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]

Paula the Two-Toed Sloth Is Officially the Oldest Sloth in Captivity

Sleeping two-toed sloth.
Sleeping two-toed sloth.
tane-mahuta/iStock via Getty Images

For many sloths, surviving a trip to the ground is an impressive achievement. As the BBC reports, a two-toed sloth living in a German zoo has done something even more monumental: Guinness World Records confirms that Paula the sloth has officially been deemed the world's oldest sloth at age 50.

Born in South America, Paula has lived at the Halle Zoo in central Germany since she was at least 2 years old. For nearly half her life, zookeepers thought Paula was male. It wasn't until 1995 that an ultrasound scan revealed her true sex and her name was changed from Paul to Paula.

The zoo chose June 14 as the date to mark Paula's birthday, and on June 14, 2019, the sloth celebrated half a century on Earth. Two-toed sloths typically live about 20 years in the wild and 30 to 40 years in zoos. At 50 years old, Paula now holds the record for oldest sloth in captivity, and likely the world.

The zoo staff credits Paula's longevity to having a stable, caring home. If her genes played any role, they won't be passed down to future generations: Paula doesn't have any offspring. After discovering that he was really a she, the zoo tried pairing Paula with male breeding partners. Though she became pregnant three times, her cubs didn't survive.

After a long and interesting life, Paula has earned her place as one of the most beloved animals at the Halle Zoo. Her caretakers showed their appreciation on her birthday by making her a special meal of cooked maize and vegetables—her favorite foods.

[h/t BBC]

‘Soft and Cuddly’ Venomous Puss Caterpillars Have Been Spotted in at Least 3 States

Wayne W G, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Wayne W G, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The puss caterpillar is cute, cuddly, and coming to ruin your day.

USA Today reports that the highly venomous creature, also known as the southern flannel moth caterpillar, or asp, has recently been spotted in Florida, Texas, and South Carolina. Underneath its furry coat are tiny, potent spines that break off and attach themselves to your skin, causing excruciating pain and creating a hematoma, a bruise-like wound under your skin where blood has leaked from blood vessels.

According to University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, the caterpillar is dangerous partly because the sting of those spines becomes more painful over time. “It builds for a long time in a frightening way. No one expects stings to gain in impact or discomfort, and these will,” he told USA Today. “It packs quite a wallop.”

For one victim in Dade City, Florida, even medically administered morphine didn’t alleviate her agony. “It felt like someone was drilling into my bones,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I cried and pleaded with God for hours to make it stop.”

puss caterpillar
going on going on, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

If one does happen to inch its way onto you, curb the instinct to flail about or swat at random—trying to brush off the adorable nightmare just increases the possibility of those sinister spines sticking to your skin. Instead, have someone carefully and calmly remove the insect with a twig or a 39-and-a-half-foot pole. Then, take a shower and wash your clothes to minimize further exposure to leftover spines.

As traumatizing as the experience sounds, your chances of meeting one of these fun-sized villains are hearteningly slim. Wagner explains that they’re particularly scarce above the Mason-Dixon line, and not even very common in southern states, where they’re usually spotted.

In short, this is just another scientific reason why you should stick to petting dogs.

[h/t USA Today]

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