CHURCH OF THE APES: Scientists think chimps may have religious beliefs

London – VIJAY SHAH via ANDREW GRIFFIN and The Independent

Scientists are studying footage shot by the Chimbo Foundation and PanAf of strange behaviour by a group of African chimpanzees, which they may think indicate the chimps are performing rituals, which may indicate belief in a religion, according to Britain’s The Independent newspaper, and first reported last year (2016).

The footage shows chimps in a forest clearing in an unnamed part of West Africa, carrying stones and arranging them in little ‘cairns’. Mainly though, the chimps, including a mother carrying her baby, are seen hurling rocks against the bases of certain wide-bottomed trees, while screeching loudly. Other apes have been seen throwing smaller rocks into holes in the trees, creating deposits of material. It is surmised that this unusual behaviour, which has only so far been among this West African band of chimps, could be the beginnings of ritual behaviour. The participation of the mother and younger apes means the stone-throwing is highly unlikely to be mating behaviour, and the throwing does not also point to territorial marking.

 

Scientists studying the apes say their strange activities can give an insight into early human rituals and religious beliefs. Ancient humans constructed cairns and other rock formations as part of nature worship, one of the most famous and advanced examples being the UK’s Stonehenge monument. Chimps and other great apes have already shown the kind of intelligence associated with humans, for example in using sticks as tools to extract grubs and ants. Yet the stone-throwing in West Africa does not fulfill a functional purpose, such as finding food.

The researchers, whose institution was not mentioned in the Independent report, but described in the video above as being from Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Biology, wrote in their report abstracts on the chimp rituals: “This represents the first record of repeated observations of individual chimpanzees exhibiting stone tool use for a purpose other than extractive foraging at what appear to be targeted trees,”

“The ritualized (sic) behavioural display and collection of artefacts at particular locations observed in chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing may have implications for the inferences that can be drawn from archaeological stone assemblages and the origins of ritual sites”

Interestingly, the scientists also found in their research that people in West Africa who follow traditional religions also enact similar rituals involving the construction of cairns at sacred trees.

In a piece written around the findings, researcher Laura Kehoe described the experience of watching the chimp look around and then fling a rock at the tree trunk.

Nothing like this had been seen before and it gave me goose bumps,” she wrote.

Marking pathways and territories with signposts such as piles of rocks is an important step in human history,” wrote Kehoe. “Figuring out where chimps’ territories are in relation to rock throwing sites could give us insights into whether this is the case here.”

SOURCES:

The Independent, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/TheIndependentOnline/

“Mysterious chimpanzee behaviour could be ‘sacred rituals’ and show that chimps believe in god” – Andrew Griffin, The Independent (4 March 2016) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/mysterious-chimpanzee-behaviour-could-be-sacred-rituals-and-show-that-chimps-believe-in-god-a6911301.html

VIDEO CREDIT:

“This Could Be First-Ever Observed Ritual Practice Among Chimpanzees” – Hjalmar Kuehl and team/Scientific Reports/MPI-EVA/PanAf/Chimbo Foundation/GeoBeats News, YouTube (1 March 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEQOThqq2pk

 

PHOTO MOMENT: Hold that pose!!

 

“Hold that pose!”

“That’s the trouble about being a squirrel photographer….all my subjects seem a bit nuts!”

 

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Two red squirrels frolic about in the snow, while one realises her dream of being an ace photographer. The pages of Squirrel Vogue and National Geographic await.

This photo comes from the wildlife and travel collection of Zoraida Palacios, who describes herself as a defender and protector of animals. She is also an art lover with a degree in administration. The tweet was created by Britannia PR, known fully as Britannia Communications Partnership Digital Communications Agency. This public relations agency was ranked number one in a list of 500 agencies in March 2015 on Klout, Peer Index, Kred and Social Authority. Their Twitter account often shares amazing example of scenic and natural photography, as well as images from around the British Isles. They are based in London.

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
Britannia PR, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Britanniacomms
IMAGE CREDIT:
Zoraida Palacios, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/ZoraidaPalacios

WORLD WILDLIFE: Declining species may lead to ’empty landscape’

A group of scientists have said that the rapid trend of declining wildlife populations could lead to ’empty landscapes’, the science and environment team at British public broadcaster BBC has reported today.

According to population figures published in the scientific magazine Science Advances, there has been a worrying 60 per cent drop in the number of large herbivores (plant-eating animals) such as giraffe, elephant and rhinoceros, leaving them at greater risk of extinction. The figures covered 74 herbivore species and attributed much of the decline to poaching and other forms of illegal hunting, as well as destruction of natural habitats.

Male elephant in Etosha National Park, Namibia...
Male elephant in Etosha National Park, Namibia Kiswahili: Tembo katika mbuga la burudani Etosha, Namibia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A study on large carnivores such as lions, tigers and wild dogs also reported similar declines in population.

The population research was led by Professor William Ripple of Oregon State University. His research covered large herbivores with a weight above 100 kilograms, from the reindeer up to the African elephant.

He explained in the research: “This is the first time anyone has analysed all of these species as a whole,” 

“The process of declining animals is causing an empty landscape in the forest, savannah, grasslands and desert.” he said.

Professor David Macdonald, of Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, was among the team of 15 international scientists who pooled together figures for the report.

“The big carnivores, like the charismatic big cats or wolves, face horrendous problems from direct persecution, over-hunting and habitat loss, but our new study adds another nail to their coffin – the empty larder,” he said.

“It’s no use having habitat if there’s nothing left to eat in it.”

The research indicates that much of the population decline in both prey and predators is being driven by various causal factors, including habitat loss, unregulated hunting and poaching, particularly the killing of large animals for ‘bushmeat’ or body parts in Far Eastern medicine, and pressures on their habitats from livestock, involving competition for resources and the swallowing of their habitats by farmland. This problem is being escalated by a rapidly increasing human population with its greater demand for resources and land.

The various species of African rhino were one particularly sad case reported by the BBC. With ivory made from rhinoceros horn worth more than gold, cocaine, and diamonds on the black market and with increasing and illegal demand from nouveau riche buyers in Asia, it is feared that under current levels of population shrinkage, the wild rhino could cease to exist in the wild within 20 years, the researchers claim.

The consequences of large wild herbivore decline include:

*Loss of habitat: for example, elephants maintain forest clearings by trampling vegetation.

*Effects on the food chain: large predators such as lions, leopards, and hyena rely on large herbivores for food.

*Seed dispersal: large herbivores eat seeds which are carried over long distances.

*Impact on humans: an estimated one billion people rely on wild meat for subsistence while the loss of iconic herbivores will have a negative impact on tourism.

The impact of the extinction of large herbivores, and the large carnivores that feed on them, could see the collapse of food chains globally. Many African countries rely on these animals heavily for tourism purposes, leading to huge economic fallouts if they were to vanish.

The report places particular concern for large animals residing in South East Asia, India and Africa. These areas have long-established populations of big animals as well as increasing human habitation. Many governments are struggling to protect animal habitats due to increasing demands for homes and land to build on, as well as lax regulation of national parks and wildlife reserves.

Europe and North America lost many of their own large mammals after the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. Animals such as the mammoth, woolly rhino and sabre-toothed tiger were wiped out by early hunters or changing habitats as the ice sheets retreated. More recently, the wolf, lynx and some species of deer have all but disappeared from the United Kingdom, after being hunted to extinction. There has been some success in reintroducing smaller mammals, such as the beaver, to Britain, centuries after they vanished.

http://advances.sciencemag.org/

HEM 3rd anniversary banner pizap.com14293560242241

SOURCES:
“HEM Friends & Fans” – The Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/hem-friends-fans
Anthony Casas, PhD, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/DrAnthony
“Wildlife decline may lead to ’empty landscape’ ” – Helen Briggs, BBC News – Science & Environment/BBC (2 May 2015) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-32549898
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Etosha elefant.jpg” – Ikiwaner, Wikimedia Commons (27 September 2009) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Etosha_elefant.jpg

 

QUETZALCOATLUS: The flying dinosaur taller than a giraffe

(c) M. Witton via G. Trivedi

One of the largest pterosaurs, or flying reptiles, ever to flutter above the prehistoric skies was the Quetzalcoatlus. When resting, this giant of the clouds was taller than a modern-day giraffe, and considerably stronger. Tearing through the air at 130 kilometres per hour, Quetzalcoatlus was said to be fond of snacking on juvenile dinosaurs that strayed too far from their parents, while its smaller flying cousins, the pterodactyls, settled for fish. Its height met it could very easily look a giraffe in the eye, which may well be an unpleasant experience for the giraffe.

With a wing-span of around fifteen metres, half the length of a red London bus, Quetzalcoatlus may well have been the largest flying reptile, and indeed the largest flying animal full-stop, of all time. Compare Quetzalcoatlus’ over 30 feet wingspan with the world’s current largest flying bird, the Andean condor, whose span reaches about 10 feet, and you can readily appreciate how a flock of Quetzalcoatlus would have easily darkened the sky as they flew above you. Despite these astonishing bodily proportions, this pterosaur is considerably less well known outside the palaeontologist community. 

Quetzalcoatlus was named by its discoverers in honour of the Aztec feathered-serpent god Quetzalcoatl and is believed to have weighed close to 100 kilograms, necessitating its plane like wingspan. It was one of the last prehistoric reptile species known from the fossil record and disappeared during the great Cretaceous extinction of 65 million years ago, which most scientists believed was caused by a meteor or comet slamming into the Yucatan peninsula in now what is known as Mexico. Like other prehistoric reptiles, Quetzalcoatlus was a victim of the collapse of food chains that occurred in the millennia after this cataclysm. The species is said to have existed for around five million years before its demise. Its remains were first discovered by Douglas Lawson from the Maastrichtian Javelina Formation, a fossil bed located in Big Bend National Park of Texas, United States of America in 1971, although extensive interest in the wider community and the media did not take off until three decades later. Interestingly, the reptile’s remains were not found in fossilised marine sediments like others of its family, such as Pterodactyl, who would travel miles out to sea to hunt. Instead Lawson, who was a geology student at that time at the University of Texas-Austin, unearthed Quetzalcoatlus in the preserved remains of a river bed, which intrigued many palaeontologists trying to unmask the lifestyle and feeding habits of this unique and fearsome creature.

 

Like other pterosaurs, which also had phenomenal wingspans, Quetzalcoatlus could stay airborne due to the aerodynamics of its leathery wings, which worked rather like those of a glider aircraft, but also because its skeleton was lighter than that of land-based dinosaurs. The bones were spongy and contained large air pocket to help reduce drag while in the air, a trait shared with modern birds, who some scientist believe are descendants of smaller flying relatives of Quetzalcoatlus. They were estimated to glide at elevations of 10,000 to 15,000 feet with very minimal movement of its tarpaulin-like wings to save on expending energy. It controlled its flight movement by swivelling and adjusting its flexible wing tips and flexing the three fingers on the wing’s leading edge – along with subtle head movements to alter the flow of air over its body while soaring above the marshy swamps and grasslands of the prehistoric US and Canadian east coasts.

Even with its aerodynamics, flight take-off must have been a lot of work for Quetzalcoatlus. As it lived millions of years ago, there is no way of determining exactly how it took to the skies and glided (not actually fly, as modern birds generally do). An analysis of the animal’s remains suggest that it had to run across the ground for a distance before catching the wind and soaring up above, as a plane must use a runway in order to gain traction for flight. That analysis suggested that Quetzalcoatlus used all four of its limbs to help it get airborne. Its heavily-muscled front legs helped it vault into the air, while the back legs, which were more lean and spindly, played a secondary support role, and were more necessary for when the pterosaur was walking on land. Some hypothesise that Quetzalcoatlus made life easier on itself by launching itself off the tops of sheer cliffs and exploiting thermals of warm air rising from the sea’s surface.

Quetzalcoatlus was built not only for flight, but also for the kill – at least as some scientists surmise. With an elongated neck, rather like the giraffe in the artist’s impression above, the pterosaur could see for metres around as it searched for prey in the grasslands of prehistoric North America. Its bill was also extremely lengthy and robust and it had no problem with picking up smaller dinosaurs and devouring them. It even was believed to have used its jaws to impale some prey as it hunted them. Some scientists think that Quetzalcoatlus was rather more like a giant prehistoric vulture, using the bill to pick the rotting flesh from corpses or the abandoned kills of other carnivorous dinosaurs. A clip from a BBC documentary on flying reptiles shows that Quetzalcoatlus searched the ground for recently slaughtered dinosaurs and used its jaws to tear chunks from the carcass, but also capable of swallowing whole smaller live prey that dared to get in the way. Its discovery near an inland river also suggests that Quetzalcoatlus’ diet was not much different from its coastal relatives, and that it subsisted on a diet of molluscs and crustaceans, using its beak to probe the sands for burrowed prey much like the oystercatchers seen on our modern beaches. Alternatively it may have behaved as a seagull, fluttering just above the warm shallow seas of the late Cretaceous and plucking fish from just below the waves. No-one is one hundred per cent sure.

It was a member of the Azhdarchidae, a family of advanced toothless pterosaurs with unusually long, stiffened necks. Members of this branch of the reptilian kingdom occurred all over the Americas. Among palaeontologists and the wider prehistoric literature, it is known as a pterodactyloid pterosaur, due to the long ‘dactyls’ (fingers) it possessed. Its full Latin name was Queztalcoatlus northropi. In addition to the nod to the Aztec religion, the formal name also honours John Knudsen Northrop, the founder of the Northrop aviation company, who was interested in large tailless aircraft designs resembling Quetzalcoatlus. The earliest known pterosaurs lived about 220 million years ago in the Triassic period. They were the first vertebrates to achieve the use of daily flight, a legacy now evident in bats and birds. Quetzalcoatlus, if alive today, may well have made the skies more hazardous to human airborne traffic, but would have inspired awe and profound respect (and possibly a great deal of fear) among the ant-like humans that it saw milling across the ground from its vantage point thousands of metres in the skies above.

SOURCES:
Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind
Gautam Trivedi ‏, Twitter https://twitter.com/Gotham3
“DINO FACT FILE – QUETZALCOATLUS, ABC/BBC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation http://www.abc.net.au/dinosaurs/fact_files/volcanic/quetzalcoatlus.htm
“Quetzalcoatlus” – Bob Strauss, About.com – Education – Dinosaurs http://dinosaurs.about.com/od/aviandinosaurs3/p/quetzalcoatlus.htm
“10 Facts About Quetzalcoatlus Everything You Need to Know About the World’s Biggest Pterosaur”  Bob Strauss, About.com – Education – Dinosaurs http://dinosaurs.about.com/od/otherprehistoriclife/a/Quetzalcoatlus-Facts.htm
“Quetzalcoatlus” – Wikia Dinopedia http://dinosaurs.wikia.com/wiki/Quetzalcoatlus
“QUETZALCOATLUS” – ZoomDinosaurs.com Dinosaur and Paleontology Dictionary, EnchantedLearning.com http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/dinosaurs/dinos/Quetzalcoatlus.shtml
“Pterosaurs” – Big Bend National Park Texas, National Park Service/United States Department of the Interior http://www.nps.gov/bibe/naturescience/pterosaur.htm
IMAGE CREDIT:
Gautam Trivedi ‏, Twitter https://twitter.com/Gotham3
VIDEO CREDIT:
“Quetzalcoatlus – Flying monsters” – Paleo Studio (via ‘Flying Monsters’ series from the BBC), YouTube GB (29 December 2013) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAQX6RbtjFg

 

OIL RIG SEA MONSTER: Experts solve two year old natural mystery

Biology experts have finally solved the mystery of an unknown giant sea ‘monster’ that was caught on video 5,000 ft (1.5 km) below a nearby oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, according to British tabloid paper Metro.

In the six-and-a-half minute long video, which began as an inspection of the oil rig’s moorings, a strange gelatinous object is seen falling from the top of the cameraman’s view and then floats to the right of the screen. At first appearances it appears to resemble a large lump of seaweed or a plastic carrier bag, both of course unlikely due to their floating nature in bodies of water. The formless creature then disappears into the darkness of the Gulf’s waters. After a minute, the animal reappears and takes centre stage in front of the camera, revealing its entire form as though putting on a show. It then billows out, occupying nearly all the visible area. The mysterious organism remains in frame for more than five minutes before eventually slipping out of sight.

(c) Twitter via HNGN

Marine biologists pored over the footage, shot in 2012, and also consulted historical records and scientific files in their bid to determine the species of the monster, which had some similarities to jellyfish, but has no tentacles, fins or even a head.

Biologists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Centre finally wrapped up the mystery by announcing that the Gulf monster was none other than a ‘placental jellyfish’, which they determined from observing the creature’s gonads in the video and the markings on its ‘sail’. The species can grow up to two feet wide and is normally found in the cooler waters of the north Atlantic, suggesting the Gulf monster may have been a stray washed into the area by strong currents.

The species is known by its Latin nameDeepstaria Reticulum” and is rarely sighted. This may also be the first time a jellyfish of this species has ever been caught on film. Also known as the “Deepstaria Enigmatica” it is “thought to be one of the largest invertebrate predators in the deep sea ecosystem,” according to the BBC. However its long, “paddle-like” arms do not have stinging tentacles like other jellyfish. The jellyfish has been seen by humans a total of 114 times since it was discovered by scientists 110 years ago, researchers told the BBC.

It belongs to the coelenterate (jellyfish) family Ulmaridae, and was first scientifically described in academic journals in 1967.  The bell of this species is thin and wide and resembles a translucent, undulating sheet or lava lamp as the animal moves. Its surface is similar in visual texture and colour to that of an onion’s skin. They are usually found in Antarctic and near-Antarctic seas but have been spotted in waters near the United Kingdom, at depths of 829 to 1830 metres.

SOURCES:
Metro, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK
“Experts finally end two-year mystery of giant sea monster caught on camera” – Simon Farr, Metro/Associated Newspapers Limited (19 June 2014) http://metro.co.uk/2014/06/19/experts-finally-end-two-year-mystery-of-giant-sea-monster-caught-on-camera-4768748/
“Strange underwater sea creature caught on camera in the Gulf of Mexico (video)” – Annika Toernqvist, SFGate Science/Hearst Newspapers/Hearst Communications, Inc. (18 June 2014) http://blog.sfgate.com/science/2014/06/18/strange-underwater-sea-creature-caught-on-camera-in-the-gulf-of-mexico-video/#24361101=0
“Unknown Blob-Like Sea Creature Captured On Camera In Gulf Of Mexico (VIDEO)” –  Oulimata Ba, HNGN Headlines & Global News (18 June 2014) http://www.hngn.com/articles/34103/20140618/unknown-blob-sea-creature-filmed-underwater-camera-video.htm
“Deepstaria enigmatica” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepstaria_enigmatica
IMAGE CREDIT:
“Unknown Blob-Like Sea Creature Captured On Camera In Gulf Of Mexico (VIDEO)” –  Oulimata Ba, HNGN Headlines & Global News (18 June 2014) http://www.hngn.com/articles/34103/20140618/unknown-blob-sea-creature-filmed-underwater-camera-video.htm
VIDEO CREDIT:
“Massive Unidentified Sea Monster Caught on Video Off Oil-Rig” – Disclosure TV, YouTube GB (19 September 2013) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJwGpZ38JHE

WHALE STRIKES: Scientists concerned at growing number of fatal collisions

Scientists observing whales and other cetaceans off the eastern seaboard of the United States are becoming extremely concerned at the increased number of whale deaths from collisions with ships plying the Transatlantic trade routes, according to a recent report by news blog Huffington Post.

This month a cruise ship heading towards New York struck a whale of indeterminate species, killing it on impact. The ship dragged the whale’s corpse into the Hudson river, which separates New York city from New Jersey. This has been part of a higher than normal number of fatal incidents this year already, according to a briefing from a federal government agency and accessed by Associated Press reporters. As reported from the federal government’s figures, three incidents of whale strikes have occurred off the east coast of America recently. One of the incidents involved another cruise ship that struck a rare sei whale and carried its corpse coastwards. The mammal’s body was not noticed until the ship docked, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Another sei whale died in a collision with a container ship and was found tangled around the ship’s hull upon arriving at a port in the eastern state of Pennsylvania, somewhere near Philadelphia, the NOAA said.

 Scientists believe that a spike in the volume of food resources such as crustaceans and fishes close to the coastline are attracting more whales to feed on them, thus increasing the likelihood of fatal ship-whale interactions. The increased food supply has been cited by observers in neighbouring Massachusetts state for the higher than average number of humpback whale sightings reported there. Off the coast of the state’s capital Boston, large quantities of a type of fish known as sea lance have been counted. Sea lances are a popular food source for the state’s visiting whales. Local wildlife experts have commented on groups of whales turning up at the Massachusetts Bay and feeding liberally, said Laura Howes of Boston Harbor Cruises, a local cruise holiday firm.

A Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), a m...
A Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), a member of order Cetacea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maritime agencies and shipping companies in the United States are working together to warn mariners of the risk of colliding with whales, some of the largest animals to roam the seas. A blue whale can reach 100 feet (30-35 metres) in length and weigh up to 200 tonnes, according to a recently broadcast programme on UK television. Seamen and women are being reminded to follow and respect speed limits and keep their distances from known whale feeding grounds. Most ships are banned from coming within 500 yards of a right whale according to a university-based whale observation project.

 “Nobody wants to hit a whale,” said Marjorie Mooney-Seus, a NOAA spokesperson. “So we want people to have a greater awareness that they’re out there now.

 Under usual conditions, one whale dies in a collision at sea once every few weeks, usually during migration along the coastline or when relatively stationary as they hunt fish or gather krill. The NOAA counted 28 such incidents in the waters off the north-eastern U.S. between the years 2006 and 2010. The international picture for cetacean fatalities is even grimmer.  A National Marine Fisheries Service survey covering the period from 1975 to 2002 found 292 records of confirmed or possible ship strikes to large whales. Whales struck by ships can suffer massive damage to internal organs and bleed to death. Others come into contact with ship propellers and suffer severe outer damage, including severed fins, deep gashes, and even crushed skulls. A container ship can weigh up to 90,000 tonnes and travel at 15 miles per hour or more on the open sea.

 A necropsy (a type of autopsy) was performed by scientists on the whale killed off New York. Its death was listed as being caused by ‘blunt force’, which meant that its death was certainly caused by the ship, Mooney-Seus said in her interview with the Huffington Post. The other two victim’s bodies were not retrieved for necropsies. Despite the increase in whale strikes, the NOAA said that for now, there are no heightened dangers to populations of the rarer species that frequent the North American coastline, including the local subspecies of right whale, whose population is on a steady rise after decades of destructive commercial whaling.

 On the Huffington Post article, commentators have voiced disapproval of the scientists’ understanding of the increasing number of whale-ship collisions. One, commenting under the Facebook account of a group called the Deafwhale Society, accused scientists of being ignorant and complacent in their studying of whale deaths. He claimed that scientist were simply assuming that the struck East Coast whales were asleep when in fact the loud sounds of the ships would have caused confusion to the whales’ sonar detection, making them panic and flee. He claims that the whales who were killed were deaf, and thus unable to hear the ship’s movement and react. Another commentator, Lauren Duncan, however, says that scientists on the American west coast have proposed making changes to shipping lanes to avoid whale breeding grounds, but that their suggestions have so far fallen on deaf ears. One other commentator questioned whether mariners were really making efforts to avoid collisions with whales and were possibly responsible for hitting larger numbers of the animals far out at sea without noticing or reporting the collisions.

 The Right Whale Listening Project, a U.S. whale research project with the the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology states that between the years 1970 and 2007, ships were responsible for killing a third of the right whales (24 out of 67) found dead in American waters.

 

SOURCES:
HEM News Agency, The Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter LINK
HuffPost Green, Twitter LINK
“Whales Keep Getting Hit By Ships Along The East Coast, Troubling Scientists” – Jim Fitzgerald & Paige Sutherland, Associated Press & Huff Post Green/HPMG News/TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. (23 May 2014) LINK
“Ship strikes – Threats to Right Whales” – Right Whale Listening Network – Bioacoustics Research Program, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology LINK
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Humpback Whale underwater shot.jpg” – U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration & Wikimedia modifiers, Wikimedia Commons (22 March 2013) LINK

 

 

 

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PHOTO MOMENT: Baby deer

(c) @Ms0dn via @sari1415

The above picture depicts a baby deer or calf, along with a slogan in Arabic. I am not sure exactly what species this little baby belongs to, but assume it may be an Arabian oryx. It was originally created by an Arab Twitter user named @Ms0dn and was shared on the account of Sari (@sari1415) and retweeted by “Discussion”, a Kuwait-based individual who follows me on my personal account. The picture was accompanied with a sentence which roughly translated says “Look at those eyes, Awwwwwwww!

Deer and gazelle young are renowned for their soft doe-eyed expressions and for being a perfect example of the kinder and gentler side of nature. Their innocent expression and ungainly style of walking have endeared them to countless wildlife photographers and children. Most people are aware of the adventures of the little deer Bambi in the eponymous Disney cartoon. They often stay close to their mothers for many months after birth as their vulnerability makes them an easy target for opportunistic predators such as lionesses and cheetahs.

 

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SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय } on Twitter LINK
الخواطر (Discussion) on Twitter LINK
“Sari” on Twitter LINK

 

PHOTO MOMENT: White Peacock

Vijay Shah

(c) @AnimaILife

The image above comes from the Twitter account of a photography project, named Animal Life. They tweet on what they describe as “simply the most beautiful animals you’ve ever seen”. Their latest offering is of a white peacock, an extremely rare and regal bird, which lacks the ornate colouring of the usual kind of peacock.

The peacock (the females, which lack the distinctive tails, are called ‘peahens’) are endemic to India, where they are associated with royalty, pomp and glamour. Collectively, the species are actually known as ‘peafowl’ and it is the males which are famed for their alluring tail feathers, each one adorned with iridescent blue-green ‘eyes’. This is referred to by bird-lovers as a “train”.

The males are believed to use the feathers to attract females during the mating season, but recently some ornithologists has reported that peahens in fact pay little attention to the males’ shocking tail plumage. In any case, the feathers are widely admired by humans, who use them to fashion fans or as majestic additions to hats in millinery.

The white peacock is the result of an unusual genetic mutation which leads to albinism. This condition, which can affect both humans and many other animals including rabbits and snakes, results in the subject’s skin, feathers, or fur lacking any normal colour associated with its species – leaving behind a creature which is white or yellow in appearance. In mammals and some birds, including people, albinism also results in pink or reddish eyes.

The white peacock is highly sought after as a pet, but the birds form lifetime partnerships with their mates, and anyone who purchases white peacocks, or any other variant of the fowl, will have to buy them as a pair, otherwise the peafowl will become lonely and sick.

Here’s how one website describes the white (albino) peacock “…(they) have perfectly clean bodies. They do not have variegated feathers, and have pale red eyes. They dance beautifully, and resemble like a beautiful and dignified girl who is wearing a white wedding dress

The white peacock does indeed look like a graceful bride looking her best in her wedding dress, as she shows off on her special day. They seem like a bunch of dandelion clocks have fused together and taken on a life of their own, moving like wispy clouds through the green luscious foliage and manicured lawns of an erstwhile maharajah’s palace grounds. I would not be surprised if brides-to-be soon start requesting a few white peacocks for their wedding venues, as they do add an appropriate feel to that special milestone of life.

The white peacock in motion, in a video by Chaitanya Bhandare – uploaded to YouTube on the 15th September 2007. The video also featured normally-coloured birds and was filmed at Osaka Zoo in Japan.

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SOURCES/IMAGE CREDIT:
Vijay Shah { विजय } on Twitter LINK
Hindu IDF on Twitter LINK
Animal Life on Twitter LINK
“Peacock Information and Facts” – The White Peacock LINK
“WHITE PEACOCKS – DO THEY EXIST? – FACTS ANALYSIS” – Hoax or Fact (24 January 2012) LINK

PIGEON JON: The Twitter vermin with attitude!

(c) The Telegraph

The pigeon – a humble bird, a symbol of world peace, favoured pet of boxer Mike Tyson, and the scourge of statues and old buildings everywhere.  If you happen to live in a decent-sized urban area, you cannot escape the hordes of grey, whirring birds as they flutter from one pavement to another, often leaving behind liberal doses of brown-and-white kack in their wake. Over hundreds of years, the itinerant members of Family Columbidae have become synonymous with city life. The Italian canal city of Venice is believed to have to world’s highest density of feral (wild) pigeons with three birds for every Venetian, each producing on average 12 kilos of excrement a year. A considerable amount of pigeon poo. In London, where 30,000 fat-necked, knobbly-kneed birds draw a nearly equal amount of tourists to feed them every month, bags of bread and stale sandwiches are their order of the day. Here in Stratford, in east London, the local birds have no qualms about even dining on flesh from chicken-wing-and-chip takeaway boxes. Pigeons are practically dustbins with wings, and while traditionally their hand-reared ancestors ate grains, the urban feral pigeons have an indiscriminate “open-door, open-beak policy” when it comes to roadside snacks.

Councils and health-and-safety officers revile the pigeon as a depositary of diseases but in reality they should not be under-estimated.  They are smart enough to hop aboard an Underground train to travel to various stations to find a crumb or two, as this BBC video  demonstrates. They will wait around outside schools during lunchtime to squabble over chips left behind by pupils. They have a homing instinct more in tune than some London taxi drivers. Indeed one (computer-generated) pigeon has even been enlisted to help sell personalised greeting cards (Funky Pigeon).

With our feathered friends living so close to us, it would only be a matter of time before they flew into the 21st century.  Their beady eyes have not only figured out where all the bakeries and burger bars are, it seems they have even acquired our sense of humour.

(c) People Pets

Meet Jon Pigeon. Yes he is a pigeon, and he has evolved enough intelligence to acquire a laptop…and a Twitter account. His witty, expletive laden comments on life on the wing, and the annoying pestilence of humans he has to put up with, has earned him nearly 68,500 followers on the microblogging site. He has been dubbed the “bluest rat with wings in Twittertown” by Shortlist magazine.

Along with his laddish personality, Jon Pigeon has acquired a taste for the finer things in life. His favourite soup-de-jour is strawberry milkshake, while main course is veggies and mince, with a dash of cider (most likely White Lightning).

The pigeon version of a Friday night kebab & chips... (c)whizchickenonabun / Eating Images
The pigeon version of a Friday night kebab & chips… (c)whizchickenonabun / Eating Images

He is an accomplished stuntman. His favourite stunt is the one where he flies about a foot from his perch and lands. That is it really.

The victims of his mid-air defecations read like a who’s-who of the celebrity world.  Melanie Sykes (Anglo-Burmese television presenter and star of Boddington’s beer adverts), Maria Fowler (soap opera actress; EastEnders), Brian Blessed (booming voiceover artist and erstwhile star of Strictly Come Dancing) and TV presenter Brian Dickson have all had the privilege of been crowned with one of Jon’s nutrient rich guano deposits.  Despite being a master of humorous wit, the Twitterati’s most famous airborne legend does not enjoy a cordial relationship with human comedians. He has proudly claimed to have splattered on Alan Carr, Shappi Khorsandi and Danny Wallace of ‘Join Me’ fame.

Jon is also a formidable globetrotter by pigeon standards. He once flew south over the river Thames and landed in Brixton where he noted that the bananas in this far-flung part of the world were called ‘plantains’ and the music was sort of ‘slow’.

His pet peeves are being chased by toddlers and idiot mates who cannot tell the difference between a map of Spain and a chicken nugget on a tissue.

In honour of what could be the United Kingdom’s most notorious flying jokesmith of 2013, this blog brings you the best of Jon Pigeon’s tweets, as chosen by Metro’s TV critic/reviewer Keith Barker-Main and the Half-Eaten Mind’s very own editor and blogger Vijay Shah.

Just be sure to take a strong umbrella when you step outside, after reading this. Avoid trees. And KFC. Any fast food shop more or less…

JON PIGEON on APPEARANCES…

  • Got a Petit Filous Pot stuck on my head. Feeling a bit self conscious about the situation.
  • Found a Cravat. Made of Cravat. Wanted to wear it. Yep. Pretend Like I am Jon Downton Abbey Pigeon. The Cravat is F***ing Massive.
  • Found a Sock. Made of Yellow Sock. The Sock has got a Hole in it. Yep. Wearing it as sort of Tank Top. In Yellow. Very very Sexy. Too Sexy.
  • Found a Bikini Top. Didn’t put it on. Not wearing it. Yep. Pretending like I am a Jon Kate Middleton Pigeon. Doing the Face.
(c) MGID Inc.

JON PIGEON on CRAPPING on EVERYTHING…

  • Shat on a Wedding Dress and basically ruined the Bride’s Whole entire life there.
  • Shat on a Bouncy Castle and Basically ruined it for everyone there.
  • Shat on Kate Middleton. Yep. Twice. To protect her modesty.
  • Shat on Anne Robinson. Yep. The S**t went on her Glasses.
  • Shat on Chris Moyles and basically ruined his last show for everyone there.
  • Shat on a Queue of people outside an Apple Store.
  • I am on the Toilet. Yep. The Toilet is called MITSUBISHI SHOGUN 3.0 V6 GLS.
  • Shat on a Teenager because he keeps saying BRRRAP. BRRRAP.
  • Shat on a Teenager because he said he was a Gangsta. Yep. He had just got off a Bus.
  • Shat on a man because he is wearing women’s jeans.
  • Shat on a Teenager because he is wearing Pink Jeans.
  • Shat on a Teenager because he is wearing a White Tracksuit.
  • Sneezed and Shat at the same time and nearly killed a Cyclist there.
  • Here’s the Situation. I am at a Petting Zoo. Shat on an Overweight Rabbit. Yep. A Pygmy Goat saw me. He looks quite Violent. I am in a Tree.
  • Shat on the England Football team and basically improved them for everyone there.
  • Jay-Z has Got 99 Problems and My S**ts are One.
  • There will be a Short delay in Tonight’s S**ts while we have some Adverts. Sorry about that.
  • Shat on Coldplay. Again. And the Piano. And the Drums. Yep. And that Spinning woman. Twice.
(c) anewleafmarisa.blogspot.com

JON PIGEON on CRAP LYRICS…

  • My Biscuit brings all the Birds to the yard. And They’re Like, It’s Bigger than Yours. Damn Right. It’s Bigger than Yours. It’s a Hob Nob. (après Kelis)
  • Some people think I’m Biscuits But I just think I’m free Man, I’m just livin’ my life There’s nothin’ crazy about me. (après Dizzee Rascal)
  • It’s not about the Biscuit, Biscuit, Biscuit We don’t need your Biscuit, Biscuit, Biscuit We just wanna make the Hob Nob. (après Jessie J)
  • Mamma mia, here I go again Biscuits, how can I resist you? Mamma mia, does it show again? Biscuits, just how much I’ve missed you. (après ABBA)
  • Don’t stop me now I’m having such a Good Time. I’m having a Biscuit, Don’t stop me now If you wanna have a Biscuit just give me a call. (après Queen)
  • I have Written a Song about Shoes. Yep. The Song goes SHOES. SHOES. SHOES. SHOES. SHOES. SHOES. SHOES. SHOES. SHOES. SHOES. SHOES. SHOE.
  • Loop de Loop. Barrel Roll. Loop de Loop. Barrel Roll. Barrel Roll. Loop de Loop. Barrel Roll. Lose my Bearings. Bounce off a Caravan.
(c) First News

JON PIGEON on FERAL PETE…

  • Feral Pete has been Shat on in a Friendly Fire incident.
  • Feral Pete told me he Had Illegally Downloaded Ed Sheeran. Yep. He had Stolen a Carrot from Tesco.
  • Feral Pete has Convinced a pair of Bats that the Police needs help solving Crimes. Yep. I’m not entirely sure they can even use a Computer.
  • Feral Pete told me he had found The Moldovan National Football Team. Yep. He showed me a Dead Badger by the roadside.
  • Playing Hide and Seek with Feral Pete. Yep. He is Probably going to regret it in the Morning though. He is on the Eurostar. I am in a Tree.
  • Trying to explain to Feral Pete that the ParaOrchestra do not actually play on Broken Instruments.
  • Having an argument with Feral Pete. Yep. He is saying How can Andy Murray get the American Open if it was never Closed in the first place?
  • Feral Pete said he wanted to go Raving. Yep. Then he ate a Lemsip and fell asleep in a Hedge.
  • Feral Pete has been sat on an Egg all day long. Yep. It Hatched into a Racecar and he has to put the stickers on. He is F***ing Livid.
  • Feral Pete has done a sort of Tribute to the Cabinet Reshuffle. Yep. He was on a Shed over there and now he is in a Tree over here.
  • Feral Pete has Sellotaped Spoons onto both of his legs. Yep. Said he wanted to be a sort of Feral Pete Pistorius. So far he just Falls over.

JON PIGEON on HELPFUL ADVICE for HUMANS…

  • If you do not want to be a Target for Pickpockets, do not Put anything in your Pockets. Pickpocket Safety Advice there.
  • If you are at a Party but do not know how to Dance, just sort of Wave your arms around and occasionally move your legs. Party Advice There.
  • For a Long and Successful Marriage, Never tell your Wife she looks like a Truck. Unless she actually is a Truck. Marriage advice There.

JON PIGEON on LEARNING about HUMANS….

  • Turns out that a Smear Test is not actually an Exam for Window Cleaners. Frankly Livid about this.
  • Turns Out Sky News actually has very little news about The Sky. Frankly livid about this.
  • I am on a See-Saw. It is S**t.
  • There is a Pensioner talking to me. I have literally no Idea what he is saying. I think he is Australian. Or Welsh.
  • I am on a Lorry. Yep. Wanted to pretend like I am a Notting Hill Carnival Pigeon. F***ing Regret it now Though. I am on the M1.
(c) Huffpost Culture UK

JON PIGEON on INTER-SPECIES RELATIONS…

  • Just watched a Cat fall out of a Tree. It was f***ing brilliant.
  • F**k Yeah. Landed on a Cat.
  • Having an Argument with a Swan. Posh Bastard.
  • Having an Argument with a Peacock. Poncy Bastard.
  • Convinced an entire Flock of Sheep to start Digging a Hole. Yep. The Hole is f***ing Massive. The Farmer is going Mental. I am in a Tree.
  • There is no f***ing way a Cow can jump over the Moon. I have seen Cows.
  • Teaching a Goat how to Skateboard. This could be F***ing Incredible.
  • Ginger Pigeon! Ginger F***ing Pigeon! F***ing Ginger F***ing Pigeon! Trying not to laugh.

JON PIGEON on STUFF HE FOUND….

  • Very Exciting News! I have Found an iPhone 5! It is Smaller than I thought. And Lighter. Yep. And is called NATURE VALLEY OATS ‘N HONEY.

Follow Jon on Twitter:  @PigeonJon

feral-pigeon-head-31_08_reasonably_small

SOURCES:  

“Cities Tackle Surge in Global Pigeon Population” (David Crossland, Spiegel Online International) LINK

“In Defence of Pigeons” (BBC News UK)  LINK

BBC Nature Wildlife

World First: Jon Pigeon Interview (Shortlist.com) LINK

The Official Jon Pigeon Twitter page (@PigeonJon)