Whale sharks: Atomic tests solve age puzzle of world’s largest fish 鯨鯊:原子能試驗解開世界上最大魚類的年齡之謎

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冷戰期間進行的原子彈試驗數據幫助科學家們準確地測定了世界上最大魚類的年齡。鯨鯊是體型龐大、行動速度緩慢、性情溫和的生物,主要棲息在熱帶水域中。

Stretching up to 60 feet in length and weighing around 20 tonnes, the slow-moving whale shark is very popular with divers. But despite their docile nature, scientists still lack basic information, such as how long the whale sharks actually live.

全身長達60英呎(約18米)、重約20噸——行動緩慢的鯨鯊在潛水者當中很受歡迎。但儘管它們性情溫順,科學家們仍缺乏有關它們的基本信息,比如鯨鯊的真實年齡。

To solve the problem, researchers turned to data from the dozens of atomic bomb tests carried out in the 1950s and 60s. These explosions produced huge amounts of an isotope called Carbon-14.

為瞭解決這個問題,研究人員參考並利用了20世紀50年代和60年代進行的數十次原子彈試驗的數據。這些爆炸產生了大量被稱作 「碳-14」 的同位素。

As scientists know how long the element takes to decay, they can work out the whale shark’s age, depending on how much Carbon-14 is contained in their bones. One whale shark was 50 years old at time of death. Some can live to be 150.

由於科學家們知道這種元素衰變需要多長時間,因此他們可以根據鯨鯊骨骼中碳-14 的含量計算出鯨鯊的年齡。其中一頭鯨鯊在死亡時有50歲。有些可以活到150歲。

詞彙

stretching 長度(可達)……
weighing 有……重
slow-moving 行動緩慢的
docile 性情溫順、溫和的
turned to 求助於
isotope 同位素
element 元素
decay 衰變

閱讀理解:請在讀完上文後,回答下列問題 。

1. True or false? Whale sharks are fast and fierce creatures.

2. How heavy is a whale shark?

3. To work out how long the whale sharks live, what did researchers turn to?

4. Which parts of the whale shark’s body indicate their age?

答案

1. True or false? Whale sharks are fast and fierce creatures.
False. Whale sharks are slow-moving and docile creatures.

2. How heavy is a whale shark?
A whale shark weighs around 20 tonnes.

3. To work out how long the whale sharks live, what did researchers turn to?
Researchers turned to data from the dozens of atomic bomb tests carried out in the 1950s and 60s.

4. Which parts of the whale shark’s body indicate their age?
Their bones. The amount of Carbon-14 contained in their bones helps scientists figure out their age.