To be a giraffe among giraffes, or a pigeon among pigeons, is to live at all times in that scene from Being John Malkovich—a world in which everyone you know looks pretty much exactly like you. However wondrously varied the animal kingdom might be, on a species-level its residents tend to look more similar than not—at least, from a human perspective. I’m not saying that all squirrels look identical—just that being a squirrel, and trying to distinguish your squirrel-spouse from your squirrel dad from your squirrel-mailman, seems like it would be pretty hard work.
Does the thought of leaving your pet behind in an evacuation keep you up at night? If so, you’re not alone. A recent paper in the American Journal of Public Healthhighlights how neglecting steps for evacuating animals, thereby forcing people to leave their pets behind, can have serious public health consequences for the pet owners—and for everybody else.
Microscopic tardigrades, also known as “water bears,” are the toughest animals on the planet, capable of withstanding intense radiation, extreme temperatures, and even the vacuum of space. In a fascinating new study, researchers have shown that tardigrades are poised to survive literally anything that nature throws at them—and that of the animals alive today, they’ll be the last ones standing before the Sun annihilates the Earth billions of years from now.
By the 1940s, North American hunters and developers had driven whooping cranes to near extinction. Though they rebounded, changing weather threatens them anew. Cranes nest in Arctic wetlands, surrounded by natural moats. Persistent warmth shrivels these defenses, exposing chicks to predators. But intense storms can drown hatchlings. Annual migrations to Texas bring other challenges: Dry watering spots along the way force them to fly farther between rest stops.
A family of tourists in Canada’s Steveston Harbor recently got a treat when a friendly-looking sea lion sidled up to them in the water. The adorable animal came up to the edge of the wharf, and the family started feeding it. One young girl sat down to get a better look. That’s when the treat became a shock: the sea lion lunged upward and, in one fluid motion, grabbed a mouthful of the girl’s dress and yanked her down into the water.
One November night each year, beneath the full moon, more than 130 species of corals simultaneously spawn in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Some corals spew plumes of sperm, smoldering like underwater volcanoes. Others produce eggs. But most release both eggs and sperm, packed together in round, buoyant bundles as small as peppercorns and blushed in shades of pink, orange, and yellow.
When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life. Everyone knows that classic line from Disney’s “The Lion King”. Kids and parents might have been slightly less charmed by this variation: The wildebeest must cross the river to eat, and a whole bunch of them die in the process. And then everything in the river gets to feast on their rotting remains. Oh, and their bones continue to leech nutrients into the water even after fish and insects have devoured their flesh. Other organisms also eats the algae that grows on the bones. Basically, some wildebeest need to die, Simba.