Friday, March 09, 2007

Lost in Translation

Japanese people love them some whales.
English has been called by some as "the language of the world", and rightly so, as just about one in every ten people on this planet knows how to speak it. As one might naturally expect, because of the great geographical distances involved, English is spoken with many dialects, accents, and regional slang. With many other languages, it's the same story.
But now, according to research done by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, whales from around the world have different accents, too. After their "scientists" stuck some kind of radio receiver onto the side of many, many whales, they discovered that whales from different parts of the world actually use different calls. Which probably means that these whales are able to tell where they are, and whether other whales are from that part of the ocean.
The scientists used acoustic recordings to delineate nine population regions worldwide. They found the whales weren't evenly distributed, though: Populations using a "Type 1" call, for example, live within a narrow band of ocean hugging the North American coast, while whales that use a "Type 4" call are spread over a large swath of the Northern Pacific Ocean.
When we read that, we were stunned.

This whale's accent was described by scientists as "a mix between Sean Connery and Nelson Mandela."

A friend of this website, let's call him "Bry S.", has a favorite saying. Wait, "Bry S." is too obvious. Let's call him "B. Stroch." Anyways, one of his favorite questions to ask ladies is "Have you ever seen a humpback whale?"

But now, they tell us that every whale's click-and-whistle call says as much about the whale's home waters as it does about its mood. This could have drastic implications for the world of whale behavioralism. Well, we were wondering what these whales actually said to each other when they met up, assuming they could tell that their accents were not the same:

Out of town whale (Queen-of-England accent): Excuse me chap, which way to the North Pole? I 'm afraid I'm dreadfully lost, and these currents are bloody confusing. Could you help me out, mate?

Local whale (Burt-Reynolds-in-"Deliverance" accent): Dang, man. You ain't from these parts, is ya? Juss what you lookin fo' round here boy? You got some splainin' to do. A ding dang doo!

But, before the out-of-town whale can explain, the Burt Reynolds whale proceeds to beat him like a rented mule.

We've all heard of horse whisperers, now maybe somebody should try to start a career as a whale whisperer.

(Editor's note: The amount of "legitimate" material out there on horse psychology is somewhat disturbing.

Stay away from large, extremely pissed-off cats.

This next story is from Missouri:
Missouri Man Shares Golf Cart with Bobcat

Rabbits don't always bring good luck. Ask Missouri water plant worker, Mitch Walter.
He was at work, inspecting treatment plant property in a golf cart, when a rabbit leaped onto the passenger seat. Hot in pursuit, a 25-pound bobcat. The rabbit leaped to freedom, leaving Walter riding along with the bobcat.
Walter got some scratches on his neck as he shoved the bobcat out. And then he had to go get a painful round of rabies shots, but figures it could have been worse.
The bonobo is the most closely related animal to humans.
This next story is not the hard to understand when you realize just how similar these animals are to us. Diane Bell of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote a pretty good article about it. Here is her lead:
In an incident that is both heart-stopping and heartwarming, a pregnant bonobo at the San Diego Zoo bit off the tip of her keeper's index finger Tuesday. But another bonobo rescued the severed tip from her habitat mate and returned it to keepers so it could be re-attached.
The 60-pound pregnant bonobo, also known as a pygmy chimp, was being trained behind the scenes by verbal cues and hand signals to open her mouth for health checkups.
"I guess my fingers got too close to her mouth," said Mike Bates, the injured senior keeper of the bonobos, a veteran of more than 22 years with the zoo.

The rest of the story can be read over at their website.

Like us, these bonobos exhibit intricate social interaction behavior patterns.

Like us, they have a sense of their own identity.

Like us, they have happy days, sad days, boring days, sick days.

Like us, sexual intercourse plays a major role in their lives.

Unlike us, however, their sexual intercourse is usually done in a tree, with a family member, and involves a surprising amount of poo-throwing.

The only time human sexual behavior looks like this is in Gary, Indiana. And in the mountains of West Virginia.


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