Locusts are normally solitary, but when numbers reach a threshold, they start attacking other locusts from behind (best source of protein). So you get a swarm, following 2 basic rules - flee from the locust behind you, and try to eat the locust in front of you. (Simple Rules
(It turned out to be an Urban(?) Legend, but it was a good story while it lasted) Penguins were supposedly falling over backwards when planes flew overhead - apparently because planes were a novelty in their breeding grounds penguins had not had time to adapt their behaviour, so they just kept moving head back and back and back as the plane flew over, and eventually toppled over - would have been an amusing effect in a large colony as domino effect cascaded. Someone actually got a grant (and the loan of some RAF helicopters) to study the phenomenon in Falklands (pilots probably just as bored as the penguins)(maybe they started the story in the first place) and found that the birds completely ignored the aircraft.
Some hummingbirds live outside the tropics, in areas where can't rely on all year round nectar. The rufous hummingbird, a 4 gram midget, lives in Mexico, but in spring flies up to Alaska to breed. Needs regular feeding stations on the 2000 mile journey - just one missing feeder could be disastrous - chopping down a few trees could create an uncrossable gap. But people all along the route have come to welcome the hummers and have put up so many feeder stations that the migration corridor has widened appreciably, and a lot more birds are making the trip. Some of hosts go through tons of sugar a season.
Cat litter in the kitchen? Bad news. Toxoplasma gondii, a species of protozoa present in cat litter, kills three hundred and seventy-five Americans a year, and perpetuates itself through cat feces in a freaky way: when rodents eat toxoplasmii, their brain chemistry is changed so that they develop an attraction to the smell of cats.
Would you come back as a dog? Joe Bennett, a correspondent for a Christchurch, NZ paper, pointed out that many of qualities we value in humans are exhibited full time in dogs, and most of the things we dislike, never are.
Japan has rental pets - both for people in small apartments, and for bachelors looking for ice-breaker to meet girls
The British Federation of Herpetologists announced in November that the number of reptiles kept as pets in the UK is probably greater than the number of dogs (8.5 million to about 6 million, with cats at 9 million). One benchmark the Federation uses for its calculation is the booming sales of reptile food, such as locusts, frozen rodents, and crickets (now about 20 million a week)
Send A Cow program. Started with Poms sending pregnant cows to Ugandan families (in the cooler uplands). Milk from the cows gave families better health and a surplus to sell; manure greatly increased the fertility of the fields. First calf had to be given to another needy family and so on. Now spread to Rwanda, where the calf born to Hutu family must be given to Tutsi.
Each year, more people are killed by vending machines than by sharks.
Studies of other primates have shown that chimps are more aggressive than humans (they will hunt down monkeys in a pack, usually because a chimp female will give them sex in exchange for monkey meat). Bonobos are further down the empathy end of the friendliness spectrum - spend their time grooming, playing games and having sex (Billy Connolly was quoted as saying he wanted to come back as "half bonobo, half kiwi" - the latter because they spend about 20 hours a day asleep)
Penguin females will have sex with males other than their mates in exchange for precious nest stones. Some males will even bring extra stones afterwards, as a sort of performance bonus. First known observation of prostitution outside primates.
In British India there was a little problem with cobras. The obvious solution was to put a bounty on them. The only problem was that the price for each cobra the British were offering was greater than the cost of breeding and raising a cobra. The result was people breeding tons of snakes to claim the bounty. When the government realized what was happening they scrapped the whole program. People raising the now worthless cobras set them loose. The end result was a big cobra problem.
Emu and kangaroos can't move backwards. In fact, it's because they're always "moving forward" that they're on the official seal of Australia.
Children run less risk of being sensitive to allergens if there is a dog in the house in the early years of their lives, scientists have found. The conclusion, based on a six-year study of 9,000 children, adds weight to the theory that growing up with a pet trains the immune system to be less sensitive to potential triggers for allergies such as asthma, eczema and hay fever. Pets are good for you.
when given a classic problem from Aesop's Fables, most children younger than eight were no better at solving it than an average jay. Researchers at Cambridge University presented children and Eurasian jays with a tube half-filled with water, and a treat floating on the top. The only way to get to the treat - in the children's case a token for getting a sticker, in the jays' case food - was by dropping in marbles until the water level rose. Clever birds
How does a caterpillar rearrange itself into a butterfly? What happens inside a chrysalis or cocoon? Change
Cats are far deadlier than anyone realized. In a report that scaled up local surveys and pilot studies to national dimensions, scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that domestic cats in the United States - both the pet Fluffies that spend part of the day outdoors and the unnamed strays and ferals that never leave it - kill a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year, most of them native mammals like shrews, chipmunks and voles rather than introduced pests like the Norway rat. Killers
We like to think that being kind to animals is one of the things that makes us British. But that is a recent development. Arthur MacGregor's fascinating and erudite survey of our treatment of animals, both wild and domesticated, from the Norman conquest to the early 20th century, yields not a single instance - or not one that I have spotted - of anyone being kind to an animal simply for the animal's sake. In the past our cruelties were extreme enough to draw the attention of foreign visitors, particularly the bear-baitings in Tudor Southwark, where the usual grand finale was the whipping of a blinded bear, advertised as 'a pleasant sport' by the management. Animal Encounters
While early American laws dismissed cats and dogs as worthless objects that didn't even warrant the meager legal status of property - they could be stolen or killed without repercussions - today's pets, he says, have become family in the eyes of the law. State legislatures have passed tough anticruelty acts, imposing fines and prison time on anyone who harms a cat or a dog, and judges have begun awarding damages for mental suffering and loss of companionship to the owners of slain pets, legal claims typically reserved for the wrongful death of a spouse or child. Citizen Canine
Dogs share 99.6% of the same DNA as wolves. That makes dogs closer to wolves than we are to chimps (with which we have about 96% of our DNA in common), but it does not mean that their brains work like those of wolves. Indeed, the outgoing affability of most dogs towards humans and other dogs is in sharp contrast to the mix of fear and aggression with which wolves react to animals from other packs. "Domestication has been a long and complex process," Mr Bradshaw writes. "Every dog alive today is a product of this transition. What was once another one of the wild social canids, the grey wolf, has been altered radically, to the point that it has become its own unique animal." If anything, dogs resemble juvenile rather than fully adult canids, a sort of arrested development which accounts for the way they remain dependent on their human owners throughout their lives. Dog Sense
Chicken sexing is a very well paid job, because male chickens are worthless and need to be culled before eat. But it is impossible to train someone by telling them what to look for. And you haven't got time to "look" because bird is so fragile that if you hold it with its bum open looking for the vital distinguishing marks for more than a couple of seconds, it's vent swells up so that it looks like a male whether it is or isn't. Moonwalking With Einstein
As humans turned from hunting to herding and farming they tamed other species - pigs, goats, sheep and cattle, probably in that order. This so-called 'agricultural revolution', between 12,000 and 9,000 years ago, changed human thought, so Fagan speculates. Animal-breeding, unlike hunting, switched the mind to the future, and to planning it. Farming also introduced the concepts of ownership and wealth, and the new idea that humans exist on a higher plane than other animals. The Intimate Bond
Only one creature has a hobby - bowerbirds are big and strong, so can easily chase away smaller birds from favourite fruit trees, and so have time on their hands, so have developed art as a hobby. Females will choose mate with best displays. So vandalism and theft common.
Iguanas masturbate - because they're small high chance of being pushed off any female they get lucky with. So masturbate to reduce time needed to climax. Also common in most primate species (monkey in early Russian spacecraft got one hand free - they were intending to use film of cabin for educational use, but the (very bored) monkey spent whole time playing with himself) Dr Tatiana's Sex Guide To All Creation
NZ is surrounded by lands with parrots - Australia, Indonesia, S Africa and S America - so no surprise that it has parrots too. But the NZ parrots, notably the kakapo, is completely different. Most parrots are big noisy birds with bright plumage, usually living in flocks, and of course, they fly. The kakapo shows us what the world would be like if the mammals never developed, and birds ruled. Ghosts of Gondwana
Reality shows like American Idol etc. These contestants humiliated themselves on national TV because when they were growing up always singing around the house, no thoughtful family member or caring friend ever had the kindness to say, in a gentle and loving voice, "You suck". They needed Simon Cowell's but instead they were surrounded by Paula Abdul's, trying to be nice, not wanting to hurt their feelings, and thus setting them up for failure. Because the cruel fact is that the world does not reward suckage, outside of Washington DC.
Take nature. If you are a wildebeest that happens to be bad at running fast, you will fail. You might have a sincere desire to run fast, and you might believe you can run fast, because when you're hanging out at the waterhole , other wildebeests are telling you what you want to hear: Sure dog! You run pretty fast! But when the cheetah shows up and the herd takes off, you will be a wildeburger. I'll Mature When I'm Dead
It is the height of anthropomorphic absurdity to project human values and behaviors onto other species - and then to judge them by their similarity to us: "It's like dressing elephants in tutus," he writes. Nor is Mr. Peterson so enamored of the natural world that he is blind to the very disturbing things that animals can do. Along with a lot of too-familiar accounts of sexy bonobos, empathetic elephants and cooperative hyenas, he offers less often heard tales of the ugly truths that reign in the animal world. These include brutal infanticide in lions and horrific violence and cannibalism among chimpanzees. In one famous case, observed by Jane Goodall, a chimpanzee named Passion repeatedly kidnapped the babies of other mothers and, with the help of her own children, consumed them. The Moral Lives of Animals
Of the 4000 species of mammals, no more than a few dozen form pair-bonds. Standard behaviour seems to be maintain a pair bond with a female, and help her raise offspring, but be ready and available for additional copulations as opportunity arises. The Myth of Monogamy
Bruce McAllister's 'The Girl Who Loved Animals' (1988) tells the story of Lissy Tomer, a 20-year-old woman from a broken home who accepts a contract to become surrogate mother of a mountain gorilla fetus as part of a radical plan to increase the population of the endangered species. The story is narrated from the point of view of Jo, a social worker assigned to the case after Lissy's abusive boyfriend discovers the pregnancy and beats her; Jo struggles to understand what best represents Lissy's interests in this situation.
McAllister's story draws attention to issues germane to this scholarship. By contrasting Lissy with Jo's daughter, the story connects our consideration of the place of animals in modern life to critiques of technoculture that dismiss our fascination with the virtual as a flight from responsibility. That Lissy is an abused woman also points to a connection with the justification of violent abuse, which has at various times and places discursively linked the mistreatment of women, non-whites, and the working classes to the mistreatment of animals. The very fact that Lissy can become pregnant with the fetus of another species dramatizes the increasing permeability of the boundary between human and animal as well as the challenge such permeability presents to social and political structures.