Man gets swallowed by hippo and lives to talk about it

Ok, show of hands: who here's been eaten by a hippo? Anyone? No? Then you'll want to keep reading, because Chris Broughton has and his story is frigging horrific.

While he was in his twenties, Broughton ran a business that saw him guiding tourists down the Zambezi river, near Africa's Victoria Falls. During the years that he worked this gig, Broughton had made it a habit to avoid a particularly grumpy male hippo while he and his clients were out on the water. Hippos, you see, are wicked territorial. The beast had launched a couple of half-assed attacked against him and his customers in the past. No damage was done, but it was enough to make him wary of pissing the hippo off.

On one occasion, Broughton took a group of tourists out on the water along with three apprentice guides that he was showing the ropes to. One of the apprentices was attacked by the hippo, flinging him into the air. Broughton ordered the other two guides to get the tourists to safety while he went after his apprentice. What happened next, told in Broughton's own words, is absolutely insane.

From The Guardian:

I reached over to grab his outstretched hand but as our fingers were about to touch, I was engulfed in darkness. There was no transition at all, no sense of approaching danger. It was as if I had suddenly gone blind and deaf.

I was aware that my legs were surrounded by water, but my top half was almost dry.

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This punk turtle that breathes through its genitals is going extinct

The Mary River Turtle (Elusor macrurus), seen in this marvelous photo by Chris Van Wyk, calls Queensland, Australia its home. It's a fantastic creature with a green mohwawk of algae strands. The Mary River Turtle can stay underwater for up to 72 hours as it breathes through glands in its reproductive organs. Unfortunately, it's also one of the latest animals that the Zoological Society of London's EDGE conservation group added to its list of endangered species. From National Geographic:

The Mary river turtle waddled its way on the list for a number of reasons: it's the only member of its genius, and according to EGDE's website, it became evolutionarily distinct 40 million years ago. Forty million years of Earth's changes, however, wasn't enough to prepare them for 100 years of human intervention.

Their habitat... has been disrupted from dam construction, and the species was widely bought and sold in the pet trade.

Today it's protected by the Australian government, and conservation groups are working to make sure its habitat is preserved.

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The Suburban Pittsburgh Book of the Dog

Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, is one of very few (and apparently the most populous) to publish data on its dog registrations. Nathan Fulton, a student at CMU, offers a summary of Pittsburgh Doggos By the Numbers, though it should be noted that it excludes those within city limits. (With 300k humans in town and a million more out in the burbs, assume we're missing at least a quarter of the doggos)

Ten Most Popular Dog Names in Allegheny County Name Count Bella 708 Lucy 474 Buddy 469 Molly 435 Bailey 424 Sadie 398 Max 393 Daisy 370 Charlie 328 Cooper 305
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Why humans are so enchanted with cats

We think cats are our pets but we are mistaken. The New Yorker interviews Abigail Tucker, author of The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World:

She explains how “cats domesticated themselves”—essentially by choosing proximity to people as their survival strategy—and then proceeded to infect one in three humans on Earth with a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which affects our behavior in ways that are still not entirely understood, although there is speculation that one of the symptoms might be an attraction to cats. Scientists estimate that there could be as many as a billion cats in the world, and their number continues to grow. So, if you feel like you live under your cat’s paw, you might as well get used to it. As Tucker says, “We’re never going to get control over these animals.”

(The New Yorker) Read the rest

Watch a cheetah jump into vehicle during a safari

"A cheetah decided to explore our vehicle on a safari I was leading for Grand Ruaha Safaris (in the Serengeti National Park," wrote wildlife photographer Peter Heistein on Instagram. "Another one jumped up on the hood and was staring at us through the windshield. They were just curious, we kept calm and let them go about their business. Quite a thrill to be this close!

"Our guide Alex Mnyangabe... helped us through the encounter with instructions on how to treat the animal 'with respect.'"

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This hog ain't no pig – watch how he tidies up the room

Paul is a VERY good pig. Watch as, at his owner's behest, he cleans the heck out of his belongings, putting them back in his toy box, where they belong. I'd give so much if I could teach my dog to do this. Read the rest

Photographer positions horses to look like landscapes

This may look like grasslands, but it's a horse carefully positioned and beautifully photographed by Lee Diegaard, part of her Equuleus series. Below: Copper Valley. Read the rest

Phantasmagoric human-animal hybrids on exhibition

Kate Clark combines taxidermy animals with hand-sculpted human faces to create fantastical beasts from unreal lands. From her artist's statement:

The fusion of human and animal that I create presents a fiction suggesting that our human state is fully realized when we acknowledge both our current programming and our natural instincts. I emphasize the characteristics that separate us within the animal kingdom, and, importantly, the ones that unite us.

The wild animal hide I use has an energy and presence like no other material. I shave sections of the animal's skin to reveal porous and oily features that we recognize as our own. Stitched over a hand-sculpted human face, the material quality of the skin brings believability to the final sculpture: they are portraits we relate to. I emphasize the seams so that the faces are obviously reconstructed yet they are not monstrous, they are approachable, calm, dignified, majestic. The viewer has an intimate relationship with the face and then identifies with the full animal, acknowledging the animalistic inheritance within the human condition.

Kate Clark (via Juxtapoz)

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Frank Welker recording roars for The Lion King

Welker turns up in the credits of seemingly ever cartoon that involves precisely customized animal noises. Seeing him work is a lot of fun, claw gestures and all.

"Great. Yeah, that was good."
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Lions ate suspected poacher

Lions near South Africa's Kruger National Park ate a suspected poacher over the weekend.

"It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions," Limpopo police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe said. "They ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains."

Police found a hunting rifle and ammo near the body.

(BBC News) Read the rest

Double clitorises, spiked penises, and other reptilian reproductive parts

Reptiles have unusual reproductive equipment. For example, female snakes and lizards have two clitorises. Meanwhile, the male tuatara has no penis. "The male simply mounts the female and places the opening of his cloaca—-the cavity where the intestinal, genital, and urinary tracts meet in reptiles—-over hers," writes Tina Deines in a National Geographic article. From Nat Geo:

The hemipenes(double penis) of lizards and snakes sport tiny spikes and hooks.

Scientists have a few ideas about why hemipenes exhibit this sort of ornamentation. According to one hypothesis, male and female genital form has adapted so that mating can occur only between a male and female of the same species. The genitals of males and females of the same species fit together, and the spikes and hooks could help the male keep his hemipenis in place during mating.

One study found that those spikes and hooks may also increase the duration of copulation, thereby increasing mating success.

“I would stress that the female genitalia need to be studied in order to fully understand the function of elaboration of the male genitalia,” says (University of Queensland zoologist Christopher) Friesen.

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Researchers trained killer whale to speak English words

Researchers at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile trained an orca named Wikie to mimic words like "hello," "bye-bye," and other human speech sounds. John Lilly, I wish you were around to be part of this conversation. From the New York Times:

“We wanted to study vocal imitation because it’s a hallmark of human spoken language, which is in turn important for human cultural evolution,” said José Zamorano-Abramson, who led the study as a postdoctoral researcher at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. “We are interested in the possibility that other species also have cultural processes...."

The learning of culture, including vocal traditions, “is a key capability in the intertwining lives of killer whales,” he said, “and one that is critically harmed in captivity,” where animals are isolated and unable to develop the depth of emotions they would in the wild...

"Imitation of novel conspecific and human speech sounds in the killer whale (Orcinus orca)" (Royal Society)

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United Airlines denied a woman trying to fly with her emotional support peacock

United Airlines barred Dexter, an emotional support peacock, from boarding a flight at Newark International Airport on Saturday. From the Washington Post:

United Airlines confirmed that the exotic animal was barred from the plane Saturday because it “did not meet guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size.”

“We explained this to the customer on three separate occasions before they arrived at the airport,” an airline spokeswoman said in a statement Tuesday to The Washington Post...

The peacock’s owner, who was identified by the Associated Press as Ventiko, a photographer and performance artist in New York, told the news agency that she bought the bird its own ticket.

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Octopus attacks and kills a dolphin from within, while being eaten

A dolphin ate an octopus, but the octopus got its revenge -- it attacked the dolphin's internal organs, killing it in turn. From National Geographic:
Stephens says that the 4.6-pound cephalopod appeared to have grabbed onto Gilligan's larynx with a tentacle, preventing it from reconnecting to the dolphin's breathing apparatus and effectively suffocating him to death. "That octopus might have been, in theory, dead, but the sucker was still functional," Stephens says, adding that while nobody wins in a situation like this, "the octopus gets a bit of a last hurrah."
There's a study in Marine Mammal Science detailing the entire grisly affair. For the fifteen years I've been blogging, I have really had only one consistent message: Do not mess with octopuses, people. They will cut you. They will cut you while they are inside you. (Image from Marine Mammal Science) Read the rest

Why Is Blue So Rare In Nature?

Blue as a pigment in nature is incredibly rare. Most animals with blue coloration achieve it through microscopic structures in their skin, fur, or feathers. This helpful explainer delves into the details. Read the rest

World's smallest species of wildcat could fit in the palm of your hand

The Rusty Spotted Cat of Sri Lanka weighs two pounds when it is an adult.

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Watch rescue video of puppies trapped in a pool of tar. It has a happy ending.

In Udaipur, Rajasthan, India, three puppies were immobilized in a pool of tar. Fortunately, someone called Animal Aid, an organization that rescues and treats street animals.

Prying them loose was impossible for the tense rescue team, so we had to cut the tar loose from the rocks below and bring the puppies and the tar and gravel they were stuck in back to the hospital. Determined volunteers and staff spent hours to soften the tar with oil and dishsoap, with time out only to plant kisses on the puppies’ noses. Multiple warm baths later…and wow. For babies who had been on the brink of death, this is what happiness looks like.

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