Monday, May 5, 2008


Animal Insider has moved to Tumblr...
Check out the new site at:

Friday, May 2, 2008

'Sex pest' seal attacks penguin

An Antarctic fur seal has been observed trying to have sex with a king penguin.

The South African-based scientists who witnessed the incident say it is the most unusual case of mammal mating behaviour yet known.

The incident, which lasted for 45 minutes and was caught on camera, is reported in the Journal of Ethology.

The bizarre event took place on a beach on Marion Island, a sub-Antarctic island that is home to both fur seals and king penguins.

Why the seal attempted to have sex with the penguin is unclear. But the scientists who photographed the event speculate that it was the behaviour of a frustrated, sexually inexperienced young male seal.

Equally, it might be been an aggressive, predatory act; or even a playful one that turned sexual.

"At first glimpse, we thought the seal was killing the penguin," says Nico de Bruyn, of the Mammal Research Institute at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Source: BBC NEWS

Photo of the Day...

Feral cat and feral kitten (via stshank)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

What's love? For Conchita the endangered monkey it's a teddy bear mum

Conchita is a white-naped mangabey, an endangered primate at the London Zoo. Her mother was seriously ill when Conchita was delivered via C-section, so zookeepers put a teddy bear into the newborn's enclosure. Now Conchita sorta thinks the bear is her mom. "She hugs that bear day and night," says keeper Andrea Payne. "She will run to the bear when she's alarmed. She won't run to me. She clamps on to it just like she would her mother." The teddy bear is "smelly" and has some monkey poo on it, but the zookeepers can't wash it. "To the baby it is her own special smell... The baby recognises the smell, it's a comfort to her. Washing the teddy would make it unrecognizable."

London Times

Legless Lizard Among Newly Found Species: are you sure thats not a snake?

Scientists discovered legless lizard, a dwarf woodpecker and another 12 suspected new species in Brazil's fast-disappearing Cerrado grasslands, an environmental group said Tuesday.

The discoveries were made during a 29-day expedition by U.S. and Brazilian scientists in Brazil's vast wooded grasslands, one of the world's 34 biodiversity conservation hotspots, Conservation International said in a statement.

The grasslands are threatened by encroaching farmland; the expedition focused in and around the Serra Geral do Tocantins Ecological Station, a 2,765-square-mile protected area that is Cerrado's second largest.

The 14 suspected new species discovered include eight fish, three reptiles, one amphibian, one mammal and one bird, the group said.

The legless lizard, of the Bachia genus, resembles a snake due to its lack of legs and uses its pointed snout to move about its predominantly sandy environment.

Other outstanding new findings include a dwarf woodpecker of the genus Picumnus, and a horned toad of the genus Proceratophrys.

Besides the new species, the scientists also recorded several threatened animals such as the hyacinth macaw, marsh deer, three-banded armadillo, the Brazilian merganser and the dwarf tinamou, among more than 440 species of vertebrates documented.

"We need to know our protected areas better, especially the ecological stations whose principal objective is to generate scientific knowledge of Brazilian biodiversity, so little studied and already so severely threatened," said expedition leader Cristiano Nogueira.

Source: Discovery Channel

Genetically Altered Trout Approved for Release in U.K.

Plans to pour tankfuls of genetically altered fish into wild lakes and rivers have been given the go-ahead in the United Kingdom after conservation scientists backed the project.

According to a recent study, releasing the modified fish for anglers to catch is a better option than traditional trout farming and may even benefit native trout populations.

That's because the fish have been engineered to be sterile, so they won't breed with vulnerable wild strains.

These so-called triploid trout have three sets of chromosomes in their cells instead of the two sets normally found in diploid animals.

The two-year study, led by Dylan Roberts of the U.K.'s Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, investigated the impact of releasing triploid trout on native populations at 90 river sites in England and Wales.

The government's Environment Agency (EA) approved the plan last week following the study's publication.

The EA announced that by 2015 the estimated 750,000 farmed trout introduced each year in fishing waters must consist purely of triploids.

National Geographic

5 Extremely Expensive Exotic Pets...

5. DeBrazza’s Monkey, $7,000

4. Macaw $12,000

3. Python $15,000

2. Chimpanzee $65,000

1. White Tigers $138,000


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fence porthole gives pooch a point of view

It needs no explanation, the Pets' Observation Poodle from Hammacher Schlemmer. Nine inches wide and 5" deep, it gives "the inquisitive canine," which is cataloguese for "dog," a panoramic view of things at which to bark.

Hammacher Schlemmer suggests lining several of these $30 domes around the perimeter of your yard, to allow your pet an unrestricted view of interesting places it cannot go.

Source: Boing Boing Gadgets

Friday, April 25, 2008

Drug-Sniffing Dogs Cloned in Korea

The Korean Customs Service today unveiled seven golden Labrador retrievers cloned from a skilled drug-sniffing canine in active service—a test to see if duplicates could reduce the difficulty and expense of finding dogs qualified to detect drugs and explosives, officials say.

Seen here at their training facility near Incheon International Airport west of Seoul, the pups were born five to six months ago.

The dogs all currently share the same name: "Toppy"—a portmanteau of the words "tomorrow" and "puppy."

In February all seven passed a behavior test to check if they are qualified to work as sniffing dogs. Only 10 to 15 percent of naturally born dogs pass the test.

If the cloned dogs succeed in other tests for physical strength, concentration, and sniffing ability, they will be put to work by July 2009 at airports and harbors across South Korea, according to the training center.

Normally, only about three out every ten naturally born dogs the center trains—at a cost of about $40,140 each—ends up qualifying for the job.

The cloning was conducted by the team at Seoul National University that in 2005 successfully created the first known dog clone, an Afghan hound named Snuppy.

The team's leader, Lee Byeong-chun, was a key aide to disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk. Hwang's purported breakthroughs in stem cell research were revealed as false, but independent tests proved the team's dog cloning was genuine.

Lee said it cost approximately $100,000 to $150,000 to clone each of the seven Labradors.

The seven are the first cloned drug-sniffing dogs, though his team has cloned 13 other dogs and five wolves, he added.

Ancient Praying Mantis Found in Amber...

An 87-million-year-old praying mantis found encased in amber in Japan may be a "missing link" between mantises from the Cretaceous period and modern-day insects.

The fossil mantis measures 0.5 inch (1.4 centimeters) from its antennae to the tip of its abdomen.

Although the forelegs, head, and antennae appear to be well preserved, the wings and abdomen have been badly crushed.

Kazuhisa Sasaki, director of the Kuji Amber Museum, found the fossil creature in January buried 6.5 feet (2 meters) below the surface in an amber mine in Japan's northeastern Iwate Prefecture.

"This part of Japan is famous for producing large amounts of amber, but it was very fortunate for me to find this specimen," Sasaki said.

"I found it in a deposit that had lots of other insects—ancient flies, bees, and cockroaches—but this was the only praying mantis."

Are animals stuck in time?

Dog owners, who have noticed that their four-legged friend seem equally delighted to see them after five minutes away as five hours, may wonder if animals can tell when time passes. Newly published research from The University of Western Ontario may bring us closer to answering that very question.

The results of the research, entitled "Episodic-Like Memory in Rats: Is it Based on When or How Long Ago," appear in the current issue of the journal Science, which was released recently.

William Roberts and colleagues in Western's Psychology Department observed that rats are able to keep track of how much time has passed since they discovered a piece of cheese, be it a little or a lot, but they don't actually form memories of when the discovery occurred. That is, the rats can't place the memories in time.

The research team, led by Roberts, designed an experiment in which rats visited the 'arms' of a maze at different times of day. Some arms contained moderately desirable food pellets, and one arm contained a highly desirable piece of cheese. Rats were later returned to the maze with the cheese removed on certain trials and with the cheese replaced with a pellet on others.

All told, three groups of rats were tested in the research using three varying cues: when, how long ago or when plus how long ago.

Only the cue of how long ago food was encountered was used successfully by the rats.

These results, the scientists say, suggest that episodic-like memory in rats is qualitatively different from human episodic memory, which involves retention of the point in past time when an event occurred.

""The rats remember whether they did something, such as hoarded food a few hours or five days ago," explained Roberts. "The more time that has passed, the weaker the memory may be. Rats may learn to follow different courses of action using weak and strong memory traces as cues, thus responding differently depending on how long ago an event occurred. However, they do not remember that the event occurred at a specific point in past time." .

Prior studies have suggested that rats and scrub jays (a relative of the crow and the blue jay) appear to remember storing or discovering various foods, but it hasn't been clear whether the animals were remembering exactly when these events happened or how much time had elapsed.

"This research," said Roberts, "supports the theory I introduced that animals are stuck in time, with no sense of time extending into the past or future."

Are Ice Age relics the next casualty of climate change?

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) recently launched a four-year study to determine if climate change is affecting populations of a quintessential Arctic denizen: the rare musk ox. Along with collaborators from the National Park Service, U. S. Geological Survey, and Alaska Fish and Game, Wildlife Conservation Society scientists have already equipped six musk ox with GPS collars to better understand how climate change may affect these relics of the Pleistocene.

The research team will be assessing how musk ox are faring in areas along the Chukchi and northern Bering Seas, and the extent to which snow and icing events, disease, and possibly predation may be driving populations.

Musk ox are a throwback to our Pleistocene heritage and once shared the landscape with mammoths, wild horses, and sabered cats, said the studys leader Dr. Joel Berger, a Wildlife Conservation Society scientist and professor at the University of Montana. They may also help researchers understand how arctic species can or cannot adapt to climate change.

Once found in Europe and Northern Asia, today musk ox are restricted to Arctic regions in North America and Greenland eventhough they have been introduced into Russia and northern Europe. They have been reintroduced in Alaska after being wiped out in the late 19th century. Currently they found in two national parks: Alaskas Bering Land Bridge National Park and Cape Krusenstem National Monument.