Tag: Animals

Stew From A Polar Bear Liver Will Kill You In A Most Gruesome Way

Liver has long been a staple in many diets. Deep-fried chicken livers are a favorite in parts of the American South. Travel to Germany and you can feast on traditional liverwurst.

In Japan, you can order a heaping helping of sashimi made with raw fish liver. As delicious (or disgusting) as some of these dishes may sound to you, not every bird, fish or mammal necessarily offers the best ingredients for a culinary masterpiece.

In fact, if you ever have the chance to try polar bear liver, think twice — it may be the last meal you ever eat.

The native peoples of the Arctic have never shied away from cooking up some polar bear stew, but they’ve long known to avoid eating the livers of various arctic creatures.




Western explorers, however, learned the hard way. As early as 1596, explorers returned to Europe with accounts of horrible illnesses resulting from the consumption of polar bear liver.

Illness severity depended on how much liver the explorers consumed, but symptoms typically included drowsiness, sluggishness, irritability, severe headache, bone pain, blurred vision and vomiting.

Perhaps the most horrific symptom they encountered was peeling skin. While milder cases merely involved flaking around the mouth, some accounts reported cases of full-body skin loss.

Even the thick skin on the bottoms of a patient’s feet could peel away, leaving the underlying flesh bloody and exposed. The worst cases ended in liver damage, hemorrhage, coma and death.

These explorers suffered from acute hypervitaminosis A, a condition resulting from the overconsumption of vitamin A during a short period of time.

The polar bear’s liver, much like those of arctic seals and huskies, contains extremely high levels of retinol (the form of vitamin A found in members of the animal kingdom).

3 Animals That Mate For Life

Did you know there are members of the animal kingdom (other than humans) that mate for life?

In some cases of monogamous mates – for example, beavers – both parents care for their offspring.

When one partner in a monogamous pair dies, most surviving partners go on to find a new mate before the next breeding season.




Beavers

Adult beavers can weigh 40 pounds or more, and they mate for life during their third year. Their babies are called kits, and typically 1 to 4 are born in the spring.

Both parents care for their kits, who stay with them for about two years. The yearlings typically help care for the next litter. A beaver colony can consist of six or more individuals, including parents, yearlings, and kits.

Gibbons

Gibbons are the nearest relatives to humans that mate for life. They live in small, stable family groups with a monogamous mated pair and offspring under the age of 7.

Gibbon families are territorial and defend their territory with morning songs sung by the breeding pair.

Gibbons reach sexual maturity between 6 and 8 years of age. Females give birth to one baby at a time, and mating pairs produce an average of 5 to 6 offspring over their reproductive lifetimes.

Wolves

Wolves live in packs that are typically family groups including a male and female breeding pair and their offspring of varying ages. Only the breeding pair mates, and has one litter a year.

Wolves reach sexual maturity between 2 and 3 years of age, and once the youngsters are ready to mate, most leave their birth pack to start their own pack or join an existing pack.

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What Dog And Cat Years Really Mean?

How much is that in dog years?” We are used to assuming that for every calendar year, a dog will age the way a human will in seven years.

That makes some sort of sense according to a dog’s expected life span, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.




For example, the dog in this picture has one candle on her birthday cake, but she’s old enough to have puppies. Veterinary professor Jesse Grady explains the life stages of dogs and cats.

Dogs and cats age differently not just from people but also from each other, based partly on breed characteristics and size.

Bigger animals tend to have shorter life spans than smaller ones do. While cats vary little in size, the size and life expectancy of dogs can vary greatly – think a Chihuahua versus a Great Dane.

Human life expectancy has changed over the years. And vets are now able to provide far superior medical care to pets than we could even a decade ago.

So now we use a better methodology to define just how old rule of thumb that counted every calendar year as seven “animal years.”

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Scientists Finally Figure Out How Bees Fly

bees

Proponents of intelligent design, which holds that a supreme being rather than evolution is responsible for life’s complexities, have long criticized science for not being able to explain some natural phenomena, such as how bees fly.

Now scientists have put this perplexing mystery to rest.

Using a combination of high-speed digital photography and a robotic model of a bee wing, the researchers figured out the flight mechanisms of honeybees.




“For many years, people tried to understand animal flight using the aerodynamics of airplanes and helicopters,” said Douglas Altshuler, a researcher at California Institute of Technology.

“In the last 10 years, flight biologists have gained a remarkable amount of understanding by shifting to experiments with robots that are capable of flapping wings with the same freedom as the animals.”

Turns out bee flight mechanisms are more exotic than thought.

“The honeybees have a rapid wing beat,” Altshuler said. “In contrast to the fruit fly that has one eightieth the body size and flaps its wings 200 times each second, the much larger honeybee flaps its wings 230 times every second.”

 

bees

This was a surprise because as insects get smaller, their aerodynamic performance decreases and to compensate, they tend to flap their wings faster.

“And this was just for hovering,” Altshuler said of the bees. “They also have to transfer pollen and nectar and carry large loads, sometimes as much as their body mass, for the rest of the colony.”

In order to understand how bees carry such heavy cargo, the researchers forced the bees to fly in a small chamber filled with a mixture of oxygen and helium that is less dense than regular air.

bees

This required the bees to work harder to stay aloft and gave the scientists a chance to observe their compensation mechanisms for the additional toil.

The bees made up for the extra work by stretching out their wing stroke amplitude but did not adjust wingbeat frequency.

The work, supervised by Caltech’s Michael Dickinson, was reported last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The scientists said the findings could lead to a model for designing aircraft that could hover in place and carry loads for many purposes such as diaster surveillance after earthquakes and tsunamis.

bees

They are also pleased that a simple thing like bee flight can no longer be used as an example of science failing to explain a common phenomenon.

Proponents of intelligent design, or ID, have tried in recent years to promote the idea of a supreme being by discounting science because it can’t explain everything in nature.

“People in the ID community have said that we don’t even know how bees fly,” Altshuler said.

“We were finally able to put this one to rest. We do have the tools to understand bee flight and we can use science to understand the world around us.”

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The Amazing Bodies Of Dolphins

Breathing

Dolphins have a number of extraordinary features so that they can thrive in their watery world.

The most obvious thing that dolphins need is air. They glide through the water so effortlessly, surfacing every few minutes to take a breath. Dolphins can dive to 200 m (600 ft).

Marine mammals take more air with each breath than other mammals, and they exchange more of the air in their lungs with each breath.

Their red blood cells can hold more oxygen and they have a much higher tolerance for carbon dioxide than we do. During each breath they exchange 80% of the air in their lungs, while humans only exchange 17%.

Even so, given the size of their lungs, they should run out of oxygen and drown before they can get that deep! How do they do it?




When diving, they cut off blood circulation to their skin digestive system and extremities, leaving only the heart, brain and tail muscles working. However, even these measures give insufficient time to plummet to those depths.

Dolphins and other marine mammals don’t get the bends (nitrogen narcosis) when they plummet to the depths of the ocean.

In human lungs, air remains all throughout the lungs and gas exchange continues in the alvoli, allowing nitrogen to be forced into the blood.

The alvoli of doplhins collapse at 3 atm of pressure, forcing the air back into the bronchioles where gas exchange does not take place.

How do dolphins (and whales) sleep without drowning?

Marine mammals have two basic methods of sleeping: they either rest quietly in the water, or sleep while swimming slowly next to another animal.

Dolphins also enter a deeper form of sleep at night where they become like a log floating on the water. When a baby dolphin is born it does not have enough body fat to float easily.

The baby stays afloat by being towed in its mother’s slipstream or wake even when it is sleeping. This means that the mother cannot stop swimming for the first several weeks of her baby’s life!

To avoid drowning, it is crucial that cetaceans retain control of their blowhole and recognize when it is at the surface. When sleeping, dolphins shut down half of their brain and one eye.

The other half stays awake at a lower level of alertness. The semi-conscious side watches for predators, obstacles, and signals when to rise to the surface for a breath of air.

After 2 hours, things are reversed, the active side goes to sleep and the rested side looks after vital functions. Amazing!

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Severed Gecko Tails Have A Mind Of Their Own

Even after they’re no longer connected to a lizard brain, gecko tails can flip, jump and lunge in response to their environment — and may even be able to evade predators.

Researchers have known for centuries that some animals can voluntarily shed parts of their bodies to keep from being eaten, but few studies have looked at the behavior of disposable body parts once they’ve fallen off.

Now, using high-speed video and a technique called electromyography, scientists have discovered that severed gecko tails exhibit complex behavior and even seem to react to environmental cues.

The scientists say that figuring out what controls the jumping gecko tail may help us understand why the paralyzed muscles of spinal cord injured patients sometimes exhibit spontaneous muscle contractions, which they hope could someday lead to treatments that restore some control over such movements.

After attaching electrodes to the tails of four adult leopard geckos, the researchers gently pinched the lizards to encourage them to shed their tails.




As soon as a gecko felt threatened, its tail began to twitch and eventually detached from the rest of its body in an amazing, but nearly bloodless, feat.

Rather than using up all their energy in a single short burst, the gecko tails seemed to modulate their muscle movement to conserve energy and maximize the unpredictability of their behavior.

The tails also changed direction and speed depending on what they bumped into, which suggests that the tails can independently sense and respond to their environment.

Although the researchers understand the benefits of a detachable tail with a mind of its own, they don’t yet know what’s controlling the tail’s complex movement.

According to Russell, figuring out what controls severed gecko tails might help us understand and treat some aspects of human spinal cord injury.

With a spinal cord injury, what tends to happen is skeletal muscles tend to be paralyzed behind that event,” he said.

For instance, if you injure your mid back, your lower limbs are put out of commission.

Scientists know that networks of neurons called central pattern generators, or CPGs, can produce rhythmic movements that aren’t controlled by the brain, but they don’t know exactly how these neural networks function.

To study CPGs, scientists usually have to surgically damage an animal’s spinal cord in a procedure called a “spinal preparation“; geckos provide a unique model system because they naturally sever their own spinal cords.

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How to Build A Better Mouse Maze

Graduate psychology students can attest to the monotony of studying lab rats. Drop the animals into a maze, take diligent notes as they scurry around, repeat ad nauseum.

Mazes have been a mainstay in psychological research for more than a century, with scientists running rodents through contraptions to test their memory, learning and spatial skills. But they’ve always had limitations.

Now modern technology is finding its way into mazes, making them more consistent and less time-consuming.

Video tracking systems monitor a rat’s every movement, sparing researchers from hours of tedious observation and recording better data. Pneumatic doors rise from below after the animals pass to prevent them backtracking.

MazeEngineers, a startup in Cambridge, Massachusetts, produces mazes with these automated elements.




It’s founder, Shuhan He, a resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, realized as a medical student that the available mazes didn’t meet his needs for research on the effects of stroke.

Knowing mazes are fundamental to understanding the processes of the mind, he began developing his own.

The company offers automated versions of several popular mazes, including the T and Y mazes.

Their T maze offers rats several different paths to take, and its doors lift to direct rats back to the start, virtually eliminating the need for human involvement.

Likewise, the Y maze uses automated detection to hold rats at its center, allowing it to continue trials indefinitely. With more options in terms of maze design, researchers can probe more nuanced questions.

Another smart maze company, TSE Systems, based in Germany, makes a maze that houses up to 16 mice and can track each one individually using radio frequency identification tags.

This allows researchers to check in with mice as they interact in a comfortable, social environment.

MazeEngineers’ latest endeavor is the Labyrinth, an adjustable core that researchers can configure into more than 20 automated apparatuses.

As mazes become more sophisticated, their data output grows and with it their relevance to psychology and neuroscience. Tolman’s faith in the significance of lab rats may have been better founded than he knew.

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Boy In Ecuador Finds Frog Once Thought Extinct For 30 Years

atelopus ignescens

The discovery will help revive the frog species and could help the survival of other animals.

A small boy in Ecuador discovered a frog that scientists considered to be extinct for at least 30 years and has been successfully bred in captivity.

The colorful Jambato Harlequin Frog, whose scientific name is Atelopus ignescens, was thought to be extinct.

It was widespread in Ecuador, as it could be found in people’s homes and backyards. Some Indigenous communities would use it as an ingredient in traditional medicine.

Scientists believed it was suddenly wiped out due to a combination of climate change and a fungal disease. The boy and his family found a small colony of 43 Jambato harlequins at their home.




“It was such a long-standing presence in the Ecuadorean community that we would have never conceived it could disappear,” Luis Coloma of the Jambatu Center for Research and Conservation of Amphibians said.

Last year, the center offered US$1,000 for one frog of its kind to raise awareness of its conservation, not expecting to find it. The next phase was to get the specimens rescued from the wild to reproduce in the lab.

“For several months, the frogs would mate but never lay eggs,” Coloma said. “So we decided to move them to an outdoor enclosure.”

atelopus ignescens

“When we finally discovered the eggs, we felt like Thomas Edison must have felt seeing an electric bulb lighting for the first time. It was extraordinary,” Coloma added.

Andrew Gray from the University of Manchester said this process is critical for preventing other amphibians from becoming extinct.

“These frogs could disappear at any time, so if scientists manage to aid their reproduction, that’s a safety net for the future,” Gray said.

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Newly Discovered Wasp Has a Terrifyingly Large Stinger

Scientists discovered a new wasp species with a terrifyingly large stinger. Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland recently discovered the Clistopyga crassicaudata, which lives between the Andes mountains and the Amazon rainforests.

I have studied tropical parasitoid wasps for a long time, but I have never seen anything like it,said Ilari E. Sääksjärvi, a professor at the University of Turku. “The stinger looks like a fierce weapon.”

The wasp’s stinger isn’t only long, but also very wide, taking up almost the whole length of its body. Unlike bees, wasps can use their stingers multiple times.




Female wasps have stingers that can either inject venom or lay eggs. Parasitoid wasps like the Clistopyga crassicaudata typically have a long ovipositor to lay eggs that is also used as a stinger.

The Clistopyga has a particularly gruesome manner of laying eggs: first, the wasp finds spider nests, then paralyzes the spider with venom. Next, the wasp lays eggs on the spider.

The hatching larva eats the spider as well as possible spider eggs or hatchlings.

The giant stinger of the current species is very likely a highly sophisticated tool as well, but unfortunately we can only guess at its purpose,” says Professor Sääksjärvi.

As upsetting as this wasp may seem, wasps are generally beneficial to humans. Pests insects are prey for many wasp species, as food or as hosts for parasite larvae.

In fact, according to National Geographic, agricultural industry routinely uses wasps to help protect crops.

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Pesticides Linked To Bee Decline For First Time In A Countrywide Field Study

A new study provides the first evidence of a link between neonicotinoid pesticides and escalating honeybee colony losses on a landscape level.

The study found the increased use of a pesticide, which is linked to causing serious harm in bees worldwide, as a seed treatment on oilseed rape in England and Wales over an 11 year period correlated with higher bee mortality during that time.

The research, published in Nature scientific reports on Thursday, combined large-scale pesticide usage and yield observations from oilseed rape with data on honeybee loses between 2000 and 2010.

The total area of land planted with oil seed rape in England and Wales more than doubled from 293, 378 hectares to 602,270 hectares over that time and the number of seeds treated with the imidacloprid pesticide increased from less than 1% of the area planted in 2000 to more than 75% of the area planted with oilseed rape by 2010.




Comparing the pesticide usage data with honeybee colony losses, scientists led by Giles Budge at the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) in York.

A former government agency that was outsourced to the private sector earlier this year – and US entomology professor Keith Delaplane at the University of Georgia, found a link between imidacloprid usage and honeybee colony losses.

Losses varied between regions and low spring temperatures were also linked to higher bee losses in Wales.

The study, also found that famers who used seed pesticide treatments reduced the number of applications of other insecticides, but that the long-term benefits of treating oil seed rape seeds with imidacloprid on crop yields were negligible.

The honeybee is the most important commercial pollinator, globally responsible for pollinating at least 90% of commercial crops. They are the most frequent flower visitor to oilseed rape.

The report’s authors said: “As long as acute toxins remain the basis of agricultural pest control practices, society will be forced to weigh the benefits of pesticides against their collateral damage.”

“Nowhere is this tension more evident than in the system with the world’s most widely used insecticide, the world’s most widely used managed pollinator and Europe’s most widely grown mass flowering crop.”

The authors call for more large-scale field-based research to determine the impacts on pollinators of the use of a newer generation of neonicotinoids.

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