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How Sperm Whales Offset Their Carbon Footprint 150

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-natural-solution dept.
Boy Wunda writes "Scientists at Flinders University in South Australia found that in an awesome example of design by Mother Nature, Southern Ocean sperm whales offset their carbon footprint by simply defecating – an action that releases tons of iron a year and stimulates the growth of phytoplankton which absorb and trap carbon dioxide. If only we humans could say the same for our poop, which really doesn't do much more than just sit there." I'm going to do my part by buying some iron supplements and a can of chili, and heading off toward the ocean.

*

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How Sperm Whales Offset Their Carbon Footprint

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 17, 2010 @02:40PM (#32605862)

    How about you do your part by buying a cheap .22 caliber pistol and blowing your brains out?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Shakrai (717556) *

      How about you do your part by buying a cheap .22 caliber pistol and blowing your brains out?

      .22's aren't really effective at "blowing your brains out". They often tend to penetrate one side of the skull but bounce off the other end. This results in effective brain scrambling but little to no "blowing out" as the term is classically understood. If you want him to blow his brains out you should suggest that he purchase a .357 or .45 ;)

      And yes, I know, *whoosh*

      • They often tend to penetrate one side of the skull but bounce off the other end.

        Well there's your problem: You're supposed to stick the barrel in your mouth, not up against your head.

        Pro-Tip for everyone: The above is the ONLY way to commit suicide. All other methods are useless and should not be classified as 'suicide attempts', but rather 'cries for help'.

        HTH. HAND.
        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          .22 through the eye would do the job, works on fine pigs. Scrambled brains is a sure fire death.

          • And what if you get the angle wrong and end up performing an emergency lobotomy instead?

            Sorry dude: blow away your brainstem. It's the only way to be sure.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Rhaban (987410)

              I would not accept suicide advices from someone who never did any successful attempt.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by DinDaddy (1168147)

            What about on more coarse pigs?

          • not to mention, if you stick with the .22 it doesn't leave the huge mess that blowing your head off with a .357 magnum. Hell, if you did it in your bathtub all the mess would go down the drain!
        • by Shakrai (717556) *

          I wouldn't trust a .22LR to get the job done if I was bent on ending my life. The only thing worse than deciding that suicide is the best option is undertaking a suicide attempt and winding up as a crippled vegetable that can't even wipe his own ass. Large calibers are the only way to go for a meaningful suicide attempt.

          • I wouldn't trust a .22LR to get the job done if I was bent on ending my life.

            Yes, because you insist on the more theatrical way of putting the gun to your temple. A fucking BB gun in your mouth would probably kill you, so your point about the 22 not being enough for braindeath is ridiculous.

            The only thing worse than deciding that suicide is the best option is undertaking a suicide attempt and winding up as a crippled vegetable that can't even wipe his own ass.

            My whole point. Thanks for, er, res
            • by gfody (514448)

              A fucking BB gun in your mouth would probably kill you

              You greatly underestimate the human body's vitality. It's likely much harder to kill someone by shooting them with a BB gun than by hitting them over the head with the BB gun.

          • by gbjbaanb (229885)

            As I understand it, the SAS use .22s for their assassination duties, so if its good enough for them, it will surely work for you.

            I've heard stories about people who tried to commit suicide using a shotgun and ..well, succeeded only in blowing half their face off. If you can fuck it up with a shotgun, a .44 isn't going to help you become competent.

          • by socz (1057222)
            Another argument in my favor for the Desert Eagle .50 A-E! It only takes 1!
          • by Calinous (985536)

            Unfortunately, anything over 40mm is not usable in the USA (and 37mm is only for signal flares), so you need to use a puny calibre like 600 Nitro, or lesser

        • Pro-Tip for everyone: The above is the ONLY way to commit suicide.

          That's not true. There are many other methods, it's just that most of them are not available for most people. Here's a list of other sure ways to commit suicide:

          • Blow up an atomic bomb above your head.
          • Let a 100 ton iron block fall on you.
          • Get into a space capsule and let it burn up in the atmosphere at reentry.
          • Sit under the main thruster during the start of a rocket.
          • Yeah, those are under my definition of 'useless' used above. Buy a gun, stick it in your mouth, pull the trigger. All yours involve a call to ACME, and we all know how that turns out.
        • by sharkey (16670)
          Kurt Cobain knew better than all of you. Shotgun under the chin FTW.
    • by MobileC (83699)

      Do you know how much carbon was released into the atmosphere in the making of that .22?

    • I believe the whales call this the 'crap and trade' program, and write it off their corporate taxes.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If your poop "just sits there" try going *in* the toilet next time, not beside it. If you can make that work, your poop will magically be whisked away and probably end up in a digester somewhere making methane, or possibly being reprocessed into fertilizer. Behold, the secret life of poop!

  • I wonder ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by electricprof (1410233) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @02:46PM (#32605934)
    I wonder how long it will take for someone to suggest dumping raw sewage into the oceans in an effort to reduce our carbon footprint ...
  • by mgierhart (1823976) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @02:46PM (#32605940)
    So basically, according to Mother Nature, we aren't worth our weight in shit?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This sounds almost religiously stupid. I doubt mother nature cares about us or the level of CO2.

    Should we take mother nature at her word and send our untreated sewage into the ocean so we can be like the whales?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rato Ruter (1008363)

      This sounds almost religiously stupid. I doubt mother nature cares about us or the level of CO2.

      Should we take mother nature at her word and send our untreated sewage into the ocean so we can be like the whales?

      2 minutes [slashdot.org]

    • Humans are Mother Nature's way of bringing nature back into balance by returning carbon to the biosphere that has been remove by millions of years of sedimentation. Isn't in incredible how ingenious Mother Nature is? After all, back when nature was REALLY in balance (back when there were only one-celled organisms) there was much more carbon in the atmosphere. Things didn't change much for millions of years at a time because all of that great natural balance.
  • Carbon Footprint? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lobiusmoop (305328) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @02:51PM (#32605994) Homepage

    Anything that doesn't use fossil fuel (directly or indirectly) is already pretty much carbon neutral over its lifespan. .The O2/CO2 levels in the atmosphere have been more or less in balance for millions of years,

    • by xaxa (988988)

      Anything that doesn't use fossil fuel (directly or indirectly) is already pretty much carbon neutral over its lifespan. .The O2/CO2 levels in the atmosphere have been more or less in balance for millions of years,

      That means the whole ecosystem is carbon neutral, not individual taxa.

      For instance, cattle make lots of methane. Plants absorb CO2. Whale shit stimulates other organisms to absorb CO2.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by OldOOCoboler (1340497)
        Lobiusmoop said "directly or indirectly". Cattle in feedlots eat corn grown with fertilizers made from previously sequestered oil. If you use oil or coal that took millions of years to sequester then you're not neutral. Whale's don't add any previously sequestered carbon to the biosphere (unless they drink straight from the BP wellhead).
        • Whale's don't add any previously sequestered carbon to the biosphere (unless they drink straight from the BP wellhead).

          I now imagine barfly cetaceans lining up for the 'kegger.'

        • by ArsonSmith (13997)

          but you + the previous sequencers become neutral together.

    • That's exactly my point. The whales in the article are not themselves carbon-neutral, it's just that the ecosystem around them has evolved to keep balance. If it hadn't, the whales (and a lot of other things) would no longer be around.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DigiShaman (671371)

      The oil in the ground is from locked up plant/animal matter. So if the O2/CO2 levels have been in balance for millions of years, where in the hell did the additional CO2 come from as the previous amount was being locked up in oil? Space?

  • "...in an awesome example of design by Mother Nature..." Please tell me this was artistic license on the part of the author, and not the actual words of a researcher on the project.
  • If only we humans could say the same for our poop, which really doesn't do much more than just sit there.

    As humans, aren't we a little too hard on ourselves? First, we criticize ourselves for cutting down trees. Then, we criticize ourselves for global warming. Now, we criticize ourselves because our poops suck? Sheesh. When will it end?

  • Carbon Footprint? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lax-goalie (730970) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @02:55PM (#32606036)

    Sperm whales have a carbon footprint? What? From the Hummers they're driving, or all the coal-burning power plants they've built?

    I know this is Idle on Slashdot, but man, that is the dumbest headline I've seen in a while.

    • by lupinstel (792700) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @02:59PM (#32606062)

      Yeah... They don't even have feet!

    • So do sperm whales have their own giant version of Mr. Hankey, and is his wife a giant lush?
    • Sperm whales have a carbon footprint? What? From the Hummers they're driving, or all the coal-burning power plants they've built?

      Dude, you're getting riled up about the wrong error in that sentence. Whales don't even have feet! How the fuck are they supposed to have footprints?

      At the very least, we could say something about them offsetting their carbon tailsplash, or their carbon wake. Let's first be sensitive to the feelings of our podiacally challenged friends in the sea, before we challenge them on

  • There is nothing new about Iron Seeding, except the people who decry it as something that will destroy our oceans and strip it of oxygen.

    This is simply Iron Seeding from a biological standpoint.

    In fact, Iron Seeding is something we probably should be doing to help sequester carbon.

    Recent url of interest here [planetsave.com].
    • The new part is that it comes out of a whale's butt.
      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        Actually I think it's been happening that way for a while now, it's just the first we've realized it.

      • by Anomalyst (742352)

        comes out of a whale's butt

        Although IANAWA (I am not a whale anatomist), I am reasonably certain that while they have a rectum, they do not have glutei, maximus or minimus.

        • From what I can figure you might be right about the glutei. Also male whales have two openings and females have one opening, or as the Spanish would call it, the San Diego.
    • by lazn (202878)

      Each ton of Iron dumped into the ocean pulls about 1000 tons of carbon out of the air.

      http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewArticle.do?id=34167 [whoi.edu]

      Of that a tiny percentage reaches the floor, 20-50% stays in the middle ocean for a few decades, and the rest stays on the top and dies re-releasing the CO2 back into the air.

      Each ton of iron smelted from ore creates 2.5 tons of CO2 (not counting transportation), about equal to that tiny percentage that actually gets sequestered, so if you have to move the iron at all (whi

  • How long before someone decides that we need to do a DNA makeover so that we humans will produce whale shit?

    Your children will sit down, and drop a half-ton of half digested krill. Combine this with those low-flush toilets mandated by law, and you just know that a disaster is just waiting to happen.

  • >I'm going to do my part by buying some iron supplements and a can of chili, and heading off towards the ocean.

    Men and children should not take iron supplements beyond what is found in food as it can be dangerous [ezinearticles.com]. Women, who lose some blood on a monthly basis, can take iron supplements. Consult with your physician.

  • Farming (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lewiscr (3314) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @03:27PM (#32606334) Homepage
    These whales aren't reducing their carbon footprint, they're farming. They're fertilizing the fields of phytoplankton, which works it way back up the food chain.
    • They're doing neither, as both farming and "carbon footprint reduction" require intent. Without intent, this is just another case of "shit happens."

      • So tell me... How exactly did you prove there is no intent?
        And as a bonus question: How exactly do you prove that you yourself are doing anything with intent?

        Ah, interesting, I already had you on my freak list.

        • So tell me... How exactly did you prove there is no intent?

          You don't. You realize that a whale pooping in its environment, as it must, is nothing at all like farming. It's like seriously claiming that whale migration in the Caribbean is because that's their vacation spot. You can't prove a lack of intent, you can only point to the absence of evidence for it. The burden of proof lies on those who want to show that there is intent. Replace "intent" with "god" in your statement for an informative illustration.

          Anyway, the point of my original post was that concept

  • Newsflash! (Score:5, Informative)

    by c0d3g33k (102699) on Thursday June 17, 2010 @03:29PM (#32606356)

    Wow. Organisms that are part of a balanced ecosystem are in fact in balance with their surrounding ecosystem. What's next? The revelation that planets in orbit around the sun do not in fact fly off into space because they follow a curved path centered around the parent body? Must be a slow news day.

  • by mldi (1598123)
    Don't they do the same thing?
  • Whales are so cool. I bet they'd know how to fix the Louisiana BP/Deep Water Horizon fiasco too.
  • Does this imply that the Idle section helps to offset Slashdot's carbon footprint?
    Just asking...

  • What I want to know is where the iron is supposed to have come from. Several sources I have read have neatly ignored this.

    Sperm whales (or any other whales for that matter) do not manufacture iron. They must take it in in their diet. Surely this means that iron is just being circulated around? Perhaps the whale takes iron that would otherwise fall to the ocean floor and circulates it back to the surface?

    • Hey, you aren't supposed to look behind the curtain! The mighty Wizard of Algore sees all, and knows all! You aren't supposed to criticize his most wonderous pronouncements! And everyone who listens to the news knows, whales and dolphins are much smarter than humans. Just look at how much more advanced their technology is compared to ours!

  • In other news (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by AnAdventurer (1548515)
    The earth can take care of it's self in the absence of humans
    • by kailSD (1271360)
      .. or we could follow the whale's lead and dump all our shit in the Challenger Deep [wikipedia.org] and/or elsewhere deep. I wonder how long it would take us to fill it? ;)
  • "They've well and truly bypassed being carbon neutral. They've actually gone one step further,"

    What? They did? Fuck me. What is the point of this article? The whales don't know anything about this, they're just taking a shit. Maybe this supports seeding the ocean with iron, but I bet the same authors would blanch at that idea. This is just useless, idealistic drivel. Jesus Christ, slashdot.

  • ...an action that releases tons of iron a year and stimulates the growth of phytoplankton which absorb and trap carbon dioxide. If only we humans could say the same for our poop, which really doesn't do much more than just sit there."

    Of course human "poop" has a similar role; the waste of every single organism does. In fact, there is no such thing as "waste" per se, only input and output. Your poop is for some species food, for others a home, and for others a womb.

    This is a crucial part of the cycle of life

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      Not only that, but the notion that human poop "just sits there" is terminally ignorant. What do these scientists {??!) think happens when you take a dump, instant fossilization??

      For those equally baffled by the process: It goes into a sewage or septic system, is degraded down to its compontent organics (just like any other critter's poop) and from there eventually back into the environment (again, just like any other critter's poop), whether that's via wastewater discharge into a body of water (exactly what

  • I know most people aren't interested, but let's have the URL for the original paper:
    http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2010/06/14/rspb.2010.0863.short?rss=1 [royalsocie...ishing.org]

    This one is available free (i.e. you don't need a subscription to read it).

  • I'm afraid to look at the picture. Is it of the whale or samzenpus and his can of chili at the beach?
  • By educating people:

    http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/globalwarming.html [whatreallyhappened.com]

    http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/climategate.php [whatreallyhappened.com]

    Make sure to read each one all the way through then form your opinion.

  • I have to say, it sounds painful; they need to eat more fibre.

  • Animals don't have carbon footprints because they don't use stored carbon (Oil, Gas and Coal). This is the kind of dumbed down article I'd expect to find on Digg, not Slashdot.

    It would be impossible for carbon dioxide exhaled by animals to increase the atmospheric CO2 concentration because that carbon was taken out of the atmosphere by plants / algae first. It's a closed cycle. Fossil fuels are a problem because that carbon isn't part of that cycle anymore, so releasing it faster than it can be absorbed obv

  • Most shoes have rubber soles and treads. Rubber is a product of petroleum, which made up of hydrocarbons. Can you see where I'm going with this?
  • Sometime ago, several different groups were going to release iron in the ocean and cause the same thing. Then it was decided that it would not work by those groups. So, now, when a whale does it, it works, but not when humans do it? Why?

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