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On Whales and Sunburn

Don’t be surprised if Shamu looks a little pink the next time you see him. Whales are suffering from sunburn at an alarming rate—well, the real alarm is that whales get sunburn. (There are numerous problems with whales and sunburn. How much sunscreen would a whale need? What SPF works best? How does one apply it to these aquatic creatures? The logistics are a nightmare.)

From 2007 to 2009, Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse, a postdoctoral fellow at the Zoological Society of London, examined whales swimming in the slender body of water between Mexico and Baja, California. This sliver of water is close to tropical latitudes; cancer rates are five times higher in theses regions. Acevedo-Whitehouse took photographic surveys, and using a stainless steel dart, she collected skin biopsies of blue, fin, and sperm whales. The majority of the samples exhibited abnormal cells associated with UV damage to DNA—better known as sunburn.

The researchers discovered sunburn on the lowest layer of the whales’ skin, indicating the beasts suffer from severe damage. When the whales surface for air, they expose their skin to UV rays, leading to sunburn. Unlike other animals with feathers or fur (or the ability to move into shade), the whales have no natural way to protect themselves from overexposure. And much like humans, lighter-skinned whales suffer from sunburn more often than their darker skin relatives, the authors write in the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

All joking aside, Acevedo-Whitehouse notes there is little to be done to prevent whales from sustaining the sting of a burn. "I do not believe we would be able to do very much to reduce the damage to whales caused by sun exposure," Acevedo-Whitehouse told Discovery News.

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The Origins of 36 Marvel Characters, Illustrated
Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

No matter what their powers, every super hero has an origin story, from Spider-Man’s radioactive bite to Iron Man’s life-threatening chest shrapnel. In their latest poster, the designers at Pop Chart Lab have taken their infographic savvy to the Marvel Universe, charting the heroic origins of 36 different Marvel characters through miniature, minimalist comics.

Without using any words, they’ve managed to illustrate Bucky Barnes's plane explosion and subsequent transformation into the Winter Soldier, Jessica Jones’s car crash, the death of the Punisher’s family, and other classic stories from the major Marvel canon while paying tribute to the comic book form.

Explore the poster below, and see a zoomable version on Pop Chart Lab’s website.

A poster featuring 36 minimalist illustrations of superhero origin stories.
Pop Chart Lab

Keep your eyes open for future Marvel-Pop Chart crossovers. The Marvel Origins: A Sequential Compendium poster is “the first release of what we hope to be a marvelous partnership,” as Pop Chart Lab’s Galvin Chow puts it. Prints are available for pre-order starting at $37 and are scheduled to start shipping on March 8.

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