Last month, a six-foot-long, 1,000 pound, 15-million-year old whale skull was dug up on the banks of the Potomac River. The rest of the skeleton is still embedded in the cliffs. Experts believe the fossil is from a type of baleen whale that has long been extinct, but they won’t know for sure until the rest of the skeleton has been excavated and examined.
About 50 million years ago, levels of greenhouse gasses left the oceans with a limited oxygen supply, few large reefs, extremely warm tropical surface waters and a food web that couldn’t sustain many large predators like sharks and whales. New research suggests that if greenhouse gas emissions continue on the path they are on, we are likely to see aspects of those ancient oceans again. On a related note, a comprehensive survey of reefs in the Caribbean reveals that as much as 80 percent of Caribbean coral has been lost in recent years.
Scientists are using old menus that tourists have brought home from Hawaii as souvenirs to help study the state’s fisheries. The menus are helping scientists fill a 45-year gap in official records of wild fish populations in Hawaii during the 20th century. So far, the team has analyzed 376 menus from 154 different restaurants and found that populations of reef fish declined in a matter of decades and restaurants began to serve larger species like tuna and swordfish.
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