animals

By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of this great world

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In “Rat Ethics” I am primarily concerned with moral arguments about the rat, in particular, Rattus norvegicus. I argue that there is a complex bias against the animal which reduces it to ‘a pest, vermin, or mischievous’. This predominant bias against rats is a product of cultural stereotyping rather than objective reasoning. A cultural and philosophical examination of the rat can expose and provide grounds for rejecting this bias. I argue that the three main types of rats we encounter (i.e., liminal, research, companion) should be given full moral consideration and determine certain basic moral rights which are distinct to each encounter. I examine the Norway rat from a historical, cultural, philosophical, and practical perspective. I conclude that we must re-evaluate our moral relations with this animal and democratically support the basic rights its moral liberation demands. The fundamental rights of all rats are: 1) the moral right to have reasonable consideration, and 2) the moral right to freedom from unnecessary suffering. Further, contract-based rights are suggested for companion rats, which take the form of additional regulation regarding breeders, retailers, and consumers.

{ Joshua Duffy | Continue reading }

images { ad for The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!, 1972 | Rat Fink by Adam Cruz }

Little pig, little pig, let me come in

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Scientists in the United States are trying to grow human organs inside pigs.

They have injected human stem cells into pig embryos to produce human-pig embryos known as chimeras.

The embryos are part of research aimed at overcoming the worldwide shortage of transplant organs.

The team from University of California, Davis says they should look and behave like normal pigs except that one organ will be composed of human cells.

{ BBC | Continue reading }

photos { Christien Meindertsma, PIG 05049, 2009 | Meindertsma has spent three years researching all the products made from a single pig }

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road

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A majority of people the world over eat meat, yet many of these same people experience discomfort when the meat on their plate is linked to the death of animals. We draw on this common form of moral conflict — the meat-paradox — to develop insights into the ways in which morally troublesome behaviors vanish into the commonplace and every day.

Drawing on a motivational analysis, we show how societies may be shaped by attempts to resolve dissonance, in turn protecting their citizens from discomfort associated with their own moral conflicts. To achieve this, we build links between dissonance reduction, habit formation, social influence, and the emergence of social norms and detail how our analysis has implications for understanding immoral behavior and motivations underpinning dehumanization and objectification.

{ Personality and Social Psychology Review }

The fire’s in their eyes and their words are really clear

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Pterois is a genus of venomous marine fish, commonly known as lionfish.

Lionfish are known for their venomous fin rays, an uncommon feature among marine fish in the East Coast coral reefs. The potency of their venom makes them excellent predators and venomous to fishermen and divers. Pterois venom can cause systemic effects such as extreme pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, breathing difficulties, convulsions, dizziness, redness on the affected area, headache, numbness, paresthesia (pins and needles), heartburn, diarrhea, and sweating. Rarely, such stings can cause temporary paralysis of the limbs, heart failure, and even death.

Lionfish are skilled hunters, using specialized bilateral swim bladder muscles to provide exquisite control of location in the water column, allowing the fish to alter its center of gravity to better attack prey. The lionfish then spreads its large pectoral fins and swallows its prey in a single motion.

Lionfish have few identified natural predators, likely from the effectiveness of their venomous spines. Moray eels, bluespotted cornetfish, and large groupers, like the tiger grouper and Nassau grouper, have been observed preying on lionfish. It remains unknown, however, how commonly these predators prey on lionfish. Sharks are also believed to be capable of preying on lionfish with no ill effects from their spines. Park officials of the Roatan Marine Park in Honduras have attempted to train sharks to feed on lionfish as of 2011 in an attempt to control the invasive populations in the Caribbean. Predators of larvae and juvenile lionfish remain unknown, but may prove to be the primary limiting factor of lionfish populations in their native range.

The lionfish is a predator native to the Indo-Pacific. It aggressively preys on small fish and invertebrates. They can be found around the seaward edge of reefs and coral, in lagoons, and on rocky surfaces to 50 m deep. Two species of Pterois, the red lionfish (P. volitans) and the common lionfish (P. miles), have established themselves as significant invasive species off the East Coast of the United States and in the Caribbean. They have been described as “one of the most aggressively invasive species on the planet”. They resemble those of the Philippines, implicating the aquarium trade.

The lionfish invasion is considered to be one of the most serious recent threats to Caribbean and Florida coral reef ecosystems.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Lionfish eat herbivores and herbivores eat algae from coral reefs. Without herbivores, algal growth goes unchecked, which can be detrimental to the health of coral reefs. […]

Whole Foods has begun selling fresh lionfish. Employees at stores carrying the fish have been trained to remove the spines, leaving white fish meat that’ll go for $8.99 per pound.

{ Quartz | Continue reading }

still { Karl Stromberg tests James Bond’s fish knowledge in the film The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977 }

Think of the happiest things, it’s the same as having wings

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{ This butterfly is a bilateral gynandromorph: literally half male, half female | A gynandromorph is an organism that contains both male and female characteristics. The term gynandromorph, from Greek “gyne” female and “andro” male, is mainly used in the field of entomology. | Thanks Cassandra }

Beyond that road lies a shining world. Beyond that road lies despair.

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Why do dogs tilt their heads when we talk to them?

Biologist here. Head tilting allows an animal to gain information about the vertical placement of the sound (how far up/down it is, relative to the axis of the skull). It is assumed that canids do head-tilting to try to localize a sound better. This is backed up by the fact that canids do a lot of head-tilting when hunting small prey that are hidden behind grass or snow.
Generally - as bilaterally symmetrical animals, mammals already get pretty good information on left-right placement of a sound, due to the fact that we have an ear on the left and a different ear on the right - that means we can get left/right info by things like, time of arrival of the sound at each ear, & loudness of the sound in each ear. But up/down information (how high or low the sound source is) for a sound that is coming from directly in front can be difficult to figure out. This is a challenge for a predator that is typically approaching prey that are right in front. The head tilt solves this problem by offsetting the two ears vertically so that sounds from lower down will hit the lower ear first, and will also be ever-so- slightly louder in the lower ear, and vice versa for sounds coming from higher up. […]

With domestic dogs looking at a human, typically they already know the sound is coming from the human; they seem to just instinctively add the head tilt when hearing a puzzling sound, even if they’re pretty sure where it’s coming from.

{ 99trumpets/reddit | Continue reading }

Forever 21

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Animals eject fluids for waste elimination, communication, and defense from predators. These diverse systems all rely on the fundamental principles of fluid mechanics, which we use to predict urination duration across a wide range of mammals. […]

Using high-speed videography and flow-rate measurement obtained at Zoo Atlanta, we discover that all mammals above 3 kg in weight empty their bladders over nearly constant duration of 21 s. […]

Smaller mammals are challenged during urination by high viscous and capillary forces that limit their urine to single drops.

{ PNAS | Continue reading }

collage { imp kerr }

What’s up with your bad breath onion rings

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Stanley: I lost my brother years ago

Ford: (from the other room) QUIT TELLING PEOPLE I’M DEAD

Stanley: Sometimes I can still hear his voice

{ Cyclone Rachel }

Azur, nos bêtes sont bondées d’un cri

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Dogs can infer the name of an object and have been shown to learn the names of over 1,000 objects. Dogs can follow the human pointing gesture; even nine week old puppies can follow a basic human pointing gesture without being taught.

New Guinea Singing dogs, a half-wild proto-dog endemic to the remote alpine regions of New Guinea, as well as Dingoes in the remote outback of Australia are also capable of this.

These examples demonstrate an ability to read human gestures that arose early in domestication and did not require human selection. “Humans did not develop dogs, we only fine-tuned them down the road.”

Similar to the chimpanzee, Bonobos are a close genetic cousin to humans. Unlike the chimpanzee, bonobos are not aggressive and do not participate in lethal intergroup aggression or kill within their own group. The most distinctive features of a bonobo are its cranium, which is 15% smaller than a chimpanzee’s, and its less aggressive and more playful behavior. Dogs mirror these differences relative to wild wolves: a dog’s cranium is 15% smaller than an equally heavy wolf’s, and the dog is less aggressive and more playful. The guinea pig’s cranium is 13% smaller than its wild cousin the cavie and domestic fowl show a similar reduction to their wild cousins. Possession of a smaller cranium for holding a smaller brain is a telltale sign of domestication. Bonobos appear to have domesticated themselves.

In the “farm fox” experiment, humans selectively bred foxes against aggression which caused a domestication syndrome. The foxes were not selectively bred for smaller craniums and teeth, floppy ears, or skills at using human gestures but these traits were demonstrated in the friendly foxes.

Natural selection favors those that are the most successful at reproducing, not the most aggressive. Selection against aggression made possible the ability to cooperate and communicate among foxes, dogs and bonobos. Perhaps it did the same thing for humans.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

In the eyes of the pale criminal Zarathustra finds the great contempt

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The box jellyfish Chironex fleckeri is infamous. Its venom will kill a human within minutes. This much I’ve known for decades. What I didn’t know until yesterday is that C. fleckeri has 24 eyes and appears to sleep.

More than a decade ago, researchers in Australia superglued acoustic transmitters to several box jellyfish (without getting stung) and set them free. Using an underwater microphone, they were then able to track their movements. During the daytime, the jellyfish moved in straight lines, typically covering around 200 m an hour. At night, they basically stopped. “During these periods of “inactivity”, the jellyfish lie motionless on the sea floor, with no bell pulsation occurring and with tentacles completely relaxed and in contact with the sea floor,” wrote Jamie Seymour, a biologist at James Cook University in Cairns in The Medical Journal of Australia. A small disturbance – like a light or a vibration – “causes the animals to rise from the sea floor, swim around for a short period, and then fall back into an inactive state on the sand,” they reported.

The clear distinction between activity and rest raises the possibility that the box jellyfish is capable of sleep, a state most commonly associated with vertebrates. Why would a box jellyfish need to sleep? One possibility, suggested by Seymour and his colleagues, is that it uses its eyes to hunt. In the dark, when vision is limited, “it makes a lot of sense to become inactive, decrease your energy used in locomotion and divert it to growth.”

{ The Guardian | Continue reading }

photo { Melvin Sokolsky, Lip Streaks, 1967 }

‘When I don’t have red, I use blue.’ –Picasso

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Ivan Pavlov is best known as a founding figure of behaviorism who trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell. […] Pavlov didn’t use a bell, and for his real scientific purposes, couldn’t. English-speakers think he did because of a mistranslation of the Russian word for zvonok (buzzer). […]

Although one would expect that this investigator of reflexive reactions would think otherwise, he believed in free will. […]

He didn’t win his Nobel Prize (1904) for research on conditional reflexes, but rather for his studies of digestive physiology.

{ Oxford University Press | Continue reading | More: New Yorker }

Better where she is down there: away. Occupy her. Wanted a dog to pass the time. Might take a trip down there.

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Journalists consider the importance of events and the audience’s interest in them when deciding on which events to report. Events most likely to be reported are those that are both important and can capture the audience’s interest. In turn, the public is most likely to become aware of important news when some aspect of the story piques their interest.

We suggest an efficacious means of drawing public attention to important news stories: dogs. Examining the national news agenda of 10 regional newspapers relative to that of the New York Times, we evaluated the effect of having a dog in a news event on the likelihood that the event is reported in regional newspapers.

The “dog effect” is approximately equivalent to the effect of whether a story warrants front- or back-page national news coverage in the New York Times. Thus, we conclude that dogs are an important factor in news decisions.

{ Cambridge University Press | PDF }