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A Lonely Whale’s Unrequited Love Song

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Somewhere deep within the waters of the North Pacific, a whale wanders alone. No one has ever seen him, but they’ve certainly heard him: this mystery whale’s song has haunted marine researchers since oceanographer Bill Watkins first heard his strange voice calling in 1989. The whale’s call was pitched higher than other whales’—52 hertz, to be exact, and so that’s what they named the mysterious creature.

Watkins, credited with inventing the first underwater recording device, was routinely cataloguing male whale mating calls when 52 Hertz’s unique sound caught his ear. The whale’s calls demonstrated similar harmonic intervals to a baleen whale’s, but at 52 hertz, they were higher than they should have been—unusually, just high enough for a human to hear. He was an outlier, but because Watkins’s team couldn’t think what to do about it, they left him alone.

In 1992, the U.S. Navy released records collected by its system of hydrophones, normally used to track the activity of potentially hostile submarines, which allowed Watkins and a team at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to commence logging 52 Hertz’s solitary swimming patterns. After 12 years of observation, the marine scientists were able to conclude that the idiosyncratic whale song was indeed coming from a single source; 52 Hertz was the one and only. In the 2004 paper the researchers published in Deep Sea Research, they noted that not only was his call distinct, but his migration patterns appeared to be “unrelated to the presence or movements of other whale species”—a lonely existence for the much-studied whale.

There’s still no definitive word on what type of whale he is, exactly. Not quite a blue whale, but not exactly a fin whale, theories have suggested that he might be a hybrid of the two, or an undiscovered species altogether. While some have suggested that 52 Hertz might suffer from some kind of malformation, possibly deafness, marine biologist Mary Ann Daher of the Woods Hole team pointed out that a whale hardy enough to survive the harsh North Pacific waters is probably doing just fine, health-wise.

52 Hertz’s distinctive call has mellowed over the years, growing just the slightest bit deeper, but his frequency remains about the same as that of the lowest note produced by a tuba. If you’re interested, head over to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website and have a listen for yourself.

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Animals
Why Male Hyenas Have It Worse Than Females
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A life of hunting zebras and raising young on the savanna isn’t half bad for a female hyena. Sadly, the same can’t be said for their male counterparts. As MinuteEarth explains, things take a downturn for the males of the species once they hit adolescence. No female in their pack will mate with them, a behavior scientists believe evolved to avoid inbreeding, so they head off in search of a different group to join. After dealing with vicious hazing from their new clan, they file in at the bottom of the rank and wait for other males above them to die so that they can slowly gain status.

Even after rising through the hierarchy, the most a male hyena can aspire to is being second place to the lowest-ranking female. Thanks to their bulky build and aggressive behavior, female hyenas enjoy a dominant position that’s rare in the animal kingdom.

After watching the video below, head over here for more facts about hyenas.

[h/t MinuteEarth]

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Art
A Beached Whale Sculpture Popped Up on the Banks of Paris's Seine River
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In Paris, dozens of fish varieties live in the Seine River. Now, the Associated Press reports that the famous waterway is home to a beached whale.

Rest assured, eco-warriors: The sperm whale is actually a lifelike sculpture, installed on an embankment next to Notre Dame Cathedral by Belgian artists’ collective Captain Boomer. It’s meant to raise environmental awareness, and evoke "the child in everyone who still is puzzled about what is real and what is not,” collective member Bart Van Peel told the Associated Press.

The 65-foot sculpture has reportedly startled and confused many Parisians, thanks in part to a team of fake scientists deployed to “survey” the whale. One collective member even posted a video on social media, warning Parisians that there “may be others in the water” if they opt to take a dip in the river, The Local reported.

The whale sculpture is only temporary—but as for Captain Boomer, this isn’t their first whale-related stunt. Last summer, the collective installed a similar riverside artwork in Rennes, France, and they also once strapped a large-scale whale sculpture to the back of a truck and drove it around France.

[h/t Associated Press]

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