Scientist "Spy" on Whales Using Tiny Helicopters

The tiny, 3.5 ft. long helicopters in the video below hover over sperm whales as they spew air, mucus and other gases out of their blowholes. The helicopters are covered in petri dishes which collect samples of the slimy, gooey, gaseous emissions which can then be used to test the health of individual whales and overall whale populations.

The technique was designed by Dr. Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse, a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Zoological Society of London. In an article in the Telegraph , she explains, "Scientists have always found it difficult to study diseases in whales because of their size and obligate ocean life. Most of the studies on whale pathogens have focused on dead, stranded or captive animals, which are hardly representative of the normal population."

Acevedo-Whitehouse adds, "The small helicopters are also equipped with six hellfire missiles apiece which are ideal for attacking Pashtun civilians on the mountainous Pakistan-Afghan border." We thought it was strange that she was getting all her funding from the Project for the New American Century.

More like this

Figure 1: Humpback whale The question is: what do you use to study the health of whales in the wild? The answer is: not what you'd think. Unlike smaller sea mammals like seals or sea lions, it is very hard to obtain blood samples from whales without first killing them. Meet Karina Acevedo-…
You can always tell it's Nobel season -- because that's when the Ig Nobel prizes are announced! The 2010 laureates have been announced. Here are some "highlights:" ENGINEERING PRIZE: Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and Agnes Rocha-Gosselin of the Zoological Society of London, UK, and Diane Gendron of…
Jerry Coyne offers some further thoughts on the Richard Lewontin essay I discussed in yesterday's post. Specifically, he addresses the question of why natural selection deserver pride of place among evolutionary mechanisms. He writes: First of all, yes, it's true that the evidence for natural…
Legislators in Louisiana are considering a bill to prohibit human-animal hybrids. We've been all over this subject before — it's ridiculous and founded on complete incomprehension of what the research is all about. How ridiculous is it? SB 115 bans the "mixing of human and animal cells in a petri…

As sciencey and research driven as this was, you can tell the guy with the remote is totally having so much fun with his new toy. XD

More fun than following whales hoping to pick up some whale scat, which I know researchers in Zodiacs actually do. (Lucky for them, it floats.)

Toy helicopters --ingenious, and way fun! Why do I never get the fun jobs?

By Theodosia (not verified) on 13 Nov 2008 #permalink

too bad they left the petri dishes in the sunlight for so long. half the bacteria are probably dead.

actually, since these are underwater bacteria used to the crushing pressure and harsh environments of the ocean, they'll mutate superpowers when exposed to the easy conditions of the surface. It's like Superman. Find the oceanite or we're all doomed.