Monday, January 28, 2013

Birds of Paradise Book

Two men spent months undercover sitting up in trees to obtain pictures of Birds of Paradise.  Many of these birds have never been photographed before.  Tim Laman and Edwin Scholes  have produced a coffee table style book full of incredible images of Birds of Paradise.

Here's a cool trailer on the project with some action shots of Bird of Paradise.

Why are they called Birds of Paradise?

In the 16th century when Europeans first saw these unusual birds, they declared that they were so beautiful that they could only have come from Heaven's paradise.

Some Bird of Paradise Facts

 - lifespan: up to  30 years. 

-  diet:  mostly fruit, but also plants, spiders, insects, small reptiles

-  39 species

-  Order Passeriformes.  Group Paradisaeidae.  Closest relatives: crows and jays.

-  dimorphic- males and females are distinctly different.  Males ornate, females drab.

-  males are polygnist.  He spreads his seed to as many females as possible.

-  females have one brood per year, usually one chick.  Female does all the nest building and rearing.

-   symbiotic mutualism.  The birds eat the fruit of the trees then plant the fruit seeds when they poop.

-  live in mountainous forested areas in NE Australia, New Guinea and surrounding islands.

Male Birds of Paradise devote their lives to displaying their virility to females.  Males often use the same tree stump or clearing as their display stage for many years. 

Variations seen in Birds of Paradise species are not only in their feathering.  Different beak styles are numerous, apparently adaptations to better extract meat from assorted fruits that represent the bulk of their diet. 

These birds live in areas full of food and with very few predators.  This frees up time for flexing ones feathers and singing songs of love.

Learn more about the book, Birds of Paradise:  revealing the world's most extraordinary birds by Tim Laman and Edwin Scholes.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pop Culture Frenzy: Round 6

Welcome once again to Pop Culture Frenzy.  Here we are in Round 6.  Now our question.

Hostmaster: Scientists have recently discovered a "facebook chromosome" in fire ants.  What is a facebook chromosome?


 Well, ants are very social so they LIKE facebook.

Hostmaster:  uh huh.

 Fire ants are looking to infest in new areas. 
Social networking is one avenue they are
 pursuing to increase their exposure.

Hostmaster:  incorrect.

 The facebook chromosome tells the ants where they are in
 the social order, such as drones vs queen?
Hostmaster:  close.  Bryan?
The facebook gene determines whether the colony has one
 queen or several.  The drones can tell who
 the queen is, or are- if there are more than one, by smell.
  Also the drone's ananomy, you know, his
 penis, fits only in the correct queen. 
He can't mate with a queen from a different colony
because his penis won't fit.  It's like a key and lock. 
Hostmaster:  correct.  This is the end of Round 6.  
Round 6 
Fluffy/Molly    3
Bryan/Cyndi    3
 I don't like that facebook has become so sexualized.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mabel Got Gimp


When Mabel was a puppy she developed a gimp trying to keep up with the agile two year old sheepdog, Lois.


Mastiffs, such as Mabel, are big strong dogs not necessarily suited to the basketball style head and body fakes Lois was throwing her way.  Thus, Mabel pulled something or other in or near her shoulder due to her ponderous reaction to being faked out.  Because Mabel was still growing, there was concern that she was suffering osteo difficulties that sometimes occur in the slow growing bones of giant breeds.  Happily, her bones grew fine, but for a while we were in a scary waiting pattern which included rest and probably pointless expensive supplements from the vet.

Consequently, Mabel missed out on half her puppy classes, outings, walks around the neighborhood - too stressful and physical for her maybe condition, don't you know.  Poof, goes that window of socialization!  Here's a command I hadn't counted on teaching Mabel:  Stay Shy.

That was then.  Now is now.  Mabel will be six years old in a couple of weeks.  Yesterday, she turned up with a limp accompanied by mild dramatics evidenced by tragic visage and beleaguered posture.  Looks like Mabel has re injured that shoulder yet again (this is something like the fourth or fifth time.  She has recovered from each re injury within two weeks).  This latest re injury probably occurred while chasing the resident bunny from our yard.

Mabel will walk it off, so to speak.  As for expensive supplements that may or may not do any good?  I've been sharing my Glucosamine Chodrotitin.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sheep Eating Weeds

Farmers are forever fighting weeds.  A group of Spanish researchers may have found a nifty answer that is what you might call a win/win.   

At the University of Barcelona sheep and goats have been trained, well, conditioned, to eat weeds while not eating the olive crop.  As an added bonus the animals drop fertilizer right there on the spot where it'll do the most good.

How do you get a goat to graze only on the plants you want him to? 

Conditioned Taste Aversion.  This is a natural ability animals posses that alerts them when they eat something that is bad for them.  The animal has an unpleasant reaction after eating the toxic thing.  Thus, he learns that eating this particular thing causes an uncomfortable sensation.  This mechanism helps the animal avoid ingesting things that are poisonous. 

Thus, a goat can be conditioned not to eat a crop food by letting the goat eat the crop food with a lithium chloride chaser.  This simulates the unpleasant reaction that toxic plants produce.  In other words, the animal feels awful and throws up.  So the goat learns that the crop plant makes him sick.  Therefore, when allowed to graze in the crop bed he eats everything except the crop.

The University of Barcelona group successfully treated some sheep and goats to taste aversion therapy using olive plants.  Surely, they can teach other grazing animals to avoid other crops too.  Is this a greenies dream?  Weed your crop beds, feed your farm animals, skip the nasty chemicals, add manure to the soil, all at once? 

Don't break out the environmentally responsible confetti yet.  Like most good news, there is accompanying bad news. The lab induced taste aversion only lasted, on average, four months.  After that, the sheep and goats ate the olive plants. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Snow on a Dog's Menu

Never mind the Don't Eat Yellow Snow warnings.  This isn't to say it never happens, but I have been hanging around dogs since I could crawl and I've never once seen a dog eat yellow snow.  Thus, my level of worry over that likelihood is darn close to naught.

We're talking about eating beautiful white snow.  Pristine sparkling snow.  Fresh snow.  Packed snow.  Snowballs.  Cristal clear icicles.

A little bit of snow or ice isn't going to hurt anyone.  If your dog enjoys an occasional snow snack, let him have at it.  However, if your dog fails to imbibe winter water vapor with moderation, you may need to intervene. 
You see, some dogs eat snow then throw up.  Sadly, they don't seem to connect the two actions- and if they do, they don't conclude that anything undesirable has occurred.  Cause and effect?  Bah!  This is nice cold fluffy snow, I'll just dig in!  Oops!  I hurled my breakfast.  Hmm.  Maybe I'll go ahead and eat this warm puke!  Look how elegantly it is presented on this cool bed of snow! 
And we yuckily come full circle.
For some reason certain dogs find consuming snow and ice irresistible.  Why?  Who knows?  It's a bit like the Why Do Some Dogs Eat Poop debate.  We will never know for sure why.  Meanwhile, the more important focus ought to be on how to stop this behavior rather than playing psychoanalyst with your best friend.
One method of discouraging snow eating is to utilize the villainous snow.  When the dog shoves his nose into the snow, throw a snowball at him before he has a chance to bite off a mouth full of snow.  (It's the same principle that worked when he was a puppy: startle him before he takes a bite of the dining room table leg.)  The snowball method only works if you have a fast and accurate throwing arm.
Another method is the always popular, shouting NO! at the dog just before he digs in for a mouth full of snow.  This only works if you have already taught your dog what NO! means.
 If the situation gets out of hand and you can't let the dog outside without him eating snow then vomiting, you may have to put him on a leash to do his business.  That way he is focused on the task.  (You'll be giving him the go potty command as you shiver in your pajamas and boots.)  And if he should lap up some snow, you can use the leash to redirect him.
Good luck.
Keep your cool.  Keep your snow cool. 
Keep your socks dry.