Category:
Nature

It Just Ain’t Natural!

Here's a quick round-up of a few things that I couldn't quite crow-bar into the "Weird Wildlife" category.

If you've any particular aversion to rats, and quite a lot of people have, then Deshnok in India is probably a place best avoided, for there stands the Karni Mata Temple, built a century ago and devoted to the Hindu matriarch Karni Mata. Worshipped as a 14th century incarnation of the goddess Durga, Karni Mata is said to have struck a deal with Yama, the god of death, that all members of her clan would reincarnate as rats so that the clan would remain united. Hence rats in Deshnok are sacred animals, venerated as ancestors, and fed and protected by the locals, so than now thousands of rats scamper over the feet of visitors to the temple (National Geographic).

And it's not only in India that people have built havens for rats, one was once built in British Columbia, though for quite a different reason. Bruce Alexander was studying addiction, and he had a problem. He knew that rats kept in cramped cages or strapped to apparatus that allowed them to dose themselves with drugs, would often do so to the point of self-destruction, but, he thought, could you really blame them? What if the addiction to the drugs was a product of their environment, rather than a reaction to the drug itself? Hence, in the 1970s, Alexander decided to give his rats the best living conditions he could, so he build "Rat Park". It was 95 square-feet in area, and well stocked with food, toys and "private areas" where the rats - who would be of both sexes - could go to mate or give birth. It was then filled with rats who had been forced to consume morphine for 8 weeks prior to the experiment, quite long enough to cause hopeless addiction in standard experiments, who were now offered a choice of pure water, or more morphine. All of them chose water. Nothing Alexander could do would entice them to take the drug, even sweetening it had no effect, only when he added naloxone (a drug that blocks the action of opiates) or diluted the morphine to the point of near impotency, could park rats be tempted to take it (Absolute Astronomy).

Yet another piece of rodent research now, as scientists (sadly not from NIMH) have found that transplanting a human 'language gene' into mice affects the way they communicate with one another. The gene, called foxp2 is one of a small family of genes known to be markedly different in humans compared to apes and other animals, hence may be the genes that are the very core of our humanity, so would putting a humanized gene in a mouse create a talking mouse? Well, no, there's a lot more to our use of language than a single gene, however while the transgenic mice were significantly less curious, they also showed increased growth and plasticity in the speech centres of their brains, and a tendency to use a greater range of frequencies in their calls (NY Times).



More in extended >>

Posted By: Dumbfounded - Sun Jun 07, 2009 - Comments (1)
Category: Animals, Languages, Nature, Experiments

Shark Petting

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If you're ever in New England and wish to dispose of an unwanted rugrat, consider visiting the Biomes marine education facility here in Rhode Island, and participating in one of their "shark petting" programs.

Shark petting? Shark feeding!

Posted By: Paul - Sat Jun 06, 2009 - Comments (0)
Category: Animals, Death, Museums, Nature, Children

The Largest Terrestrial Arthropod

Just when you thought it was safe to visit your trash can... The Coconut Crab is so named because it can crack open coconuts in its giant claws. Also known as the Robber Crab for its scavenging nature, it has adapted so well to living on land that it actually drowns in water. This site has some great information and images, and of course Wikipedia does too.

Posted By: Nethie - Tue May 19, 2009 - Comments (3)
Category: Animals, Nature, Pets, Science, Hermits

Drunk Drivers Can Hit Anything, And Will

Imagine the Sahara desert. A vast, arid sandbox with limited plant life. And the Tenere is a region of the southern Sahara with an extremely hot and dry climate and even more limited plant life. But up until 1973, there was a lonely acacia tree known as the Tree of Ténéré (L’Arbre du Ténéré). Being so isolated, the tree became a landmark on caravan routes and earned a place on most maps of the area. It stood for decades as a beacon for weary travelers, until a drunk driver knocked it down. Yup, the only tree in the entire region and the drunk managed to hit it. In remembrance to what was once considered to be the most isolated tree on Earth, a metal pole was put in its place. You'll need a translator for The Story but the pictures are fairly self-explanatory.

Posted By: Nethie - Mon May 18, 2009 - Comments (3)
Category: History, Nature, 1970s, Africa, Alcohol

Mysterious Worms Invade China

What do you do when your normally green and lush grazing pastures become over-run with mysterious worms? For the fifty herdsmen in northwest China, there is no answer but to move. The worms are one inch long, green, with thorns and black stripes, and are packed up to 3,000 per square meter. Samples of the worms have been sent to Xinjiang Agricultural University for identification, but so far the usual methods of dealing with such an invasion (chickens, ducks and other birds) has not been successful. The Story.

Posted By: Nethie - Sun May 17, 2009 - Comments (3)
Category: Agriculture, Animals, Nature, Science

Mill Ends Park

In the middle of Portland, Oregon there is a small oasis of weirdness called Mill Ends Park. According to Wikipedia, Mill Ends Park:

is a small park that was created on St. Patrick's Day, 1948, to be a colony for leprechauns and a location for snail races. It is the smallest park in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records, which first granted it this recognition in 1971. The park is a circle 2 ft (0.61 m) across, with a total area of 452 sq in (0.292 m2), in a traffic median which in 1948 was intended to be the site for a light pole.

I've never been to Portland, but if I ever make it up there, I'll make a point to visit this park.

Posted By: Alex - Tue May 12, 2009 - Comments (3)
Category: Nature, Urban Life

Breaking the Ice


Back in 1917, Railroad workers in Alaska who were bored during a long winter, set up a betting pool in which the winner determined the date and time that the ice on the Tanana River would break. Since then the event has grown to become the Nenana Ice Classic which attracts thousands. This year's jackpot is $283,723.00. But the neatest part is how they mark when the ice has broken. A wooden tripod is set up on the ice and wired to a clock in a tower along the shore. The winning time is determined when the ice moves enough to tighten the wire and trip the clock.

Posted By: Nethie - Mon May 11, 2009 - Comments (2)
Category: Boredom, Contests, Races and Other Competitions, History, Nature

Too Much Of A Good Thing


You may have heard the warnings that people become more depressed in the winter months because of a lack of sunlight. Now researchers are saying that too much sunlight can be just as bad. The study shows that a lack of sleep is the real culprit. It all comes down to maintaining your circadian rhythm. You can read more about the sunlight issue here, and you can find out what a circadian rhythm is here.

Posted By: Nethie - Sat May 09, 2009 - Comments (2)
Category: Death, Health, Nature, Science, Sleep and Dreams

A Slithering Spa


At Ada Barak's spa in northern Israel, slithering snakes don't give people the creeps. They give deep-tissue massages. For several years, Barak has been entertaining visitors to her carnivorous plant farm by passing around samples of the small reptiles her plants will consume. When her visitors claimed that holding the serpents was soothing, she got an idea, and thus, the Slithering Spa was born. Barak claims that the heavier king and corn snakes produce a kneading sensation as they move across your body. Want to get your own Snake Massage? Time magazine has more information.

Posted By: Nethie - Thu May 07, 2009 - Comments (7)
Category: Animals, Body, Exercise and Fitness, Nature

Snow Rollers

Who knew that a combination of snow and wind could create "snow rollers"? Not me. NOAA explains that snow rollers are "extremely rare because of the unique combination of snow, wind, temperature and moisture needed to create them. They form with light but sticky snow and strong (but not too strong) winds."
(Thanks to Prof. Music)

Posted By: Alex - Sat Apr 18, 2009 - Comments (4)
Category: Nature, Natural Wonders, Weather

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Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

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