Killer Whale’s Ingenious Trick To Kill Sharks

By Anupum Pant

Background

Although mosquitoes are much much deadlier, Great White Sharks no doubt are dangerous animals too. It seems as if there’s nothing this big fish fears. But even this deadly hunter gets hunted.

On the other hand, Orca or the Killer whale is a relatively cuter animal. Remember Free Willy? But to me, these seemingly cute animals are in fact shrewd hunters who like to torture their prey before eating it. They’ve learnt well the tricks of the trade. I feel they are a lot like crows. That is to say, they are extremely intelligent and learn by observing.

For instance, to make seals sitting on ice pieces fall down, the killer whales know a good trick. They make waves and make the ice sheet wobble. As a result, seals fall down. Similarly, by sneaking up, making bubbles to trap fish and by using other such methods, these genius hunters make sure they get their prey.

Also, like Daniel Kish, they use echolocation. But Orcas use it to locate the prey. Still, their intelligence doesn’t always work.

Orcas kill sharks and they know a really efficient trick to do it successfully. They flip the sharks upside down. Here’s how they exactly manage to have “Shark sushi for lunch”.

Tonic Immobility + Ram Ventilation

To kill sharks they employ this very ingenious trick. They cash in on Tonic Immobility. Ironically, Tonic immobility is a defence mechanism some sharks use. Tonic immobility is something that a number of animals use for different purposes. Mostly they do it for defence by faking death.

During this state, their breathing becomes very relaxed and they might look as it they are dead. For instance, lobsters become immobile when they are stroked on their backs. Sharks can be flipped and they become immobile (not always). Everyone knows how Possums do it – they play Possum.

Now, since some sharks can’t breathe when they stop moving, due to something called ram ventilation, they drown. And isn’t that perfect for our Killer!

The killer whale  flips the shark, puts it to sleep. The shark stops breathing and dies. Then the killer whale goes and rips apart the tongue and liver of the shark, because that is all it eats. All the other parts of the dead shark drop to the sea bed.

Even these uneaten parts don’t go to waste, the other sea creatures have the time of their life eating them. They probably thank the odd little habit of the killer whale – the habit of eating just the liver and leaving everything else.

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The Natural Segmented Sleep

By Anupum Pant

Background

The light bulb changed everything. Before it came, when the only practical sources of artificial light were candles & lamps, people did not often use candles to stay awake at night. These sources of artificial light costed a lot more per lumen hour. They were not always used. They were used only when artificial light was totally necessary. Normally, as the sun went down, people preferred sleeping. As bulbs came, they transformed the way we slept. Or, so argued the historian A. Roger Ekirch.

In his detailed published anthropological work – At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past – he mentions that the eight-hour single block of sleep is a recent change in our sleeping schedule. For many many years more than we’ve slept for eight hours in the night, our ancestors had practised a very different kind of sleep schedule which became the natural way of sleeping for humans. It was a segmented sleep.

The schedule went like this…

When the sun went down, there was more or less no artificial source of light. Due to this, our ancestors could do nothing useful. Bored with inactivity, they slept. Then somewhere in the mid-night, they woke up. For an hour or so, they remained awake and went back to sleep again till the morning.

The time for which these people remained awake, was probably the most relaxing and most calm time of their lives. Due to increased levels of pituitary hormone prolactin, people felt a lot at peace during this hour. During this time, people liked involving themselves in some kind of activity. Some preferred reading, others wrote. Some smoked, others visited their friends. And so on… The point is, people found themselves replenished during this time. It was apparently blissful.

This pattern of sleep became a natural way for us humans. Turns out, the eight-hour block of sleep is not the way we always used to sleep!

This sleep pattern has been observed to come back to today’s humans when they were completely deprived of any artificial light. This can be seen in the famous experiments of a psychiatrist, Thomas Wehr.

End

That waking hour of bliss – a fact of life before the industrial revolution came – was probably a period which I feel, needs to come back to cure the modern world’s rising anxiety, stress, depression, alcoholism and drug abuse.

Some scientists believe that if you give your bodies a chance, they’d go back to a segmented sleep pattern. This is also bolstered by Wehr’s experiments. While others prescribe you sleeping pills if you tell them you wake up at night for an hour or so.

Just for the record, I’m writing this at 2:30 AM. I just woke up, and I’m off to sleep again.

[Read more] [Mastering Biphasic sleep] A detailed blogpost on the experience by Jayson Feltner…

Hallucinogenic Honey From The Himalayan Bees

By Anupum Pant

With over 3.5 Million Gurungs living in Nepal, the Gurung people are found all over the country and beyond. However, near the peaks of Himalayas, beyond which no human settlements are found, lives a secretive Gurung tribe called the honey hunters, in the secret villages that are surrounded by thick forests.

In these high forests live a certain kind of bee, the world’s largest honey bee – The Giant Bee of Himalayas (up to 3 cm length) – are found in huge nests built on the overhanging rocks of cliff faces. These nests can reach up to 5 feet in diameter and each of these nests can contain about 60 kg of honey! But that is not even the most interesting part about them yet…

The honey made by these bees is a product that comes from the nectar of kinds of poisonous flowers. That is probably what makes this honey – Red Honey – medicinal, intoxicating and hallucinogenic. Since it is difficult to harvest and has special properties, this kind of honey is expensive and sells for about 4 times the price of normal honey in the foreign market. So, the honey hunters take absurd risks to get the honey from overhanging nests up in the cliffs.

Also, besides the mad hallucinogenic honey, another awesome thing I did not know was that bees create a Mexican wave to warn the attackers approaching their nest. Seen at 14:40 of the documentary below.

I stumbled upon this amazingly beautiful 25-minute documentary by Raphael Treza which takes you through the ways of this tribe and their mad honey hunting ritual.

Also, you can’t miss this detailed Photo-documentary which beautifully captures, in still images, the Gurung tribe’s ways. [Here]

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