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Think you're so smart, humans? Even fish can use tools

Tool use: It's not just for humans anymore. Actually, it hasn't been just for humans for a long while -- yet another form of homo sapiens exceptionalism we're having to learn to do without. But now it's not just for humans, apes, monkeys, certain birds, and possibly octopuses: There's documented evidence that fish can use tools too. Take that, practically everything except fish! You're not so smart after all. These photos show a blackspot tuskfish cracking open a clam by hitting it against a rock. It may not be as sophisticated as a socket wrench, or even a stick poked …

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Relocating prairie dogs displaced by solar power

It's nowhere near the level of destruction wrought by coal mines, oil and gas wells, or giant conventional power plants, but solar installations do have their consequences. Among them: making habitats hostile to prairie dogs. In order to save the animals -- whose home is about to be heavily shaded by a six-acre installation of 15-foot-high solar panels in Flagstaff, Ariz. -- the nonprofit Habitat Harmony baits, traps, and relocates them to a private ranch. Over the past 10 years, the organization and its volunteers have relocated almost 500 prairie dogs. "Ultimately, we like to co-exist with the prairie dogs …

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Polar bears discover Irish heritage

For a long time, scientists thought, as any reasonable person would, that the female ancestor of modern polar bears came from some Alaskan island. But it turns out that, like humans, bears are sometimes attracted to bears that come from foreign places, especially if they have cute accents. In fact, the female ancestor of polar bears came from, of all places, Ireland. (A press release from the Office of the Polar Bear King confirmed that yes, polar bears will be participating in St. Patrick's Day parades worldwide next year.) The love story goes something like this: some time between 20,000 …

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Critical List: $6 billion ethanol subsidy to end; Wyoming wolves screwed by Senate politics

The Senate is ending a $6 billion subsidy program for ethanol; anti-ethanol food and environmental groups say it's "not a perfect comprise" but that they're "encouraged" by the step. Carbon captured from coal plants can feed biofuel-producing algae. Which is awesome because nobody else wants to eat it. Put that tuna burger down! Overfishing could extinguish five out of eight tuna species. Can renewable energy keep up with Japan's demand for fuel-suckers like heated toilets? Former New York Gov. George Pataki said he might run for president because he doesn't like the White House's energy policies. Um, okay. The Interior …

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The most important fish in the sea

Cross-posted from Gilt Taste. On a bright morning in May, a calm Chesapeake Bay glitters in the sun, an expanse of blue, the nation's largest and once most productive estuary. A sudden commotion shatters the serenity: Dozens of gulls swoop toward the 135-foot ship Reedville, and the water beneath the boat begins to churn and froth. With two smaller boats at its side, the Reedville encloses a school of fish in a stiff black purse seine net. With practiced efficiency, workers onboard hoist a vacuum pump into the net and suck tens of thousands of small silvery fish out of …

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EPA risks kiling bees to fight invasive stink bugs

Bees hang in the balance in the fight against invasive stink bugs.Photo: david.nikonvscanonFor many Americans, the brown marmorated stink bug is a well-known household pest -- but it's also a serious agricultural threat. This invasive species arrived in Pennsylvania from China back in the mid-90s and has since spread to 33 states. Their spread may be exacerbated by climate change, as stink bugs seems to thrive in warmer weather (although the link is at best unclear). The stink bug is a nuisance in homes, where it can infest nooks and crannies and prove difficult to dislodge. But for farmers, it's …

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Horde of jellyfish shuts down nuclear plant

In keeping with the recent trend of wildlife disrupting human activity through sheer numbers, a bunch of jellyfish just shut down a nuclear power station in Scotland. The plant manually shut down operations yesterday because of a "high volume" of jellyfish on its seawater filter screens. (As far as we know, the jellyfish were not having sex at the time, though it's a little hard to tell with jellyfish.) Officials stressed that "at no time was there a danger to the public." Apparently the public of jellyfish just DOESN'T COUNT, DOES IT, FELLAS. No wonder they were going kamikaze on …

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Critical List: New York could approve fracking; animals get stoned

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to open up private land in the state to hydrofracking. Children living near Fukushima tested positively for radiation exposure. Want to get all riled up before the weekend? Get your fix of climate skepticism here. Shoppers are more loyal to brands with low carbon footprints. Get your greenwash on today, corporations, or suffer the consequences! In May, the rate of illegal logging in the Amazon doubled: loggers in Brazil are more confident the government will forgive their environmental sins, and apparently they figure, "Why not go for just one more tree?" If that elephant …

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How wallaby farts could save the atmosphere

Scientists have long known that cows are big contributors to global warming. Livestock produce more than a quarter of the world's global methane emissions every year, and 20 percent of methane emissions in the U.S. It's a side effect of ruminant digestion, and aside from strapping your entire herd into carbon-filter diapers, there's no quick fix -- to cut emissions, you have to carefully manage cattle nutrition so they don't offgas as much. Or so we thought. That was before we discovered wallaby farts.  See, the Tammar wallaby has a digestive system similar to ruminants (i.e. animals that chew their cud). …

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Turtle sex disrupts air travel

Some flights out of JFK International Airport were delayed today as officials scrambled to clear runways of turtles. Apparently the diamondback terrapins, which live in nearby Jamaica Bay, were all "oh yeah, buiding a runway next to our habitat? That's how you're gonna play it? Fine, WE F*CK ON YOUR RUNWAY. DEAL WITH IT." Still, if there's a cuter reason to get stuck in the airport than turtles putting baby turtles inside other turtles, we don't know about it. This is not even the first time that the JFK runways have been the site of a chelonian sex-fest. In 2009, …

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