Count Plankula

Tabloid Thursday: Planking is Dangerous

As usual, the bulk of so-called “news outlets” have missed the most interesting part of an amazing story. Science Magazine, Practical Fishkeeping and the BBC are all reporting that a new study has found that some species of zooplankton actually leap out of the water to avoid predators. The tiny copepods can jump as much as 60 times their own body length. They are only a tenth of an inch long, but still.

This is all fairly amazing. Until recently, it was generally thought that zooplankton mostly just floated around, incapable of real evasive action in the event that predators attacked. Now we see that some of these microscopic animals have a fairly advanced and successful escape mechanism.

It also helps to explain the high survival rate of these specific copepods. These particular copepods do not migrate to darker waters during daylight hours, so they should be easy targets for predators. However, their ability to jump out of the way of danger has allowed them to stay close to the surface without acting as an all-fish-can-eat buffet.

But why do none of these stories mention the terrifying part of this story? They have left out a bit that you can only find from Weekly World News and Tabloid Thursday!

Perhaps it is just to prevent mass hysteria that the story is being suppressed, but we can’t live with the thought that others might be saved, if only they knew the truth about the flying plankton. The “fact” of the matter is that they are not leaping just to escape predators; they are out for blood! The copepods have developed a taste for human blood and are now leaping onto unsuspecting fishermen and sucking them dry. Of course, given their minuscule size, it must take hundreds if not thousands of them to drink all of a fisherman’s blood. However, Weekly World News is “reporting” that “There have been 27 fishermen that have died from the flying plankton over the last few weeks.”

Don’t believe everything you read though. For the first time ever, we have some cause to doubt Weekly World News. They acknowledge that the copepods are 0.1 inch long and can jump 60 times their body length, but they also say that the copepods can “jump ten feet of the water.” Even if we are generous and assume that they mean “ten feet out of the water,” the math seems a bit squiffy. 0.1 in. x 60 = 10 ft? Sounds about right, never mind. Or do they mean that they can jump 10 feet vertically and travel laterally for 60 times their body length? That makes sense too.

EDIT:

Weekly World News is also reporting that a couple of bottle-nosed dolphins have taught themselves to fly, using their fins as wings. Not just leap out of the water, actually fly. But since they quote a “NASA expert” as saying that dolphins learning to fly is ” not completely surprising,” we decided that it really isn’t news-worthy.

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