Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Dogs can't wear condoms"...

...announced Pam Anderson upon hearing of the imminent slaughter of countless stray dogs in Mumbai India. Appears the mongrels are out of control and have become a public nuisance of the highest order, a charge which includes the biting of monkeys it seems. City government has decided that a mass culling program is the only way to go. The Baywatch star/animal activist doth protest, much to the chagrin of prideful Mumbaiers who don't like to be advised by such folk.

Speaking of biting monkeys on the Subcontinent, I've learned that the deputy mayor of New Delhi was recently killed by a mob of angry macaques. Pushed off his balcony. Aggressive city monkeys are indeed prone to fight, especially when they think you've got food. But in all fairness, they will always give you fair warning before ripping your arms off and using them as drumsticks on your head. Here are the signs:

"First, the animals will look at you in the eyes, open their mouths, and bare their teeth. Rhesus macaques, the aggressive monkeys that cause a lot of the trouble in Delhi, will then warn you with a grunt. Next, they might fake a lunge toward you; this often causes a victim to lose his balance. If you're still withholding food, they'll grab at your knees and legs, and put their mouths on you so that you can feel their teeth. Finally, if you still won't cooperate, they'll sink their canines into you. The study in Bali found that most macaque bites don't break the skin, but a wound could allow transmission of herpes B, which can be fatal to humans." (reported by Michelle Tsai)

So now you know. And for the record Ms. Anderson, dogs can wear condoms.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Eagles not fond of hen peckers...

...get the full story here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

News Flash: Handsome Pterosaurs Not Fit to Skim...

You know who's full-blown amazing? Dr. Mark Witton, that's who.

Access his work here. Google him elsewhere.

His pterosaurus art is alarmingly triggery. Viewing them has put goosebumps on my inner pterodactyl in ways I couldn't possibly have imagined. Mind you, these are not fantasies. These are thoroughly researched, precision renderings of these amazing giants that once filled our skies and bobbled upon our seas. The image you see here was included in a recently published peer-reviewed paper that presented research suggesting that pterosaurs such as Thalassodromeus (seen here) could not skim-feed in the manner of the skimming bird, Rynchops (also seen here). Read his ripping account of the perilous experiments that yielded these findings here.

Mark is a visionary young man with a full quiver of complementary talents - including a biting sense of humor and a dizzying sense of purpose. I'm proud to welcome his science-backed art into the humble realms of the Hypnogogic Zoo.

("Why should everything be made to look like insane escapades?" by Mark Witton)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Gyotaku fish prints...

"Gyotaku is believed to have originated during the 1800’s by Japanese fishermen as a way to preserve the memory of a prize catch. There are two basic methods of gyotaku, the indirect (kansetsu-ho) and direct (chokusetsu-ho). Indirect printing is done by covering the fish with paper or silk, which is then painted with water-based pigments using a silk-covered cotton ball called a 'tampo.' Direct printing is done by applying black sumi ink directly to the fish. Shoji paper is then pressed against the inked surface to get an exact mirror image. After the initial impression is made, watercolors add life to the printed fish."

(Above text and image: "Vermilion Rockfish, Sebastes miniatus" by Ken Okutake)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Crazy Cat People Syndrome...

CCPS is rampant in cities and towns across the globe. Could the microscopic bacteria Toxoplasma gondii be to blame? If you believe the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the answer could be Yes. Reporting on this mysterious parasite, the NY Times states that "... more than 60 million people in the United States are infected with Toxoplasma gondii, a bacteria that may migrate into their brains and alter their behavior in a way that — among other things — may leave them more likely to be eaten by cats.

The basic facts: Toxo can infect many species, but it undergoes sexual reproduction only in cat digestive tracts. Once the parasite reproduces, the cat passes it in its feces, where the next unwitting host picks it up by digesting it (intentionally or unintentionally). Then the cycle starts again. In the long run, Toxo must find its way back to a cat’s stomach to survive. So the parasite has evolved a complicated system for taking over its hosts’ brains to increase the likelihood that they’ll be eaten by cats.

How? Scientists are still figuring that out. Research conducted this year by Toxo expert Robert Sapolsky of Stanford, and also by Joanne Webster, professor of parasite epidemiology at Imperial College London, has found that Toxo actually causes rats to become attracted to the smell of cat urine.

Might Toxo explain why some humans develop an unhealthful attraction to cats and apparently become immune to the smell of their urine? And might that explain the mystery of crazy cat ladies? “That idea doesn’t seem completely crazy,” Sapolsky says. “But there’s no data supporting it.” Not yet. But Jaroslav Flegr, an evolutionary biologist at Charles University in the Czech Republic, is looking into it. He has spent years studying Toxo’s impact on human behavior. (He found, for example, that people infected with Toxo have slower reflexes and are 2.5 times as likely to get into car accidents.) He won’t have results of his study for a while and refuses to speculate. But Joanne Webster says the connection isn’t much of a stretch: “In our evolutionary past, perhaps we were eaten by cats, too,” she says."

("Le Gachot, Amoureux des Chats" by Sarah Bay Williams)