Better than swimming with the dolphins (though maybe not as awesome as wading with the platypuses
), Pig Island in the Bahamas is home to miniature piggies who paddle around the bay
seeking handouts from charmed tourists. — Maggie
Back in September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report connecting the use of antibiotics in livestock to antibiotic resistance in humans. It was an important step in turning science into action. Although human use and misuse of antibiotics and the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in hospitals are important parts of the puzzle of antibiotic resistance, the massive use of antibiotics by the agricultural industry also plays a key role. In fact, the vast majority of antibiotics used in the United States are used by animals. (Reasonable estimates range as high as 80%.)
What's more, the vast majority of that antibiotic use has nothing to do with the health of the animals. The antibiotics have the side effect of promoting weight gain. Important drugs like penicillin and tetracycline are regularly doled out to cows and pigs and chickens as part of their daily feed in order to make them fatter — a practice which has been shown to directly reduce those drugs' effectiveness at treating actual illness in humans. Today, the FDA announced that it plans to change this ... but there are problems.
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Jared Diamond's account of the collapse of Easter Island society is well known by now — how the Islanders decimated their ecosystem and drove themselves to the brink of starvation by using up the island's natural resources at a furious rate. But that's not the only possible explanation for how Easter Island lost its tree cover and ended up with a much-reduced population. In fact, some anthropologists say there's not really any hard evidence that the Islanders were practicing slash-and-burn agriculture, clearing the land with fire.
Instead, this other theory blames the little creature pictured above — the Polynesian rat, an invasive species that stowed away on canoes and chewed its way through the roots, sprouts, and seeds of Easter Island's trees. Instead of willfully destroying themselves, this scenario has the islanders desperately adapting to a quickly changing environment. It's not that the changes had nothing to do with people — the rats got there with human help, after all — but the angle of the story changes somewhat, becoming less about the destructive aspects of human nature and more about the lengths humans will go to in order to survive.
Image: Cliff from Arlington, via CC license
Native to the Malaysian rainforest, this orchid mantis does such a good job of mimicking local flora that it inspired Alfred Russell Wallace to propose that some animals mimic plants in order to lure in the pollinators they hope to eat.
It would also go nicely in a thematic collection with the pink fairy armadillo.
At The New York Times Magazine
, Jon Mooallem has a story about a fight against an invasive species that began with a man called Mike the Hog-a-Nator shop-vac'd five gallons worth of ants
out of his air conditioning ducts. — Maggie
Watching this video about the mosquito I learned that, in some parts of Alaska, mosquitoes are so plentiful that swarms of them have been known to asphyxiate caribou. Another thing I learned: I will not be visiting those parts of Alaska anytime soon.
Because puppies are filled with love ... and also hydrogen sulfide
. — Maggie
Ember the platypus has no stomach. But there's nothing wrong with her. No platypuses have stomachs. They're just one of a surprising number of vertebrate species that have evolutionarily jettisoned their stomachs, in favor of a straight-shot digestive tract that directly connects the throat to the intestines.
Back in May, aboriginal rangers placed a motion-sensing camera near Western Australia's Margaret River to collect images of crocodiles. The camera disappeared. Recently though, another ranger found the camera about 110 kilometers away. It appears that a sea eagle had snatched it. (ABC News, thanks Bob Pescovitz!)
I cannot begin to explain the loss that is Molly. She was just a few weeks shy of her 13th birthday. She lived the most amazing, cared for, caring life a Cavalier King Charles could dream. My Molly had the deepest, most soulful eyes you have ever seen on any creature or finest work of art. Everyone who met her loved her. Even dog haters could not resist this dog, because Molly might actually have been love herself.
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Turkeys do fly. But they're built more for running, with powerful legs. Those legs, though, come in handy when the birds do take to the air. Unlike other large birds that need a relatively long runway to launch themselves skyward, turkeys can basically just jump up and take off — sort of the helicopter to other birds' 747. — Maggie
Seahorses have prehensile tails, which they use to cling to seagrass like little underwater monkeys. That's just one of the tricks that help make up for the fact that seahorses are some of the slowest swimmers in the animal kingdom. Their eating strategy is based on stealth, not speed.
Image: Longsnout Seahorse (Hippocampus reidi), a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from nostri-imago's photostream
Deborah Netburn, at the L.A. Times, reports on the "complete" takeover of one part of town by a reptilian newcomer, the Italian wall lizard.
The wall lizards arrived in San Pedro in 1994, when a homeowner brought a few of them back from a trip to Sicily. He released four males and three females into his backyard, and they thrived and multiplied. Nearly 20 years later, the Italian wall lizards have almost entirely replaced native lizards in a five-block radius from where they were introduced.
"Since I started studying this population, I've seen literally a thousand wall lizards in this area and just two native lizards," says Pauly, 36, who's decked out in a pair of Tevas and a pale blue T-shirt that says, "Newt and Improved." "The takeover feels pretty complete."
Photo: Andy Clark, Reuters
A pair of harbor seals, wearing satellite-linked transmitters on their heads, meet after being released into the waters of Howe Sound in Porteau Cove, British Columbia, last week. The seals received months of care at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre after being rescued; the transmitters will help researchers track their movements.