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Japan's Unique Cow/Whale Hybrid Experiments 348

Posted by Zonk
from the baleen-on-the-hoof-or-udders-out-at-sea dept.
RemyBR writes "Controversial scientific research happens all the time, but a review conducted by scientists in Japan uncovered a list of 'bizarre' trials - including one program designed to crossbreed cows with whales.'Scientists have analyzed 43 research papers produced by Japan over 18 years, finding most were useless or esoteric. The scientific research included injecting minke whale sperm into cows eggs, and attempts to produce test-tube whale babies.'"
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Japan's Unique Cow/Whale Hybrid Experiments

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:05PM (#22741570) Journal
    I really am torn on these experiments, I mean I could seriously question the motive and nature:

    Of all the animals you had to pick from you went with cows and whales? Cows and wales? What's next? Sloths and sea sponges? You had the chance to go Island of Doctor Moreau and you tried to recreate a manatee (hello? already exists!) instead of ... oh I don't know ... hybridizing wolverines and great white sharks?

    On the other hand, I could also defend it with other logic, just as solid:

    I don't see anything wrong with it. It was all a matter of time before this happened naturally anyways. Interspecies mating happens all the time between donkeys and horses resulting in a mule or hinny. Occasionally squash and pumpkin plants cross fertilize. It's common. Really, it was only a matter of time before a heard of cattle near the ocean resulted in a particularly rowdy bull wandering into the Ross Sea or Pacific Ocean to jump the bones of a minke whale thus creating a hybrid. Who knows, maybe these would be as useful as mules are? I'm sure the poor of third world countries could use another pack animal--now for oceanic voyages!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by shawn(at)fsu (447153)
      What's next? Sloths and sea sponges?
      I think it's going to be a pig-elephant.

      (I clicked no karma bonus as it's a pretty weak joke)
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Brian Gordon (987471)
        All I want is sharks with lasers mounted on their heads. Is that so much to ask?
        • by VorpalRodent (964940) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:19PM (#22742552)
          Unfortunately, early attempts to mate lasers with sharks have proven unsuccessful. All the sharks either died or were rendered infertile as a result of the acts.

          Attempts to directly fertilize a shark egg with a laser resulted in the immediate destruction of the ovum.

          Perhaps someday science will answer this question, but for today, we must still dream.
      • by ArcherB (796902) * on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:20PM (#22741808) Journal

        I think it's going to be a pig-elephant.
        Maybe, but that really wouldn't take the work of Japanese scientists. All you need is a pot-bellied pig, an elephant, lots of alcohol, and some Isaac Hayes music.

        However, it will probably end up that a closeted gay, balding school teacher did all the "real" work. Even then, what good will it be if only has one ass?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Ashbory (781835)
        forget the elephant. I wanna see a man-bear-pig!
    • by MrNaz (730548) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:13PM (#22741680) Homepage
      *Mumbles something about welcoming new cowhale overlords*
      *Gets modded to the depths of hell*
      *Swears*
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by master_p (608214)

      Of all the animals you had to pick from you went with cows and whales? Cows and wales? What's next? Sloths and sea sponges?
      Sharks and bulls, apparently...with freaking lasers mounted between their horns.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Adambomb (118938)

        "Contrary to popular belief, the most dangerous animal is not the lion or
        tiger or even the elephant. The most dangerous animal is a shark riding
        on an elephant, just trampling and eating everything they see."
        oh Jack Handey [deepthough...handey.com]
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LrdDimwit (1133419)
        We ARE talking about Japan, here ... Pray it does not involve a squid.
    • by TobyRush (957946) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:14PM (#22741706) Homepage

      It was all a matter of time before this happened naturally anyways.

      No kidding! In fact, when I read the headline my first thought is that these guys were experimenting with ways to put a stop to the rampant cow/whale breeding that has been taking place in cities like mine. It's really transformed my neighborhood in such a way that I'm no longer comfortable letting my kids play out front, at least not unsupervised.

    • by greginnj (891863) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:15PM (#22741732) Homepage Journal
      Agreed, cows and whales sounds ridiculous. But my first reaction was - I'm sure "Japan" has published more than 43 research papers in 18 years; how did they pick these?? And a quick check of TFA reveals:

      A review of the controversial scientific research conducted by Japan and its whalers has uncovered...
      Aha! So it's not just the Ploxmire awards, it's a review of the specious "research" the whalers conduct in order to continue hunting whales. These crucial words were left out of the summary, and makes it seem even more ridiculous. Makes much more sense now, and explains why whales are involved, and they won't bother with sloths and sea sponges. It's sort of a more gruesome version of Canadian lottery quizzes.
      • by Chris Burke (6130)
        Aha! So it's not just the Ploxmire awards, it's a review of the specious "research" the whalers conduct in order to continue hunting whales. These crucial words were left out of the summary, and makes it seem even more ridiculous. Makes much more sense now, and explains why whales are involved, and they won't bother with sloths and sea sponges. It's sort of a more gruesome version of Canadian lottery quizzes.

        I automatically assumed that's what it was. The intent behind the 'research' jumped right out at me
      • Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jd (1658)
        You've got to be careful on the specious. Whales are descended from land animals and you can get huge physical changes with very small genetic differences. It is also possible to GM genetically distant mammals to grow human organs - although I'm suspicious about potential genetic contamination and abnormal stresses. Hypothetically, provided whales have not become too distant, it should be possible to get relatively close land animals to at least grow "whale meat", and provided the changes are (at the geneti
    • New technology will make the Human race indistinguishable from gods in many ways.

      The question is- Do we, as a race, set about becoming good at techniques such as genetic engineering, or do we sit back and wait for crazy shit to happen (evil billionaires, rogue states etc.)?
    • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:20PM (#22741806) Journal
      I think the combo makes sense. Japan still hunts for whales, which gets them a lot of bad press. What if, they could grow whale meat on land? You'd want whale flesh in a easily manageable form that lacks the intelligence of a whale, but you already had facilities to breed, slaughter and distribute.
      • by meatspray (59961)
        meh, I bet they were working on 3.5 ton (3175kg) beef cattle.
      • by tgd (2822)
        I was thinking Kobe Sushi might be good... Maybe they really want to be able to fish their beef?
      • Small problem (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:54PM (#22742270) Journal

        Nobody EATS IT! The whole things has become a matter of pride, they japanese can't shift the meat without subsidies. It just ain't popular. Now beef. Good beef? That will cost you a fortune.

        The reason whale meat was on the diet (when it hasn't been for ages in the rest of the world) was because post-WW2 japan had a food shortage and whale meat was easily available. For all kinds of reasons Japan just ain't a beef country. But that doesn't mean the meat was popular. Before commercial whaling was banned the consumption was already plumetting.

        Japanese politics are EXTREMELY controlled by special intrest groups. Far more so then even the US. Would New York keep valuable land for growing grain just a few miles outside the city center? Hell no. Drive out of tokyo were land-prices are insane and you will land right smack in the rice paddies, rice that is so expensive to grow in Japan it makes no economical sense.

        The entire whaling debate is just a product of old elite japanese wanting to say NO to the world. No normal japanese person wants to eat it. It is like those people who claim they hunt seals for historic reasons while wearing synthetic clothing and dining on pizza.

        • Re:Small problem (Score:5, Informative)

          by grassy_knoll (412409) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:19PM (#22742550) Homepage
          Ahem.

          Nobody EATS IT!


          I did when I lived in Japan.

          Some was for sale at my local supermarket. As sashimi it wasn't very good, but boiled it tasted rather like very tender beef ( with an odd rainbow hue from the fats ). Delicious. My neighbors liked it as well.

          While it may not be a staple food, and perhaps the reason for the continued whale hunting is mostly cultural, people in Japan do ( or at least did ) eat whale meat.
      • by Dogtanian (588974) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:09PM (#22742446) Homepage

        What if, they could grow whale meat on land?
        There wouldn't be any point. As this story explains [bbc.co.uk], it's not like the Japanese really like whale meat anyway- the driving forces behind it are political and related to fishing and Japanese sovereignty.

        That's why their government is pursuing whaling, trying to get people to eat the stuff and exaggerating the extent to which whaling and whale-meat consumption is a traditional part of Japanese culture.

        Personally, the whole thing disgusts me, as does the intelligence-insulting excuse that this has anything to do with science. That includes these bullshit "experiments", which are laughable but (under the circumstances) not particularly funny.
    • why cows and whales (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sdedeo (683762) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:24PM (#22741856) Homepage Journal
      Actually, if you were going to pick some creature to go with whales, it would be the hippopotamus. In the evolutionary chain that you can establish with DNA, whales got back into the water rather late. But as someone noted below, this article is about papers that come out of "scientific" whaling -- which is really just a cover for the Japanese to hunt the endangered species for cash. So I guess they went with cows, because they are pretty cheap and it's probably easier to do whatever phony-science you want (e.g., because of agriculture, getting your cow DNA sequenced is probably somthing you can just mail in.)

      Beware! My knowledge of evolution and cetaceans comes only from Richard Dawkins books which I last read like three years ago (I highly recommend The Ancestor's Tale, if you've already read the classics like Selfish Gene and Extended Phenotype.)
    • Of all the animals you had to pick from you went with cows and whales?

      I don't know why they picked cows, but Japan has a very good reason to pick whales. They are pretty much the only country in the world that engages in whaling and "scientific research" is the only excuse that Japan has to continue this. Oh and "tradition" - never mind the fact that Japanese whale-eating "tradition" was really a byproduct of food shortages after second world war...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Sciros (986030)
        Japan isn't the only country in the world that still hunts whales. Norway, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, even the US (Alaskan natives) engages in it. Norway I think brings in more whales than even Japan, though reportedly they use more humane killing methods (or at least are better at using the same ones).

        But yeah, the research that was looked at was indeed part of the "research" that the whaling industry sort of conducts in order to keep doing the whole song and dance so they can say they whale for scientifi
    • Japan uses the "research" exception to keep on hunting whales despite the whaling ban they're supposed, by treaty, to obey. The "researchers" aren't trying to make whale-cow hybrids, they're just bullshitting to fulfill a legal requirement. They could just as well try out whether whale sperm cures cancer, or see if agitating whale baleens in one's butt result in time travel. "Nope, doesn't work, but we tried! So now let's hunt s'more whales."
    • by flyingsquid (813711) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:29PM (#22741930)
      It's not quite as bizarre as it sounds, actually. Whales are ungulates like cows, actually part of the even-toed ungulate group (artiodactyls) that includes cows, goats, deer, etc. So whales are actually closer to cows than horses are. The paleontologists thought the molecular biologists were on crack when they published those results, but eventually they dug up early whales with ankle joints which are remarkably similar to those of cows and other ungulates, and the artiodactyl-whale hypothesis has now been embraced.

      So it's not completely bizarre, just... mostly bizarre. Yes, whales are artiodactyls, but they're pretty damn highly modified ones: no hindlimbs, nostrils that open on top of the skull, lots of extra finger bones. Even if you got a sperm to successfully fertilize an egg, I can't imagine that the cowhale/whalecow embryo would survive for long when the developmental patterns of the parents are so different. And what would that tell you? Whale/cow love ain't likely to work out? Shit, I could've told you THAT without an experiment. I gotta agree with the critics: this doesn't strike me as serious scientific research. I have a very hard time believing that you could write up a grant proposal for this experiment and get a favorable review.

      • by nadaou (535365) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:45PM (#22742804) Homepage
        probably what has been lost in translation here is that a female whale is called a "cow". While I haven't RTFA, I expect this has nothing to do with bovines and a lot to do with OMG journalism.

        Having said that Japan must stop whaling; the rest of the world's govenments must step in and stop the insult to "science" this loophole exploits; stop the IWC 3rd world country votes-for-cash bribery; and the rest of the world's people should boycot her until she does. It's complete and udder bullshit that this $1M industry is allowed to continue (yes, that's "1 Million" with an "M", it hardly even covers the fuel costs to get the whaling fleet into the southern ocean whale sanctuary hunting grounds (yes, that's "sanctuary" with an "i" for illegal breach)).

        It's in my cultural heritige to throw rocks at the heads of Englishmen. Well, times change, and we must move on.

    • by Remus Shepherd (32833) <remus@panix.com> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:31PM (#22741950) Homepage
      Seems natural to me, from a japanese perspective. Japanese like eating whales. Cows are easy to breed and keep. It would be a terrific thing for Japan if they could make cows that tasted like whales. (It wouldn't be a bad thing from the whales' perspective, either.)
    • by c_forq (924234)
      I think it makes perfect since, if you think about Japan. Japan wants whale meat, but isn't supposed to hunt whales. Imagine if you could create cattle that have meat similar to that of a whale! Remember that beef is already expensive in Japan, and you will see that if you can achieve it you will have quite literal cash cow.
      • Sorry, but it doesn't make sense. Nice try, though.
        The reason that beef is so expensive in Japan is that they don't have lots of land fit for raising cattle. So even if they create some modified cattle, they still won't be able to profitably raise it. Indeed, it would hurt them: if they proved that it could be done, some US firm will create their own hybrid and grow it in the US, thereby competing with the Japanese whale hunting firms.
    • by The Fun Guy (21791) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:45PM (#22742140) Homepage Journal
      Of all the animals you had to pick from you went with cows and whales?

      Actually, cows [wikipedia.org] (Bos taurus) are members of the Aritodactyla [wikipedia.org] order:

      Cetaceans

      One group of artiodactyls (which molecular biology suggests were most closely related to Hippopotamidae) returned to the sea to become whales. Thus Artiodactyla without Cetacea is a paraphyletic group. For this reason, the term Cetartiodactyla was coined to refer to the group containing both artiodactyls and whales.[3]


      Commingling of sperm and egg will let you know how closely related the molecular recognition is between these related species. Count the number of divisions in the zygote until it fails due to genetic incompatibility, and you have more information on cross-species recognition. Since you already know how closely cows and whales are (by molecular fingerprinting), that will let you calibrate this information.

      It's value can be seen in modern cross-breeding of more closely related animals, and how to suppress incompatibilities to allow for valuable traits to be incorporated into livestock from wild cousins.
    • by RKBA (622932)
      This is the first time in history that I've ever thought a SlashDot comment was so funny that I had to print it out on PAPER to share with others, har, har. I have mod points and would love to give you more, but you're already at +5
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tompaulco (629533)
      Of all the animals you had to pick from you went with cows and whales?
      Well, this makes some sense. Scientists believe that whales and cows descended from a common ancestor. Evolution detractors use this as a point to mock scientists, since whale tails move up and down while cow tails move side to side, and cows breathe through their mouth while whales have a blowhole on top of their head. It IS pretty apocryphal that two species could vary so much in only 40 to 50 million years in a species that goes deca
  • Where's the beef? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by binaryspiral (784263) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:06PM (#22741580)
    Wow, imagine the size of a T-bone from a whale sized cow...
    • by mh1997 (1065630)

      Wow, imagine the size of a T-bone from a whale sized cow...
      It would be very small because a cow with no legs but a huge tail would starve on land, and without the blow hole would drown at sea - but it would be the perfect combination for veal.
    • by wsanders (114993)
      I don't fancy chewing through 6 inches of blubber to ge to the good part.

      Or hearing underwater "moo"'s when I scuba dive.

  • "The scientific research included injecting minke whale sperm into cows eggs, and attempts to produce test-tube whale babies.'"

    That's hot!

  • (clerks) (Score:3, Funny)

    by everphilski (877346) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:07PM (#22741598) Journal
    Whales with teets that put mine to shame
  • by xmuskrat (613243) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:07PM (#22741600) Homepage
    It looked like a cow whale to me.
  • by A nonymous Coward (7548) * on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:09PM (#22741614)
    TFA says Australia is going to try to end the "scientific research" loophole. These idiotic "experiments" smell of bureaucrats hiring incompetent and/or lazy "scientists" to do useless thumb twiddling just so they can say they need to keep killing whales.

    Whether or not there should be a ban on killing whales is another matter altogether. Wasting time and resources in this manner to circumvent public opinion is another. I'd be pretty pissed if I were a Japanese consumer / taxpayer (depending on who pays for these useless "experiments").
  • man o' tee (Score:4, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:10PM (#22741640)
    Silly Japanese. Don't they know we already have sea cows?
    • Perhaps they were testing to see if that is how manatee's came to be...
      Either that or God did it. ;-)
      /sarcasm
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ArcherB (796902) *

      Silly Japanese. Don't they know we already have sea cows?
      Maybe they want their own version of Family Guy.

  • It sounds funny now, but wait until the giant flying lizard starts fighting the giant flying turtle. By that point, not even the giant robot with the missiles shooting from its fingers can save Tokyo.
  • Pff. (Score:5, Funny)

    by FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:12PM (#22741674) Homepage
    God, schmod. I want my whalecow.
  • by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan.jared@g m a i l .com> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:12PM (#22741678)
    Can't you see the obvious advantages of having a large cow-whale reserve. The Japanese wanted to produce an army of cow-whales that would have a superhuman... er... supercow ability to produce milk. With an inflated milk reserve, they could crash the US market... a veritable economic Pearl Harbor. THANK GOD THE INTELLIGENCE DIDN'T FAIL THIS TIME!!
  • by Grokmoo (1180039) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:14PM (#22741704)
    I am ok with them pursuing this line of research, as long as they don't try something truly dangerous, like a half bear, half pig. Or worse, a half man, half bear, half pig. Now that would be trouble.
  • ...movie.

    Seriously. YUCK! What gets IN to these people?
  • -quantifying the mouthfeel of whale flesh on a scale of carnivorous appeal
    -how to use less fossil fuels in the preparation of whale meat to abide by the kyoto protocol
    -classifying whale meat's umami taste factor
    -topological descriptions of various folding models in the preparation of whale meat sushi

    most of the scientific papers associated with this vastly important field of scientific research have concluded some amazing scientific findings, samples of the papers' conclusions:

    "om nom nom nom nom nom..."

    "BURP"

    "pass the sapporo, onegai shimasu"
  • by TimeZone (658837) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:16PM (#22741752)
    that these experiments were solely intended to allow Japan to continue it's whaling operations (under the guise of said "research") and that everyone involved probably knew the experiments were ridiculous and a scam.
    So it's not like this is some mad scientist thing or anything. Just business. As usual.

    TZ

  • That's the least terrible thing (short of not killing a whale and taking it's sperm) that I can imagine the Japanese doing with whale semen. Thanks internet.
  • Some day... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nacturation (646836) <nacturation AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:25PM (#22741864) Journal
    Some day, the International Whaling Committee which discusses hunting and killing of whales will be about as ethically acceptable as an International Slavery Committee that discusses acceptable ways to enslave people.
     
    • We can only hope. I need someone to plough my fields.

      Oh, you meant that the other way. ...Awkard...
    • by Abcd1234 (188840)
      I assume you have a similar objection to the USDA?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nacturation (646836)

        I assume you have a similar objection to the USDA?
        I get your point, but I suppose I just have a soft spot for whales so you'll excuse me if I don't take an all-or-nothing approach.
         
  • by AutopsyReport (856852) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:26PM (#22741886)
    Don't have a cow, man!
  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:34PM (#22741988)
    Japan has been at the forefront of cat/girl technology for *tears*.
  • At long, long last we have whale-cows. And Hallmark greeting card stereos. And pigs that glow under UV light. And iPhones.

  • Ok, how long til a whale cow shows up in some tenticle porn in Japan? My estimate, 5 hours.
  • I think it might be simpler to start smaller. For example: tuna and chicken, dont you think?
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:08PM (#22742434) Journal
    Anyone who reads this summary (without realizing that this is just a way to keep whaling under the guise of research) and thinks "dude, that's messed-up: I wonder what other shenanigans scientsts get up to?" should go read Elephants On Acid (and other bizarre experiments) [amazon.com]. It's a seriously strange book just chock-full of "they did WHAT? Dear Lord, *WHY*?" experiments. I thought it was interesting as a book because some of the experiments, I was like "cool, I've always wondered about that" when other people (my girlfriend, brother, best friend) were all "they did WHAT??!?" and likewise, they found meaning in other experiments that I thought were completely delusional. (Yeah, I'm saying the validity of experiments is relative.) There are some really truly gruesome experiments discussed in here, though, truly Frankenstein nightmare experiments done in the USSR, so it's not for the weak of stomach. But it's a great read.
  • by EdIII (1114411) * on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:25PM (#22742614)
    Anybody else visualizing a Far Side comic with 2 whale-cows and a farmer?
  • Um... (Score:3, Informative)

    by mrfantasy (63690) <mike@chairt h r o w e r .org> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @03:08PM (#22743050) Homepage Journal
    I think we may have an immense misunderstanding here.

    I think a female whale is in fact referred to as a "cow".

    Therefore, these experiments are likely whale IVF. Which is still weird, but considerably less so. The real story is Japan's flimsy excuse to do "research" that allows them to continue whaling.

    In other words, nothing to see here, move along.

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