If you mean “can birds knowingly go out and acquire illegal psychologically modifying chemicals for recreational use” I would say definitely not. However, birds can and have been observed getting totally sauced on various delicious fermented fruits.
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.
I heard there's a bat that does the scoopy doopy with fish? Wouldn't fish be big to eat?
Less of a scoopy doopy and more of a grabby stabby, but yes, there is at least one species of bats that specializes in catching fish: the greater bulldog bat. While the fish it eats are relatively small, it is a relatively big bat with a three-foot wingspan.
They use their echolocation to pinpoint when fish are close to the surface, then fly low to grab ‘em with their enlarged rear claws. They also sometimes engage in behavior called raking, which is what the bat in the above image is doing. Basically just skimming along the surface, grabbing whatever they can- they also catch shrimp and crabs this way.
What is the point of animals like crane flies, where once they reach their adult phase their purpose is to lay eggs then die? They don't even have mouths (apparently) so. Their life cycle just seems so irrelevant like why would evolution do that? (Please no crane fly pics if u get to answering this question, I hate them very much D:) (sorry if this is phrased strangely)
Kind of an interesting question here, though you must be careful with words like ‘purpose’ when describing the way animals have evolved- there’s no purpose about it, it’s literally what randomly came together and worked.
The life cycle of the crane fly only seems confusing if you look at it from a human standpoint. Certainly it seems to us that the most proper life cycle includes a short nonreproductive juvenile period and a much longer reproductive-capable adult period. This, after all, is how most the lives of most vertebrates are structured. For example, a dog lives perhaps an average of twelve years, and only spends about six months of that time growing to sexual maturity.
And it does confer advantages from an evolutionary standpoint: having most of your life available to find mates seems like a pretty good way to maximize the number of offspring you produce. Here’s a really lazy timeline of that strategy, which in scientific terms is called an iteoparous lifestyle:
But there’s a danger in assuming that the juvenile period is wasted time, which it isn’t- otherwise it wouldn’t exist. Evolution rewards species that can successfully propagate themselves, and the timing of the nonreproductive period hinges on this. You see, there’s a slight problem with being ~READY TO BONE~ 24/7. Sexual organs, sexual secretions, and sexual behavior are all extraordinarily expensive. I’m not just talking about being sweaty and tired after a netflix and chill marathon. I’m talking about the biological costs incurred by producing eggs, sperm, secondary sex characteristics like giant antlers on deer and gaudy tails on peacocks, building nests for eggs, competing for opposite-sex attention and fighting off other suitors, and heck, even finding the dang object of your attraction. Think about how successful dating sites are, for goodness’ sake. In the US alone, about $80 million each year gets spent by horny people on dates.
Knowing how expensive all this can get, perhaps now it’s less surprising that some species want to make sure their offspring are as prepared as possible before they’re thrust into the Lust Pit. This may mean that they have proportionally longer juvenile periods than reproductive periods- however, when Fuck Time comes, they have a much better chance of finding a partner than you do on OkCupid because the entire species has synchronized their genitalia to develop at the same time. They may not even eat or sleep- they spend their last few weeks, days, or hours in a furious haze of lovemaking. Sometimes until they literally fall apart, in the case of the antechinus, a little marsupial that has such furious sex that he’ll lose all his hair and bleed internally (and then die). Which you wouldn’t expect when you see one:
This type of get-fucked-or-die-trying lifestyle is called semelparity, in contrast to our own iteroparity. Here’s another lazy timeline of that:
Semelparous animals sync up their breeding cycles to maximize their chances of finding a mate. This means it’d be pointlessly expensive to be reproductively primed during the off-season. Instead, they focus on preparation: growing as large and strong as they can so that when the time comes, they have the best chance possible. One of the best examples of this is the cicada, which is likely the longest-living insect- some species live up to 17 years. However, of those 17 years, only 2-4 weeks are spent as sexually mature adults. Emerging en masse after such a long absence not only makes it much easier to find a mate, it also overwhelms potential predators. Yes, cicadas are delicious, but you can only eat so many in two weeks compared to how many you could eat if they spent all seventeen years not buried deep underground.
Periodical cicadas are an extreme example, but many other animals have similar strategies. Calling something short-lived a “mayfly” refers to the fact that the sexually mature form is extraordinarily short-lived- in one species, it lives for less than five minutes. However, it’s often forgotten that this only refers to the adult form; the larvae will live possibly two years in rivers or streams.
It’s not just invertebrates that practice extreme semelparity. I already mentioned the little antechinus- the males of that species, by the way, live less than a year, while the females live for two years and generally die after weaning their first litter. Pacific salmon are another familiar semelparous species, which spend up to five years in the ocean before returning to freshwater to spawn and die within the span of a few days.
Perhaps the most extreme example of a semelparous vertebrate that I know of is Labord’s chameleon. The eggs of this species take roughly 9 months to incubate before hatching. After hatching, the juveniles reach sexual maturity at about two months old- and die another two months later. That’s right: this species of chameleon spends more time in an egg than it does in the outside world. Not only that, but because the mating takes place seasonally, there are long periods of time in which no adultindividuals of the species exist. All of them are encased in eggs- silently growing, and preparing for the pinnacle of their lives: the Great Fuckening.
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!
My dad says Zoo's are becoming politically incorrect. I've seen both arguments but I wanna hear your opinion on it: do you think Zoo's are a good idea?
Well, let’s see if I can keep this response short.
First, I’m guessing that by ‘politically correct’ you mean ‘ethically sound.’ So, is keeping animals in zoos an ethical thing to do? As with many things, there is no easy or even single answer to that question.
Without a doubt, there are bad zoos- private or roadside zoos, zoos that keep their animals in abhorrent conditions, zoos that allow visitors to engage in unsafe things like cub-petting schemes. It is obvious that these types of zoos are unethical and exploitative.
(Hint: something like this is never a good sign.)
On the other hand, what constitutes a ‘good’ zoo? In the best captive conditions currently available, is it okay to keep an animal locked up? Some say no, no matter what; some say what we have now isn’t good enough. Others say yes- the best zoos are able to provide their captives with good lives.
This of course brings us to just what a ‘good’ life is. Those who say that animals should never ever be placed in captivity usually value a sense of freedom above all else. Even in perfect captive conditions, an animal will not be free, wild, or ‘natural.’
However, we must acknowledge that ‘freedom’ is a concept created and defined by humans. A human locked in a prison knows the difference between captivity and freedom, and is able to conceptualize that certain ‘rights’ that they have are being violated. But for animals, this may be too complex to perceive. How far back do you have to move a fence before a kudu decides that he is wild again? The idea that animals sense when they are ‘free’ versus ‘not free’ is, to me, not realistic.
Animals do, however, benefit from the ability to be free to make choices, such as what they eat, where they will go, who they will interact with, and so on. Undeniably, captivity presents animals with fewer choices of these kinds than they would have in the wild. The best zoos are now implementing programs to accommodate these choices, particularly with highly intelligent animals such as elephants and apes.
One such example: the “O Line” at the Smithsonian National Zoo allows orangutans to choose one of two buildings to stay in during the day. Other animals, such as the otters, can choose whether or not to be on exhibit via spaces in their enclosure that are sheltered from the public. Scatter feeding and foraging enrichment is yet another way that zoos allow animals to choose what food they want to eat.
Still, despite these improvements, there will always be limitations of choice in captive environments compared to wild ones by the very definition of ‘captivity.’ Furthermore, while many strides have been taken to update enclosures with choices in mind, the fact remains that the implementation of behavioral science in zoos lags behind the research due to the costs, and often due to the stress of the animals themselves when trying to adjust to new schedules and norms (even if they are theoretically better ones).
A forty-year old captive elephant will have lived through decades of zoo reform, and we can’t erase those negative experiences from her mind.
One danger of comparing captive animals to their wild counterparts is assuming that captive environments should mirror the wild ones as closely as possible. But what the wild even is is not well-defined. ‘Wild’ deer roam my suburban neighborhood: should that habitat be replicated in their zoo enclosure? Wild environments include predators, diseases, and natural disasters: is it better that those be implemented in zoos as well?
In actuality, an animal born in captivity likely has no sense of what its natural environment should look like. Certainly it has natural instincts and inclinations- a tiger likes to urine-mark vertical objects and a gibbon likes to climb- but neither of them specifically needs a tree to do this with- a post or rope swing would also work. The ‘naturalistic’ look of many zoo enclosures is actually for the benefit of the visitors, not the animals. In fact, a lush, well-planted habitat could still be an abysmal one for an animal if all of its needs aren’t being met.
This brings us to one of the most important aspects of zoos: the visitors. Theoretically, one of the major purposes of good zoos is to educate and inspire the public about animals, particularly in regards to their conservation. But do zoos actually do this?
The answer is yes… to a small extent. People given surveys upon entering and leaving a zoo exhibit generally do know slightly more about the animals than they used to, but this depends a lot on how educated they were to begin with. While many visitors express an increased desire to engage in conservation efforts after leaving a zoo, not many of them have actually followed up on it when surveyed again a few weeks later. Still, most zoo visitors seem to leave the zoo with several positive if perhaps short-term effects: interest in conservation, appreciation for animals, and the desire to learn more. If a visitor experiences a “connection” with an animal during their visit, these effects are greatly increased.
However, certain types of animal “connections” and interactions can also produce a negative effect on zoo visitors. This reflects what I said earlier about the naturalistic design of habitats being more for the visitors than the animals. Individuals who view animals performing non-natural behaviors (such as a chimpanzee wearing clothes and acting ‘human,’ or a tiger coming up to be petted) are less likely to express an increased interest in their conservation, and even less likely to donate money towards it. Generally, our own perception of freedom and wildness matters much more than the individual animal’s.
The fact of the matter is that, worldwide, zoos spend about $350 million dollars on wildlife conservation each year. That is a tremendous amount of money, and it comes from visitors and donations. What amount of discomfort on the part of captive animals is worth that money being devoted to their wild counterparts? It’s hard to say.
This is a very, VERY general overview of some of the ethical issues surrounding zoos; to go over it all, I’d need to write a book. But hopefully, it got you thinking a little bit about what your own opinion on all this is. (I didn’t explicitly state mine on purpose, though it’s probably fairly clear.)
Are there any spiders in Ohio or Illinois that can hurt me? My arachnophobia is more a 'what if it bites me and my arm rots off' phobia; I'm cool around spiders I know can't hurt me, esp ones behind glass, but I don't know what can hurt me so I'm afraid of all free roaming spiders
There are really only four known groups of spiders with medically significant venom- the rest can’t do much worse than a bee sting. (Of course, some individuals can have allergic reactions to spider venom, just like bee stings.)
These four groups are: the widows (Latrodectus sp.), the brown spiders (Loxosceles sp.), the Australian funnel web spiders (Atraxus sp.), and the Brazilian wandering spiders (Phoneutria sp.).
Black widows are found across the U.S. and in parts of Africa, Europe, and Asia. Despite their reputation, most black widow bites are harmless. Many are dry, with no venom injected, and about 75% of those that do contain venom only produce localized pain with no other symptoms.
Occasionally, more severe symptoms do develop in the form of latrodectism. This can cause symptoms such as generalized pain, headache, nausea, sweating, and racing heart. Most of these symptoms resolve within a week and for more severe cases, an antivenom is available. There has only been one death recorded from a black widow bite in US in the last 50 years, and it was an elderly man. Several thousand people in the US get bitten by black widows every year without suffering any major ill effects.
The brown spiders include the brown recluse spider, famed for its necrotizing bite. However, as with the black widow, the deadliness of this spider has been greatly exaggerated. Like the black widow, brown spiders are found worldwide. Also like the black widow, their bites are often venom-free, and even envenomated bites produce nothing more than mild irritation.
Here’s a map of where brown spiders are found in the US:
The brown recluse is very rare in Ohio specifically, so you don’t have much to worry about.
Bites with high concentrations of brown recluse venom can produce a necrotic skin lesion that is slow to heal. About 66% of these lesions heal on their own without complications. Those that do not may require skin grafts or corrective surgery. A systemic response, which is the response that may become fatal, occurs in about 1% of bite victims. In the last decade there have been two recorded fatalities from brown recluse bites, and both were young children. And as a matter of fact, there are no confirmed reports of a necrotizing bite leading to amputation.
Interestingly enough, there are lots of reports of brown recluse “bites” from states where there are no brown recluse spiders. Spiders often get blamed for symptoms that come from everything from lyme disease to lymphoma. My state is not within the brown recluse range and I’ve still heard stories from a number of people who insist they were bitten by the spider.
Australian funnel web spiders are found, obviously, in Australia- specifically along the eastern coast. While it is suggested that these spiders are more likely to give “wet” bites than the others on this list, there have been no recorded fatalities from their bites in Australia since 1981!
Brazilian wandering spiders are found in parts of Central and South America and are the most venomous spider on this list. This venom, among other things, may give you a lasting erection, which is why some pharmaceutical companies are researching it for use in erectile dysfunction drugs. These spiders are the famed “banana spiders” because they have been found on shipments of bananas outside of South/Central America; however, there are only seven actual recorded cases of this happening. Only about 2.3% of wandering spider bites are medically significant, and again, there have been very few deaths attributed to them.
Spiders, by and large, do not pose a threat to you anywhere in the world.
Um, I have a question if you're willing to answer. Why, in the pictures with the bats. Are their noses like that? All long and going up really pointy? I tried to look it up but I was having a hard time finding anything. If you don't know that's fine and all.
Good question! There’s some incredible diversity in bat nose shapes (and bat ear shapes, as well). Among the most extreme have to be the sword-nosed bats (Lonchorhina sp.).
The sword-nosed bat is part of a family called Phyllostomidae, the leaf-nosed bats. Two other groups of bats have separately evolved similar-looking weird noses: the horsehoe bats (Rhinolophidae) and the slit-faced bats (Nycteridae), though for the most part their noses aren’t nearly as dramatic as some members of the leaf-nosed bats.
Ok, so what the heck is up with all these wacky noses? Simple! Aside from weird noses, all three of these bat families have another weird thing in common: they don’t echolocate through their mouths. They echolocate through their noses.
Yes, that’s right. These bats fly around at night tootling their snootlings. Obviously, the snoot-calls are too high for the human ear, but when pitched down they can sound something like this.
So, the weird-shaped flaps actually help project the sound they emit, like nose-megaphone. The diversity in shape only reflects the diversity in types of calls bats emit when echolocating, depending on habitat, prey type, and more! In many cases, bats have evolved concurrently with insect prey which have learned to detect the sounds of their echolocation, which puts impetus on them to be continually changing the way their calls sound as well. (There are even some bats with ‘whisper calls,’ which are exactly what you would expect.)
Side note, the hammerhead bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus) is a nose-honker unrelated to any of these groups. However, rather than echolocate, males of this species use their giant schnozzes to seduce females in a lek breeding system. You can hear their honks in this NPR story.
Finally, one more weird-nosed bat group- the tube-nosed bats (Nyctimene)! Like the hammerhead bat, these bats don’t echolocate. In fact, it doesn’t make any nose noises at all (that we know of). Then why the tubes, though? That… I don’t know. It could have something to do with body temperature regulation or simply being able to breathe while your face is shoved into mushy fruit. We just don’t know.
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.
I was wondering if you would be inclined to either make more posts on the GMO topic or even just post some resources. I feel like I don't know enough about the topic and would like to be better informed. Thanks.
I suggest that you start with this really lovely article from Slate on the GMO ‘controversy’:
The blunt truth is that GM plants are capable of doing so much good. They can reduce the use of pesticides, they can have higher nutrition, they can cost less to farm, and they can even be safer for the environment around them. They’re not by any means a miracle cure for any problem, but they can certainly help.
Naturally, however, there are some valid concerns with this new technology, as with any technology. The main concern lies not with pesticide resistance, as is commonly misreported, but with herbicide resistance. GM crops can reduce pesticide use by producing small amounts of insecticide within the plant itself, a much more effective tactic than spraying pesticide indiscriminately. However, since herbicides kill plants, creating crops with higher herbicide resistances means that farmers are free to spray herbicides much more liberally, which in turn creates evolutionary pressure to evolve more herbicide resistance in weeds.
There is also the possibility that herbicide-resistant GM crops may cross-pollinate with related native weeds, creating ‘superweeds.’ In countries like the US where our most common crops have few close wild relatives, the danger is low, but it is much higher in many developing countries.
But herbicide resistance isn’t exactly limited to GM crops- it’s a problem with ANY crop that has herbicide sprayed on it. And the solution for both GM and non-GM crops is simple: rotate what herbicides you use, instead of relying on just one, so weeds can’t keep up.
The same goes with nearly any legitimate issue you could think of for GM crops: unmodified crops have the same problems. People tend to think of genetic modification like magic, like slapping wings on a pig and inviting the wrath of some environmental god. But the things we’re trying to do with GMOs are literally the same things we’ve been trying to do with traditional breeding and crop-growing methods for millennia. Pesticides, herbicides, higher nutrition, higher yields, cross-pollination with native plants- none of these issues are new. Breed a herbicide-resistant tomato, or insert the gene manually. Spray crops with insecticide, or manufacture it directly in the plant. We’re reaching for the same end goals- the question is which method is cheaper, faster, and safer for humans and the environment alike. In many cases- though not all- the research points to GMOs.
As for the concerns about gene patenting and particularly the efforts of Monsanto, the case is again murkier and more complicated than documentaries like Food, Inc. will lead you to believe. For example, the farmer in the most famous case- Monsanto Canada Inc v Schmeiser- was not, as is commonly reported, merely trying to reuse seeds that had gotten accidentally cross-pollinated by Monsanto-patented crops from other fields. Over 90 percent of his ‘replanted’ crop was found to contain the patented gene, a figure much too high for there to have been simple cross-pollination. So Monsanto was likely correct when they accused him of trying to grow their crop without paying for the patent. Indeed, there aren’t any cases that Monsanto has filed against farmers based solely on cross-contamination.
As with the health and environmental issues, the ethical and corporate issues of GM crops are somewhat mirrored in their traditionally grown counterparts. If a farmer breeds a herbicide-resistant strain of weeds, does he own the patent to that organism? (According to US law, yes.) What if a scientist working for a company manufactures one with genetic technology?
In the case of Monsanto v Schmeiser, the Canadian government decided that while an entire plant can’t be patented, the technology that inserts the gene into the plant’s cells can be, and therefore manufacturing the genes by regrowing the crops is patent infringement. Conversely, United States laws now state that naturally-occurring gene sequences cannot be patented, so if it’s a gene already found in a plant or animal and used by a biotechnology company, no patent. This covers the vast majority of all genes used in GM organisms.
So in the US, people can own both traditionally-grown and GM plant strains, and can file lawsuits if someone regrows the strain without their permission. But Monsanto can’t own the genes themselves that it places in their products. Again, the issue of whether or not you can patent a living organism is not unique to GM crops.
Tl;dr: Commonly cited ‘problems’ with GM crops are often heavily misrepresented, and even when they aren’t, they’re usually not unique to crops where genes were mechanically inserted rather than bred.
forgive me if you've posted it before, but where do you go to get your lovely flying fox footage? is it a bat sanctuary?
I haven’t posted it before! I’ve been getting all those lovely videos from the Lubee Bat Conservancy (here’s their Instagram) located in Gainesville, Florida. It’s actually a pretty awesome place, I can say up front that they take wonderful care of their animals (they’re AZA accredited as well) and participate in some great research/conservation work.
If it seems like I’m plugging them a lot, well, I really like them- the staff are super friendly and adore the bats, and they’re giving me the opportunity to be up close with these stinky, wonderful animals to learn about their care and enrichment.
hey koryos, i was wondering about that kodkod picture you reblogged -- overwhelmed by its ridiculously cute face i decided to google more pictures of kodkods, but the majority of the images i got are of a completely different feline. what's up with that? and what is that adorable black creature actually called, if it's not a kodkod? is it just an extra fluffy house cat?
The image of the cat that I reblogged earlier (this one) is actually a kodkod. It does look different from normal kodkods because it is melanistic, meaning it has overproduced dark pigment just like a black leopard.
Usually kodkods have a spotted coat pattern, like the one below. But you can tell the two are from the same species because they share the same distinct rounded face shape and short round ears. The nose is also quite different from that of a domestic cat.
And here’s another image of a melanistic kodkod. You can still faintly see the striping on its tail.
At some point I’ll probably do an overview of Felidae like I did with Canidae because there really are some interesting and not very well known characters among the smaller cats.
Dunno if this is out of your expertise or anything, but I was curious about your opinion on the current Kenya Ivory burn going on. I find it incredibly frustrating that they're trying to send this idealistic message when the economics of destroying ivory means that this will only drive up the cost for ivory and hence drive up poaching, but do you know if there's a strong counter-argument against that?
I’m not an expert, but I can tell you my opinion based on the research I’ve read.
The short answer: there’s no strong evidence that ivory burns either increase or decrease demand for ivory. Focusing on the effectiveness of the burns is a bit of a conservation red herring.
The longer answer: there’s a shit ton to unpack here, unfortunately. But the main thing to understand is that the ivory being burned comes from government stockpiles. This is ivory that is already off the market, because the government isn’t selling it, and hopefully won’t ever sell it. To suggest that destroying the stockpiles is akin to increase demand by decreasing supply is almost to suggest that the right thing for the government to do would be to put the ivory back onto the market.
In theory, that almost sounds okay. Supply up - demand down, right? And if there’s a way to buy ivory legally, that should drive down prices on the black market- in theory. Here is the issue: there is practically no way to identify whether or not ivory has been obtained legally or illegally. (Legal ivory comes from products taken before bans were enacted or other such loopholes.) Essentially, anyone can slap a sticker on an ivory product that says “100% totally not poached!” In fact, many huge ivory shops in China do just this, despite the arguments of experts who say there’s no fucking way the sheer volume of ivory moving through these places is all certifiably legal.
(The U.S. isn’t exactly clean either, though; our people tend to just claim they inherited their ivory from their grandparents.)
If there was some way to sustainably harvest wild animals with 22-month pregnancies (in case you were wondering: there is not), perhaps arguments of keeping supply somewhat high would have more merit. However, even then, there are major problems. First, again, differentiating between legal and illegal ivory would still be a huge issue. Second, there’s the fact that supply is not the only factor driving up the price of ivory. In fact, it probably isn’t even the largest one- and in fact, there’s the possibility that increasing supply could also increase demand.
This becomes apparent when you look at the illegal tiger trade in China. To sum up another very complicated issue, trade in most tiger products such as tiger bone wine has been illegal in China since 1992. This greatly reduced supply, and the vast majority of medicine shops stopped carrying tiger products. However, almost immediately after the ban was put in place, several large, government-backed tiger farms were opened in China, ostensibly for conservation purposes. (Not a single tiger from these farms has been successfully released into the wild, by the way.)
In recent years, China has eased parts of the ban, allowing some farms to sell tiger bone wine so long as they don’t explicitly sell it as medicine. Now some members of the Chinese government are saying that the ban should be lifted so that trade in domestic tiger parts can reduce the pressure on wild tigers. But the evidence suggests that the effect would be the opposite. Demand for tiger products dropped following the initial ban, but has been ticking back up. And so has poaching of wild tigers, in spite of the use of captive populations- with 90% of all confiscated products destined for Chinese markets. Putting tiger products back on the market increased demand. And like ivory, there is no way to tell legal tiger bone from poached tiger bone. From an EIA report:
A lack of clarity over the use of captive-bred tiger bones has created an environment of confusion in which tiger bone wine is being produced and marketed. With 5,000-6,000 tigers in captivity there is a growing ‘bank’ of bones stockpiled by private tiger breeders and owners. Instead of being destroyed, skin and bone stockpiles are being registered and labelled, further fuelling speculation of future trade…
Contrary to pro-trade lobby assertions running a legal trade in the skins of captive-bred tigers for nearly 10 years has not stopped the poaching of wild tigers and other Asian big cats.
So: elephants. What the lessons from tigers suggest is that the most effective way to decrease poaching doesn’t necessarily lie in increasing supply of the animal parts, and in fact this can cause a net harm. Indeed, part of the rise of elephant poaching may actually have been prompted by attempts to ease the ban on ivory trade by such reputable organizations as CITES by allowing certain countries to sell their confiscated stockpiles and even legally sell some newly-acquired ivory. There’s no evidence that this worked to decrease the rising demand for elephant tusks.
Of course, again, this is a massive simplification of only one factor that drives the demand for ivory and other animal parts (and I don’t mean to imply that China is the only country driving demand, either). The point I’m trying to make is that the best way to stop animal poaching is to destroy things from the demand side. If we can convince people that ivory is worthless- because the only value it has is the one we attach to it- we should.
Sources and further reading below the cut- I highly recommend reading up on China’s captive tiger trade, it’s fascinating and horrifying.
so moths and other bugs have hair right? is this hair like human hair and is it fuzzy? moths look really cute and cuddly and i would love to know if hugging a giant one would be like the softest thing in the world. thx!
Moths definitely do look cute and fuzzy, and their fuzz is quite soft to the touch- but it isn’t hair or fur, at least not as we think of it.
Remember, moths are arthropods, a separate lineage from vertebrates. So their body coverings evolved separately from ours- this includes scales, hair, and other filaments.
So what is the technical term for moth fuzz? Well, most people already know that butterfly and moth wings are covered in tiny, colorful scales, like so:
As I said before, these scales aren’t related to fish or reptile scales because they evolved separately, even though they look similar. They are actually derived from an arthropod body covering called setae (singular seta) which look very similar to our mammalian hairs.
Invertebrates use setae in all sorts of ways: like a cat’s whiskers, or for a bristly defense, or even as extra ‘legs’ for movement. Moths and butterflies (and others) evolved to cover their wings and sometimes bodies with modified setae scales for flight and insulation. So the fuzz on a moth? Actually elongated, blade-shaped scales! Here’s a close-up:
Moths use their fluffy-looking scales the same way we mammals use our fur: to provide insulation and keep warm. This is especially important for tiny, nocturnal animals. They also use them to escape from spiderwebs- the scales fall off easily when stuck to webbing, so the moth can escape.
As for the second part of your question- about what hugging a giant moth would feel like- well, if you blew one up to our size, those hairs would probably go from fuzzy and soft to stiff, like the shafts of bird feathers, simply because of the scale. Also, as previously mentioned, the scales fall off very easily, so if you tried to hug one, you would end up with an armful of scales and no moth.
So while moth fuzz looks very soft and tempting to touch and hug, best to admire it from afar.
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!
I told my dad that his methods of training the dog by pinning and hitting it to prove himself the "Alpha"was wrong, because you said that Alpha males and the traditional hierarchy was an outdated myth. He refused to listen, saying that he'd seen the same violent pecking order behavior in stable horses as well as dogs. If it isn't dominance, what is it?
It’s strangely difficult to convince people like your father that these methods are wrong, especially if he’s gone so far as to pin/strike your dog already. You may not be able to convince him of anything.
(Also, using horse behavior to explain dog behavior is very silly, so we’re just going to ignore that bit.)
It’s better to think of dominance as a relationship context than something that is enforced. It’s not that it doesn’t exist, it’s just that you can’t always assume that certain actions mean that it does. Aggression can just be plain old aggression- in fact, most aggression takes place in canids before a dominance relationship is established. The point of the dominance relationship is to stop fighting and reduce the danger of injury. This is why posturing takes the place of actual violence.
I wrote in an article about how submissive behaviors in canids are generally not forced by others- instead, they are willingly offered. Wolves and dogs usually don’t force their peers to roll over (and they certainly can’t grab each other with their hands to make it happen!), which is what makes the whole “alpha roll” thing so patently ridiculous. Furthermore, active submission is far more common than active dominance in canid groups, even groups that are fragmented and unrelated with each other.
The other thing to consider is the fact that your father is not a dog. It surprises me how often people believe that dogs think humans are big dogs. Shouldn’t the fact that many dogs behave so differently with humans than they do with other dogs tell us that they are capable of forming these separate categories? By virtue of your species, you are going to have a different relationship with your dog than your dog has with another dog. And dogs are certainly capable of recognizing these differences themselves.
You and your dog aren’t even usually going after the same resources- you don’t HAVE to be dominant over your dog! And even if your relationship does fall that way, your actions are never ever going to be the actions of another dog. They’re just not. You would never in a million years be able to communicate on the scent/visual/auditory level that dogs do with each other. So stop trying to be a dog and act like a human.
…That came out a little harsher than I intended. Sorry. Buildup of frustration.Basically: there’s a poor understanding of dog/dog relationships out there in general media, but even worse is the idea that dog/human relationships should be modeled after dog/dog relationships.