Posts Tagged: ‘animals’

In the 16th century, folks kept dogs around more for function rather than form, shepherding sheep, sniffing out game and warming up chilly laps. Also around that time, a certain breed of dog also found a role as the culinary workhorses of large kitchens. Enter the turnspit dog, bred with a long, stocky body and short legs (like fluffier Dachshunds) that kept upper class Elizabethan meats a-turning in the hearth.

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Humans aren’t the only map masters on the planet. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Julie and I explore the amazing ways that animals turn space into place and navigate the world around them.

Following on the heels of our previous two map episodes, this venture deals with everything from magnetic fields and landmarks to scent trails and the movements of the sun.

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Does a crowded city street make you care less about your fellow man, or does it maybe make you want to dine on human flesh?

Say what you will about the advantages of city living, there’s something about living on top of each other that changes your relationship with your fellow man. Population density manipulates organisms in some subtle and shocking ways, so in this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Julie and I look at how animals and humans respond to cramped living conditions and depleted resources.

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In 2005, a BBC article revealed that hedgehog numbers were falling in the U.K. because folks were keeping their gardens too tidy! The article advised readers to keep at least part of their gardens “a bit haphazard” — with leaves and twigs lying about — so the creatures would settle in, make nests and thrive.

And who wouldn’t want a hedgehog in their yard?

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This bird has Bette Davis eyes!

The ground hornbill’s lashes are long and flat and gorgeous for a reason. It doesn’t fly much; instead it stalks its prey on foot, keeping its eyes to the ground for lizards, frogs and insects to scoop up in its bill. Its luscious lashes act as a screen to block the strong African savannah sunlight from the bird’s eyes, so it can better spot its prey.

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This week I’ve been editing an article on the Bright Angel Trail, which begins at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and descends to the Colorado River. (Seems like a lovely trail — you should hike it.) Anyway, my writer brought up one of the trail’s residents, the chuckwalla, a lizard with a very unique talent …

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The capybara, which lives in Central and South America, is the largest rodent in the world — closely related to the guinea pig. It stands 2 feet tall (60 centimeters) and nevertheless manages to weigh 70 to 140 pounds (31 to 63 kilograms). Just when you think it reminds you of one animal, you notice, for example, its webbed toes. And its beaver face. Like the hippo (and the alligator, for that matter), its eyes and nostrils are on top of its head, so it can swim around a pond or marsh looking at stuff without anybody seeing the rest of its robust build.

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Ever drawn a geoglyph with your bike? I first noticed this cycling/drawing trend several weeks back when I stumbled across a few posts about the Tokyo Zoo Project, an interactive ad campaign created by Frontage for Sony’s NAV-U system. The zoo project requested that folks tweet an animal they’d like to be drawn/cycled along Tokyo’s streets. By first manually drawing the animal shapes onto a map, then inputting the data into the NAV-U navigation system, the cartographers created 15 bike routes in the shapes of adorable animals (like this panda). And of course if you buy the NAV-U system, it comes loaded with these cute-animal routes for you to ride.

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This is what it’s like for a giraffe to be born: The mother stands there, and then the baby drops out of her, falling 6 feet to the ground head-first. This sounds painful. But according to the San Diego Zoo, when the baby giraffe smacks the ground, it’s forced to take a deep breath — its first breath. And first breaths are important. Like a lot of calves, the giraffe calf is able to stand up and walk around in an hour or so.

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If you’re wandering around the historic ruins of Peru, you might happen upon a fur-less dog with a Mohawk.

The Peruvian Hairless Dog, sometimes referred to as a “punk,” is Peru’s official dog breed. It was man’s best friend back before the Inca Empire, as evidenced by 1,200-year-old artwork that depicts the canines, according to HuffPost. In fact, the dogs were so beloved that they were sometimes mummified.

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