Close call for tortoise

Keep your eyes on the road ahead! You never know when an old guy might leap out in front of your vehicle. Read the rest

Cow Army occupies Stockport

Residents of Stockport, England, were "awoken by mooing" recently after a herd of cows invaded the neighborhood: "It's just done a poo." Read the rest

The mysterious wild cats of Britain

Growing up in Britain, one of my favorite folk fascinations/media obsessions was the alleged presence of big cats in the countryside. Fueled by blurry photos and living at the margins on possibility, the phenomena helped tabloids move on slow days and sometimes shaded into cryptozoology, ufology and other more delicious myths. But they're out there! Aren't they?

There have been 155 big cat sightings reported to UK police forces in the past three years, according to forces responding to FOI requests. There are likely many more never recorded. Local newspapers publish dozens of eyewitness reports every year, and have helped to firmly establish certain creatures – the Surrey Puma, the Beast of Exmoor – in local legend. Where might these cats have come from? One theory suggests they were released by their owners in the months leading up to the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act. Exotic animals had been sold in Harrods; cheetahs could occasionally be seen being walked in Hyde Park. Given the choice of acquiring a costly licence or relinquishing their pets to animal sanctuaries, at least some owners chose a third option: sending cats out into the wild.

And yet they are never captured—but for a few escapees and abandonments granted no mythic fanfare, such as an elderly and arthritic puma so chill she could be petted.

UPDATE: There's a whole wikipedia article just about British big cats

The existence of a population of true big cats in Britain, especially a breeding population, is believed to be highly implausible by experts owing to lack of convincing evidence.

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Everything you ever needed to know about dolphin clitorises

Katherine Ellen Foley writes that the "complex clitorises" of dolphins are key to understanding their sex lives.

Although these preliminary findings don’t definitively prove that dolphin reproduction can also be for pleasure, they do add evidence to the argument that for dolphins, sex isn’t entirely about reproduction. Sex can serve several different functions, like social learning or establishing dominant hierarchies, says Orbach. Male calves frequently mate with their mothers, and “a lot of the [dolphin] mating we see in the wild is homosexual mating,” she says. “It could be males establishing who’s the leader in the group.”

Before Orbach and Brennan submit the study to a peer-reviewed journal, they’re waiting to find a few more dolphins that died of natural causes to add to their sample size.

Read the rest

Science: cats might be slightly less stupid than is otherwise obvious

Cats recognize the sounds of their names within sentences, report researchers in Japan, though it's not clear they understand that they are being named.

The team chose not to attempt to test cats’ abilities by asking them to retrieve named objects they had previously been shown – as is often used in experiments with dogs. The authors said: “the training of cats to perform on command would require a lot of effort and time.”

Instead they took a different approach, playing a voice saying four words followed by the name of the cat – all in the same intonation – and noting the animal’s responses and movements through video recordings made in the cat’s normal surroundings.

The results showed that cats rarely did more than twitch an ear or move their heads in response to the voices, with very few so much as moving their tail, let alone meowing.

Read the rest

Chickens kill fox

A fox got trapped in a coop and the chickens fucken murdered it.

The unusual incident in Brittany took place after the fox entered the coop with 3,000 hens through an automatic hatch door which closed immediately.

"There was a herd instinct and they attacked him with their beaks," said Pascal Daniel, head of farming at the agricultural school Gros-Chêne.

The body of the small fox was found the following day in a corner of the coop.

"It had blows to its neck, blows from beaks," Mr Daniel told AFP news agency.

I remember a children's book, from the mists of a British childhood, where this was the plot. What was it? Read the rest

Newly-discovered spider deemed most beautiful

This photo, courtesy of the British Tarantula Society, shows the recently-discovered burrow-dwelling spider [Birupes simoroxigorum] in its full glory.

It's been described as the most beautiful spider (more via Metafilter) but not without controversy. Read the rest

Dog rescued from icy river turns out to be wolf

The BBC, citing Estonia's Postimees, reports that workers there "bundled a wild wolf into their car" thinking that it was a dog. In any case, the big fella was in big trouble out in the ice.

Speaking to the Estonian newspaper Postimees, one of the men, Rando Kartsepp, said: "We had to carry him over the slope. He weighed a fair bit. ... He was calm, slept on my legs. When I wanted to stretch them, he raised his head for a moment," he added. ...

The wolf recovered from its brush with death within the day and, after being fitted with a GPS collar by researchers from the national environmental agency, was released back into the wild.

"We are so happy for the outcome of the story, and wish to thank all the participants – especially these men who rescued the wolf and the doctors of the clinic who were not afraid to treat and nurture the wild animal," EUPA said.

Read the rest

Toxic Mooseculinity

The twitter account @TheScaryNature posted this image with the caption "these two Bull Moose died in battle and became frozen in ice", and the only thing I can think of is "Toxic mooseculinity."

The photographer, as revealed by Google's reverse image search feature, is Brad Webster:

Webster says there are several theories on what happened to the moose, but the most likely scenario to play out is that the two moose were fighting over a female when one was knocked unconscious or suffered a broken neck, taking the other one down with it.

"There was a fight and one of them won, and they both lost," Webster said. "Once it's knocked out or once it's dead, you've got a live moose that won the fight, but the other moose is dragging you down into the water."

I've already made a joke of it, but there's a weird power to Webster's photo and I can't stop thinking about it.

UPDATE: Found Brad's website.

Another word that I would [use to describe Alaska], [and] would take probably more explanation would just be: culture. … The culture of the village; the culture of the people; the beauty of the language and the beauty of the traditions and the heritage and the knowledge that’s been passed down. And wanting to learn from it and respect it, but still in a way that respects the people to continue to be who they are. Some kind of a weird balance, of an outsider coming in and wanting to see and experience those things, without imposing or changing the experience for them.

Read the rest

Doggo caught in act

I love the look on that puppy face. Read the rest

Parrot wants to touch cat

Not like this parrot, though. Previously in Parrots. Read the rest

Corgi secretly rides pony at night

The original local news story seems to have vanished, so maybe all was not as it seems, but I prefer to believe that this corgi was caught secretly riding the neighbor's pony at night. Read the rest

Trump "doesn't have time" to love a dog

Donald Trump is the first president since the Victorian era not to own a dog. Despite rest dominating his schedule, he "doesn't have time," he says.

On Monday night, during his rally in El Paso, he finally explained that he doesn’t have a dog because the idea of getting one seems “phony” to him, and his base likes him just fine regardless. Plus, he said, he doesn’t have time.

The explanation came amid an extended riff about the superior abilities of German shepherds to sniff out drugs being smuggled across the border. “You do love your dogs, don’t you?” Trump said, as the crowd whistled and cheered. “I wouldn’t mind having one, honestly, but I don’t have any time. How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn?”

Dirty, narsty dogses. Read the rest

Bug bombs useless for killing roaches: study

They don't kill roaches, but they do cover everything in your house with a film of poison. In a study, bug bombs did nothing useful, at least when it comes to roaches.

Scientists set off four kinds of bombs and placed two kinds of baits in 30 infested homes in Raleigh. Twenty homes got one of the four bombs and 10 got one of the two baits. The scientists counted the number of cockroaches before treatment and after, once at 2 weeks and once 1 month later. In every home that had been bombed, cockroach numbers stayed the same, the researchers report this week in BMC Public Health. With one bait, populations dropped by more than half after 2 weeks; with the other, they plummeted by more than 75%. Numbers went down even more after the full month.

Here's what worked, according to the study published in BMC Public Health.

Only the two bait treatments resulted in significant declines in trap counts relative to baseline (Combat: F2,8 = 12.40, p = 0.0035; Maxforce: F2,8 = 21.37, p = 0.0006) at both two- and four-weeks after the intervention

Amazon has them both, as luck would have it. Combat Roach Killer Gel is cheap and comes in straightforward single-use packs. Maxforce is a pro-grade gel bait that comes in tubes or bait stations Read the rest

Duck enjoys being gently vacuumed

I was surprised to learn today that I've never posted the video of a duck being gently vacuumed. Read the rest

Moth looks like a dead leaf

Why Evolution Is True introduced me to a profoundly awesome example of mimicry in nature: Uropyia meticulodina, a moth from eastern Asia that looks like a dead leaf.

Real Monstrosities: "It’s not just brown like a dead leaf, it’s brown like a curled up, dead leaf. And it’s not just brown like a curled up, dead leaf, it depicts a leaf catching the light, with shadows in all the right places and you can even see the veins casting tiny shadows along the curled underside. It’s like one of those optical illusions that still work even when you know it’s a trick."

Here's what it looks like "normally", or at least when pinned to a board. (Hsu Hong Lin, CC)

Read the rest

Why is the octopus so smart?

Cephalopod intelligence is widely known, but scientists struggle to understand why it evolved. The New York Times' Carl Zimmer reports on one of zoology's most fascinating questions.

About 275 million years ago, the ancestor of today’s cephalopods lost the external shell. It’s not clear why, but it must have been liberating. Now the animals could start exploring places that had been off-limits to their shelled ancestors. Octopuses could slip into rocky crevices, for example, to hunt for prey. On the other hand, losing their shells left cephalopods quite vulnerable to hungry predators. This threat may have driven cephalopods to become masters of disguise and escape. They did so by evolving big brains, the ability to solve new problems, and perhaps look into the future — knowing that coconut or clam shells may come in handy, for example.

Yet intelligence is not the perfect solution for cephalopods, Mr. Amodio suggested. Sooner or later, they get eaten. Natural selection has turned them into a paradox: a short-lived, intelligent animal.

They also like MDMA. Read the rest

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