Zebra’s Stripes, Butterfly’s Wings: How Do Biological Patterns Emerge?

June 23, 2008

A zebra’s stripes, a seashell’s spirals, a butterfly’s wings: these are all examples of patterns in nature. The formation of patterns is a puzzle for mathematicians and biologists alike. How does the delicate design of a butterfly’s wings come from a single fertilized egg? How does pattern emerge out of no pattern?

Using computer models and live cells, researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered a specific pattern that can direct cell movement and may help us understand how metastatic cancer cells move.

“Pattern formation is a classic problem in embryology,” says Denise Montell, Ph.D., a professor of biological chemistry at Hopkins. “At some point, cells in an embryo must separate into those that will become heart cells, liver cells, blood cells and so on. Although this has been studied for years, there is still a lot we don’t understand.”

Click here for the full article.

Baby crocs start chatting even before they hatch

June 23, 2008

Baby crocodiles start chatting to one another and to their mothers just before they hatch, perhaps signaling that it is time to be born, French researchers reported on Monday.

The little crocs make an “umph! umph! umph!” sound right before they hatch, Amelie Vergne and Nicolas Mathevon of Universite Jean Monnet in Saint-Etienne, France reported.

Click here for the full article.

Detectives on pets’ tails

June 23, 2008

Here were the facts:

Subject had fled in panic two days earlier. Unresponsive to repeated calls. Known to fear men – and Styrofoam packing peanuts.

No question, it was a case for Laura Totis and her trusty sidekick, Chewy, she of the neon sense of smell. If these pros couldn’t solve this case, maybe no one could.

Pet detective and German shepherd pulled into a Reisterstown cul-de-sac at the back end of dusk. There stood Namha Corbin, frowning owner of the missing subject, one freshly shorn Wheaten terrier named Biscuit. And waiting with Corbin was the guilt-racked dog-sitting friend on whose watch Biscuit had disappeared.

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Puppy born without front legs now uses model airplane wheels to get around

June 23, 2008

This tiny puppy may have been born without front legs but there’s no way that is holding her back.

Hope, the appropriately named two-legged Maltese puppy gets around by using a specially-designed device which features wheels from a model aeroplane.

The energetic pup uses her hind legs to boost her body forward onto her chest and operate the wheeled prosthetic limbs.

Click here for the full article.

World’s Only Captive Hairy-nosed Otter Gets New Home

June 23, 2008

The world’s only known hairy-nosed otter in captivity, one of the rarest and little known of otter species, got a new home and a Buddhist blessing June 18.

Dara, a frisky young male rescued when his mother was killed by a fisherman, was released into a large new enclosure built for him at Phnom Tamau Zoological Garden and Rescue Centre, located near Phnom Penh. The release was celebrated with a blessing by Buddhist monks, a Cambodian tradition when a family moves into a new residence. Dara, which in the Khmer language means “star” or “precious” was brought to the wildlife center in December. He had been living in a small cage since his capture.

The natural habitat for this rare species in Cambodia is the seasonally flooded forests surrounding the Tonle Sap Great Lake. Conservation International (CI) and Cambodia’s Fishery Administration are working together to extend the Kampong Prak fish sanctuary at Tonle Sap Lake up to 20,000 hectares to include vital otter habitat. The expansion includes large areas of flooded forests where at least two species of rare otters are known to exist, the hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana), and the smooth-coated otter (Lutragale perspicillata).

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Nanny saves child from coyote’s jaws, and other strange stories of human, animal conflicts

June 23, 2008

Seattle isn’t the only city with aggressive animals. Strange stories from across the country have accumulated over the past few years to paint a vivid picture of the growing conflict between humans and urban wildlife.

  • In April, a hawk in Boston’s Fenway Park swooped on a teenage girl and scratched her scalp with his talons, causing her to bleed.
  • A Florida woman was walking her dog in March when a bobcat approached, grabbed the pet in his mouth and retreated to the nearby woods. The woman has not seen her dog, a Maltese named Bogie, since.
  • In November in Clintonville, Ohio, a deer stabbed a dog with his antlers in at least five places on the dog’s side, chest and face. The dog, a Doberman, suffered a ruptured diaphragm and stomach, but survived.
  • Click here for the full article.

    Zoo animals’ twilight years pose new questions

    June 23, 2008

    We’ve highlighted people spending gobs on medical bills for their baby-boomer pets. Now the nation’s zoos are entering a “zone of unknowns” as animals live longer than anyone expected, the Associated Press reports.

    While animals in captivity living longer than their wild brethren is nothing new, as that gap in life expectancy increases — partly due to better medical care — there have been some adjustments.

    The Santa Ana Zoo, for instance, is home to Moka, a colobus monkey pushing 27 years old, making him the second-oldest in the United States:

    For Moka, old age has meant only a few minor changes. His perch has been lowered so he doesn’t have to jump up to it. He gets regular X-rays to check for arthritis. And he tends to get access to warm areas during the winter.

    But the aging population of America’s zoos is raising many other simple –- but potentially daunting –- questions.

    Click here for the full article.

    Birds Migrate Earlier, But Some May Be Left Behind As Climate Warms Rapidly

    June 23, 2008

    Many birds are arriving earlier each spring as temperatures warm along the East Coast of the United States. However, the farther those birds journey, the less likely they are to keep pace with the rapidly changing climate.

    Scientists at Boston University and the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences analyzed changes in the timing of spring migrations of 32 species of birds along the coast of eastern Massachusetts since 1970. Researchers at Manomet gathered this data by capturing birds in mist nets, attaching bands to their legs, and then releasing them. Their findings show that eight out of 32 bird species are passing by Cape Cod significantly earlier on their annual trek north than they were 38 years ago. The reason? Warming temperatures. Temperatures in eastern Massachusetts have risen by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1970.

    Click here for the full article.

    Harvey the trampolining dog found

    June 23, 2008

    A dog named Harvey who used a trampoline to escape over a garden fence has been reunited with his owners.

    The black and white Staffordshire Bull Terrier pulled off the stunt to bound to freedom at noon on Friday.

    But after this week’s publicity, his owner Laura Kidson, 27, received a call from the RSPCA on Tuesday night to say Harvey had been handed in to them at the weekend.

    He has now been reunited with Miss Kidson, her four year old daughter Chloe and nine month old son Cole, who had been pining for him, at their home in York.

    Click here for the full article.

    Male blackbirds intent on protecting turf: Bicyclists, pedestrians report attacks; experts blaming feisty males

    June 23, 2008

    There’s a predator lurking in Chicago-area bushes these days. He strikes from behind, when victims are least aware. And the worst part, says ornithologist Doug Stotz: He could be almost anywhere.

    Nesting season is in full swing for the red-winged blackbird, making the males extremely aggressive. Walk or bike too close to one’s nest and expect to hear its high, menacing squawk overhead. Then comes the peck-peck-peck on your head, victims say, or claws rustling your hair.

    It happened to Holly Grosso. The businesswoman was on her cell phone, walking along West Grand Avenue near Rockwell Street on Wednesday, when the bird—dubbed “Hitchcock” by area workers—made its move.

    “Something just came down, pecked me in the head, took my hair and started flying away,” she said. “It’s so bizarre. It’s this little bird.”

    Click here for the full article.

    DNA Study Unlocks Mystery To Diverse Traits In Dogs

    June 23, 2008

    What makes a pointer point, a sheep dog herd, and a retriever retrieve? Why do Yorkshire terriers live longer than Great Danes? And how can a tiny Chihuahua possibly be related to a Great Dane?

    Dogs vary in size, shape, color, coat length and behavior more than any other animal and until now, this variance has largely been unexplained. Now, scientists have developed a method to identify the genetic basis for this diversity that may have far-reaching benefits for dogs and their owners.

    In the cover story of tomorrow’s edition of the science journal Genetics, research reveals locations in a dog’s DNA that contain genes that scientists believe contribute to differences in body and skull shape, weight, fur color and length — and possibly even behavior, trainability and longevity.

    Click here for the full article.

    Red Pandas found in Langtang National Park

    June 19, 2008

    The finding of Red Pandas within the Langtang National Park area has encouraged conservationists.

    A team of conservationists led by lecturer Hari Prasad Sharma, department of zoology (TU), had recently found one Red Panda each in Chandanbari area of Rasuwa and Dhadepani area of Nuwakot. It is believed that the areas harbor around 100 Red Pandas. The areas lie at an altitude of 2,800 to 4,000 metres above sea level.

    The mission was initiated by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation’s Himalayan Landscape Project supported by WWF.

    The Langtang National Park said it was preparing a long-term conservation strategy to protect the Red Pandas by securing food and habitat for them so that internal and foreign tourists could be lured to the area and contribute to the living condition of the people living in the region.

    Click here for the full article.

    Birds Communicate Reproductive Success In Song

    June 19, 2008

    Some migratory songbirds figure out the best place to live by eavesdropping on the singing of others that successfully have had baby birds — a communication and behavioral trait so strong that researchers playing recorded songs induced them to nest in places they otherwise would have avoided.

    This suggests that songbirds have more complex communication abilities than had previously been understood, researchers say, and that these “social cues” can be as or more important than the physical environment of a site.

    Click here for the full article.

    PETA freaks out over Jessica Simpson’s ‘meat’ t-shirt

    June 19, 2008

    Jessica Simpson has been blasted by animals rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) after wearing a T-shirt bearing the slogan ‘Real Girls Eat Meat’.

    The blonde beauty – who famously questioned why tuna was nicknamed ‘chicken of the sea’ on her reality TV show Newlyweds – has come under fire from the animal rights group, who have urged her to become a vegetarian to increase her brain power.

    A spokesperson for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) said: “Jessica Simpson’s meaty wardrobe malfunction makes us thankful that no one is looking to her for food advice. Chicken of the sea anyone? The woman who thought that Buffalo ‘Wings’ came from buffalos would benefit from some good veggie brain food.”

    However, it has been claimed Jessica wore the T-shirt to poke fun at her boyfriend Tony Romo’s ex-girlfriend Carrie Underwood, who has twice been named the World’s Sexiest Vegetarian by PETA.

    Click here for the full article.

    Chimps Not So Selfish: Comforting Behavior May Well Be Expression Of Empathy

    June 19, 2008

    Compared to their sex-mad, peace-loving bonobo counterparts, chimpanzees are often seen as a scheming, war-mongering, and selfish species. As both apes are allegedly our closest relatives, together they are often depicted as representing the two extremes of human behaviour.

    Orlaith Fraser, who will receive her PhD from LJMU’s School of Biological Sciences in July 2008, has conducted research that shows chimpanzee behaviour is not as clear cut as previously thought. Her study is the first one to demonstrate the effects of consolation amongst chimpanzees.

    In her recently published article, Fraser analyses how the apes behave after a fight. Working with Dr Daniel Stahl of Kings College London and Filippo Aureli, LJMU’s Professor of Animal Behaviour, she found that third-party chimpanzees will try to console the ‘victim’ of the fight by grooming, hugging and kissing.

    Click here for the full article.

    British outraged by kangaroo burgers

    June 19, 2008

    A British pub has taken kangaroo off its menu after pressure from a radical vegetarian group backed by Sir Paul McCartney.

    The Pig and Fiddle in Bath stopped serving roo burgers after being lobbied by Vegetarians International Voice for Animals! (Viva!), which campaigned against the recent roo cull in Canberra.

    Viva! has now set its sights on persuading Aussie-themed pubs in the UK to stop serving kangaroo meat and it has already convinced some butchers to stop stocking the product.

    British supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Tesco stopped selling roo in the late 1990s after Viva! organised protests and boycotts.

    Viva! campaigns manager Justin Kerswell said commercial killing of kangaroos could lead to the national emblem being placed on the endangered list.

    Click here for the full article.

    First Successful Reverse Vasectomy On Endangered Species Performed At The National Zoo

    June 19, 2008

    Veterinarians at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo performed the first successful reverse vasectomy on a Przewalski’s horse (E. ferus przewalskii; E. caballus przewalskii—classification debated), pronounced zshah-VAL-skeez. Przewalksi’s horses are a horse species native to China and Mongolia that was declared extinct in the wild in 1970.

    Currently, there are approximately 1500 of these animals maintained at zoological institutions throughout the world and in several small reintroduced populations in Asia. This is the first procedure of its kind to be performed on an endangered equid species.

    The genes of Minnesota—the horse who underwent the surgery—are extremely valuable to the captive population of the species, which scientists manage through carefully planned pairings to ensure the most genetically diverse population possible. The horse was vasectomized in 1999 at a previous institution so that he could be kept with female horses without reproducing. He came to the National Zoo in 2006.

    Click here for the full article.

    Deadly Diseases You Can Catch From Your Pet

    June 19, 2008

    Pets can serve as wonderful companions – and owning one certainly has many physical and mental health benefits.

    However, with the summer months upon us, it is likely your pets will be spending more time outdoors, leaving them prone to zoonotic diseases – diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans.

    A Corpus Christi, Texas, man and his daughter spent weeks in the hospital because of a diseased cockatiel bought from a PetSmart store, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the man’s family.

    Joe De La Garza, 63, later died of psittacosis, KRIS 6 News reported.

    “There have been over 250 zoonotic diseases identified,” said Dr. Roger Mahr, past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “There is a particular focus on household pets. They are definitely an area of concern. More than 60 percent of U.S. households have pets and the value of that companionship has been recognized.”

    Click here for the full article.

    Pets Can Improve Your Health and Aid in Recovery

    June 19, 2008

    There is now evidence showing that domestic animals not only provide great companionship, but they can also help prevent illness. A recent study conducted by the University of Minnesota has highlighted the importance of regular contact with pets. The study showed that having a cat for a pet can reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke by just under 50 percent.

    The study included 4,500 adults between the ages of 30 and 75 years. The study participants were followed for 10 years. The conclusion was that cat owners had a 40 percent lower risk of a fatal heart attack.

    Click here for the full article.

    Boy Cuddles & Plays With His 20-Ft. Pet Python

    June 19, 2008

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