Oddies in air & sea: Hitchcock, pelicans, & flying rays

Some oddities from the air and the sea:

A new study about what got Into Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” birds:

Mystery behind Hitchcock’s birds,” Sibel Bargu [pictured here], Mary W. Silver, Mark D. Ohman, Claudia R. Benitez-Nelson and David L. Garrison, Nature Geoscience, vol. 5, nos. 2–3, 2012. Published online 22 December 2011.

“On 18 August 1961, a Californian newspaper reported that thousands of ‘crazed seabirds pelted the shores of North Monterey Bay, California’ regurgitating anchovies. Soon after reading the report, local visitor Alfred Hitchcock was inspired to produce his famous thriller The Birds. Three decades later, in 1991, another mass poisoning occurred in the same area — this time, of fish-eating, disoriented and dying brown pelicans. But on this occasion the culprit was identified: the pelicans had ingested domoic acid, a neurotoxin that is produced by the diatom Pseudo-nitzschia. Large quantities of this diatom, and the associated toxin, were found in the stomachs of fish in the region. It has been suggested that diatom-generated domoic acid was also responsible for the 1961 event1, but direct evidence has been lacking. Here we show that plankton samples from the 1961 poisoning contained toxin-producing Pseudo-nitzschia, supporting the contention that these toxic diatoms were responsible for the bird frenzy that motivated Hitchcock’s thriller.

Video clip of Hitchcock’s film “The Birds”:

Detail from the new study:

BONUS: An unrelated video curiously linking, by implication, the lives of pelicans and rays: