July 2009

Cool New Animal Discoveries of 2009

Last month we mentioned several new species of animals that were discovered in Ecuador, such as the glass frog, the Enyalioides lizard, and the unfortunately-named “ugly salamander.” But as you probably already knew, a small group of new species like this only represents a fraction of the annual animal findings that science reports. While it’s true that many human populations are dwindling to threatened or even extinct status at an alarming rate—largely due to human activity—it’s also true that new species are constantly being identified.

Take a Stand for Elephants

As much as you can say about PETA, you have to admit that they’ve got guts. Going undercover to expose animal abuse can’t be an easy task. I couldn’t even convincingly smuggle a ferret into my house as a teenager; I tripped, stuttered, and gave myself away within five seconds of my mother’s suspicious glare. I don’t think I’d be cut out to be an undercover investigator; it probably takes a special person.

I also remember my mother, sort of an animal right’s activist herself (not a veg-head, but not a supporter of fur, wild animals in cages, etc.), steadfastly refusing to take us to the circus when it came to town, telling us that “circuses hurt elephants.” I know now that she held this belief for good reasons.

Basking Sharks and Misinformation

A basking shark measuring 24 feet long washed up on a Long Island beach this week. A colleague posted here about this event, a few days ago, erroneously reporting the shark as fifteen feet long and speculating about "How many people has this enormous shark eaten in its lifetime"—a question that deserves both an immediate answer and an exaggerated eyeroll. The answer, of course, is dead simple: that shark has never eaten or attacked any people at all. It doesn't have any teeth, for pity's sake.

New Updates to Euthanasia Laws

Are you pro or against animal euthanasia? I used to be staunchly against it—until I realized just how bad the problem of overpopulation is. I’d much rather see a poor cat put out of her misery than be left to starve, be abandoned or beaten, or be run over by a car.

I do think we should have stricter laws about animal reproduction, however, and think that these animal breeders who do it for profit—“purebred” animals or whatever—shouldn’t be allowed to breed as vastly as they do. With so many poor “mutts” and mixed-breeds needing love and care, we don’t need any more “miracles” made.

Do Microchips Cause Cancer? Yes And No

Recently someone informed me that microchipping your pet can give it cancer.  I initially brushed this off as yet another example of internet paranoia, and a complete misunderstanding of how microchips work, and of science in general.  After all, microchips do not have an active component.  They aren't transmitting your pet's information constantly - they have no power source, and do not emit any kind of radiation or radio waves.  A microchip is not a very small radio beacon.

15 Foot Shark Washes up in New York

No, this is not another internet hoax. Helicopter footage of an enormous 15 foot shark on the shores of Long Island is not something you see every day. A crowd of people watch as the waves break over the limp body, moving its head and tail. A policeman, who is closest to the shark, looks absolutely tiny next to the body. Though the shark is dead, all keep a healthy distance, perhaps wondering, "How many people has this enormous shark eaten in its lifetime?"


Swiss Monster Jaws Gets Harpooned!

"Jaws" has struck in Switzerland, but in this particular case, "Jaws" is not a shark, but "The Zander" and is known as a "monster fish" who also happens to have a thirst for blood of the human variety.  Mmmmmm, humans.....tasty......

Last weekend alone, the Zander bit six swimmers before police divers harpooned the giant fish. The resident fish warden is attributing the fish bites to a possible hormonal imbalance........do you think the Zander needs some estrogen to balance out its obviously male tendancies (sorry, guys). <--break->

National Bison Month

OK, I know that National Bison Month is really a campaign run by the National Bison Association to highlight eating the animal rather than preserving it, but since I A. hate the idea of eating bison and B. think that dedicating a national holiday after an animal should mean celebrating the animal itself and not its hide on your tongue, I’d rather highlight this month by providing a glimpse into the amazing creature, and some suggestions on how to protect it.

Now I’m not a full vegetarian, so I’ll try not to be a hypocrite when I say that eating bison just seems so wrong to me—like eating the American version of the elephant, or eating bear, you know what I mean? It was one thing when people had to kill animals like that to survive, but we don’t need to do that today.

Upside Down Birds Never Crash Land

Apparently, East European gymnasts aren't the only creatures in the world that can contort their bodies into strange and eye-popping positions. It seems that geese can also twist themselves every which way but loose when they need to. And they need to do it when they are trying to slow themselves down quickly while flying at high speeds. Although this photograph might look like a bird in dire need of some flying lessons, or perhaps suffering some ill effects after having sipped from a lake where there was acatastrophic vodka spill, it is actually deliberately using a clever and common practice amongst some geese. 

Gay Animals are the Norm

When you think of gay animals, you might come up with images from the infamous banned (and adorable) children’s book And Tango Makes Three about the two male penguins who raised a chick together. Or you might think of orgy-prone dolphins, or maybe Bonobos, whose species is fully bisexual.

But do you think about frogs, giraffes, bison, fruit flies, ducks, worms—and just about every species alive?

Same-sex behavior in animals, a new study published in the June 16 issue of Trends in Ecology and Evolution claims, is so common and present in almost all species, that it’s “nearly universal.”

English Wildlife on the Web

If you have ever wondered about what kind of wildlife inhabits the back gardens of quaint old England,  then look no further than Just Millifan.  A regular blogger, Millifan is passionate about animals and wildlife, and her garden is not short of either.  She frequently whips out her camera and captures candid and often comic photographs of the critters that come to visit her backyard.

Her recent guests include two Jays.  She has captured these beautiful birds in glorious detail,  from when they were small, fluffy fledglings to more arrogant and bold adults who treat her garden like they own it, relaxing in her pool and lawn furniture.