Jeremy – The Bittersweet Tale of the ‘Shellebrity’ Snail

Picture Jeremy, looking for his next juicy leaf, quietly going about the ordinary everyday business of your regular suburban snail. Without warning, a hand descends from above and plucks him from obscurity. And so Jeremy is launched on a trajectory to super-stardom.
To my untutored eye, one snail looks much like any other. So what makes Jeremy the One in a Million?
Simply that this snail’s shell, funkily, spirals to the left. Anticlockwise. Not the usual clockwise, like the other 999,999 snails we encounter daily here in the damp northwest of England, munching their way through our garden plants.
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Is that really much to get excited about? All it took to qualify J for stardom? Dr Angus Davison at the University of Nottingham’s School of Life Sciences thinks so. In his 20 years of studying the genetics of snails he’d never come across a lefty like Jeremy.
But how on earth was this super-special snail even discovered? If Jeremy had taken up residence in my garden, there’d be no way I would ever have noticed his extraordinary-ness. I didn’t even know that a garden snail’s shell (almost) always coils clockwise. Fortunately for him, or maybe unfortunately, who knows, Jeremy had chosen a very particular compost heap for his chomping that day. The compost heap was in the garden belonging to  – what are the chances – a retired scientist from the Natural History Museum. And not just any old NHM retired scientist either, but one who already knew about Dr Davison’s work. Jeremy was discovered, and soon found himself on his way, first class, to Nottingham and fame.
But fame, even the kind that extends no further than the Nottingham School of Life Sciences, has its drawbacks. Jeremy was all alone. Now we must get down to brass tacks: it wasn’t just shell-wise that Jeremy was a lefty. His leftward inclination ran right through all his major organs including his genitals. No common or garden righty snail was going to be a good fit for him, IYKWIM.
If you’re one in a million, how do you find your match, your perfect other half? Dr Davison set out on the improbable search for a snaily suitor, another lefty just like J. The good doctor’s intent, if truth be told, was less about providing congenial company for the super-snail, and more about creating the opportunity to discover whether Jeremy’s mutation was a quirk in his development, or a genetic inheritance. And for that he needed Jeremy to make babies.
So the doc went on national radio appealing for help in finding a suitable snail mate. And that’s when Jeremy the lefty snail went stratospheric! Almost overnight, the new ‘shellebrity’ gathered over a thousand followers on his Twitter account @leftysnail, and became an international media sensation. snail-153885__340One of his many fans even penned a tragic love ballad about his lonely plight, and posted it on YouTube.
His meteoric rise to stardom reaped rewards in the shape of two prospective consorts, Lefty from Ipswich and Tomeu from Spain, the latter having a lucky escape from the cooking pot on a snail farm in Mallorca. Both were duly despatched to Nottingham.
Now before we come to the tragic twist in the super-snail’s story, there’s something you need to know about snails. We have dogs and bitches, sows and boars, stallions and fillies, lions and lionesses, cows and bulls, and so on. But snails don’t do male and female. They conveniently encompass both sexes in one glutinous body. They are among the select group of creatures, nearly all slimy and slithery, proud to call themselves hermaphrodites. (Which means I probably should have been referring to Jeremy/Jemima as she/he all through this tale. I refuse to call him/her ‘it’ – she/he is so much more. Please accept ‘he’ and ‘him’ as shorthand.)
snails-877277__340In spite of the exciting arrival of the new lefties, Jeremy’s troubles were far from over. Maybe the two newbies hadn’t been properly briefed about what was expected of them. For once nicely settled in their new quarters, Lefty and Tomeu barely cast a glance in the direction of our lonely mollusc, and instead only had eyes for each other. And to add insult to Jeremy’s injury, their love match engendered 300 plus baby snail-lets.
And now it is with sorrow that I have to report, last Wednesday, Jeremy the super-special garden snail shuffled off his mortal coil and slid his way to snail heaven. I can’t tell you if his life was long as snail lives go, or happy, but there is one sweet final twist to his story. Shortly before Jeremy breathed his last, Tomeu produced another 56 babies, a third of which J could be reasonably satisfied were ‘the fruits of his loins’. (The remainder were Lefty’s, ‘fathered’ before he returned to his home in Ipswich.)
Jeremy’s babies? As with their 300 half-siblings before them, there’s not one lefty to be found among them. But Dr Davison lives in hope. He thinks he may well find what he is looking for in the next generation, a lefty like Jeremy.
So Rest in Lettuce, Jeremy. May you dwell forever where no scientist is seen, and only compost heaps and lefties abound.

No apologies will be made for the shameless anthropomorphism. It’s just my way of saying, a snail, even if not a rare lefty, is a person too.

I will be looking at the snails in my little patch with new interest. But I have to tell you Dr Davison, if I do find a Jeremy/Jemima, there’ll be no Nottingham for him/her. She/he will live out his/her days right here in quiet obscurity.


If you want to see a pic of the real Jeremy, and find out what Dr Davison has discovered about snail genetics, you will find it here: RIP Jeremy the lefty garden snail


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Infinite Monkeys & the White Bear Problem

5 fun instances of animals illuminating scientific theories

Beginning with one that’s entirely new to me. But maybe you know it?
The White Bear Problem

Russian writer Dostoevsky summed it up neatly:Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.” Oh yes.

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No-one thought any more of Dostoevsky’s intrusive polar bear until 30 years ago when pyschologist Daniel Wegner decided to put the writer’s saying to the test. He did indeed prove that the more people were asked to suppress a thought (like the white bear), the more it cropped up in their minds. He called it the Ironic Process Theory.

Why does this happen? Apparently because two different parts of the brain are at work – against each other. While one dutifully ignores the thought as instructed, another part intermittently calls it to mind in an attempt to ensure the thought is being successfully forgotten.” Humans not so clever after all?

From bears to butterflies-

The Butterfly Effect

The idea, as everyone knows, is that something as infinitesimal as a butterfly fluttering its wings sends reverberations across the world. Or to be more precise, a butterfly fluttering in the rainforest could result a few weeks later in a tornado thousands of miles away. That was the original concept of mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz.

The butterfly was a nice metaphor for his startling discovery that by simply rounding numbers to slightly fewer decimal places than he normally did in meteorological computer calculations, the tiniest of changes, he ended up with a wildly different weather forecast.

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But with real butterflies, is the Butterfly Effect true? Scientifically speaking, no. Scientists say the actual impact of a butterfly flapping its wings would be so tiny as to be quickly absorbed by the surrounding air pressure.”

Scientists don’t know everything though, do they? This is one I’d still like to believe – but maybe without the tornado. Now for the toughie

Schrödinger’s Cat

Schrödinger’s Cat has me nodding sagely at any mention of it, “Ah yes, of course, Schrödinger’s Cat”. When truth be told, and much to my frustration, it has me completely baffled. I’ve never been able to get my head around it – until now. I think I may have got it at last – or have I? See if it makes sense to you.

It’s all about quantum physics. (Mind going blank already.) Quantum physics is about subatomic particles, which behave in very odd and unpredictable ways – apparently. So it’s absurd to try to apply quantum theory to predict how a radioactive atom will behave – apparently.

To illustrate this, your friend and mine, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger tells us to imagine some radioactive matter in a locked box with a cat. Inside there is also a Geiger counter which as soon as it detects radioactivity, will smash open a vial of poison. And over the period of one hour there is a 50% chance of the radioactive matter starting to decay and the poor old theoretical cat being poisoned.

“Quantum theory states that subatomic particles can be in two states at once until they’re observed. Similarly, since the cat’s life depends on what’s happening inside the radioactive atom, until we look in the box the cat is theoretically both alive and dead.

For Schrödinger, this thought experiment highlighted a paradox at the heart of quantum mechanics: while a particle may be able to exist in two states, the cat must be either alive or dead regardless of whether it’s being observed – it can’t be both.”

Mmm, still not sure I get it. But at least no cat was harmed in the making of this theory.

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This isn’t Schrödinger’s cat. This is Barry. Barry is a little sad he hasn’t had a theory named after him yet. Maybe next year, Barry.
The Hedgehog’s Dilemma

Otherwise know as the Porcupine Problem, for obvious reasons. This one is not the brainchild of a scientist, but a philosopher – Arthur Schopenhauer. But psychologists adopted it as a useful analogy, comparing the difficulties of human intimacy with two hedgehogs huddling together for winter warmth.

The closer each one in a pair of hedgehogs or porcupines (or humans) gets to the other, the more likely they are to get hurt. On the other hand, if they, and we, keep a safe distance, we all end up cold and alone.

There has to be a happy medium somewhere. Looks like these little guys may have found it.

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The Infinite Monkey Theorem

Who dreamed this one up remains a mystery, but it’s all about probability. We all know the wonderful but mildly insane idea that given an infinite number of monkeys banging away on an infinite number of keyboards the complete works of Shakespeare will eventually be reproduced.

“While this is a theoretical near-certainty, the odds on it happening in reality are infinitesimally tiny. Many trillions of monkeys typing from the dawn of time to the end of the universe would be highly unlikely to manage even a Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Sadly, Plymouth Uni arts students and lecturers – not scientists – were not content with leaving this as a fun theory. They decided to put it to the test. They installed a computer in a compound with 6 macaques. A month later they went to check what the monkeys had written: 5 pages of gobbledygook text, showing for some strange reason a marked preference for the letter ‘s’.

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Good on the monkeys though – they well and truly showed what they thought of their wrongful incarceration, and indeed the entire procedure. They bashed the keyboard with a stone, and used it for a toilet.


Footnote

This is all pretty frivolous stuff, I know. But with all the appalling news bombarding us daily about climate change, extinctions, destroyed habitats, hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, floods, forest fires, a tidal wave of human and nonhuman animal suffering, the possibility of nuclear war, and acts and statements emanating from the White House which I can only call evil, sometimes we do just need a little lighthearted distraction.

Source: BBC Radio 4 – Radio 4 in Four – Six theories that use animals to explain their meanings (Stealing the cat caption is my compliment to the uncredited writer of this article)

Images Pixabay

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The Internet’s Favorite Baby Beaver Finally Finds Love

This is just too adorable not to be shared around, in case anyone has missed it. I particularly love it when her paddle tail takes her by surprise!

Animal rescuers in Canada have just shared some seriously heartwarming updates about two injured baby beavers they took in, who have since found companionship in their care.

Last year, the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) took in a young female beaver who had been found alone and injured, far from water in an area where there were no known beavers. Rescuers believe she may have been snatched by a predator, and then left, and estimated she was only five weeks old.

With care, she recovered from the ordeal, and captured the hearts of millions of people after an Instagram video of her taking a bath went viral.

But she has been alone ever since.

As AIWC explained, “Beavers are incredibly social animals. Both parents raise their young together for 2-3 years before the kits naturally disperse on their own. After extensive research and consultation with other wildlife rehabilitators experienced in caring for beavers, we determined that our young beaver patient needs to similarly remain in care until she is 2-3 years old to properly prepare for her return to life in the wild.”

Unbeknownst to her, things were about to change. Earlier this summer, the organization took in a young male who had been found injured in a storm drain in Calgary. After being treated, he was later moved to an outdoor enclosure next to the female, where the two started to stealthily bond through the fence that separated them.

“Beavers are primarily nocturnal, so we didn’t see the two beavers interacting until one evening AIWC staff witnessed them walking along the fence line together,” AIWC wrote. “Introducing strange beavers to one another can sometimes be very challenging and result in serious injuries, but we were thrilled to see these two bonding together on their own, so the decision was made to slowly make introductions.”

Because they’re both so young, AIWC says their relationship so far is purely platonic, but it’s no less precious, and the pair have taken to doing a number of activities together.

Although they’ll spend much more time in AIWC’s care, the organization expects to release them together next year when they’re old enough to go out on their own. Hopefully they will thrive when they’re returned to the wild, and their story will inspire more people to appreciate these little ecosystem engineers.

For more updates and info on how to help, check out the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation.

Photo credit: Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation/YouTube

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Cool Cats & Dandy Dogs Get Ready for Clear the Shelters Day

Have you been thinking about adding to your family with a new furry? Well, tomorrow, Saturday August 19th is The Day to find yourself that one special pooch or moggie who’s sure to steal your heart away. It’s Clear the Shelters Day, when right across the USA shelters offer free or greatly reduced fees for all would-be adopters. It’s a once-a-year event to find loving homes for every fur baby in the participating shelters. Want to know more about this marvellous scheme? Click here and here

And to prod you in the right direction, here is a selection box of cat and dog trivia, facts and fun to dip into, that I hope will yield up one or two surprises.

Those of us already sharing our homes and lives with a BFF or three are pretty sure we can read them like a book, aren’t we. Every twitch of the ear, wag of the tail, arch of the back, squint of the eyes. We live with them for goodness sake. We know them so well that every time some new piece of scientific research on Felix or Fido reveals its (unsurprising) findings, we just go “Dah. Like we didn’t know that already”.

Except this time. Because I’m willing to bet these researchers have turned up an oddity that will have you eyeing your pooch anew.

The tell-tale tail

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“It now appears that when dogs feel generally positive about something or someone, their tails wag more to the right side of their rear ends, and when they have negative feelings, their tail wagging is biased to the left.

In spite of having lived with dogs all my life, I can’t claim ever to have noticed. But apparently, that left/right business isn’t as surprising as it seems at first glance. Many animal brains including humans, have a left hemisphere (which controls the right side of the body) that is activated by love, happiness, serenity. And the right hemisphere (controlling the left of the body) by withdrawal, fear, depression.

And, it’s not just, “Was that a left wag, or a right?” The language of doggy wag is a bit more complicated than we might have thought. Apart from the left/right business, the researchers noted 4 different kinds of rear end motion, and surprisingly they don’t all mean ‘I’m-so-happy-to-see-you’. Find the full wag guide here

action-2483689__340-1Cats on the other hand, just wag their tails when they are angry, don’t they? As befits the cat’s enigmatic aura, the feline wag is even more subtly nuanced than the canine. So we have:

  • The Vertical Tail and Tail Quiver
  • The Wrapped Tail
  • The Tail Flick (Or, the Straight Out and Back Tail)
  • The Swish
  • The Fluffy, Arched Tail
  • And the Twitch

What does it all mean? To whet your appetite for more, I’ll let you in on the meaning of the first, the VT & TQ: “An upright (or vertical) tail and tail quiver (or rattle tail) are often signs of a friendly greeting from your feline. An upright tail is usually a sign of a happy, confident cat” You knew that already of course! More on the cat wag guide here


It’s not fair

From a piece of research in Vienna, scientists found that dogs are right on the button when it comes to what is fair and what is not.

They put two dogs in separate cages, but where they could see each other. Each had a buzzer they could press with their paw. Sometimes when they pressed it they would both get a reward, but sometimes neither would. Sometimes one got a reward and the other didn’t. Sometimes one got a better treat than the other. What happened? The one consistently coming off worse would just give up pressing the buzzer. No-one wants to be the underdog.

But he or she would happily keep pressing the buzzer and not getting a reward, as long as the other dog didn’t get one either. Or, if there wasn’t another dog to compare themselves with – proof that it wasn’t just boredom that made them stop. The pooches were aggrieved. They stopped because it just wasn’t fair.

Is this something dogs have learned from living with us humans? It seems not. The researchers also tried the experiment on wolves – and got the same result. In fact the wolves stopped pressing even quicker, the alpha male quickest of all.

Dogs have been among us for maybe 40,000 years, but it seems their view of fairness learned long ago from dwelling as a member of a pack lives on.

Afterthought: wouldn’t it be fascinating to know how cats would respond? Would you like to venture a guess?


This dog stays wild!

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We’re talking Australian dingo here. In traditional aboriginal society, dingo pups were taken from the wild and draped around women’s waists like garments of clothing. Like you do. The women even breastfed them. In return, they kept the women warm, were an invaluable help in the hunt, a source of protection – and sometimes of food.

But before the pups reached the age of two, they were returned to the wild to breed. And in spite of thousands of years of semi-involvement in human lives, the adult dingo still to this day fails “to respond to any amount of discipline, kindness, bribery or coercion.” A dingo pup taken from the wild can not be trained up as a family pet. “Affectionate and tractable when young, eventually their carnivorous nature gets the better of them.”

The dingo’s most astounding gift though, is its ability to divine water. These wild dogs can detect water both above and below ground, and humans throughout history have put its remarkable skill to good use. Records reveal many accounts of “wild/semi-wild dingoes leading Europeans to lifesaving water springs.” And Australian place names still bear witness to this talent: Dingo Soak, Dingo Springs, Dingo Rock, Dingo Gap.

In aboriginal culture, dreaming tracks or songlines trace the dingo’s paths across the continent, from one water source to another. To one well-versed in them, the songs of the dreaming tracks serve as maps, since the words describe landmarks and waterholes. So by singing them they can navigate their way even over the vast Australian desertland. The dingo has shown them the way.

You can find out more about these fascinating wild dogs, and see an extraordinary image of Aboriginal women with dingoes wrapped around their waists here


But enough of dogs. Now for a bit of quality time with the cats.

Cuddles & Cat Flu

This research aimed to find out what effect if any positive interaction with humans has on shelter cats’ health and wellbeing. So, on arriving at a Vancouver cat shelter, each cat was divided into one of two groups. The ‘treated’ group got quality interaction with a human 4 times a day, 10 minutes each time, for 10 days. The control group had someone stand outside the cats’ cage with averted eyes for the same amount of time.

Surprise, surprise, these are the findings:

  • Human interaction by petting, playing and grooming improved shelter cats’ welfare
  • ‘Treated’ cats were more content and less anxious and frustrated
  • ‘Treated’ cats had increased levels of immumoglobulin [meaning healthier immune systems]
  • ‘Treated’ cats had less respiratory disease

cat-714358_960_720Even if that falls into the cat-egory (ahem) of research results stating the obvious, it does prove one thing: much as they pretend they don’t – putting on every appearance of just about tolerating us and condescending to live with us on their terms only – they do actually need us after all!


But before we get carried away with that good news, I regretfully have to confirm what we all always suspected –

Dogs really do love us more than cats

Five times as much in fact, so the scientists tell us. Who knew you could measure love? Find out how they do it here

Cat lovers take heart though – they do love us a bit😊


Now for something altogether more serious

Are Felix and Fido driving climate change?

American Professor Gregory Okin decided to find out. And these are his sobering findings:

  • Meat-eating US dogs and cats create 64 million tons of carbon dioxide a year – equivalent to a year’s worth of driving from 13.6 million cars
  • That tonnage of carbon dioxide makes up 25 – 30% of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the States overall
  • If the 163 million American dogs and cats were a separate country of their own, “their fluffy nation would rank fifth in global meat consumption behind only Russia, Brazil, the United States and China”. Now that is scary.
  • And don’t forget the ‘waste’ – they produce 5.1 million tons of feces, as much as 90 million Americans

So what’s the answer? Our dogs and cats are family. No way are we going to give them up, even for the best environmental reasons in the world. Prof Okin doesn’t offer solutions, other than his half-joking suggestion that we transfer our affections to naturally vegetarian pets like hamsters or birds – or little ponies that can mow our lawns. Well, I have a couple of suggestions:

  1. Feed your furry friend veggie/vegan dog and cat foods, like Ami, Benevo, and Yarrah. Taurine and arachidonic acid are vital for cats, but these brands do contain them, so don’t listen to those who like to tell you a cat can’t live on a vegetarian diet
  2. DON’T give up the chance to save the life of a rescue pet – a lovable little critter that might well end up euthanized – by getting your BFF from a pet store or breeder. You would simply be lining the pockets of people who exploit dogs and cats just for money.
  3. ALWAYS go to your nearest animal shelter – TOMORROW! – and give a loving home to a pet who’s been abandoned through no fault of their own. They will reward you a thousand times over.

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#adoptdontshop


And finally, just for fun!

 

Actions to take for dogs and cats

Sign up to Cruelty Free International’s campaign to put an end to cruel experiments on dogs here

Speak out for the dogs and cats suffering at Liberty research here

Sign to end the killing in US animal shelters here

(All images Pixabay)

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The App that Wakes You to a Sweet Dawn Chorus Any Time of Day

Are you up with the lark, bright and shining early in the morning? No? Well, not to worry. Even night owls who prefer rising at a more civilised hour can now be eased gently from slumber into the new day by the sweet music of birdsong. All courtesy of – believe it or not – a museum.

If you’re anything like me the very word ‘museum’ may make you want to yawn tiredly and walk off in search of a place to sit down and a strong coffee. But Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History and its design lab The Studio have found a fun up-to-the-minute way to share its treasures with us that is anything but old and dull, dusty and fusty.

Ok, “a natural history museum-based alarm clock” app doesn’t sound that appealing, I’ll admit. But don’t let that description put you off. The ‘Dawn Chorus’ app (Apple & Google) is sheer delight, with 20 melodious bird songs to choose from, in any combination you like.

Move over shrill jarring of the bedside alarm. Make way for the music of nature itself.
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The birds of Dawn Chorus. Image courtesy of The Studio

“Like nature’s dawn chorus, this app grows louder as different birds join together in song. But unlike those birds that sing outside your window, these ones can be snoozed. Give your phone a shake to rattle the birds on their branches and hush them up.”

But what makes Dawn Chorus different from other museum apps? After all, museum apps are nothing new. Many provide virtual guided tours of their collections.

The thing is, do you actually keep one of those on your phone? Fascinating as they are (and I have used them) I have to admit that I don’t.

So the Studio designed Dawn Chorus to make it a more permanent member of our phone app family, to embed itself in our daily life. One that would open up to us – most of whom are never likely to darken the august doors of the Pittsburgh Carnegie! – the museum’s fabulous natural history resources. And in a way we can interact with, customise to suit ourselves, and ring the changes whenever we wish.

If we’re keen to know more about the little songsters, there’s info on each of the 20 at our fingertips. And all accompanied by the enchanting paintings of Sam Ticknor, an artist with The Studio.

Oh, and did I say? The app is free.

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Image courtesy of The Studio

Just one little glitch for those of us who don’t live in the northeast USA – all 20 birds are local to that area. Not that the choristers sound any the less sweet for that.

But, if you are a dab hand at programming, or just like tinkering around, the app is open-source, and you can customise with bird calls from your own neck of the woods too. Just go to Github to download the source code.

It’s The Studio technician Jeffrey Inscho’s hope that the app will raise awareness of the museum’s important conservation work. And that “museums [in general] will play more central roles in our modern society, and apps like this can pave the way.”

The rest of us might just welcome a sweeter way to ease us into the new day

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Please help other birds with these petitions:

Stop migrating birds being slaughtered in Malta and Cyprus

Fight for Flight – Stop mutilating birds in zoos

Indonesia: ban the trade in wild birds

Urge Jewish Community to do Kaporos with Money not Chickens

 

Sources

Don’t like to wake up to your alarm clock? Try this gentle birdsong app from Carnegie Museum – ZME

Introducing Dawn Chorus – Studio

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3 Genius Ways of Helping Rescue Dogs – & Cats – But Mainly Dogs!

“This was just a small, tiny, organic, nice gesture of kindness and it’s resonated with people all across the country. Anybody can do it. It doesn’t have to a be big thing; it can just be walking a dog.”

Luis Escobar, coach at Californian high school St. Joseph’s one day surprised his runners with a bunch of four-leggers super keen to join them on their run – pooches normally cooped up in the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter.

Fun was had by all, regardless of leg number. Luis made this little video.

As you can see, all relished being out in the big wide world, though one was a bit of a tortoise. And Fred – well Fred preferred to travel in style (reminds me of my own rescue canine!) It proved for him a tactic with a payoff, because he scored himself a nice new home – runner and ‘Fred-carrier’ Josh Menusa and his family ended up adopting him.

As if this little story is not wonderful enough, after Luis posted his video on Facebook, his simple but genius idea caught fire and spread all over the country. And why wouldn’t it? Runners love to run, and so do pups – a match made in heaven.

Find out more here


Now for genius off-the-wall idea no.2 – books

A good run-out, yes that makes sense, but books? For dogs? Seems the mutts are particularly partial to a good animal yarn. But if you’re letting your imagination run wild with visions of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles”, “Lassie”, and “101 Dalmations” lining the walls in dog pens, let me bring you gently back down to earth. Dogs are clever but not that clever. Or maybe they are, because they let us do the work for them and in some choice shelters they have a child human read to them. Why keep a dog and bark yourself, is what they say.

The kids sit on the floor in front of the pens so it’s the dog’s choice how much he/she wants to interact. It’s a quiet gentle activity that seems to have a calming effect on stressed animals.

It helps shy and fearful dogs overcome their insecurities and increase their chances of being adopted.”

This little guy is rapt!

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Pic Humane Society of Missouri/Facebook

And everyone’s a winner:

  • The kids aren’t frightened of making a mistake reading to animals as they would be with people. It increases their confidence – animals are so nonjudgmental
  • A study at the University of California found that children who participated in a 10-week reading program at a shelter saw a 12 percent improvement in their reading
  • It is the perfect way to teach children the importance of compassion, and the need to adopt not shop
  • It helps create positive ties between a shelter and the community it’s in

Why not find out if your local shelter has such a scheme, and if not, suggest they might like to start one.

Plenty more lush ideas of how you can show your love for shelter animals here


Our third genius idea really is genius! Where do folk rustle up these amazing ideas? I wish I knew. Here you go – optical illusions

Under the slogan, “There’s always room for more. Adopt”, World for All in Mumbai, India commissioned these marvels that speak better than words because they speak to the heart.

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All 3 amazing pics by Amal Jadhav for World for All’s adoption event

What family could resist finding a place in their lives for a needy animal after seeing these? The pics’ impact was huge. Attendance at the adoption event was up 150 percent from the previous year, and saw 42 adoptions. The plan is to repeat the event yearly after such phenomenal success.

Thanks to the Dodo for that uplifting story


So there we have it – three stories of fun ways to help get animals out of shelters and into loving homes. When you decide to get a dog or a cat to make your home complete, ‘paws’ for thought, and ADOPT, DON’T SHOP.

Just look at these sad statistics:

  • The Daily Mail reported that the number of stray or abandoned dogs in the UK reached 110,000 in 2013, and that 21 are put down every single day.
  • The RSPCA rescued and collected 118,994 animals of all kinds in 2015 in the UK, and were only able to rehome 47,651 of those.
  • The ASPCA tells us that in the USA approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
  • And that each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats)

And they are not just numbers. Each individual one an aching heart just crying out for a loving home. #AdoptDontShop Helping Abused or Abandoned Animals


To end on a brighter note, a bit of doggy fun for dog slaves everywhere.

The Amazing Abilities of Dogs – Take the Quiz here

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Freaky Feline Fascination!

Cover pic Twitter pic: guywholoveshiscat🐈 @noxtea0x0

If you love cats, look no further to be amused and amazed.  I invite you to dig out your roll of coloured tape, go mark out a square with it on your floor, and wait for your kitty to stroll by. Does your fur baby do this? It seems most pusses need no purrsuasion.

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Twitter pic:

Uhuh, here comes another!

Twitter pic: Jen @JeniNiquette

This puddled puss almost resisted. But no, it seems for moggies sitting is mandatory.
And another! Purple tape, pink tape, blue tape – whatever.

Twitter pic:

Squares of ribbon, paper, even shoes – the kitties will park in the middle without pro-cat-stination.
What pawsible reason can there be for this strange behaviour?

“We know that cats like safe spaces. It’s possible that the marking on the floor creates some illusion on the floor that doesn’t actually exist,” says certified cat behavior consultant Mikel Delgado. “It might have enough similarity to a low-sided box that a lot of cats are attracted to it for safety.”

Certified cat behavior consultant Ingrid Johnson agrees, pointing out that cats have poor close-up vision, so they may well mistake the tape for a shallow box – and we all know how cats love boxes.

“Their vision is built for distance and speed, watching a mouse run across the field,” she says. “Close up they’re virtually blind 8 to 12 inches off their muzzle.”

Curiosity killed the cat

So the saying goes. And cats are certainly curious. Your puss may just be purrusing a new strange object on your floor.

Cats in circles

Circles, hexagons, heptagons – cats can’t get enough.

cat-in-tape-heptagon.jpg.838x0_q80

(Photo: SneakyChino/imgur)

But if it’s just curiosity, why the sitting?

Mikel Delgado has the last word: “Maybe just chalk it up to cats being mysterious,” he says.

Now just get out that tape and go!

Source

 How to mess with your cat by drawing a square’  Mary Jo DiLonardo

 

Teddy Bear the Porcupine’s Valentine’s Treats!

❤️What can I say? ❤️Enjoy, and❤️Happy Valentine’s Day❤️to you!❤️

8 More Kinds of Animal Craziness

What you never knew you wanted to know about animals – but you really do

Episode 2

Did you know that –

Chimps

Are champs at recognizing rumps? It’s not the face, but the butt they look at to tell one buddy from another – and they do it just as easily as humans distinguish faces. Bright colours, it seems, count for both species. In humans, females’ red lips are attractive to males, a fact well-known to lipstick manufacturers. No lipstick for chimp females though. It’s the red rump that’s the big turn-on in chimp society. The redder the better because when the rump blushes even deeper crimson the male knows his lady is ovulating and it’s now or never.

The Mysterious ‘Silkhenge Spider’

In the jungles of Peru and Ecuador, builds a very special protective playpen for its young? In spite of extensive publicity in the world of science, no-one yet knows what species this clever beast belongs to. Watch this video of spiderlets being born, and hear the scientists trying to unravel the mystery

Grizzly Bears

Run fast? So fast they would win the race against that lightning-speedster Usain Bolt himself, no competition. Don’t be fooled by that large lumbering appearance. These beasts can run at 30mph, and that’s just when they’re cruising. If you put them under pressure or make them mad, who knows what their top speed might be? Never try to outrun a grizzly. If Usain couldn’t do it, you and I certainly can’t!

The female shark

Has learned to grow an extra-thick skin? And not because she gets insulted more than most. It’s just that during mating, her male counterpart has the unpleasant habit of biting her – hard. Those jaws are not a thing to be trifled with!

squalo-1742357_960_720

Tarantulas

Are right-handed? At least we think so. Right-handed? With 8 legs, or is that arms? I reckon the Honduran curly hair tarantula deserves a prize for its name alone. And if not for its name, its size. It’s as big as a grapefruit. Eek. It seems more often than not, male curly-hairs choose to take a right turn rather than a left in a laboratory maze, when in either direction there’s the promise of their favourite food, cockroaches. Ditto in pursuit of females. The difference is statistically significant (ie. happens more often than if by chance). “Furthermore, the team observed that the male spiders prefer to use their right eyes and feet while moving.” Not so much right-handed, more right-footed then.

Whatever, there’s no call for alarm, arachnaphobes. It seems this species is pretty docile, unless you’re a cockroach that is. And isn’t he a magnificent beast?

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Japanese snails

Are a knockout? Literally. Two snail species of the genus Karaftchelix are said to be “unusually aggressive”. Can you even imagine an aggressive snail? A contradiction in terms, surely. But these ones are veritable Snail Samurai. While most snails in danger retreat into the safe haven of their shell, these two kinds are no shrinking violets. They use their shell not for retreat, but attack – as a weapon of war, swinging it vigorously and very effectively at their predator, the carabid beetle. See the warriors in battle here:

Egyptian fruit bats

Bicker? A lot. They row over food, feud over their favourite spots in the roost, and even have romantic tiffs. And the way they talk varies depending on the particular bat person they are addressing. No different from us then. Before this latest study, scientists thought all that noise was just saying ‘get the heck out of here’, or words to that effect. But after running 15,000 calls through a “machine learning algorithm” (don’t ask – I don’t know) the researchers discovered the squabbling was much more complex than you might expect. And they expect more intriguing discoveries from bat-speak yet to come.

egyptian-fruitbat-69580_960_720

Humans

Used to have a penis bone? Seriously. What is a penis bone? What’s it for, and how come we were so careless as to lose it? It’s scientific name is a baculum, and it’s an ‘extra-skeletal’ bone, which means it’s not attached to the rest of the skeleton, “but floats daintily at the end of the penis”. Again, eek. A variety of mammals have hung on to theirs but ours is not even vestigial like the appendix – it’s gone for good. The scientists have various colourful speculations as to its purpose. And also why our evolution alone among primates found no further use for one. As you may have suspected, it’s all about the mating game. Different species, different mating strategies. Some need’em, others don’t.

To find out more about how we lost the penis bone and see a photo, click here. More links to today’s animal craziness at the bottom of the page.

I hope you have enjoyed these fun facts. I actually put them together with another more serious purpose in mind. Shouldn’t we marvel at the infinitely fascinating,  colourful, varied and complex life on this planet of ours, and do all that we can to keep it safe? Sadly, new species are being discovered that are already extinct. There is so much we don’t know. So much more to discover and wonder at. Let us treasure it at its true worth which is beyond price.
Please take a look at this list of simple eco-friendly things we can all do to make a difference:
 40 Unexpected Ways You Can Help the Environment Right Now
And this one is the daddy of all eco tip lists:
Green Eco Tips for a Healthy Planet

 

If you want to find out more about chimps rump recognition, click here

To find out more about the amazing silkhenge spider, click here

To find out more about speedy grizzlies, click here

To find out more fascinating facts about sharks, click here

To find out more about this wondrous Honduran arachnid and his right-footedness, click here

To discover the evolutionary significance of the samurai snails, click here

To learn more about bickering bats click here

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8 Kinds of Animal Craziness

 

 

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Gifts Animals Give – & Strictly No Socks!

No socks this year please Santa. But what is on your list? A ball of spit? A skewered frog or two? Or some silk-wrapped ‘pre-loved’ insect remains? No? Well, what about stolen goods then.

If you watched the last episode of Planet Earth II you can’t fail to have noticed  sundry animals getting up to all kinds of skullduggery, not to mention some downright theft. Sneaky, opportunistic – or just clever? Well, one poor little guy living near a golf course in Australia wasn’t as clever as he thought, and his gift-giving went horribly wrong.

Karma
The scene opens with our hero – a bower bird – fussing over his art work in front of his bower, arranging and rearranging, intent on enticing a prospective mate – or two, or three…
For his colour scheme he choses white, enlivened with a splash of red here and there: a red plastic fork, a red bottle top, lengths of red string. Still he contemplates his beak-work with dissatisfaction.

Something is missing and he knows just what it is. His neighbour has hit the jackpot with the latest find for his own showpiece – a red plush heart the size of a child’s hand. It seems so improbable, but yes, really, a red plush heart. How did that get on the golf course? Whatever, no bower bird of the opposite sex is going to be able to resist that!

Envy is eating our guy up, but he knows all he has to do is loiter nonchalantly in a nearby tree and wait. His patience is rewarded – the possessor of The Heart flies off to find more objets d’art for his masterpiece. Our guy wastes no time. He swoops and carries off the prize. Back home he makes the wondrous heart the centrepiece of his display.

Soon his artistry (and thievery) bear results – a visitor arrives to inspect his creation.

Our little guy parades one cherished object after another before his guest, starting with the red plastic fork. But the visitor is not impressed. How about a length of red string then? Boy, this one is hard to please. There’s nothing for it but to offer up his pièce de resistance – The Red Heart. He hopes this will clinch the deal, and yes, finally, his gift is a winner. His visitor graciously accepts the proffered heart.

But oh no, now what’s happening?!? Our little guy has been duped. Far from falling for his charms, the prospective mate flies off with his most treasured (but stolen) possession. She is no lady, and not just because she’s a trickster and a thief – ‘she’ is in fact a juvenile male. Well all’s fair in love and war they say, and there surely is no honour among bower bird thieves.

I Made it Myself

A red plush heart as a gift to impress your lady is one thing. But how about a ball of spit? And not just any old ball of spit. The male scorpion fly (so called because his tail-end resembles a scorpion’s sting, actually his genitalia) offers his girl a ball a whole tenth of his body-weight in spit. That’s an impressive amount of spit. If the protein-rich saliva wins her over, she eats it, and the deal is sealed.

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Still, a ball of spit has got to be better than a ball of something else, which is the dung beetle’s offering to his beloved!

Do I Look Stupid?

Dodgy doings and trickery are not exclusive to the bower bird. A certain S. American spider gift-wraps his prey in spider silk before offering it to his beloved. But who knows what’s really inside that silk parcel? This gent is prone to giving in to his greed and presenting his sweetheart with an offering that is, yes, beautifully wrapped. But when she tears off the layers in excitement, she discovers she’s been conned. All that’s inside is the evidence of his gluttony, the worthless remains of his prey. What a cheapskate. And no Mr. spider-guy, trying to claim it’s “pre-loved” simply will not cut it.

You’ll Want for Nothing, Darling

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Great Grey Shrike

No such scamming for this pretty little songbird. His modus operandi is 100% above board. Everything he has on offer he puts on conspicuous display to catch the eye of passing females. But don’t be deceived by those cute looks, this little avian has a startlingly macabre side. His love gift is a well-stocked ‘larder’… of corpses. If you’re ever in Scandinavia and stumble across  a spiky bush gruesomely adorned with the carcasses of insects, frogs, toads, fish, lizards, mice, voles, stoats, bats or maybe even other birds , all brutally skewered on its thorns, you’ll know ‘the butcher bird’ is not far away.

S*x

You may have noticed a common thread running through the antics of all our dudes so far, and it’s a three-letter word beginning with ‘s’. Those fellas without exception expect a full return on their gifts. But the critters up next have no such ulterior motives with their giving. A bunch of well-brought up crows in Washington State give gifts just to say ‘Thanks’.

Sparklies Are a Girl’s Best Friend

This murder of crows (that really is what seems a totally inappropriate collective noun for them) delivers all kinds of trinkets to Gabi, a young Seattle girl. Their offerings are invariably bright, shiny and small – small enough, naturally, to be carried in a crow’s beak.

Gabi had a habit of sharing her packed lunch with her feathered friends on her way to and from the school bus. Soon they were lining up on the fence waiting for her. So she began feeding them properly every day in her garden. It wasn’t long before she started to find little offerings left on the food trays – buttons, beads, bits of glass, earrings, paper clips, even a little silver ball.

One crow found the lens cap her mom had lost from her camera. He was seen dunking it in the bird bath as if to clean it before leaving it for her on one of the trays. To date she’s amassed quite a collection of little trinkets, and she treasures every one.

Stuff the ‘murder of crows’! Wouldn’t a much more fitting collective name for these clever, appreciative birds be ‘a courtesy of crows’?

The Gift that Says You Must Try Harder

Let experts disembarrass you though of the notion it’s “Thank you” your cat wishes to express when she drops her latest poor little victim on the carpet at your feet. Cat behaviorists say it’s the feline equivalent of a slap on the wrist, moggie’s way of venting her acute disappointment at your painful lack of hunting skills, and a much-needed lesson in how it’s done.

Cat behaviourists may think they’re doing us a favour with this unsolicited tidbit of information. But in this instance I reckon ignorance is bliss. Allow us to keep our happy little illusions. Forget the experts spoke. Of course our cats are saying “Thank you” and “I love you”. Aren’t they?

So, which animal is the bees’ knees, the cat’s pyjamas of gift-givers?

Just for their adorable good manners, the crows get my vote.

Compared with corpse larders, spit and dung though, socks may not be looking such a bad option after all!

Merry Christmas!

hsmno


Merriment aside

At the very end of Planet Earth II, Sir David Attenborough says this:

“Surely it’s our responsibility to do everything in our power to create a planet that’s not just for us but for all life on Earth

Sir David’s impassioned plea for the planet is sobering. Let’s hope the movers and shakers of the world took note, and that it prompts the rest of us as individuals to shoulder that responsibility on ourselves and do “everything in our power’ to live in a conscious, animal-friendly, life-friendly, eco-friendly, sustainable way.

Let’s make this our gift to the planet

There could be no better way of kickstarting 2017

Sign up to Veganuary here

Check out Veganuary’s Facebook page here

Discover a great resource for sustainable living tips here

Sources

5 Gifts That Animals Give Each Other – Center for Biological Diversity – Medium

The girl who gets gifts from birds – BBC News magazine

Cover pic socks from Sock It To Me

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8 Kinds of Animal Craziness

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