10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (8/10/19)

With another week in the history books, it’s time to sit back and review some of the stories that made the news over the last few days. Click here if you want to learn all about the unexpected and outlandish stories from last week.

This time, we discuss the real possibility that there might be life on the Moon, but before you get too excited, we brought it there from Earth. We also look at two men, one a basketball player and the other a Brazilian drug dealer, who tried to use the women close to them in order to cheat. Although they had vastly different goals in mind, both of them failed.

10 An Unlikely Pregnancy

A male basketball player was caught trying to cheat a doping test after the results showed that he was pregnant.

Donell “D.J.” Cooper entered the 2013 NBA draft. He went unsigned and, instead, played for various European basketball teams. In 2018, he tried to join the Bosnian national team as a naturalized player. He didn’t make the cut and also did not play with any other team the whole year.

Now we know why: FIBA had suspended him two years for fraud. A drug test revealed the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG. However, this is not a performance-enhancing drug but rather a hormone created by the placenta during pregnancy. Since there was a pretty decent chance that Cooper was not, in fact, pregnant, this meant that he tried to pass off someone else’s urine as his own. Reportedly, it belonged to his girlfriend.[1]

9 For Sale: Volcano

If you are an aspiring supervillain on a tight budget, you probably can’t afford a skull-shaped island for your secret lair. Fortunately, now you can buy the next best thing for a reasonable £50,000 ($61,000)—a 250-million-year-old inactive volcano.[2]

Located in Devon, England, the ancient geological feature sits next to a tiny settlement called Posbury. Despite its diminutive size, the community has been occupied since the Iron Age and had long contained a quarry which mined basalt stone. The volcano itself is known as the Posbury Clump because it rests underneath a thick woodland.

The area has also been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest because you can still find signs of potassium-rich lava dating all the way back to the Permian Period, when dinosaurs were just starting to appear on this planet.

8 Terrifyingly Thunderous Toilet Trouble

There was a “first in plumbing history” as lightning hit a house’s septic tank, causing the toilet to explode.

Early Sunday morning, Marylou Ward and her husband were still in bed in their Port Charlotte, Florida, home when they felt the house rocked by a loud explosion. They were shocked to discover that the toilet in their master bathroom blew up. The force was powerful enough to shatter it completely and send pieces of porcelain flying with enough strength to penetrate the wall.

When the Wards brought in a plumber to assess the damage, he said that neither he nor his father had ever seen anything like it despite decades of experience. Besides the toilet, the sanitary pipe and the lid of the septic tank had both disintegrated.

The cause of the explosion was a buildup of methane gas in the septic tank.[3] Once it got hit by lightning, it ignited with a powerful blast. Jordan Hagadorn, the plumber who inspected the wreckage, said that the tank lid was only buried 2.5 centimeters (1 in) underground, which could have helped facilitate the explosion.

7 Hercules The Parrot

Prehistoric times were filled with giant versions of animals that are still around today. Now, there is a new one to add to the list: Heracles inexpectatus, the Hercules parrot.

The large bird was described for the first time a few days ago in Biology Letters from fossils found over a decade ago in St Bathans, Otago, New Zealand. They are roughly 19 million years old and once belonged to a parrot that stood 1 meter (3’3″) tall and weighed up to seven kilograms (15 lb).[4]

By comparison, the kakapo, the largest extant parrot species, rarely exceeds half that amount. In fact, researchers believe the two might be related, both part of the Nestoridae family, or the New Zealand parrot, as it’s better known.

Gigantism is a common trait in New Zealand’s bird population, one that likely arose from a lack of competition from mammals or reptiles. However, it has never been seen before in parrots.

6 The Identity Of The New England Vampire

Back in the 19th century, rural New England succumbed to a vampire panic. Entire families were being ravaged by tuberculosis, but they ascribed the plague to their departed love ones, who were coming back from the dead. To counter this affliction, people dug up the bodies of the dead and performed various rites on them. Most common was burning the heart.

Most of these events were done in private, although there were a few cases, like that of Mercy Brown, where the entire village took part. Out of dozens of documented cases, only one left physical evidence for modern archaeologists. Back in 1990, boys stumbled upon the remains of a “vampire” in Griswold, Connecticut, and now, researchers believe they have identified him.

On the coffin, tacks were used to spell out “JB 55,” most likely the deceased’s initials and age. Inside where the remains of a middle-aged man, most likely a farmer or laborer based on the arthritis in his bones, who, indeed, suffered from tuberculosis. He had also clearly been the target of an anti-vampire ritual. His skull had been severed from the spine and placed on the chest alongside his femurs to form a skull and crossbones. His body had also been dug up after burial, and his heart had been removed and, most likely, incinerated.[5]

Researchers used modern forensics to analyze the remains but also dug through old records. They found an obituary from 1826 for a young boy called Nicholas Barber which also made mention of his deceased father, a farmer named John Barber, whose initials and age estimate match the markings on the coffin. Moreover, next to the grave was another coffin with tacks spelling out “NB 13,” likely that of Nicholas.

Scientists are pretty confident that John Barber was the New England vampire, although they don’t know what he did to earn that reputation other than dying of tuberculosis.

5 Atomik Vodka

Bartenders from Bar Swift in fashionable Soho, London, made the first-ever Atomik martini. It is one of the rarest drinks on the planet because only one bottle of the vodka used to make it exists. Also called Atomik, the spirit was made using water and grain from Chernobyl.

The “artisan vodka” is the work of a team of British scientists from the University of Portsmouth. First, they grew rye grain on a farm located inside the Exclusion Zone surrounding the nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Then they harvested the crops, mixed them with water from the Chernobyl aquifer, and distilled them to make vodka.

Team leader Professor Jim Smith assures everyone that their spirit “is no more radioactive than any other vodka.”[6] Tests run at the radioanalytical laboratory at Southampton University found no signs of radioactivity.

Alongside other scientists, the team behind Atomik vodka formed the Chernobyl Spirit Company. They plan to make 500 bottles by the end of the year and use profits from their sales to help out the Ukrainian communities surrounding the Exclusion Zone.

4 Incognito Inmate Caught In Flagrante

A Brazilian drug dealer tried to escape prison by disguising himself as his visiting daughter.

Clauvino da Silva was facing a 73-year sentence in Bangu 3, a prison in Rio de Janeiro. He fled confinement once in 2013 during a mass prison escape, but this time, he tried something a bit more unusual.

Last week, his 19-year-old daughter came to visit him. Then, da Silva tried to pass himself off as her by donning a silicone mask, wig, glasses, bra, and shirt.[7] Perhaps he was hoping that the guards would not pay too much attention, and he could simply walk out of the prison while his daughter stayed behind.

Alas, authorities were not fooled. Da Silva was brought back to his cell after guards documented his bizarre escape plan. Officials are still debating whether to file charges against his daughter for aiding a criminal. Other people who visited him recently are also being questioned because one of them likely smuggled in the disguise.

Earlier this week, da Silva was found dead in his cell. It appears that he had taken his own life following the foiled prison escape.

3 Legalize It, Accidentally

It appears that Ohio lawmakers unintentionally legalized marijuana, at least for the time being.

On July 30, Governor Mike DeWine signed a new bill which legalized hemp to give farmers access to a new crop. Marijuana was still illicit, though, and the differentiation between the two was made through THC content. Anything with THC levels at or below 0.3 percent was legal hemp; anything above it was illegal marijuana.

Here is the problem, though: There is no lab in the state capable of telling the difference. Their analysis can detect the presence of THC, not the quantity. Even the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and the Columbus Police Department are ill-equipped to handle this task.

Some officials raised these concerns during debate for the bill but were dismissed. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost told prosecutors that the BCI is in early stages of developing new methods to enforce the new law but that the process “may take several months.”[8]

Until then, marijuana in Ohio is de facto legal. The BCI recommended that prosecutors stop indicting any cannabis-related charges, and the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association agreed. Meanwhile, the Columbus City Attorney’s office said that not only will it not prosecute misdemeanor cases, but it will also drop any pending pot charges.

2 Sail Like An Egyptian

There is an odd sight in Bulgaria, on the edge of Lake Varna: A team of researchers and master shipbuilders are working on a reed boat just like the ones built by the ancient Egyptians thousands of years ago. Once it is finished, they plan to sail it 3,000 kilometers (1,900 mi) across three seas to Cyprus.

The project is headed by 53-year-old German archaeologist Dominique Gorlitz. Its goal is to serve as proof of concept, showing that this was a journey that could have been undertaken by Egyptian seafarers in ancient times.[9]

Gorlitz asserted that Egyptian merchants traveled to the Caucuses and brought back iron, which was used during the building of the pyramids. He was part of a group that studied iron traces left on the giant stone blocks used to construct Khufu’s Great Pyramid of Giza.

To maintain authenticity, the reed boat is being built with the help of an expert team from Bolivia, some of the few who still employ traditional techniques to construct this ancient vessel. They plan to take it out on Lake Varna for trials soon and, later this month, set sail on the Black Sea. From there, they will have to pass through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles straits, crossing the Sea of Marmara and into the Aegean.

1 Would You Believe They Put Water Bears On The Moon?

There might be life on the Moon, although it came from Earth. The Israeli probe Beresheet, which crashed on the satellite in April, was carrying thousands of tardigrades. Experts believe not only that the tiny resilient creatures survived the impact but that they could withstand the conditions on the Moon for years to come.[10]

Tardigrades, also called water bears, have long fascinated both scientists and laymen alike for their seemingly boundless durability. Whenever they find themselves in unsuitable conditions, they shrivel up and enter a hibernating state called “tun.” This way, they can survive both freezing and scorching temperatures, huge amounts of radiation, and even the vacuum of space. They can stay this way for years and be revived afterward by simply getting dropped in water.

Scientists think it is possible that the tardigrades will stay tun until someone comes, picks them up, and brings them back to Earth, where they can be revived. Of course, there is no immediate plan for a rescue operation; it’s just something to consider down the line whenever a new mission to the Moon is scheduled.

Astrobiologist Philippe Reekie adds a caveat: Tardigrades can absolutely survive on the Moon, but only in tun state. If the critters are active, then they are quite feeble and easy to kill, so it all depends on their status when the probe impacted the Moon.

10 Animals With Cannibalistic Sex Habits

Some postcoital practices are far more dangerous than an after-sex cigarette. If you belong to an arthropod species where one partner frequently devours the other, making babies may be the last thing you ever do.

Some species of spiders, slugs, and insects regularly include a spot of cannibalism in their reproductive habits. It’s usually the males that draw the short straw when it comes to getting eaten while trying to pass on their genes. So strong is the urge to reproduce that the males of some species will even willingly sacrifice themselves for the cause.

10 Orb-Weaving Spiders

If you’re a male orb-weaving spider, your chances of surviving your first sexual encounter are poor. In fact, you have more than an 80 percent chance of being eaten by the female.

As this means that they probably have only one shot at passing on their genes, male orb-weaving spiders are fairly picky when it comes to choosing a mate. In many other species, females do the choosing.

However, like most other animals that practice sexual cannibalism, male orb weavers are more selective than the females when it comes to picking a sexual partner. They tend to go for plump, young females in the hope that they are the most fertile.[1]

9 Redback Spiders

Male redback spiders willingly sacrifice themselves to pass on their genes, and there’s a high chance of death at every stage of their mating process. Male redbacks don’t spin their own webs. Instead, they often hang around the edge of a female’s web and make sexual overtures toward her to see if she’s ready to breed.

If she hasn’t already eaten him by this stage by having mistaken him for prey, the male then goes to extreme lengths to maintain her attention while they get down to business. He stands on his head and allows her to access his abdomen by “somersaulting” it toward her mouth.

This gives him time to insert his first palp (reproductive structure) while she is busy injecting digestive juices into his abdomen to liquefy his insides. If he still has the strength, he may be able to insert his second palp before succumbing. It is thought that this unusual way of reproducing is only exhibited in redback spiders.[2]

That’s not the extent of the redback spider’s deadly tendencies. Although each egg sac contains around 300 eggs, the babies are so cannibalistic that very few will survive to adulthood.

8 Banana Slugs

The banana slug performs a postcoital ritual of self-cannibalism that would make any man’s eyes water. Like most types of slugs, these yellow mollusks are hermaphrodites. Although they are capable of fertilizing themselves, they usually choose to reproduce with a partner if potential mates are available. Banana slugs signal that they’re ready for copulation by releasing chemicals into their slime.[3]

Once they’ve found a mate, banana slugs get in the mood by consuming each other’s slimy secretions. When they’ve finished exchanging sperm, they gnaw off their own penises to disengage from their partner.

7 Octopuses

Photo credit: BBC

Although sexual cannibalism is less common in octopuses than some other species on this list, the males still take a big risk whenever they copulate with a female. Despite being generally antagonistic and antisocial toward each other, octopuses have a surprisingly intimate way of making babies. To fertilize the female’s eggs, the male must insert one of its arms inside her body.

Female octopuses sometimes strangle their mates by wrapping their arms around the males’ bodies and squeezing. Then the female drags the body back to her den to consume it. This is most likely to happen in species with long arms, such as the coconut octopus.

To minimize the risk of becoming dinner, many long-armed species mate from as far away as possible by reaching their arm into the female’s body from a distance and actually keeping her at arm’s length. Some males even do this from outside the female’s den.[4]

6 Anacondas

Female anacondas occasionally cannibalize their partners by strangling them. They have size on their side—the females are nearly five times as large as the males.

It seems that males prefer to mate with large females, although scientists were flummoxed as to how they could gauge the size of a female given their bad eyesight. It’s thought that the pheromones that attract males to a female contain information about her physical appearance.

It makes good sense for a female anaconda to eat her mate. Once she’s pregnant, she won’t eat again for the seven months of her gestation. So, getting a last-minute meal in beforehand is a good tactic to keep her going through a long pregnancy.[5]

5 Sagebrush Crickets

To avoid being completely devoured by females during mating, male sagebrush crickets offer a gift of a particularly gruesome kind. While they mate, the female feasts on the male’s back wings and drinks the juices that ooze out. Only a part of the wings is eaten during copulation, so the male may be able to mate again.

However, males that have already mated aren’t usually as attractive to females because their partially eaten wings offer a less filling meal. This means that virgin males are the first choice for a female sagebrush cricket looking for a sexual partner.[6]

4 Jumping Spider

Male jumping spiders aren’t at all picky when it comes to finding a mate. In fact, they will attempt to seduce any female they encounter with a special mating dance, even if she’s a totally different species. It’s thought that this happens because they can’t distinguish between types of spider. Scientists have even observed male jumping spiders attempting to woo dead females.

As they’re much smaller than the females they’re trying to win over, male jumping spiders are very vulnerable to being eaten by their mates. Females generally try to eat their suitors after mating, although they don’t always succeed. The male may not fare any better if he accidentally sets his sight on one of the many other species that devour males after sex.[7]

3 Black Widow

A commonly believed myth says that black widow mating always ends with the female cannibalizing the male. However, many different species fall under the black widow umbrella. Of these, most do not partake in sexual cannibalism in the wild, although it has been observed in captivity.

Of the black widow species in the United States, only one exhibits cannibalistic behavior after mating. Latrodectus mactans females, often known as the southern black widow, do sometimes polish off their partners following copulation, but the vast majority survive to mate again.[8]

2 Horned Nudibranch

Nudibranchs are part of the sea slug family. They have jelloid bodies and get their colorful hues from the prey they eat. Despite having no teeth, they are fierce predators. They feed by shooting out a proboscis-like structure to swallow their prey whole and will happily eat their own kind if necessary.[9]

Nudibranchs are hermaphrodites, and during mating, both partners usually receive sperm to fertilize their eggs. For horned nudibranchs, this can end in one animal cannibalizing the other.

1 Praying Mantis

Of all the species that cannibalize their mates, the praying mantis is probably the best known. Females sometimes consume the head or other body parts of their partners when they copulate. However, this only happens during 13–28 percent of mating sessions and is more likely if the female is especially irritated or hungry.

However, there may be an unexpected benefit to males if their partners do feel a bit peckish during mating. A study in 2016 discovered that female Chinese mantises who ate their mates went on to lay more eggs, increasing the male’s chances of passing on his genes to more offspring.[10]

10 Uplifting Stories To Get You Through The Week (8/4/19)

With the weekend comes a look at some of the happiest, most inspiring tales that took place over the past week. In addition, you can get your dose of weird by checking out the offbeat list.

We have a few stirring rescues this week. A teenager tackles a violent pit bull to save a young child, a group of bystanders rallies together just in time to catch a falling toddler, and a community bands together to save a farmer from bankruptcy.

10 Pick On Someone Your Own Size

A teenager willingly put himself in the sights of a rampaging pit bull to save a child from being mauled.

In Conroe, Texas, six-year-old Mason Lindeman was outside playing with his friends. His neighbor’s dog got loose, and it was definitely not in the mood for capers and cuddles. The dog attacked Mason, clamping its jaws down on the boy’s head.

Fortunately for Mason, 19-year-old Grant Brown was there and ready to act. He lunged at the pit bull, getting it to let go of Mason and chase him instead. He suffered cuts on his hands for his troubles, but the distraction allowed Mason to run inside.[1]

The boy was taken to the hospital and was discharged in good condition. He needed a few staples in the back of his head but otherwise walked away with a few bruises and a small scratch. Mason’s mother, Jillian Lindeman, is hailing Grant as a hero, although he sees it as just doing the right thing.

The pit bull was given to Montgomery County Animal Control and reportedly euthanized. The dog’s owner was cited.

9 Blanket Beats Gravity

Another dramatic scene unfolded in China where passersby managed to save a toddler who fell six stories.

CCTV footage showed a three-year-old boy on the outside of a balcony. He was barely hanging on and trying in vain to climb back in. A crowd of neighbors, security guards, and sanitation workers gathered below, trying to figure out a way to rescue him.

When someone brought a blanket, several people stretched it out immediately and tried to position it under the child. A few seconds later, the boy lost his grip and plummeted to the ground.

Fortunately, he landed safely right in the middle of the blanket. Even though he fell from the sixth floor, the child appeared uninjured. A neighbor took him to the hospital, but he was discharged in good health.[2]

8 The Old Coots

If you have a problem . . . if no one else can help . . . and if you can find them . . . maybe you can ask . . . the “Old Coots.”

A group of retirees from Salt Lake City started an advice booth as a way to cure their boredom. Now they have become the most popular attraction at the weekend farmer’s market. Calling themselves the “Old Coots,” the group of elderly friends has helped out 30–40 people.

There are six coots, all in their late sixties or early seventies. Retired journalist Carol Sisco is the only female “coot,” while seventh member, 58-year-old Chris Vanocur, has been described as a “coot in training.”

Normally, they got together every Saturday morning at a deli owned by one of them and chatted with each other. Eventually, this got boring, and they thought that, maybe, they should set up a booth across the street at the farmer’s market.

They hung up a banner that said, “Old Coots Giving Advice—It’s Probably Bad Advice, But It’s Free.” Again, this was mostly done to cure their boredom, but their service proved popular.

Many people came seeking advice. The “coots” realized that most of them just wanted an outside opinion from someone with nothing to gain or, better yet, a sounding board so they could talk through their issues out loud.[3]

The most common problem came from young people looking for that special someone. But there were also a few quirky ones, like a man who wanted to get rid of the ghosts in his house.

7 Dolphin Mother Adopts Whale Orphan

New research presents the first-known case of a bottlenose dolphin adopting the calf of another species and raising it as the dolphin’s own.

Back in 2014, scientists spotted a mother dolphin with her calf off the coast of French Polynesia. Nothing unusual at first, although the baby looked a bit odd. It was a male around one month old, but it had a short and blunt beak whereas the species typically has slender beaks. Eventually, researchers realized that they were looking at the calf of a melon-headed whale.[4]

The dolphin mother had adopted this orphan baby whale. Even more astonishing, she already had a calf and was raising the two youngsters simultaneously even though dolphins traditionally only care for one infant at a time. The melon-headed whale appeared to have ingratiated itself not only with its new family but also with the associated dolphin pod.

Adoption is one of those behaviors which we considered uniquely human, but it appears that other animals practice it, too. There is another well-documented case of capuchins taking in a baby marmoset.

As to how it happened, researchers believe it was a case of “right place, right time.” The orphan ran into the mother dolphin soon after she had given birth and her maternal instincts were still going strong.

6 I’ll Take Them

One mother’s act of kindness has snowballed into a large charitable action by her entire community.

One day, Carrie Jernigan took her fourth-grade daughter, Harper, to the going-out-of-business sale at her local Payless in Alma, Arkansas. All she intended to buy when she walked into the store was one pair of shoes.

However, Harper asked if she could also get a pair of Avengers shoes for her friend. Carrie was ready to comply but soon realized that neither of them knew the friend’s shoe size.

As a joke, Carrie asked the clerk how much it would cost to buy all the shoes in the store. However, the more she thought about it, the more she realized that the idea was not so ridiculous after all. She left Payless with 1,500 pairs of shoes, intending to donate them to those in need.[5]

As Carrie was figuring out the best way to distribute the footwear, more and more organizations offered to help. In the end, the city is going to have a large back-to-school event where the shoes will be given away along with health checkups, haircuts, eye exams, and other goods and services donated by local businesses and churches.

5 Neighbors Helping Larry

When a farmer’s harvest was under threat as he was sidelined with injuries, dozens of his neighbors showed up with their machines ready to work his fields.

In February, 64-year-old Larry Yockey was diagnosed with melanoma. His condition led to a broken hip and a few broken ribs that significantly reduced his mobility.

Yockey is a fourth-generation farmer who has been working the same land in Ritzville, Washington, for decades. For the first time in 50 years, it looked like he might be unable to harvest his wheat crop, which was a serious problem as it accounted for almost his entire income.[6]

His neighbors heard of his plight. Last weekend, a few dozen combine harvesters, trucks, and semis showed up on his land. Not just other farmers but mechanics and members of the fire department all chipped in to help Larry. They completed about three weeks’ worth of harvesting in eight hours.

4 Jackpot In The Attic

While scrounging through the attic of his childhood home, a man stumbled upon a cult-classic video game that fetched him a nice sum at auction.

Scott Amos from Reno, Nevada, found a copy of the 1987 Nintendo game Kid Icarus. It was untouched, still in the bag with the receipt from a J.C. Penney store where it was purchased over 30 years ago.

After talking with his family, he says that no one remembers buying the game. It was most likely intended as a Christmas gift that somehow was forgotten and ended up in the attic.[7]

Knowing that original cartridges from that era are sought out by collectors, Amos took it to an appraiser. He hoped it might be worth a few hundred dollars, but it was actually expected to fetch up to $10,000 at auction.

As it turns out, Kid Icarus is one of the rarest Nintendo games to find in sealed condition, with fewer than 10 copies in collectors’ hands. The game sold for $9,000 on Thursday. Amos plans to split the money 50-50 with his sister and take their families on a vacation to Disney World.

3 A New Weapon To Combat Microplastics

An Irish teenager won the grand prize at the 2019 Google Science Fair for his method of removing microplastics from water using ferrofluid.

At the moment, microplastics are one of the most dreaded pollutants in the world. By definition, they are smaller than 5 millimeters (0.2 in) in diameter and cannot be filtered out at water treatment plants using standard technology. The bulk of microplastics end up in the ocean, and all studies in recent years show that the contamination levels are much higher than expected.

Eighteen-year-old Fionn Ferreira devised a way of separating these microplastics using a ferrofluid mixture of oil and magnetite powder. Together, they bond to the microplastics but also react strongly in the presence of a magnetic field. They can be removed from the water using a magnet.[8]

In 1,000 tests, Ferreira found that his technique was 87 percent efficient in removing various kinds of microplastics from water. Some, such as polypropylene plastics, proved to be more resistant than others.

For his work, Ferreira received a $50,000 academic scholarship. He believes that his method can be scaled up to be used at water treatment facilities, which would prevent huge quantities of microplastics from reaching the ocean.

2 ‘Don’t Tread On Me’

A Canadian hiker used Metallica music to save herself and her dog from a cougar attack.

On Tuesday, Dee Gallant was strolling through the wilderness of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island with her pet husky, Murphy. Suddenly, she realized that they were not alone. In fact, they were being stalked by a cougar about 15 meters (50 ft) up the trail. As the wind was blowing in the opposite direction, her dog did not notice the animal until it was dangerously close.

Gallant actually knew a thing or two about cougar behavior and understood that its position and demeanor meant that it was getting ready to attack. She started waving her arms and shouting at the cat.

While this stopped the cougar in its tracks, it refused to back down. Then the hiker got the idea to whip out her phone and look through her music playlist for the loudest, angriest song she had.[9]

She settled on Metallica’s “Don’t Tread on Me.” As soon as the first few notes started blaring, the startled cougar made a run for it into the bushes. Gallant and Murphy made a safe return home.

1 A Greener Ethiopia

This week, Ethiopia set a new world record by planting over 350 million trees in less than a day.

Environmental experts say that one of the cheapest, simplest, and most efficient ways of reducing carbon emissions is to plant a lot of trees. As part of the Green Legacy Initiative started by the country’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, only 200 million trees were initially scheduled to be planted at 1,000 sites across Ethiopia.

However, enthusiasm for the program was much higher than anticipated. Millions of people participated and finished planting 150 million trees only six hours in.

According to the Ethiopian minister for innovation and technology, over 353 million seedlings were planted by the end of the day. The previous world record was set in 2016 by India with 50 million trees. This is just one step of a program intended to increase Ethiopia’s forest coverage after reaching an all-time low of 4 percent in the early 2000s, compared to 35 percent 100 years earlier.[10]

10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (8/3/19)

If you’ve had a busy week, you might have overlooked some of the stranger stories that hit the headlines. Luckily for you, this list is here to help you catch up. If you missed last week’s offbeat list, you can check it out here.

This time, we have for you a clown brawl, a zombie chicken, and an antique sex toy. There’s a blast from the past as John Dillinger’s body gets dug up, and we look toward the future with human-animal hybrids.

10 No Clowning Around

A British cruise ship had to deal with a mass brawl that was allegedly sparked by one of the guests dressing up as a clown.

The Britannia, operated by P&O Cruises, was sailing to Southampton after a week spent admiring the Nordic fjords. One evening included a black-tie event which, supposedly, took place after an afternoon-long party on deck which involved copious amounts of alcohol.

During the formal event, one passenger was said to have showed up dressed as a clown. This greatly annoyed another person who really hated costumes and had specifically booked a cruise with no dressing up.[1] This resulted in a confrontation that soon turned violent.

The matter was turned over to the Hampshire Police once the cruise disembarked. A spokeswoman said that three men and three women were assaulted and ended up with cuts and bruises. A man and a woman in their forties, both from Essex, were arrested.

The story later took a turn when both the police and the cruise line denied any reports that a clown had been onboard the ship, let alone involved in an altercation. The more straightforward cause of the fight was people drinking too much. It is unclear at the moment how the clown made it into the tale.

9 A Close Encounter

An asteroid branded a “city killer” came within a “cosmic whisker” of Earth last week, and scientists had no idea that it was on the way.

Just so everyone can relax, the rock passed close to our planet by space standards. At its nearest approach, it was still 72,000 kilometers (45,000 mi) away.[2] Still, that is about five times closer to us than the Moon.

The asteroid, dubbed 2019 OK, is roughly 60 to 130 meters (200–420 ft) across and was racing through space at a speed of 87,000 kilometers per hour (54,000 mph). If it made contact, it would have hit Earth with the force of 30 Hiroshima bombs. Astronomers didn’t know about it because it came our way from the direction of the Sun, and they could only see the rock a few days prior to it passing us.

8 Public Enemy Back From The Grave

The body of notorious Depression-era gangster John Dillinger is set to be exhumed next month from Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.[3]

Dillinger, one of America’s most famous outlaws, was gunned down by FBI agents in 1934 in front of the Biograph Theater in Chicago. He and his gang were responsible for at least ten murders and numerous violent robberies.

Now, 85 years later, a request to dig up his remains has been approved by the Indiana State Department of Health. The request came courtesy of his nephew, Michael Thompson. He claims to have evidence that suggests the body in the cemetery might not belong to John Dillinger. In fact, he believes the FBI gunned down the wrong man that fateful night in front of the Biograph Theater. An FBI spokesperson dismissed the claim, saying that there is plentiful proof of Dillinger’s identity, including three sets of fingerprints.

The exhumation will be filmed for a documentary and, afterward, Dillinger’s body will be interred in the same place as before. Thompson has until September 16 to go through with it.

7 Putting On A Prayer

People who will be visiting Rochester, Kent, during August will surely stop to see the 900-year-old Rochester Cathedral, where they will be able to enjoy a few holes of miniature golf.

For the entire month, the main central part of the church (nave) will be converted into a nine-hole course of crazy golf where each hole includes a famous British bridge alongside a panel with information about said bridge. This overpass obsession is due to the fact that the course was developed and paid for by the Rochester Bridge Trust.[4]

A spokesman said that they are hoping the initiative will bring more young people and families into the beautiful cathedral, and while they are there, they might also learn a few things about the structures of different bridges. Reverend Rachel Phillips with the Rochester Cathedral believes that the minigolf will inspire people to build or mend metaphorical bridges in their lives.

Not everyone is thrilled with this plan. Other church officials have decried the move, saying that it is “born of desperation” or that it tricks people into a “search for God.”

6 Is The Zombie Chicken Real?

A viral video people refer to as “zombie chicken” is freaking everybody out. Seemingly taking place in a restaurant, it shows a piece of raw meat start moving right off the plate and off the table while a woman is screaming in the background.

Of course, given the day and age we’re living in, one question is on everyone’s minds: Is the video real? While we can’t say with certainty, it appears possible, although with a few caveats.

The video comes from Asia and first went viral back in June on Chinese social media site Weibo. By the time it became a hit in the West, people referred to the video as “zombie chicken.” Although the meat could possibly be real, it is definitely not chicken. A few Asian media outlets identified it as skinned frog, which would make more sense.

We have seen in the past footage of extremely fresh frog meat which started twitching when it was salted because the still-active neurons reacted to the sodium ion in the salt.[5] If this new video is real, then that is likely what is happening here, although to an extreme degree. However, at least one expert has dismissed the mystery meat as being frog, so that remains a pretty big “if.”

5 A Dildo For Ireland

The Irish online community banded together and crowdfunded the purchase of an antique dildo to keep it in the country.

Back in 2017, sex shop owner Shawna Scott from Dublin found out about the auction of a Victorian-era sex toy which she considered to be an important part of Ireland’s sexual history. Described as a “ladies’ companion,” the dildo was carved out of ivory and was kept in a “scarlet lined leather upholstered carry box.”

The sex toy comes from 19th-century China. It was sent back as a gift for the wife of a man who fought in the Boxer Rebellion. Its features include a compartment to add hot water to heat it up, as well as another compartment to store a lock of a lover’s hair.

The dildo was sold two years ago to a private American collector for €3,200. Scott thought it was lost forever but recently found out that it went on sale again. She believes that, due to a ban on ivory imports, the new owner was unable to bring it into the country. This time, the price was much lower but still out of reach for Scott. She made an online plea for help, and many people donated to keep the dildo on Irish soil.

Scott purchased it for €620.[6] She plans to donate it to a museum but hasn’t decided on which one yet.

4 A Hairy Surprise

One porch pirate might have gotten a little more than they bargained for after stealing a package which contained nine live tarantulas.

Porch pirates are truly one of the banes of modern society. They prowl neighborhoods during the day when everyone is at work and look for delivered parcels that have been left on porches. In most cases, this means that no one is at home because, otherwise, they would have taken the package in. The thieves then simply walk up to the porch and steal the package.

While this might be a fast and easy thieving technique, it does have some drawbacks. For starters, the porch pirates don’t know what they are stealing. Usually, they are hoping for electronics or other valuable stuff, but they won’t find out until they open the box.

This is likely what happened in Spartanburg, South Carolina. FedEx delivered a package to a woman and left it on her porch, but when she came home, it wasn’t there. A thief probably absconded with the parcel. In one way, the criminal got their wish. The contents are worth a lot of money, valued at around $1,000.[7] However, they likely got a just-deserved scare when they discovered that they had stolen live tarantulas.

3 What Sorcery Is This?

A new optical illusion made the rounds online this week, courtesy of digital media artist Oyvind Kolas. He uses a technique which involves overlaying a colored grid onto a black-and-white photo which then tricks the brain into seeing the entire picture in color.

The illusion affects everyone differently, but the images made by Kolas appear, at first, to be fully colored to most people. Then, as they keep staring at them, the grids become more obvious, and the grayscale image underneath them begins to emerge.[8]

One expert was not surprised by the effect because it is a basic technique employed by our brains to compress visual information in order to assimilate as much of it as possible. Vision scientists refer to this color system as “low pass.” The brain only gives a cursory glance at the images and averages out the colors, thus creating the illusion. Then, if you start to examine the picture more closely, your brain starts paying attention to the details, and the illusion is broken.

Kolas has tried to achieve the same effect with other overlays such as colored dots or angled lines but says that the grid works best. He even created a 30-second video where he achieved the same illusion.

2 A Human-Mouse Hybrid

Japan has approved the first experiments into human-animal hybrids. A scientist plans to inject human cells into mouse and rat embryos which will then be transplanted into animal surrogates. The hope is that, eventually, animals will grow organs with human cells that could be used for transplants.

The work is being headed by Hiromitsu Nakauchi, who holds positions at the University of Tokyo and Stanford University in California. First, he will remove genes from embryos which are necessary to produce a certain organ. Afterward, those embryos will be injected with human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which can be reprogrammed to turn into almost any other kind of cell.[9] Then, during natural development, the animal should use the human iPS cells to make the specified organ.

Obviously, this kind of work comes with a host of ethical issues. In fact, the practice was banned in Japan until a recent overturn in March. Previously, animal embryos with human cells could not be grown beyond 14 days or be transplanted into surrogates. Work on similar embryos had also been carried out in the United States, although none of them had ever been brought to term.

Nakauchi does plan to carry embryos to term, but not for some time. He wants to progress slowly to ease concerns of bioethicists that the addition of human stem cells could affect the development of the brain and affect its cognition. Nakauchi’s ultimate goal is to create transplantable organs for humans, although, obviously, those won’t be grown in mice. If results prove successful, he will seek government approval to start work on human-pig hybrids.

1 How To Bankrupt The Tooth Fairy

A young boy in India went to the hospital with a swelling in his jaw. Doctors removed a mass which contained over 500 teeth at different stages of development.

Doctors believe this is a record for most teeth in a single individual. Following an X-ray, they diagnosed the seven-year-old with a benign tumor called a “compound composite odontoma.” He was scheduled for surgery at the Saveetha Dental College and Hospital in Chennai, India.

During the operation, doctors found and removed a “bag-like mass” from the molar region which weighed around 0.2 kilograms (0.5 lb). Inside were 526 tooth-like structures which surgeons likened to “pearls in an oyster.” They ranged in size from 0.1 to 3 millimeters.[10] They all had a crown, enamel, and a small root.

The boy was not in too much pain, only suffering some slight swelling and occasional toothaches. He was discharged in good health after three days.

10 Cases Of Bioluminescence Used For Defense And Deception

Bioluminescence (light produced by biological organisms) can be entrancing. The soft glow of fireflies at night is a common sight in places around the world, but not all cases of bioluminescence are so peaceful.

Although the firefly uses its glow for communication and finding sexual partners, bioluminescence isn’t always an invitation. Sometimes, it is used as a diversion or as camouflage.

The natural world is a fierce place, and any advantage can mean the difference between life and death. These 10 examples of biological light are used by animals as a way to defend and deceive.

10 The Glowing Squirts Of The Pocket Shark

In a happy accident in 2010, researchers in the Gulf of Mexico were collecting samples for a study of sperm whale feeding and happened to capture a specimen of an entirely new species of pocket shark. These sharks are only 14 centimeters (5.5 in) long.

This one wasn’t recognized as a pocket shark until 2013 when the specimens collected were further examined. It’s an understandable mistake as the only other known type of pocket shark makes its home in the Pacific Ocean and not the Gulf of Mexico.

Out of the 500 or so species of sharks in the world, this newly discovered one has an unusual talent. Tucked next to each of its two front fins is a pouch filled with bioluminescent liquid. This glowing concoction can be released at will, creating small clouds of glowing . . . squirt.[1]

The pocket shark uses these glow-in-the-dark clouds as bait for prey attracted to the light—like moths to a flame. Easily gathered prey ripe for the picking.

9 The Anglerfish’s Glowing Fishing Pole

The anglerfish (of which there are some 200 species) lives deep in the inhospitable oceans—so deep that sunlight cannot filter through the murk. But that’s all right because the anglerfish brings its own light.

Female anglerfish have a section of dorsal spine that sticks out from their foreheads like a fishing pole. On its tip is a glowing orb. As with other fishers, this pole has bait. The light attracts prey, and when they get in range, the anglerfish attacks with its massive crescent-shaped mouth filled with skinny, translucent teeth.

The anglerfish’s body is so pliable that it can consume prey up to twice as large as its own body. This is a feat because the largest anglerfish can grow more than 1 meter (3 ft) long.[2]

8 The Hawaiian Bobtail Squid’s Million Army Invisibility

During the day, this bobtail squid hides in the sands off the coast of Hawaii. But at night, it must leave this safety to hunt while avoiding being eaten itself. It does this by means of some enlisted help.

In the Hawaiian bobtail squid’s mantle is an organ specially designed to harbor a culture of bacteria. But this is no infection. In fact, the Hawaiian bobtail squid invited these microorganisms less than a day after it was born by using a special mucus to attract the bacteria to its body.

The bacteria produce just enough light to perfectly match the illumination of the Moon in the ocean waters. This allows the Hawaiian bobtail squid to blend seamlessly into its surroundings and remain safely hidden from predators while on the hunt itself. All because of millions of small guests. Meanwhile, the bacteria benefit from the sugars and amino acids provided by the squid.[3]

7 The Red Searchlight Of The Black Dragonfish

Most bioluminescence in the ocean is a blue color. Perhaps it’s no coincidence because those colors are easily visible to most ocean-dwelling creatures and shine far through the water. In contrast, red light is quickly absorbed by the ocean. Also, most animals are not equipped to perceive colors like red or yellow.

One notable exception is the black dragonfish. It produces a short wavelength color, like blue, and then filters it through a fluorescent pigment while still inside its body. This lengthens the light and turns it red before it is emitted into the ocean. But why bother when red light doesn’t travel far?[4]

This dragonfish is special because it can produce red light as well as see it. Very few marine creatures can. This gives it a huge advantage when hunting for food. Its red spotlight allows it to see prey while the prey remains blissfully blind and ignorant. The black dragonfish produces light that only it can see, giving it a huge strategic advantage in ocean combat.

6 The Deadly Shine Of The Bioluminescent Octopus

With tentacles reaching 36 centimeters (14 in) from its body, the Stauroteuthis syrtensis, or bioluminescent octopus, is a beautiful sight for two immediately apparent reasons. The first is a webbing that connects its tentacles, giving it an imposing umbrellalike shape. The second noteworthy feature is that its suction cups are modified to emit a powerful twinkling blue-green light.

The purpose of this light is hard to determine because this octopus lives at depths up to 4,000 meters (13,100 ft) below the ocean’s surface. However, its diet primary consists of small planktonic crustaceans which have well-developed and sensitive eyes that are attracted to light sources.[5]

This bioluminescent octopus likely dazzles the crustaceans with both sustained and pulsing lights. Once they’re close enough, it uses a mucous web to entrap the crustaceans and usher them to their fate.

5 The Cookiecutter Shark’s ‘Broken’ Camouflage

The cookiecutter shark employs a tactic similar to that of the Hawaiian bobtail squid, which uses light to vanish from predators by matching the light from above. Using photophores that are mostly on its stomach, the cookiecutter shark practices a method of counterillumination that hides its body from predators that would otherwise easily see and eat it.

The photophores mask the cookiecutter’s entire body—with one notable exception. Around its neck is a “collar” that has no photophores, creating a gap of counterillumination. Most of its body is concealed, except for this small portion of neck which is clearly visible.

This may seem like a design flaw because surely the most effective camouflage would be complete. But that gap in the shark’s camouflage turns its defensive ability into an offensive one.

As only a small section is left visible, it acts as a lure for would-be predators that believe they’re attacking a much smaller fish. However, these opportunists are not equipped to deal with the much larger reality.

When they attempt to eat the exposed neck, they are faced with the cookiecutter’s powerful suction and razor teeth. After the shark latches onto the would-be attacker, the cookiecutter spins its body wildly, scooping a section of flesh from its unsuspecting victim.[6]

4 The Green Bombs Of The Swima Worms

Photo credit: BBC

On the seabed off the West Coast of the United States lives a genus of sea worms named Swima that are designed like a long rowboat. They have rows of fan-shaped bristles that they use as paddles to maneuver in the ocean depths.

These bristles give them their distinctive design, but their truly outstanding feature is found in a small cluster near their heads. Small green-colored gills give the Swima their nickname: “The Green Bombers.”

When the worm is attacked or disturbed, it detaches one of these green “bombs” and deploys it as a distraction. Once detached, the gill begins glowing an intense green to divert attention from the worm itself. Meanwhile, the Swima uses the opportunity to swim away from danger. All told, each worm comes equipped with about eight of these bombs at any given time.[7]

3 The Squid Willing To Make Sacrifices

The Octopoteuthis deletron is a squid in the cold Pacific depths that takes the tactic favored by the green bomber to the extreme. To ward off its many predators, this squid is willing to make grave sacrifices for survival.

If put in a life-threatening situation, it latches onto its attacker with its limbs and then severs those limbs. While the squid attempts to flee, its sacrificed tentacles flail about and emit light, all in an attempt to distract the attacker long enough for the squid to get away.[8]

It’s a dangerous gamble because regrowing limbs costs energy, which will be harder to come by when swimming and feeding with missing appendages. But as cephalopod researcher Stephanie Bush said, “The cost is less than being dead.”

2 The Milky Glow Of The Hitchhiker Bacteria

In 1995, the SS Lima, a British merchant vessel, encountered an expanse of the ocean that glowed a milky white color. For six hours, the vessel sailed through what the captain described as an expanse much like snow or clouds.

This stretch of glowing ocean may have felt like something out of a fairy tale, but it was actually the result of an enormous colony of bioluminescent bacteria. These glowing bacteria float freely in the ocean, though not usually in such large groups as the Lima encountered.

But glowing takes energy, and no life-form wants to waste its strength needlessly. As it turns out, the emission of light is an invitation. Most creatures on this list use their bioluminescence to avoid being eaten, but these ocean bacteria use it for the opposite.

The glow is an invitation to fish and squid to chow down on the bacteria. After all, a fish’s stomach is full of nutrients and the fish can carry the bacteria much farther than they could float alone.[9]

1 The Fire-Spitting Shrimp

Acanthephyra purpurea is a species of shrimp that is not bioluminescent at all. In fact, it appears to be like an average shrimp. If you caught it on a calm day, it would have nothing to attract your attention. It has no photophores and no illumination from its body at all.

What it does have is a biological way to produce and store a chemical compound called luciferin. In the event of an attack, this shrimp spews out the luciferin in what would appear to be vomit to the layman.[10]

When the chemical compound comes into contact with the ocean water’s oxygen, it creates a chemical reaction that glows. This luminous display looks almost like a blue fire. It should give the shrimp the distraction it needs to make a hasty retreat and live to spit fire another day.

10 Disgusting Facts About Cockroaches

The cockroach is one annoying and troublesome insect that we humans still aren’t used to—and probably never will be. This is even though roaches have adapted to hanging around us since forever and seem to be enjoying the relationship.

There are lots of interesting and disgusting facts about roaches that many of us do not know. For example, they are superbugs that can survive for weeks with vital body parts missing, they love our ears, and they can bite us when we stop leaving food for them.

10 They Can Live Without Their Heads For Weeks

Cockroaches are tough survivors, and getting rid of them is ridiculously difficult. Cutting off a roach’s head does not even count as a death sentence because the pest can survive for weeks without it. The roach only dies later because it doesn’t have a mouth with which to eat or drink.

Cockroaches can live without their heads because they do not use their heads the same way we do. We humans die soon after decapitation because our bodies lose lots of blood and blood pressure. Cockroaches do not have much blood or blood pressure to begin with. So their necks just clot, and they continue roaming around as if nothing happened.

Even if we humans managed to find a way around the massive loss of blood and blood pressure, we would still be finished because the nerves in our bodies need to be connected to our brains to survive. We also need our noses and mouths to breathe.

The bodies of roaches work independently of their tiny brains. They also breathe through small holes on their bodies. All these features allow cockroaches to live for weeks without their heads. They only succumb to hunger and thirst because they have not figured out a way to eat and drink with their skin.[1]

Interestingly, the head of a cockroach remains alive for hours after decapitation as evidenced by its moving antennae. In fact, the head can remain alive for longer if it is refrigerated and given enough nutrients.

9 They Hate Humans Touching Them

According to one common cockroach fact that has been appearing on the Internet, these creatures hate it when humans touch them—so much that they often flee to start cleaning themselves of that disgusting human contact. But it’s not what you think. Cockroaches hate humans or anything else touching them because that simple contact can be dangerous for their existence.

To be clear, cockroaches hate being around humans as much as humans hate being around these disgusting insects. Cockroaches naturally flee from larger creatures—human or not—because they know that any contact with the larger creature will often lead to death.

In fact, contact with almost any organism could leave some residue on the roach that could be detrimental to its survival. In the case of humans, it is the natural oils that we unwittingly leave on anything we touch. That oil could also disrupt how the cockroach’s body works.

Most affected are the antennae. They may seem unremarkable to us, but they are crucial for a cockroach’s survival. They work as the creature’s nose and are required for smelling food and finding potential mates. Those oils will reduce the pest’s ability to smell, which is bad for the roach.[2]

8 They Are Attracted To Our Ears

You might have read about cockroaches getting stuck in people’s ears or even crawling past their ears to reach their skulls. In severe instances, the rogue roach could lay eggs inside the host’s head or could even die there.

It turns out that those stories do not pop up as often as they should. Cockroaches should end up in our ears more often than they already do.

As previously mentioned, cockroaches will often avoid humans. However, they love moving around in the dark, which is also when humans sleep. And it seems like they are not particularly concerned about paying regular visits to the sides of a sleeping human.

The wax in our ears secretes volatile fatty acids—a kind of chemical that is also given off by foods like bread and cheese. Volatile fatty acids attract roaches to their source. If that is our ear, the roach quickly realizes that the human ear is tight, stuffy, and warm, which is how they love their homes.

And what sort of creature rejects a free home with free food?

Unfortunately, this quickly becomes a problem for the cockroach and the sleeping human. Movements in the tight ear could cause the sleeping human to subconsciously scratch his ear. This pushes the roach deeper into the ear or even kills it if enough pressure is applied. Either situation is bad for the ear and its owner.

A living roach may end up deep inside the ear or even inside the skull. The spines on the roach’s legs could damage the inner ear, causing an infection or even hearing loss if the eardrum is affected.[3]

A dead roach is also a problem, and a squashed roach is an even bigger worry. The insides of cockroaches contain deadly bacteria that could cause some nasty health problems.

7 They Can Bite Humans

Cockroaches are omnivores because they eat both plants and animals. They actually eat anything, even if it is a living human. Yes! Roaches can bite humans. (A quick confession: I have been bitten once. The sting-like bite was so painful that it woke me from sleep.)

To be clear, cockroaches do not always seek humans to bite. They usually prefer other sources of food. They will not bite when attacked by a human, either. Instead, they usually try to run.

However, they may start to bite humans and even pets when there are so many other roaches around that there is not enough food for everyone. But even in this situation, they will still try to avoid chomping on humans. Most bites happen when the roach finds small food particles hanging off the body of a sleeping human.

These grubs are usually found around the fingers, hands, and legs—the areas where most bites happen. The bites can be painful and have been compared to getting zapped by a giant roach-sized mosquito. Treatment is usually advised after a bite because the roach could introduce bacteria into the body.[4]

6 They Used To Like Sugar But Now Hate It

Cockroaches love sugar. They will give you a thumbs up if you leave candy, cakes, fruits, and juice with high sugar content lying uncovered around your home. Leave raw sugar lying around, and they will love you forever.

Pest control businesses discovered this in the 1980s. They observed that sprinkling sugar in a location would leave roaches milling around in no time. The businesses used that to their advantage and started to bait roaches with glucose laced with insecticide. The meal killed the roaches when they returned to their homes.

Other roaches often ate the remains of the dead, which is not surprising because these creatures will eat almost anything. The scavenging roaches also died as the bodies of the dead roaches still contained the poison. This went on for some time until cockroaches learned that sugar was killing them.[5]

Cockroaches later began to resist this sugar. Their senses quickly adjusted to detect sweet sugar as bitter. Many pest control businesses discovered that, too, and replaced the glucose with fructose, a different sugar. The roaches quickly caught on and started avoiding fructose as well.

Scientists traced this surprising switch to millions of years ago when roaches first developed the ability to detect sweet but poisonous parts of certain plants they ate as bitter. That skill was genetically suppressed when they started to live around humans and only returned when humans started to poison their food.

5 Termites Are Cockroaches

Termites and cockroaches belong to the same order, Blattodea. So termites are technically cockroaches. Interestingly, termites were not considered cockroaches until 2018. Before then, termites belonged to the order Isoptera.

Studies into the similarities between both creatures began in 1934 when researchers observed that their guts contained similar microbes. A research paper published in 2007 finally confirmed that they were relatives and recommended that the taxonomic rank be adjusted to put them under the same family.

Actually, the paper suggested that the orders Blattodea (for cockroaches) and Isoptera (for termites) should be considered subfamilies under a new family called Termitidae.

Several scientists with the Entomological Society of America (ESA) refused this suggestion at the time because they did not want termites to be considered cockroaches. Besides, another Termitidae family already existed in the taxonomic rank and could cause confusion with the new suggested Termitidae family.

The ESA later backtracked and agreed to categorize termites as cockroaches after putting it to a vote in 2018. ESA reclassified the termite order Isoptera as a suborder and placed it under the cockroach Blattodea order instead of creating a new family as the 2007 paper suggested.

That does not mean you should call termites “cockroaches,” though. Termites should be called “termites” and cockroaches, “cockroaches.” Remember that saying about knowing a tomato is a fruit but not putting it in a fruit salad? A similar idea applies here, too. “Knowledge is knowing that a termite is a cockroach. Wisdom is not calling it a cockroach.”[6]

4 They Can Change Gears When Running

Anyone who has ever tried to kill a roach has realized that they are very fast for their size. Well, it seems like we should not be surprised because some cockroaches can change their speeds.

Scientists have likened this to how horses go from trotting to galloping or how cars change gears to increase their speeds. Cockroaches do not change gears like motorcars because their scientists have not invented roachmobiles yet. Instead, they shift gears by changing the position of their legs as they run.

To be clear, scientists had only observed this in the 2017 study in the Nauphoeta cinerea cockroach. Like most other roaches, it flees when it detects a bigger creature around. The roach runs with its middle leg on one side of the body and the front and hind legs on the other side of the body touching the ground at the same moment. This is called the alternating tripodal gait.

However, the alternating tripodal gait is not fast enough, uses lots of energy, and makes the fleeing roach unbalanced. So the roach starts to use the metachronal gait pattern, which does not have these problems. This time, all legs on one side are lifted off the ground—from the front legs to the middle and the hind legs. They touch the ground in that same order.[7]

3 Their Brains Could Be Used To Make Lifesaving Drugs

Here is a disgusting fact that could change medicine forever. Scientists are working on creating drugs that could cure E. coli and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)—two deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria—using chemicals extracted from the brains of cockroaches.

Researchers discovered that tissues from the brains of cockroaches killed these bacteria when they started to investigate how some locusts thrived in filthy environments in the Middle East. Cockroaches got involved when researchers decided to find out how these creatures survived in sewage and drainage areas without dying of the terrible bacteria that thrive there.

The researchers discovered that the nerves of locusts and the brains of cockroaches and locusts contained chemicals that killed these dangerous bacteria. Researchers have not confirmed the exact chemicals that do the work. They are still trying to uncover the answer and hope to use it to develop antibacterial drugs in the future.[8]

2 They Can Make Group Decisions

Cockroaches are smarter than we think. They can even make decisions in groups, just like many other insects and animals.

Several years back, Dr. Jose Halloy of the Free University of Brussels, Belgium, conducted a study to observe how roaches think. He put several of them inside a dish with three homes and waited to see how they would divide themselves.

Dr. Halloy observed that the roaches first came together, touching each other with their antennae. After some time, they divided themselves into the homes equally. For example, 50 roaches split into two groups of 25 each when they were given three homes with a capacity for 40 roaches each.

One group lived in the first home, and the other group lived in the second. The third home was abandoned. All 50 roaches also opted to live in a single home when they were given three homes that could accommodate over 50 roaches each.[9]

1 The Ecosystem Would Be Destroyed If They Go Extinct

Cockroaches might be hated, but they are crucial for a balanced ecosystem. Our ecosystem would suffer a serious disruption if they ever go extinct.

First, the extinction of roaches would have a direct effect on the populations of the many species of birds, rats, and mice that consider cockroaches as a source of food. These other animals would not die off completely because they usually feed on other organisms and sometimes plants, too. But their numbers would plummet.

In turn, the diminished populations of these animals would reduce the number of cats, wolves, coyotes, eagles, reptiles, and several other creatures that consider birds, rats, and mice as food. And it goes on like that. The hardest hit would be some species of wasps that depend on cockroaches to maintain their life cycles. These wasps would go extinct because cockroaches did.

The forests would also suffer if cockroaches go extinct because these pests feed on decaying matter, which often contains lots of nitrogen. The cockroaches eat this nitrogen with the decaying matter and then excrete it. Their nitrogen-rich poop is later absorbed by the soil, which uses it to support the growth of plants.[10]

A lack of roaches will deprive the dirt of nitrogen. This means that the soil will be unable to support the growth of enough plants, which will affect the populations of creatures that feed on these plants and the predators of those creatures. This continues until it reaches the top of the food chain. So, folks, we just have to tolerate roaches.

10 Diseases That Affected Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs continue to fascinate us. Every now and then, we discover a fossil that reveals some new facts about their lives—for example, their diets, injuries, or habitats. However, some fossils also reveal evidence of diseases that affected dinosaurs. Yes, these animals had their own illnesses, too, just like every other living creature out there.

The diseases ravaged the dinosaur population and even killed a good number of them. Many of these illnesses are still around today, and some even affect humans, which sort of makes the whole thing more interesting. We also included some early reptiles that lived around the time of the dinosaurs.

10 Dandruff

A 125-million-year-old dinosaur is the oldest creature known to have suffered from dandruff. That dinosaur is the microraptor, a small carnivore that was the size of a modern crow. Scientists have also found evidence of dandruff in two more dinosaurs, the beipiaosaurus and the sinornithosaurus. Both were about two times larger than the microraptor.

The researchers discovered evidence of dandruff by chance while studying how dinosaurs shed their feathers. They found that some parts of the feathers of the fossils contained corneocytes. This was a big deal because corneocytes are also formed when dandruff appears on human skin.

The researchers did not call it dandruff because corneocytes and dandruff were believed to only form on skin and not feathers. The researchers also found that dinosaurs shed their feathers in small bits—just like modern birds—and not in larger pieces as they would have expected for their size.[1]

9 Cancer

Dinosaurs had their fair share of cancer, too. This was revealed by a study led by Bruce Rothschild of Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown, Ohio. Rothschild and his team made the discovery after scanning 10,000 dinosaur fossils stored in several museums across North America with an X-ray machine.

The researchers found that 29 of the 97 tested hadrosaur bones contained cancerous tumors. To be clear, not all tumors are cancerous. These were considered cancerous because they closely resembled tumors found in human cancer patients.

Researchers do not know why the hadrosaur often ended up with cancer. However, they think it was because of the conifers eaten by these animals. The conifer is a plant with needlelike leaves that is known to contain cancer-causing chemicals.[2]

8 Malaria

Malaria has been killing living organisms since the time of the dinosaurs. In fact, some researchers like George Poinar Jr., an entomologist (a scientist who studies insects) from Oregon State University, even think it killed dinosaurs.

Interestingly, this version of malaria was transmitted by flying insects that were probably not mosquitoes. Researchers know a now-extinct midge, a small flying insect that lives in riverine areas, did transmit this earlier version of malaria 140 million years ago. However, they also suspect that sand and horseflies also transmitted malaria.

These flying insects would have bitten the dinosaurs, which they probably considered a major source of blood, the way the female Anopheles mosquito considers humans its primary source of blood today. The flies infected the dinosaurs with an extinct version of malaria called Paleohaemoproteus burmacis.

While the malaria definitely made the dinosaurs sick, Poinar does not think it could have made the dinosaurs go extinct.[3]

7 Cataracts

There is no hardcore evidence that dinosaurs had cataracts. However, the theory was suggested by L.R. Croft in his book, The Last Dinosaurs. In fact, he says the widespread formation of cataracts made dinosaurs go extinct.

Croft claimed that these creatures started suffering from cataracts when excessive heat and dangerous ultraviolet radiation from the Sun caused global warming. The dangerous radiation also caused dinosaurs to develop cataracts, which later led to blindness. So many dinosaurs went blind that they soon went extinct after becoming unable to fend for themselves.

Croft argued that mammals and reptiles did not go extinct because they cleverly avoided the Sun and switched to hunting in the dark. However, the dinosaurs continued roaming during the day.

However, a lot of people do not think that dinosaurs went extinct after developing cataracts. Natural selection would have made the dinosaurs develop some form of protection against the dangerous radiation. Besides, the whole theory seems weird.

But that is what you get when you ask an ophthalmologist like L.R. Croft why dinosaurs went extinct.[4]

6 Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis that affects humans today. It sets in when the slippery cartilage at the ends of bones wears out, causing the harsh bone joints to come into direct contact with each other. This causes friction between the ends of the bones, which soon wear out. Pain sets in at this point.

Researchers have discovered that the Caudipteryx, a small flying dinosaur that was just as big as the modern peacock, suffered from this condition, too. In fact, the dinosaur, which lived 130 million years ago, is the oldest creature known to have suffered from osteoarthritis.

Researchers made the discovery while studying the ankle bones of several birds and flying dinosaurs held in Chinese museums. They discovered that 3 of the 10 fossils of the Caudipteryx had the condition. However, researchers do not know why the dinosaur was susceptible to the condition. Interestingly, many small modern birds also suffer from osteoarthritis.[5]

5 Osteomyelitis

In 1997, researchers exhumed the remains of a Lufengosaurus huenei that lived 170–200 million years ago. They observed that the ribs of the dinosaur were somewhat abnormal. Several parts were missing, indicating that it had suffered some injuries before its death. However, the researchers did not really deliberate on the cause of the injuries and just kept it in storage.

Two decades later, researchers restudied the fossil and determined that the rib injuries were caused when the dinosaur was attacked by a larger predator that was trying to eat it. The team could not confirm the identity of the predator. However, it would have been huge considering that the Lufengosaurus huenei was also enormous. It reached 6 meters (20 ft) in length and weighed almost two tons.

The Lufengosaurus huenei got away from the predator but with a terrible rib injury that soon got infected with some deadly bacteria. The bacteria caused pus to form inside the rib bones, resulting in a deadly bone disease called osteomyelitis.

In humans, osteomyelitis is caused by Staphylococcus aureus. However, the researchers did not confirm whether the bacteria also caused the bone disease in dinosaurs. Nevertheless, the disease could have caused severe fever, fatigue, and nausea in the dinosaur, subsequently leading to its death. Some of the bacteria could have escaped into the brain, making the animal’s demise swifter.[6]

Curiously, the dinosaur could have still had the condition even if it was not bitten. The bacteria could enter its body some other way and travel into its rib bones through its blood.

4 Septic Arthritis

The hadrosaur, a herbivorous duck-billed dinosaur, seemed to be one unfortunate creature that suffered from a myriad of diseases. Besides cancer, it also suffered from septic arthritis, a severe condition that could have caused pain in its joints.

Unlike the osteoarthritis we mentioned earlier, septic arthritis is caused when germs travel through the blood to reach the joints. Septic arthritis can also be directly introduced into the joints during injury. In either case, it causes severe pain in the joints, sometimes immobilizing them.

Researchers discovered evidence of septic arthritis in dinosaurs while analyzing the elbow fossil of a hadrosaur. They found three unusual growths at the joints which were caused by septic arthritis. Scientists could not confirm how the hadrosaur ended up with the disease. However, they believe that it was so painful that the animal had difficulty walking.[7]

3 Intestinal Worms

Dinosaurs suffered from several parasitic worms, including tapeworms and trematodes. Researchers do not know how long these tapeworms became, but they think they could have reached 30 meters (100 ft), which is actually small when talking about dinosaurs. Tapeworms reach over 24 meters (80 ft) in humans.

It is almost impossible to find evidence of parasitic worms in dinosaur bone and skin fossils because the worms probably died and decayed after the demise of the dinosaur. However, we can determine the kinds of worms that lived in dinosaurs by analyzing the coprolites (poop fossils) of the dinosaurs. Coprolites sometimes contain worm eggs or cyst samples.

This was how researchers George Poinar and Arthur Boucot discovered the first evidence of dinosaur worms in 2006. The poop belonged to an unidentified carnivorous dinosaur that lived somewhere in modern Belgium. The researchers found evidence of trematode and nematode worms along with a protozoa suspected to be Entamoeba.[8]

2 Tooth Decay

The Labidosaurus hamatus (aka the lipped lizard) is one extinct creature we have probably never heard of. It was a 1-meter-long (3 ft) reptile that lived around the time the dinosaurs roamed the Earth. However, it is popular for other reasons. It is the earliest creature known to have suffered from toothache and decay.

We discovered this a few years ago when Robert Reisz of the University of Toronto Mississauga led a team of researchers to scan the lower jaw of a fossilized Labidosaurus hamatus. They discovered that the creature had suffered from severe tooth decay that caused it to lose a good number of teeth.

Researchers do not know how the jaw got infected even though they think it had to do with the animal’s diet. The Labidosaurus hamatus was an omnivore. However, its main diet consisted of plants. Herbivores and omnivores with a predominantly vegetarian diet often have teeth specialized for chewing.

This was a major disadvantage for the Labidosaurus hamatus. Excessive chewing wore down its enamel, leaving the nerves inside the teeth exposed. The nerves got infected with bacteria, causing the damaged tooth to develop an abscess. This caused a painful toothache and, consequently, tooth decay.[9]

1 Tuberculosis And Pneumonia

Pneumonia and tuberculosis predate even dinosaurs. The earliest evidence of the lung diseases was found in the Proneusticosasiacus, a marine reptile that lived over 245 million years ago.

Researchers made the discovery after performing an X-ray analysis of a Proneusticosasiacus fossil. They discovered that some of its ribs were abnormal. Injury, cancer, fungi, and scurvy were initially suspected until the team narrowed it down to pneumonia and Pott’s disease, a lethal form of tuberculosis that often affects the bones.

The researchers discovered that the reptile had suffered from the infection for months or even years until it died. However, other scientists say that the fossil really belonged to a Cymatosaurus, a marine reptile that is closely related to the Proneusticosasiacus.[10]

The Proneusticosasiacus and Cymatosaurus are closely related to another reptile called the nothosaur. This creature lived and bred on land but hunted in water, just like the seals of today. Interestingly, modern seals are the likeliest marine mammals to end up with tuberculosis.

10 Unusual Studies And Stories About Dogs

There is a world of weird hiding inside your Maltese—or any other dog for that matter. In recent years, scientists have uncovered the strange things that dogs use.

Besides having special muscles to manipulate people, they tap into the planet’s magnetic field to poop. Then there are the dogs that track killer whales, shoot hunters, and return from extinction as the most primitive canines on Earth.

10 The Dog That Shot A Hunter

In 2019, ex-LSU player Matt Branch and his friends went duck hunting. They took along a Labrador named Tito. The former lineman for Louisiana State University left a loaded shotgun in the back of his pickup. The safety was on, rendering the firearm safe.

The group moved a few yards away to prepare for the start of their hunting trip near Eagle Lake in Mississippi. Tito the dog decided to jump onto the bed of the truck. In doing so, he managed to step on the 12-gauge shotgun’s safety and pull the trigger.[1]

The blast went through the side of the truck and hit the 29-year-old Branch in the left thigh. He underwent several surgeries, but the damage was too severe. Doctors eventually had to amputate his leg.

9 The Oil Rig Rescue

In 2019, oil rig workers were stunned to find a dog in the water. Their workspace, a Chevron oil rig, was 220 kilometers (135 mi) from the coast of Thailand. The lost creature managed to paddle toward the rig where it desperately clung to the bottom. The crew fashioned a loop and fished for 15 minutes before they got it around the animal’s neck and hauled him to safety.

Some spoiling was in order. The dog was dried, fed water and meat, and given a flower garland to wear. The crew also gave him a kennel and the name “Boonrod.” In Thailand, the term is used for survivors with good karma.

Once Boonrod returned to land, veterinarians declared that he was in good health and homed him with an animal rescue group. One of the oil rig workers, Vitisak Payalaw, said that he would adopt Boonrod if nobody offered him a permanent home. It remains unclear how the dog ended up miles from land, but he probably fell off a fishing vessel.[2]

8 Dog Owners With Broken Hearts

In 2016, Joanie Simpson from Texas went through a rough patch. The 62-year-old’s son faced surgery, her daughter’s husband had lost his job, and a property deal was turning hairy. Worst of all, her beloved Yorkshire terrier had congestive heart failure. Joanie doted on the Yorkie, but her pet’s health failed so much that a euthanasia date was arranged.

When the day arrived, Meha the dog seemed fine and Joanie canceled the appointment. The Yorkie died naturally the next day but in a terrible manner witnessed by her owner.

One morning, Joanie woke with all the symptoms of a heart attack. She was airlifted to a hospital in Houston where emergency personnel were preparing for her arrival. However, it turned out that Joanie never had a heart attack. Instead, she experienced a real medical condition called “broken heart syndrome.”

The sometimes-fatal condition mimics heart attacks and can be triggered by emotions like grieving. Since dog owners often mourn their pets intensely, it should come as no surprise that Joanie’s was not the first recorded case where somebody developed the dangerous condition after a dog’s death.[3]

7 Loving Dogs Could Be Genetic

In 2019, researchers wondered if a fondness for dogs was genetic. Sweden was the perfect place to find out. The country holds the largest twin registry and requires all dogs to be registered with the Swedish Board of Agriculture. Twin studies allow scientists to compare genetic, behavioral, and environmental data among people who share 50–100 percent of their DNA.

The 2019 study was thorough, combing through the data of 85,542 adult twins. Next, the team riffled through 15 years’ worth of dog ownership records. Only 8,503 people owned a canine pet. Remarkably, computer models found that genetics and environmental factors could equally predict those more likely to adopt a pooch.[4]

While the exact genes remain unidentified, the dog-loving DNA patterns were slightly higher in women. The study added an interesting layer to previous research into the health benefits of dog ownership. It suggested that health perks such as better fitness and mood could be partially explained by genetics.

6 Robotic Mail Dogs

Boston Dynamics is a Google-owned firm that specializes in technology. One of their fields is robotics. In recent years, the company revealed plans to use robot dogs to deliver packages to clients. Unimaginatively called “Spot,” one machine indeed resembled a dog. It walked on four legs, traveled upstairs, and was nimble enough to resist a shove.

The company was unclear about combating the theft or abuse of the metallic mutt once it meandered off to deliver somebody’s mail. Spot had a smaller sibling named “SpotMini” which looked like a dog-giraffe hybrid. This smart creature mapped the world around it, which allowed SpotMini to skirt around obstacles.

Boston Dynamics also tested the two canines as workers at factory production lines. In retrospect, this might be a safer option for the robots.[5]

5 A Surprising Neolithic Dog

In 1901, researchers investigated a Neolithic tomb. The burial was located in Scotland’s Orkney Islands at Cuween Hill. Around 24 dog skulls were discovered inside. A later study found that the animals were interred around 4,500 years ago when the tomb was already 500 years old.

As unusual as that seemed, the real surprise came in 2019 when one skull was reconstructed. Scientists wanted to know what Scotland’s dogs looked like during the Neolithic period. After a 3-D scan measured the skull’s particulars, the details were used to craft a “real” head using forensic techniques.[6]

The result was a wolflike creature. As the dog was domesticated, its resemblance to the European gray wolf was unexpected. The animal, which was about the size of a collie, also lacked the high forehead of modern dogs. Besides providing a curious glimpse at ancient Scottish dogs, the skull also showed their importance in ritual burials.

4 Rarest Dog Rediscovered

For decades, nobody saw the New Guinea highland wild dog. General opinion declared the canines extinct. Nevertheless, two unhelpful photographs taken in 2005 and 2012, respectively, suggested that the dogs might still be alive.

Then, in 2016, a doglike footprint surfaced in the New Guinea highlands. Trail cameras were rigged all over the place, and within two days, the devices took 140 images of at least 15 different wild dogs.

Even better, the researchers encountered the animals face-to-face. Males, females, and playful pups proved that there was a viable population. Most had golden coats, upright ears, and tails curling toward their backs.

The DNA samples returned interesting snippets. The wild dogs are officially the world’s most primitive and ancient canids in existence, having lived on the island for around 6,000 years. They are also related to the Australian dingo and the New Guinea singing dog. Only 300 singing dogs still exist, and they are the captive-bred version of the highland wild dog.[7]

3 Dogs Have Manipulative Eyebrows

Fido destroys the couch. While sitting between swathes of sponge and being berated, the dog gazes up at the owner with a certain look. The raised eyebrows make the chair killer look confused, regretful, and vulnerable. It creeps underneath our best defenses.

In 2019, researchers discovered that dogs evolved to manipulate humans with their eyebrows. They mimic human emotions to trigger a nurturing response. This was not an evil plot against humanity but more likely natural selection driven by owners.

For thousands of years, people would have better cared for the dogs to which they felt connected. As a result, dogs developed special muscles around the eyes. Completely absent or underdeveloped in wolves, the muscles allow dogs to lift their eyebrows intensely to pluck at human heartstrings.[8]

The Siberian husky is excluded from this behavior. As a close relative of the wolf, the husky’s “puppy gaze” eye muscles are also underdeveloped.

2 Professional Poop Trackers

In 1997, the Conservation Canine program was founded. Also known as CK9, it trains dogs to find the poop of wildlife. Most of the dogs are rescues with a strong ball drive. This ball obsession is the key requirement for picking new CK9 candidates. The toy serves as both a training tool and a reward.

The program offers a noninvasive way to gather information about threatened and endangered animals. Scats are unusually crammed with personal details. A single deposit can reveal the animal’s gender, stage of pregnancy, diet, and health. It can even allow scientists to recognize individuals.

Some dogs track caribou, cougars, and owls. Rarer species like the giant armadillo, tiger, and Iberian wolf also have ball-addicted pooches after them. The most remarkable tracking feat involves orcas off the shores of Canada. While standing on the deck of a research boat, CK9 dogs have located the floating (but quick to sink) scats of orcas on multiple occasions.[9]

1 Dogs Use Earth’s Magnetic Field

It is a well-established fact that birds migrate by using the planet’s magnetic field. In a study that concluded in 2014, researchers announced that dogs also tap into this field. However, what they use it for is weird.

The study ran for two years, observed 70 dogs from 37 breeds, and recorded their bathroom habits. In an attempt to find a link between canine relief and the Earth’s magnetic field, the team watched 1,893 defecations and 5,582 urinations.[10]

Bizarrely, the dogs preferred their business to be done along a north-south axis. This was most obvious when the Earth’s magnetic “weather” was calm. The strangest find was that the dogs actively avoided squatting along the east-west axis. Despite suffering through thousands of bathroom moments, the researchers cannot explain why dogs do this.

10 Shocking Procedures Done To Animals

Although many of the procedures we perform on animals are for their own welfare, other times, we might just cut off a body part because it looks good. (Or we humans like to think so, at least!)

Putting things in animals (or taking them out) can also make the critters more manageable. Or make us a lot of money. But even when a procedure is done for the animal’s own good, our actions are still unbelievable sometimes.

10 Bile Bears

Bear bile has been used in Chinese medicinal remedies for hundreds of years, with believers claiming that it can cure a wide range of ills. (It cannot.) Even for what limited benefits it can have, there are better alternatives.

Nevertheless, bile bear farms are big business in countries that have not outlawed the practice. There are many ways that bile is extracted from a bear’s gallbladder, but none of them are pleasant for the animals.

Some bears undergo regular extractions. This involves immobilizing them, often with physical restraints, and then extracting the bile surgically (although the term “surgically” is being used rather loosely in this case).

Other bile farmers eliminate the need for regular “procedures” by leaving a catheter inserted into the bear’s gallbladder at all times. Some give the bears “torture vests,” as the rescuers of one bear called them, that constantly drain the bile into a box for easy recovery. Other farms do away with the need for restraining the bears by keeping them in “crush cages” where they live their entire lives without the freedom to move.[1]

Bile farming has been banned in some countries, but the practice continues throughout many nations in Southeast Asia. As bears are captured in the wild, poaching and habitat destruction is leading to a population decline of wild bears in the region that experts fear will only get worse.

9 Holey Cows

To better understand what is happening in a cow’s digestive tract and increase the health of an entire herd, some researchers and farmers drill holes in their cows’ sides to create permanent portholes to their stomachs. The procedure is done under anesthesia, so it’s said that the cows don’t feel any pain.

A rubber plug is inserted into the hole, which can then be removed to monitor the cow’s digestive system. (It’s large enough to stick a human hand in.) As far as keeping the hole free from infections, agriculturists claim that the cow’s own gut microbes protect it from “bad” bacteria because the “good” bacteria prevent any from taking hold.

Animal rights activists call cannulating cows, which is the term used for this procedure, animal abuse. Agriculturists claim that it is done for the welfare not only of the cannulated cow but of the entire herd. As researchers can observe the cow’s stomach directly and insert or remove matter being digested, they can analyze it to create more nutritious diets for the cow.[2]

Also, the material in its digestive microbiome plays an extremely important part in a cow’s health. When a cow is sick, the digestive system is often the last area to recover. But when farmers give material from a healthy cannulated cow’s gut to a sick cow, it dramatically speeds up the sick cow’s recovery.

8 Ear Cropping

To the surprise of many dog lovers, the upright ears of some breeds, like the Doberman pinscher, are not their ears’ natural shape. These dogs are not born with small, erect ears but receive them from a procedure known as “ear cropping.” It’s performed to make them have a more desirable look—to humans. (The dogs don’t seem to care one way or the other.)

Ear cropping is controversial among veterinarians and animal rights activists because they claim it has no value except cosmetic (again, to humans) and that the animal must endure pain and possible complications from cutting large sections of their ears off.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, no medical evidence confirms the claims of adherents who say that dogs benefit from ear cropping because it lessens the likelihood of ear infections. Assertions that the procedure improves hearing or can help the dog avoid future ear injuries are likewise not proven.

In fact, one of the problems with the procedure is that a dog’s ears can get infected as a postoperative complication. The ears must also be taped upright to remain in the desired position, and retaping can cause pain for the dogs. If the ears fail to remain upright, further cropping must be done, increasing the risks of infection and producing more pain for the dog.[3]

7 Cutting Off Sheeps’ Butt Skin

Flystrike is one of the worst things that can happen to a sheep. The animal’s wool is thick all over its body, including the area around its anus, and its feces can start to build up around the area. This attracts flies. It’s such an inviting area to the insects that they can lay their eggs in the skin of the sheep, leading to them being eaten alive by maggots.

A sheep with flystrike can die in just a few days. To prevent this, sheep farmers came up with a procedure known as mulesing (after John Mules who invented it) in which they cut away the skin that grows wool around a sheep’s anus. This keeps the area free from feces and urine buildup.

Activists object to this procedure because the farmers actually cut away the animal’s butt skin, often without anesthetics or any postoperative procedures. Mulesing did not receive much attention until PETA found out about it and began posting videos and images of a sheep getting mulesed.[4]

The sheep itself shows no indication of feeling any pain, But the blood from mulesing and further tests which show the animal’s astronomical increase in stress hormones tell a different tale. (As sheep are prey animals, it’s believed that they do not show pain.) PETA organized a boycott on Australian wool to combat the practice.

6 Tail Docking

Many breeds of dogs with short tails do not receive them from genetics but from a procedure known as tail docking. Basically, it’s a partial amputation of a tail. As with ear cropping, the main reasons are purely cosmetic, like when a dog’s breed standard has the image of a short, stubby tail.

Tail docking has been shown to have some value in rare cases. In working dogs, such as guard dogs and hunting dogs, tail docking can have some positive effects. It can keep the dog from getting injured when it travels through brush that could harm its tail. A guard dog could likewise avoid getting its tail yanked by an intruder.

However, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) stresses that tail docking rarely has justifiable benefits even among working dogs. The organization does not support the practice. It is not so much that tail docking is harmful to the animal (aside from the pain of the procedure), but there is usually no benefit for the animal itself. So the AVMA does not believe it is necessary. It is illegal in countries like the UK.[5]

Tail docking is not confined to canines, however. Docking cows’ tails, once routine in the US dairy industry, has likewise shown no benefit to the animal or dairy worker. It only adds to discomfort during fly season as the animals have more flies and a harder time dealing with them because the cows cannot swish their tails to swat the flies.

As a result, US dairy industry manuals discourage it. Young lambs and some horses also have their tails docked to prevent situations like flystrike or getting entangled in equipment. Unlike with other animals, tail docking in these situations has been proven to have some benefit to the lambs and horses.

5 Shoving Ginger Up Horse Butts

Different styles of show horses are held to different standards. In some categories, a “lively” tail is seen as a qualification to compete. The horse is supposed to keep its tail up and at the ready to be considered at the peak of its breed.

However, not all horses are as enthusiastic about keeping their tails up as their owners would like. So, some humans take the situation into their own hands, as it were, by shoving ginger up their animals’ butts.

The ginger acts as an irritant that makes the horse lift its tail. “Gingering” is the term used because the original technique was to pack horse buttholes with raw ginger, but other substances have been administered as well. Cayenne pepper or even kerosene is likewise applied to the horse’s anus and perineal/vaginal region to give the animal’s tail that extra perk.

Naturally, the practice of gingering has been banned at shows. It is harmful to the animal, and it doesn’t give a real representation of the breed. Swabbing for ginger and any other substance that might irritate a horse’s nether regions is a common practice. For testers who don’t want to get up close and personal with horse butts, thermal imaging is another option.

But some horseshow people have opted to cheat not with chemicals but with a practice called “nicking.” This cuts certain ligaments in the horse’s tail and then resets them at a higher position. Anything for a win.[6]

4 Getting High (Steps)

Horses have more to worry about than their owners putting chemicals up their butts. As the Tennessee Walking Horse is known for its leg movements, some unscrupulous breeders in competition have been artificially producing the hallmarks of these horses by searing their legs with chemicals.

“Soring” a horse is harming the animal’s legs, often by putting chemicals on or around a horse’s hooves/leg area to make stepping painful. The irritant is put on the front legs and causes the horse to recoil in pain when it walks. This creates a much higher step that looks pleasing to an audience.

Officials have been critical of Tennessee Walking Horse shows for soring their horses. They clamped down on these practices in accordance with the Horse Protection Act of 1970, but then the officials ran into another issue. After a horse is sored, the practice can be covered up by adding even more chemicals to numb the pain until the horse enters the show.

At the 2013 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, 67 percent of horses tested positive for chemicals that could have covered up evidence of soring. A spokesman for the Performance Show Horse Association said that the findings were incorrect. He added that the information did not come from USDA veterinary inspectors but from other outside organizations.

According to a veterinarian representing the organization, there was no scientific support for the findings and it was unreasonable to think that a horse’s legs wouldn’t have trace amounts of the substances. They say their goal is full compliance and that they don’t want the “Big Lick” competition ruined by cheaters.[7]

3 Nose Rings Hurt (That’s Why They’re There)

Nose rings are placed in the nostrils of animals for several reasons. But whatever the endgame of the farmer is, nose rings were meant to cause pain. For animals like cows, a nose ring can be used to control an animal that is in close proximity to humans.

The cow can be led around by a rope tethered to the nose ring, or pulling on the ring can cause pain which discontinues the undesirable activity. Temporary nose rings are also placed on calves to wean them. The rings prevent them from nursing but allows them to eat food like adult cows.

Perhaps the most common images of nose rings in animals involve pigs, but they are also the most discouraged. The rings are seen as harmful to the pigs’ welfare. While nose rings can be used to lead a pig somewhere, the main purpose of nose rings in these animals is to stop them from rooting.

A herd of pigs rooting can destroy the plant life around an entire farm. However, many animal researchers believe that rooting is a behavioral need in pigs and to prevent that activity would be harmful to their welfare. Given that, other methods of rooting prevention are recommended. Nose ringing pigs is discouraged or even banned in several countries.[8]

2 Chickens With Rose-Colored Glasses Or Blinders

Many people agree that chicken makes a very tasty meal, but unfortunately, that sentiment is shared by the birds themselves. They are cannibals. Each year, chicken farmers can lose up to 25 percent of their stock to chickens killing each other.

When one chicken draws blood, the sight of the blood draws other chickens to the injured bird. They attack it, too. So when a chicken bleeds, it often dies quickly at the beaks of its flock.

Chicken farmers use a range of methods to avoid losing their stock this way. Interestingly, this includes giving spectacles to their birds. These rose-colored glasses make it difficult for the chickens to see blood, which prevents mobs of them from attacking a lone bird.

Some glasses were designed to swing open when the chicken ate so that it had a normal view of its food. Then the spectacles would swing back down once the chicken lifted its head again.[9]

Other kinds, called blinders, are opaque and prevent the chicken from seeing in front of its head. The chicken can’t see to attack another chicken, so deaths are prevented. There were even attempts to give the chickens permanent red-colored contact lenses. However, these only harmed the chickens and made some go blind.

Although some blinders and spectacles are temporary clip-ons, others are permanent. These are pinned directly into the nasal cavities of the birds and are listed as “mutilations” by the UK government. The practice is illegal there because it is deemed detrimental to the welfare of the birds.

1 Cutting Off The Eyes Of Prawns

Female prawns only like to reproduce under the right conditions. They want everything to be perfect when they lay their eggs. But their tendency to only reproduce when they’re satisfied with their little prawn lives poses a huge problem for most farmers.

Prawns in farms are generally under more stress than in the wild, so their bodies prevent them from sexually maturing. However, farmers need the prawns to reproduce. One way to encourage them is to create conditions where female prawns feel safe enough to allow their ovaries to mature. Another method is cutting their eyes off. (Or just slicing them open.)

Female prawns have a gland in their eyestalks that control the maturation rate of their ovaries. If females won’t reproduce, then farmers simply have to remove this gland. Without it, the prawn’s ovaries begin to mature.

As the gland is in the prawn’s eyestalk, gland removal is generally done in one of two ways. Complete amputation of the eyestalk extracts the gland with it, and the prawn starts making babies.

But blinding a prawn is not necessary in the procedure known as eyestalk ablation. Farmers only need to slice the eye open and then squeeze the eyestalk to get rid of the gland. The eye will heal, but we don’t know how the prawn’s vision fares after having their eyes sliced in half. Science says it probably hurts, too.[10]

Mike lives on the East Coast and pays too much for beach parking.