How Does Whale Poop Fight Climate Change?

blue whale poop, whale poop
Blue whale poop by Ian Wiese

Did you know that whales are climate change fighting machines? If saving them for their majesty and beauty wasn’t enough, whales actually help fight climate change. This is due to whale poop, of all things.

Blue Whale Poop

Take the largest animals to roam the Earth, present day or past, the blue whales. Blue whales reach lengths of 100 feet and 190 tons. When they poop, they release the by-products of the krill they eat.
Essentially whale poop is fertilizer for the plants of the ocean, the phytoplankton. The phytoplankton, wherever the blue whale migrates to, are stimulated to grow. They, like terrestrial plants, use carbon dioxide and sunlight to grow. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. The less of it in the air, the better it is for planet Earth and its warming climate.

Phytoplankton thanks

The phytoplankton take sunlight and carbon dioxide and turn it into food and oxygen. Take a breath, and sigh it out. Take another breath and exhale. One of those breaths is thanks to phytoplankton growing in the ocean! Thanks phytoplankton!

Whale migration

Whales are constantly swimming and migrating to new places in search of food. Along the way they poop out nutrients and voila, the phytoplankton begin to grow and nourish the bottom of the food chain there. The phytoplankton grow where they wouldn’t have otherwise without whale poop and the critters in those spots benefit.

Nutrients brought up from depths

Whales also dive in search of food-think of a sperm whale fighting a giant squid for a meal-and bring up nutrients from the ocean depths and deposit them at the surface where phytoplankton live and grow.

Whale falls

Although it’s sad to think about, whales die and sink to the sea floor. One whale body can bring 190,000 tons of carbon (equivalent to the emissions of 80,000 cars in a year) from the surface to the sea floor. This is a part of carbon sequestration, which just means capturing carbon somehow and taking it out of the air. In this case it means taking carbon from the surface (the whale) and depositing it on the sea floor. There many animals benefit from eating and scavenging the whale, and the carbon get deposited and stays there.

Whale poop and Fisheries

Last, but not least, whales and their poop can help enhance fisheries. There will be higher rates of food productivity in places where whales feed and give birth. The whale poop stimulates the phytoplankton at the bottom of the food chain, and fish at the higher levels of the food chain benefit and grow and reproduce.

So while being magnificent in their own right, whales and their poop are climate change fighters!

Did you know sea otters also help fight climate change?

Whale poop and climate change: here’s what you need to know by National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

Blue Whale Caught on Camera Having a Poo

10 Cool Facts About Polar Bears

Female polar bear with her twin cubs photo by:Photo on <a href="https://visualhunt.com/re/7fdb09">Visual Hunt</a>
Female polar bear with her twin cubs photo by:Photo on Visual Hunt

1. A polar bear’s skin (under its white fur) is actually black to help keep it warm. A polar bear’s white hairs are hollow to help it float while swimming.

2. A polar bear can growl, roar, chuff, hiss, whimper and purr.

3. An adult polar bear’s paw is the size of a dinner plate. Its footpads have small bumps on them, like those on a basketball, so the polar bear has traction on ice.

4. A sense of smell is a polar bear’s strongest sense. A polar bear can smell seals from several miles away.

5. Polar bears mainly eat ringed seals, but also eat bearded, harp and hooded seals as well as carcasses of beluga whales, walruses, narwhal whales, and bowhead whales.

6. Male polar bears are about 9 feet long (2.7 m) and weigh 1000 pounds (453.6 kg). A female polar bear is 8 feet long (2.4 m) and weigh 500 pounds (226.8 kg) (unless pregnant).


7. In the summer, a polar bear may not eat for 3 months. A mother polar bear won’t eat for 5 months while in a birthing lair. Polar bears do not hibernate.

8. Polar bears can hold their breath for 2 minutes. They doggy paddle with their front paws and steer with their rear paws while swimming.

9. A mother polar bear usually has twin cubs. At birth, cubs are the size of guinea pigs. They emerge from their den 3 months after being born so their mother can feed. They leave their mother after 2.5-3 years.

10. Polar bears can run faster than humans, but only for a few seconds.

Facts from children’s book The Polar Bear by Jenni Desmond

10 Cool Facts about Narwhals

Rare narwhal with two tusks!
Rare narwhal with two tusks!

1. Narwhals are often called the “Unicorns of the Sea” because of their tusk, which is actually a long tooth.

2. Most male narwhals have a tusk, while only some females have one. Some narwhals even have two tusks! Their tusks have over 10 million nerves in them and can be up to 9 feet long.

3. The narwhal’s scientific name Monodon monoceras means “one tooth, one horn.” Males have been seen crossing tusks and it is assumed that they are fighting for females or trying to impress them.

4. The narwhals’ tusks can be used for hunting. They use their tusks to slap and stun fish before eating them. Check out video footage of narwhals hunting with their tusks

5. Narwhals live in pods of 10-100 individuals in the Arctic, but have been seen in pods up to 1000.

6. Narwhals mainly hang out at the surface, but can dive down to 5,000 feet deep (1,524 m)

7. Narwhals feed on fish, shrimp and squid. They are suction feeders that swallow their food whole.

8. Predators include killer whales, polar bears, walruses and native Inuit hunters.

9. Narwhals can grow up to 17 feet long (5.2m) and weigh 4,200 pounds (1,905 kg).

10. Defenders.org says, “Narwhals might be more sensitive to impacts of climate change than the polar bear.” Threats to Narwhals include oil and gas development of the Arctic, climate change, and shipping vessels that cause collisions and noise pollution.

Book Review: Manatee Rescue by Nicola Davies

Manatee Rescue by Nicola Davies
Manatee Rescue by Nicola Davies

“Manatee Rescue” by Nicola Davies (Candlewick Press, 2015) is a middle grade (grades 4-8) children’s book about a rescued baby manatee in the Amazon. In the backmatter, we find out that this book is based on a true-life story.

There are three types of manatees, the West Indian, African and Amazonian. This book is about the ones that live along the Amazon River in South America.

The protagonist is Manuela. She grows up in a culture where killing manatees is a status symbol. She looks forward to the day when she can kill one alongside her father Silvio. Manuela and Silvio succeed in killing a mother manatee, but nothing prepares Manuela for the instant bond she feels for the manatee calf. She secretly vows to raise the calf and return it to the wild.

Manuela and her father take the two-month-old calf home, and Silvio sells the calf as a pet despite Manuela’s protests. Later that night, Manuela and her friend Libia steal the calf and bring it to Granny Raffy’s. Raffy often rehabilitates wild animals.

At Raffy’s, the two girls learn to take care of the calf, from nursing him to cleaning out his pond. Manuela bonds with the calf, who prefers her feeding him his bottle full of milk.

The two girls make a list of things to do, the most important ones (and seemingly impossible) being getting the villagers to care about and never hunt manatees again.

Without giving away the rest of the story away, I will say this book has a happy ending, both fictionally and in real-life.
The backmatter is informative not only about the manatees themselves, but also about the relationship between the natives and the manatees.

Although meant for kids, I think conservation-minded and animal-loving adults will enjoy this quick read (105 pages). It’s a perfect introduction to manatees and community-based conservation for all ages.

10 Fascinating Facts About Manatees

Manatee underwater with algae photo courtesy VisualHunt.com
Manatee photo courtesy VisualHunt.com

10 Fascinating Facts About Manatees

1. Manatees, despite being called “sea cows” are related to elephants!

2. Besides weighing a lot (1000 pounds or 454 kilograms, more or less), both elephants and manatees have fingernails.

3. Manatees like warm water (like off Florida, USA) and will migrate up river to warm springs and the outfall of power plants in winter.

4. Manatee calves nurse under their mother’s flippers and will stay with them for 1-2 years.

5. Manatees can grow up to 12 feet (3.7 meters).

6. Manatees are herbivores and eat sea grass and other water plants.

7. Manatees continually grow teeth throughout life since they wear them down chewing on plants.

8. There are 3 types of manatees-Amazonian, West Indian, and West African.

9. Manatees have prehensile (can grasp) upper lips which they use to get food and to eat.

10. Manatees can graze for up to 7 hours a day because adults eat 10-15% of their body weight a day!