Cuvier’s beaked whales are among the most mysterious and adept mammals on Earth. They can dive deeper and hold their breath longer than any other marine mammal. But biologists still know very little about them. A new study is the first to look at a population of these whales that lives off Cape Hatteras, N.C. The 11 whales studied dove almost continuously. They took deep dives of about 1 mile, swimming a half-hour down and the same back up. These were followed by several shallower dives of about 918 feet — nearly two-tenths of a mile — lasting 15 to 20 minutes, the study found. The whales would spend an average of just more than two minutes at the surface, before plunging again. It’s not entirely clear how they manage to dive so deep. The team tracked a few dives of over 1.7 miles. Diane Claridge, executive director of the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation, said recent research suggests the whales are “made of this muscle that can store lots of oxygen. The whales have little fat, especially around their midsections, which allows them to store more nitrogen, enabling deep dives.”

This is a rare bird, indeed

A bird seen lately in Erie, Penn., has been drawing attention. Its left side is the taupe shade of female cardinals; its right, the signature scarlet of males. Researchers believe that cardinal is a rare bilateral gynandromorph, half male and half female. Not much is known about the unusual phenomenon, but it has been reported among birds, reptiles, butterflies and crustaceans. A blood test or necroscopy would be needed to confirm, but the split in plumage down the middle is characteristic of the event, said evolutionary biologist Daniel Hooper. He said gynandromorphs could theoretically be created through the fusion of two developing embryos that were separately fertilized. It’s also possible that a female produces an egg that contains both copies of her sex chromosomes and is then fertilized by two sperm with male chromosomes. The split runs down the middle since vertebrates develop in a bilaterally symmetrical way. But in essence, each side of the bird would be largely the brother or sister of the other.