National Geographic : 1992 Oct
Geographica Dolphins Ride a Wave, Save on Energy Costs The U. S. Navy wanted to find out how much energy dolphins expend while swimming. The answer: as little as possible. Terrie Williams and her Hawaii-based team of re searchers trained a pair of bottlenose dolphins to swim alongside a boat, fitted the duo with monitors to record heart and breathing rates, and went out to Oahu's Kaneohe Bay for tests. The pair swam amidships until the boat had nearly doubled its speed. Then they shifted to the stern wake and rode the wave, like bicyclists drafting behind a truck. "No amount of coaxing could get them to move," Williams says. Their average heart and breathing rates in the stern wake matched the rates for the lower speed, she mar vels: "They were going twice as fast with little change in energy costs." Is This Our First Look Under the Moon's Crust? n a warm-up lap around earth Sand the sun to pick up speed before "slingshotting" off to Jupiter, the Galileo spacecraft has transmitted images that offer scientists what may be their first peek at rocks from beneath the moon's crust. Pointing at the far side of the moon on a December 1990 flyby, Galileo's camera detected an unusually high abundance of iron bearing minerals in an area called the South Pole-Aitken basin (yellow at bottom left in this false-color image). When a mete oroid struck the moon, creating the 1,200-mile wide depression, it may have churned up iron rich rocks from more than 55 miles below the moon's surface, says James W. Head III of Brown University, a member of the Galileo imaging team. Galileo, now on its second and final lap around earth and sun, will pay a return visit to the moon in December. It will begin exploring DAVID DOUBILET Jupiter in late 1995. National Geographic, October 1992 Sale of Panda's Pelt Brings Prison Terms D eeply in debt and desperately seek ing a way out, Wu Hui Yuan of Shanghai de cided to buy, then resell, a giant panda's pelt. His deci sion will cost him 12 years in a Chinese prison. Wu went to Sichuan Prov ince, home of the giant panda (GEOGRAPHIC, March 1986), and paid two men 30,000 yuan -about $5,500-for a panda skin. He returned home, had it photo graphed, and, with the help of his associate Wang Shu He, lured a buyer to Shanghai's Peace Hotel. But when the buyer turned over 200,000 yuan, police swooped in and arrested both Wu and Wang. For his help Wang will spend eight years in prison. Giant pandas, which number only 1,000 or so in the wild, are at risk of extinction; Chinese poachers and traffickers face the death penalty if they are caught. Still, more than 200 people have been arrested for illegal dealings in panda skins. Stuart Parkins of the World Wide Fund for Nature says that demand for the exotic pelts is strongest in Taiwan but exists also in Japan and Hong Kong. The going price is about $10,000.