Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Whales, Getting Lost...and Ultrarunning

Ever get lost while you were trail running?  Or slightly stray off course?  It's a disquieting thing.  First you practice denial: "I'm OK."  Then the creeping doubt becomes real and you admit you have a problem.  Then you try to solve it, either by backtracking to a known point (the right approach in a race to avoid DQ), or forge on ahead to attempt to reach a known location.

Now these guys seem to just know the way, unerringly.  This story is way cool:

An eight-year project that tracked humpback whale migrations by satellite shows the huge mammals follow uncannily straight paths for weeks at a time.

The results suggest a single migratory mechanism isn't responsible. Instead, humpbacks may use a combination of the sun's position, Earth's magnetism and even star maps to guide their 10,000-mile journeys.

"Humpback whales are going across some of most turbulent waters in the world, yet they keep going straight," said environmental scientist Travis Horton of the University of Canterbury, whose team will publish their findings April 20 in Biology Letters. "They're orienting with something outside of themselves, not something internal."

Click through to the story and check out the plots of tracked whales setting a straight line.  Nothing short of amazing!


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