HmmmmMMMMmm, this is a good question, and a hard one! I love documentaries, especially animal ones, so it’ll be tough to narrow it down to just a few. But here are some good ones.
First, the classics- if you want to see gorgeous imagery of animals doing animal things in the wild, here are my picks:
1. Planet Earth: This is, basically, the top-tier nature documentary, which takes an overarching look at the flora and fauna in different biomes such as forest, grasslands, freshwater, et cetera around the world. Beautiful cinematorgraphy, wonderful narration, stirring music. The epitome of nature porn.
2. Blue Planet: In the same vein as Planet Earth (and by the same people), this documentary uses stunning cinematography of sea creatures coupled by Attenbourough narration.
3. The Hunt: I haven’t finished watching the episodes of this documentary, which I think is still airing on BBC, but what I have seen is still amazing. My only quibble is that for a series where the very subject is predation, it sometimes sanitizes the gorey truth of nature. On the other hand, the reality of what an African wild dog kill looks like probably wouldn’t be allowed on daytime TV.
4. Africa: I am so skeeved at how hard it’s been for me to find and watch all the episodes of this wonderful nature doc. Like the others on this list, it’s got all the goods: visuals, David Attenborough, the works. And a lizard jumping around on a sleeping lion.
As good as nature porn type docs are, they tend to favor imagery over deep thought. Here are some docs that will seriously teach you something:
1. The Life of… series: Life of Birds, Life of Mammals, Life in Cold Blood. Each series will teach you all about the evolution, lifestyles, challenges, and behaviors of its subject group of animals. And despite the fact that you’ll be learning, the visuals ain’t half bad either.
2. Your Inner Fish: This series on vertebrate evolution, from fish to mammals, is an excellent primer on all the fundamental changes that took place in the transition between early fish and late primate.
Some good ethical/conservation-based docs:
1. Virunga: The trouble with conservation-themed documentaries is that they often have the emotional subtlety of a brick to the privates. Virunga doesn’t escape this completely, but it does put away the sappy monologue about the beauty of nature long enough to discuss the difficulties of running a nature preserve in an area rocked by human conflict. The scars left by colonialism on the Congo have yet to heal, and are reopened when British oil companies push to drill for oil on the last refuge of wild mountain gorillas. The images of the gorillas, particularly the orphan ones cared for by a devoted Congolese caretaker, are stirring, but more stunning to me was the utter racism and corruption revealed by an undercover journalist interviewing members of the oil company Soco.
2. The Elephant in the Living Room: It’s hard to film any subject where disagreements are bitter with neutrality, and this documentary doesn’t achieve that- it clearly wants us to believe that there are serious problems with the way the keeping of wild animals as pets is legislated. But unlike many similar documentaries, we do get a sympathetic look into the life of the owner of some such pets, in this case a small pride of African lions, and feel his genuine love for the animals. We also come to understand the plight of the exotic animals that slip between the cracks, as bulging-at-the-seams sanctuaries struggle to take them in. At times this doc exaggerates the danger posed by many of these species, but it can’t emphasize enough the sometimes fatal damage to the animals themselves.
3. Earth: A New Wild: Overly optimistic? Perhaps. But I loved this recent documentary, which rather than focusing completely on conservation failures tried to couple them with new hope for a world where humans learn to work with, rather than around, nature. Not all the ideas presented in the doc are really all that feasible- but at least we’re getting some!
A couple off-kilter docs, ones with weird premises and/or editing that I still love:
1. Microcosmos: This mostly narration-free documentary focuses in on tiny invertebrates doing tiny invertebrate things: diving spiders diving, snails having snail sex, ants panicking at the attack of a monstrously gigantic chicken. Some shots were clearly manipulated, but for the most part I was riveted and entirely sucked into the alien little worlds that lie beneath our feet.
2. Hidden Kingdoms: Hoo boy, speaking of shots being manipulated, here we have a doc that consists of almost entirely fabricated scenes, actors, and narration. Mind you, no humans appear on film: the actors are animals, both captive and wild, that are manipulated one way or another. To my knowledge, none of it was done in a terribly unethical way, and the doc itself is up-front about its own fakery. So why is this on the list? The fact is, there are shots in this doc (particularly the first episode, which outshines the other two by a lot) that couldn’t have been captured any other way. Without a premade sengi racetrack with a camera installed to zoom alongside, there would have been no way to capture, in exquisite hi-def slow motion, the exquisite slow motion shots of the sengi galloping along. And they are exquisite. Likewise, the shot of a grasshopper mouse leaping to escape the strike of a rattlesnake made me gasp, even though the actors were never in the same room. This doc can get a little silly, and the narration is as fake as the scenes themselves. But wow, some of the stuff captured here is just worth seeing.
Ok, that’s a short list off the top of my head (no, really!), so hopefully there are some you haven’t seen on here. People, feel free to reblog and add to this!
For traction in their rear paws. Cats do the wiggle right before they pounce, which as we know is a forward leap. They don’t want to slip when they’re pushing off with their hind legs, so they dig their rear claws into the dirt (or whatever surface they are on) to get a solid grip.
Or, in shorter words, cats do the butt wiggle so that this doesn’t happen:
Both. When an organism changes its appearance based on the environment, it’s called a polyphenism. This allows different phenotypes to arise from the same genome. Another example would be the sex determination system in crocodilians, which depends not on chromosomes but on the temperature of the nest. Many organisms also employ polyphenisms for seasonal camouflage.
Scientists have not yet determined why the dress changes its colors, but it is likely a predator confusion adaptation. Those who view the dress immediately begin arguing amongst themselves, giving the dress time to make a speedy escape.
Dholes live in southeast Asia, notably India. They’re canids like gray wolves are, but not closely related to wolves. They’re also much smaller than wolves, closer to shiba inu size; however, what they lack in size they make up for in numbers and teamwork. Dhole packs are often large (>10 animals) and they can reportedly even take on tigers when ganged up.
Sadly, much like their cousins the African wild dogs, they’re now endangered due to human persecution. If you’ve ever read the Jungle Book story “Red Dogs,” the antagonists are dhole, and Kipling clearly demonstrates the attitude of the day towards them.
Can bats swim because there's a video of one swimming on my dash but I feel like I would have heard about that before
Yes, bats can swim.
Most don’t do so voluntarily, though. If you see a bat stuck in your pool, here’s what to do. In fact, I encourage anyone who has a pool to buy a FrogLog to help small critters escape without drowning!
Wolf eat berry because wolf not obligate carnivore. Wolf have more to diet than just big prey animal even though big prey animal make up most of what wolf eats. Wolf also like berry, insect, fishy, nice fruits.
Wolf not only canid that like berry. All but three canid species occasionally eat plant matter, with some like the maned wolf eating nearly 50% plant matter. Only species that may be 100% meat eaters are bush dog, African wild dog, and dhole. This theory is based mainly on modified shearing carnassial in these 3 species.
This is definitely a really interesting topic to me, and I’ll try to answer to the best of my ability. Keep in mind that I’m coming at this from a psychology/biology background, not an anthropological one- I’d love to hear people from that field weigh in on the topic.
I’d also like to note that some of the things in this article aren’t based on scientific research but my own observations and opinion.
My reply got pretty long so I put it behind a cut, but here’s what I go over:
Why people keep animals, and the types of relationships people have with animals
Domestic vs tamed animals
Conditions that allow humans to keep pets
Animal-animal relationships that resemble human pet keeping
The definition of ‘intersex’ is “a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female.” (Wikipedia)
Examples of intersex animals can be found in almost any species, including:
(Note that the term ‘hermaphrodite’ is never applicable to humans. While molluscs may be able to form two complete sets of genitalia, humans cannot, and the term is highly offensive to intersex people.)
Arguably, intersexuality shouldn’t seem that strange to us at all- we all had isogamous ancestors that couldn’t be sorted into male or female categories.
is that fang overhang for the old bat normal or a sign of age?
It actually varies by individual. Some bats have exposed canines, some don’t, and it seems consistent over time, not an age-related thing. Some only have an exposed canine on one side. Males seem to be more likely to have it than females.
Um, can I ask why purebred dogs have so many problems? Or is there already a post on the subject?
The concept of purebred dogs is not a bad one; it’s just the state of many purebred dogs (and other animals) is awful right now.
Theoretically, having a purebred dog would be a way of determining size, looks, and approximate temperament of the animal you are hoping to get. And that is generally a good thing; some owners live in apartments and some live on farms, some want working dogs and some want lapdogs. It’s good for both the owner and the animal if they match up.
Where breeding can go wrong is when the looks and price of an animal matter more than the quality of life that its genes will cause it to have.
The two main issues affecting purebred animals can be summarized to inbreeding depression and overbreeding, both of which I’ll discuss in detail (and with science) below.
I just watched an episode of QI and they said if you inject axolotl with iodine, they turn into salamanders! Is that true?
An iodine injection, applied along with other things, might cause an axolotl to metamorphose. It is much more likely to kill the axolotl.
If you weren’t aware, axolotls are neotonized salamanders, aka they never leave the larval stage. (Just like frogs, salamanders undergo metamorphosis.)
Here’s a normal (neotonized) adult leucistic axolotl.
And here’s an artificially metamorphosed adult axolotl.
Axolotls became permanently neotonized when an ancestor was born with a defect in its hormonal system. Metamorphosis in salamanders is triggered by a hormonal pathway involving the thyroid- axolotls lost the ability to produce one of the first hormones in this sequence, thyroid stimulating hormone, which triggers the thyroid to release thyroxine (T4) to start metamorphosis.
In the 20s it was found that injections of iodine as well as “thyroid extract” could trigger metamorphosis in the axolotl. Iodine is used by the thyroid to manufacture thyroxine, so this was likely why. Later scientists directly used thyroxine to get the axolotl to metamorphose. The process is delicate even under laboratory conditions, with many individuals not fully metamorphosing and/or dying.
There are reports of pet axolotls spontaneously undergoing metamorphosis without the injection, but these are likely individuals that have hybridized with the closely related tiger salamanders (or are tiger salamander larvae that have been sold as axolotls). I’ve also read that there may be some differences in the way that wild-caught versus captive bred axolotls respond to different metamorphosing techniques, but wild axolotls haven’t been brought into the captive breeding pool for decades, and are now so rare in their natural habitat that it’s highly unlikely any ever will again.
Ok, so if you are an axolotl owner, this may sound cool and exciting. But recall that axolotls have evolved to stay in the larval stage. Even if they survive, the forced metamorphosis is very bad for them and most only live a year or so past it (versus their normal 10-15 year lifespan). So please, please do not attempt to metamorphose your axolotl with some method you found on the internet- it likely won’t work anyway and will severely stress out or possibly kill your pet.
Hi. I dont want to sound like a jerk I just was wondering... I read somewhere that axolotls are near extinction...
It’s a valid question, and you’re not a jerk, haha. Axolotls are indeed near extinction- so close that it was wonderful news to hear that two had been spotted in the wild this February. That’s the knife’s edge the species is currently on.
There is a large population of axolotls in the pet industry right now, as well as decent populations in both labs and zoos. All of these populations face issues of inbreeding- the pet and lab populations in particular. Both those populations have also been interbred with tiger salamanders as well, to introduce that coveted leucistic look.
This is not how axolotls look in the wild. This is a color mutation.
The zoo population and perhaps a small portion of the lab population might someday be returnable to the wild if suitable habitat is recovered, but now the fear is that this would cause the introduction of chytrid fungus to the already-failing wild population.
I understand the concerns about keeping axolotls as pets when the wild situation is so dire, but no wild axolotls have really been taken into the industry for the last 3-4 decades; it’s a species that breeds readily in captivity. And to be honest, many more people are interested in the unusual colors than in the original wild-type.
This is how axolotls look in the wild.
Because of how easy it is to satisfy the species’ needs in captivity and because it is not hurting the wild population, I don’t really have qualms about people having them as pets.
But, if it puts your mind at ease, I did not buy my axolotls from a pet store or breeder. They are former lab animals that were down to be culled before I adopted them.
Which is why Moony has one jazz hand (it was grown on him from the cells of another axolotl).
Do you need to worry about catching diseases from the bats you work with? I've heard that fruit bats are potential disease vectors in the wild.
The short answer: No.
The long answer: All employees where
I work are required to have the standard zoo work vaccinations, TB and
tetanus. Since bats are considered a rabies vector species (i.e., they
don’t show typical rabies symptoms when infected), we’re also required
to have rabies vaccination- but the same goes for people who work with,
say, red foxes or groundhogs. (The bats also get their own rabies
vaccinations, so you could say the risk is double-mitigated.)
far as diseases go, most of the bats I work with were either born in
captivity or captured from the wild ten to fifteen years ago. Bats don’t
just generate viruses out of thin air; they need to catch them from
somewhere, and bats kept in captivity are kept in pretty isolated,
sterile conditions. We worry much more about them getting sick from our
germs than the other way around.
That said, you are correct in
that wild bats of all sorts are known to be disease vectors, perhaps
more so than most other animals. There are a number of reasons for this:
one, bats are highly social and are often in close contact with other
members of their species, which gives disease more opportunity to spread
through their population. Two, bats fly, which causes them to
potentially spread disease over a wider area than, say, an earthbound
rodent. Three, bats have powerful immune and DNA repair systems (in
fact, they are even resistant to most types of cancer) and are often
‘cryptic’ with their illnesses, meaning they can be infected with a
virus yet have no symptoms because the virus can’t replicate enough to
do serious damage. But it can hang on inside the bat until it reaches a
weaker victim- i.e., a human.
So it isn’t necessarily that
bats can transmit more viruses to humans than other animals, it’s just
that their behavior and physical attributes mean that they are at a
higher risk of passing what viruses they do carry to us than most
other animals. This doesn’t mean that bats are incredibly dangerous
animals- we can prevent disease transmission between bats and humans
with a few very simple steps, like washing produce before eating it, not
eating bat meat (it happens), and the biggest one- if you see a wild
bat on the ground or in your house, do NOT attempt to touch it. A bat on
the ground is almost certainly sick or injured. Call a professional.
Don’t be scared of bats. It’s not their fault that they have awesome
immune systems compared to us. Besides, to remove bats from human areas
is to remove nature’s pest control and reforestation systems, resulting
in a lot more disease-carrying insects like mosquitoes- the no. 1
disease vector species of them all- and a lot less rainforest.