting of blue whale, the world’s largest animal, was in 1914.

Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) earlier claimed that another sighting of the mammal was observed in 2010 along the coast of Mangalore.

The team also reportedly spotted a small pod of four Bryde’s whales four times: April 11, 16, 30 and May 6, from the coast, at an average water depth of 15 metres.

Vasudevan added, “The sighting of the largest mammal just 3 km away from the Sindhudurg shore calls for immediate study as to why such a large species is moving close to land.”

The Mangrove Cell suggested that from now onwards, they will regularly conduct the whale watching activities from Sindhudurg coast. “Without disturbing the habitat of the whales, these spots can become a tourist attraction if such mammals are spotted often,” Vasudevan said.

CMFRI researchers also informed that these huge species can be seen across the Indian Ocean, southern parts of Sri Lanka coast and have often been found migrating to Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.

“Mammals like the blue whale often frequent the coasts of India. However, the issue is that there has been no documentation of the same. Authorities should invest more such studies to protect the endangered species,” said E Vivekanandan, consultant and scientist in CMFRI, Chennai.

According to another research conducted by Cetacean Population Study team under the UNDP project, 687 dolphins were also seen near the coast out of which 153 individual dolphins were identified because of distinct features such as their fin.

Sightings of close to 40 Finless Porpoise were also recorded across the Sindhudurg coast during the two phases of the study this year.

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NASA’s Probe Discovers Signs Of Water on Asteroid Bennu

OSIRIS-REx will pass later this month just 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from Bennu, entering the asteroid's gravitational pull and analyzing its terrain.

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This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. NASA

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has discovered ingredients for water on a relatively nearby skyscraper-sized asteroid, a rocky acorn-shaped object that may hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists said on Monday.

OSIRIS-REx, which flew last week within a scant 12 miles (19 km) of the asteroid Bennu some 1.4 million miles (2.25 million km) from Earth, found traces of hydrogen and oxygen molecules — part of the recipe for water and thus the potential for life — embedded in the asteroid’s rocky surface.

The probe, on a mission to return samples from the asteroid to Earth for study, was launched in 2016. Bennu, roughly a third of a mile wide (500 meters), orbits the sun at roughly the same distance as Earth. There is concern among scientists about the possibility of Bennu impacting Earth late in the 22nd century.

 

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx. Flickr

 

“We have found the water-rich minerals from the early solar system, which is exactly the kind of sample we were going out there to find and ultimately bring back to Earth,” University of Arizona planetary scientist Dante Lauretta, the OSIRIS-REx mission’s principal investigator, said in a telephone interview.

Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago. Scientists believe asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth may have delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life, and atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu could provide key evidence to support that hypothesis.

“When samples of this material are returned by the mission to Earth in 2023, scientists will receive a treasure trove of new information about the history and evolution of our solar system,” Amy Simon, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in a statement.

OSIRIS-REx, NASA, Asteroid
This illustration provided by NASA depicts the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at the asteroid Bennu. The rocky remnant from the dawn of the solar system may hold clues to the origins of life. VOA

“We’re really trying to understand the role that these carbon-rich asteroids played in delivering water to the early Earth and making it habitable,” Lauretta added.

OSIRIS-REx will pass later this month just 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from Bennu, entering the asteroid’s gravitational pull and analyzing its terrain. From there, the spacecraft will begin to gradually tighten its orbit around the asteroid, spiraling to within just 6 feet (2 meters) of its surface so its robot arm can snatch a sample of Bennu by July 2020.

Also Read: Wintertime Ice Growth in Arctic Sea Slows Long-Term Decline: NASA

The spacecraft will later fly back to Earth, jettisoning a capsule bearing the asteroid specimen for a parachute descent in the Utah desert in September 2023. (VOA)