Humans are too fickle for animals to depend on.

In a zoo in the Czech Republic, two lions killed a white tigress; five white tigers in a Chinese zoo had become fearful of the live chickens offered them as food; and in China’s Hubei province, a gang of macaques trained in kung-fu turned on their human master. Male Campbell’s monkeys, in combining and altering their six basic alert calls (boom, hok, krak, krak-oo, kok-oo, and wak-oo), were deemed to exhibit sophisticated proto-syntax. Rhino poaching was on the rise, though Nepal’s greater one-horned rhinos were flourishing because they are protected by guards on elephantback. Wasps were observed to kidnap ladybugs for use as incubators for their eggs, and the ladybugs were observed ultimately to be unharmed by the experience. Male bedbugs were found to emit an anti-predator pheromone to discourage other males from mounting them; males with blocked pheromone glands are mounted for longer than are other males and suffer more grievous abdominal stab wounds from the mounters’ penises. Boys who were exposed in the womb to phthalates—chemicals widely found in cosmetics, vinyl upholstery, and sex toys—are less likely to play rough. Studies of birds and mammals showed that males have more consistent personalities.

by James Roper, from here.

The Permian-Triassic mass extinction, in which 57 percent of all families of living things died due to global warming, was found to have caused many animals to flee to Antarctica. A subspecies of European blackcap birds was noted to have evolved rounder wings and longer, more slender beaks in response to feeding by humans; evolutionary biologists doubted, however, that the birds would ever become a distinct species, because are too fickle for animals to depend on in the longer term. Engineers tested a RoboClam off Cape Cod. Scientists described 158 species of venomous catfish and postulated that as many as 1,600 species of catfish may be venomous. Researched discovered four new species of king crab, concluded that female leatherback turtles are right-flippered, and revealed that the pitch of blue whales’ songs was getting lower. Scientists discovered how to induce molting in blue crabs, thereby rendering them soft-shelled on demand. Behavioral ecologists frightened baby red-eyed tree frogs into hatching early by pretending to be snakes. Pharmacology researchers found that mice who consume hot peppers with their cocaine are more likely to die. Gerbils in Israel are more cautious than those in Jordan. People tend to believe that God believes what they believe. California has too many Chihuahuas.

The passages above are from the “Findings” section of the February 2010 issue of Harper’s and were written by Rafil Kroll-Zaidi.


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