iStock
iStock

Seal Poop Keeps Shutting Down a Cape Cod Beach

iStock
iStock

Beachgoers in picturesque Wellfleet—a Massachusetts beach town nestled on Cape Cod—have been disappointed several times this month by the errant bowels of marine mammals. The beach failed multiple water sample tests, which revealed high levels of the bacteria coliform, an indicator of unsanitary conditions. The culprit, according to CapeCod.com (spotted by the killer poop-dar of an Atlas Obscura reporter), is probably seals, who apparently can’t stop pooping everywhere.

Coliform bacteria, including fecal coliform, isn't dangerous on its own, but indicates the likely presence of disease-related organisms. All area swimming beaches are tested weekly, and only Wellfleet failed this recent round of sampling. It’s the first time it’s closed in years, according to the Cape Cod Times.

While scientists can’t trace the fecal coliform back to a specific species—land mammals are just as likely to be responsible as sea mammals, since their poop can wash into the water after storms—they think that in this case, those cute seals are the poo-prit.

“We do have seaweed that floats in and out and traps seal feces so it could be a function of seaweed plus seals,” Suzanne Grout Thomas, the beach’s administrator, told CapeCod.com.

“When it came down, it was fast and furious,” she told the Cape Cod Times of the recent rains, but the description could just as easily be about the animal poop that no doubt rushed down to the water in the process.

The beach passed its third test and opened back up on Tuesday (August 30), so it's safe to go back in the water—at least for now.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
Whale Sharks Can Live for More Than a Century, Study Finds
iStock
iStock

Some whale sharks alive today have been swimming around since the Gilded Age. The animals—the largest fish in the ocean—can live as long as 130 years, according to a new study in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. To give you an idea of how long that is, in 1888, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his first presidential term, Thomas Edison had just started selling his first light bulbs, and the U.S. only had 38 states.

To determine whale sharks' longevity, researchers from the Nova Southeastern University in Florida and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program tracked male sharks around South Ari Atoll in the Maldives over the course of 10 years, calculating their sizes as they came back to the area over and over again. The scientists identified sharks that returned to the atoll every few years by their distinctive spot patterns, estimating their body lengths with lasers, tape, and visually to try to get the most accurate idea of their sizes.

Using these measurements and data on whale shark growth patterns, the researchers were able to determine that male whale sharks tend to reach maturity around 25 years old and live until they’re about 130 years old. During those decades, they reach an average length of 61.7 feet—about as long as a bowling lane.

While whale sharks are known as gentle giants, they’re difficult to study, and scientists still don’t know a ton about them. They’re considered endangered, making any information we can gather about them important. And this is the first time scientists have been able to accurately measure live, swimming whale sharks.

“Up to now, such aging and growth research has required obtaining vertebrae from dead whale sharks and counting growth rings, analogous to counting tree rings, to determine age,” first author Cameron Perry said in a press statement. ”Our work shows that we can obtain age and growth information without relying on dead sharks captured in fisheries. That is a big deal.”

Though whale sharks appear to be quite long-lived, their lifespan is short compared to the Greenland shark's—in 2016, researchers reported they may live for 400 years. 

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.
iStock
iStock

There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios