Back from Palm Beach

I’m back from Palm Beach and the lifeguard stand yesterday morning was flying a flag that apparently indicates “dangerous marine wildlife”. Obviously my first thoughts (it was near perfect surfing conditions, off-shore breeze and a nice curl) were of large great white sharks cruising just behind the break. But then I started thinking about how the Marine Park’s here in Florida have had their own dangerous marine wildlife conditions–seems to me that an Orca confined within a tank is a recipe for disaster.

But then walking along the beach, and noticing the very dangerous remnants of a Portuguese Man’O War jellyfish, I was satisfied that I’d found the real danger in an invertebrate with a serious attitude (as far as stinging is concerned).

But then I learned later, in fact I’d been right originally–it was the sharks.

I may be the editor of The Biological Bulletin, but I’ve got a lot to learn about marine biology!


Whale brains and cognition

Reading Charles Sibert’s wonderful article in yesterday’s Sunday NYT Magazine, I was reminded by my own encounter with an Orca on the north shore of San Juan Island close to twenty years ago. I had been told that if I showed up at the rocky outcropping around 10 in the morning, I’d run into a pod of the huge creatures face to face.

This was no exaggeration. Pretty much exactly on time, I was face-to-face with a huge intelligent eye gazing across the species barrier. It’s a moment I’ve never forgotten. Read the entire article. The end is the most moving.
So how smart are whales? I think that’s a very interesting question. Certainly the fact that they possess the spindle neurons that humans and the great apes also have makes the question neurobiologically relevant.