Wild Things: Killer Whales, Spiders and Woodpeckers
Yellow saddle goatfish, mastodon ribs and more in this month’s summary of wildlife news
- By T.A. Frail, Joseph Stromberg, Erin Wayman and Sarah Zielinski
- Smithsonian magazine, January 2012
(John Durban / NOAA / NMFS)
Lives: In the Antarctic (a population known as type B), feeding on seals and penguins.
Beelines: Occasionally for the subtropical waters off Uruguay and Brazil, a study documents for the first time. But the trips are so quick they’re probably not for foraging or giving birth. Instead, the trips may be the equivalent of a vacation skin peel.
Returns: Without the coating of algae that tinges its skin yellow. John Durban of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California, and his co-author suggest the orcas travel to milder latitudes when they shed their skin “to help the whales regenerate skin tissue in a warmer environment with less heat loss,” he says.
“On Group Living and Collaborative Hunting in the Yellow Saddle Goatfish (Parupeneus cyclostomus),” Carine Strübin et al., Ethology, October 10, 2011
“Worthless Donations: Male Deception and Female Counter Play in a Nuptial Gift-Giving Spider,” Maria Albo et al., BMC Evolutionary Biology, November 14, 2011
“Pre-Clovis Mastodon Hunting 13,800 Years Ago at the Manis Site, Washington,” Michael R. Waters et al., Science, October 21, 2011
“Antarctic Killer Whales Make Rapid, Round-Trip Movements to Subtropical Waters: Evidence for Physiological Maintenance Migrations?” John W. Durban and Robert L. Pitman, Biology Letters, October 26, 2011
“Why Do Woodpeckers Resist Head Impact Injury: A Biomechanical Investigation,” Lizhen Wang et al., PLoS ONE, October 26, 2011