Fish Poo, Dead Whales, and the Japan Earthquake

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This podcast from the Planet Earth Online collection and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) looks at how the famous White Cliffs of Dover could be made of fish poo (at least partially), why one researcher is so interested in dead whales, and why the Japan earthquake was so powerful and devastating.

Scientists have recently made a rather surprising discovery about fish. It turns out they excrete large amounts of calcium carbonate into the oceans – that's the same substance that coral reefs are made of. To do this they have to drink the human equivalent of 12 litres of sea water every day.

But the big question is: what happens when these carbonates leave the fish? Could fish from the ancient past have contributed to the limestone and chalk rocks we see around us today? Richard Hollingham meets the scientists behind the study to find out more.

Later: what have worms and rotting whale bones got to do with the fossil record? Well, they could well be the key to explaining a gap in the evolution of modern whales. Sue Nelson talks to a scientist with a penchant for dead whales to find out more.

Finally, we hear exactly why the earthquake in Japan was so huge and why the tsunami was so devastating. An audio diary entry from a contributor in French Polynesia gives a sense of the scale of the disaster.

A transcript of the recording is provided to assist those who find text-based content more accessible than audio.

This podcast is dated 23 March 2011.

NERC is a part of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) partnership of research councils.

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