Watch a Massive Whale Breach a Few Feet Away From a Man's Boat

RobertPlotz/iStock via Getty Images
RobertPlotz/iStock via Getty Images

Gloucester, Massachusetts—about a one-hour drive from Boston and two hours from Cape Cod—is a popular spot for whale watching. According to 7 Seas Whale Watch, which hosts boat tours from mid-April to mid-October, the waters off Gloucester are great places to see humpback, finback, and minke whales. As WCVB Channel 5 Boston reports, a Massachusetts man recently caught a spectacle on camera that even experienced whale-watchers would be impressed by.

The video below recorded by Doug Shatford shows a massive whale breaching from the sea surface just a few feet from his boat. Breaching occurs when a whale thrusts its body out of the water. They perform the behavior for several reasons, including to communicate with other members of their species and to stun prey. The whale in this scenario appears to grab a mouthful from a school of fish as it rises from the sea.

Gloucester is located between two major whale feeding centers called Stellwagen Bank and Jeffreys Ledge. Strong currents colliding with the steep sides of underwater cliffs results in something called upwelling, which happens when cool, nutrient-rich water from the seabed is sucked to the surface. When this water is exposed to sunlight, plankton blooms form that attract the same small sea animals large whale love to eat. That's why the waters outside Gloucester are considered one of the world's prime whale-watching locations.

The breach captured by Shatford is a rare sight, but it only displays a fraction of what whales are capable of. Despite weighing up to 40 tons, humpback whales can jump completely out of the water, as this video demonstrates.

[h/t WCVB Channel 5 Boston]

Declawing Cats Could Soon Be Illegal in Massachusetts

nailiaschwarz/iStock via Getty Images
nailiaschwarz/iStock via Getty Images

Despite the inherent danger of cohabiting with an animal with sharp claws and an unpredictable temperament, most cat owners recognize that those tiny little knives on their paws are a biological right. The practice of “declawing” a cat is inhumane—the painful procedure can result in persistent discomfort—and recent years have seen an increasing amount of support for prohibiting it from being performed. New York just passed a bill outlawing declawing, and now Massachusetts is considering doing the same. 

According to South Coast Today, a hearing concerning the bill was conducted before the state’s Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure on July 22, and a decision is forthcoming. If it advances, Massachusetts would become the second state to pass sweeping measures to penalize anyone performing the procedure. In New York, the fine is up to $1000. Individual cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver have also passed measures prohibiting it.

Declawing a cat is not a matter of just removing nails. It involves amputating a portion of the bone up to the first knuckle of each toe. Having their paws permanently altered can cause a cat to have trouble walking and to experience permanent discomfort every time they touch the ground. They can also bite more or have trouble using litter boxes because it becomes more difficult to dig.

The move to ban declawing is not universal. In New York, a leading veterinary association opposed the bill, insisting that declawing should be allowed for cats with unresolved and destructive scratching habits. That law only makes exceptions for medically necessary procedures.

If scratching is a problem for cat owners, the Humane Society recommends keeping nails trimmed, setting up scratching posts, and putting smooth anti-scratch tape on furniture. Some veterinarians may also be able to recommend a soft nail cap that can be glued on.

[h/t CBS Boston]

Want to Reduce Your Stress In 10 Minutes? Pet a Cat or Dog

Nevena1987/iStock via Getty Images
Nevena1987/iStock via Getty Images

If you know a college student or are one yourself, you might be familiar with the programs that allow students to pet dogs or cats for a few hours, usually during finals season. The hope is that spending a little time with a cuddly creature will take students’ minds off their exams and lower their stress levels. The rising popularity of emotional support animals would seem to uphold that idea, but there hasn’t been much data on the petting sessions' effectiveness—until now.

In a study recently published in the journal AERA Open, Patricia Pendry and Jaymie Vandagriff of Washington State University found that students who pet the animals in one of these animal visitation programs had lower salivary cortisol levels than those who didn’t. (Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone.)

In their experiment, the researchers split 249 college students into four groups. The first group played with shelter cats and dogs for 10 minutes. The second group stood in line watching the first group hang out with the animals but never got to do it themselves. The third group was shown images of the animals; and the fourth group was told they were on a waitlist to see the animals, but never actually saw them. Each of the students submitted three saliva samples—one when they woke up, one 15 minutes after the 10-minute experiment, and a third 25 minutes after the experiment.

The researchers found that the group of students who got to pet the animals had noticeably lower cortisol levels than the other groups, after controlling for other variables like what their cortisol level had been that morning, how long they had been awake, or differences in their circadian rhythms.

Since it’s only one study with a relatively small sample size of students from one university, it’s not enough to suggest that every anxiety-ridden student can be helped by petting a pup. But it complements other well-documented benefits of owning a dog or cat, and might be a good thing to try whenever you’re feeling a little stressed.

[h/t Science Alert]