I wrote this for the Dodo, inspired by the latest internet craze for cats, and what I feel is an over the top response to the hero cat, Tara, who saved a boy from a dog bite (whether on purpose or not is another story). What I didn't like is that this "heroic" response was "rewarded" with Tara being brought to a baseball game to throw the first pitch. For various reasons (including the cat's safety) I don't think that was the best idea. I don't like that the main way that cats get positive attention is by being cool or out of the ordinary - so I wanted to let the world know that cats are cool just because they are cats! Not because they are internet celebrities.
Do captive mice run in their wheel because they are neurotic and stressed? Or is it a natural mouse behavior? Well, it turns out that if you put a running wheel out in the wild, the mice will come. And they will run. Turns out frogs and other animals will join in too. Pretty cool. Read more about the study here, or download the open access paper here.
Note: this does not "prove" that mice in captivity aren't running in a wheel due to stress!
Best video from this story: a slug in a running wheel. Please watch.
You really can't make this stuff up...here's what's been putting squirrels in the headlines lately...
Squirrel cook off
Squirrels Unlimited isn't a support group for squirrel lovers, or a source of all things squirrels, it's a hunting club. They just announced the details for September's Squirrel Cook-Off. In case you need some time to perfect your recipes, you can read more here.
Turns out it's a pretty complicated question to answer. We have heard a lot of talk about our microbiome and what kinds of bacteria live in our gut, helping us digest our food, but also aiding our immune system. In this guest post in Scientific American, Tami Lieberman walks us through the process of getting your poop's microbiome analyzed - so many questions: where do you do this? how do you even sample feces? what do the results tell us? you will now know).
Can a cat teach a squirrel to purr? Don't get too excited.
This video shows a very cute mama cat who is nursing an orphaned squirrel:
The story received over six million hits on Youtube, and there are lots of reasons we may find it irresistible: the cuteness of the animals involved; the “surprise” of a cat taking care of what would normally be potential prey – a baby squirrel; and the exotic-ness of raising a wild animal.
While portrayal of animal behavior on television can have its pitfalls, Sir Attenborough does a good job, pairing science with some of the most beautiful footage imaginable. He also makes a lot of creationists angry which makes me happy. He turned 88 this week! May he have many amazing years left. The Dodo featured a celebration of his most memorable animal moments here.
I'm about to dive into the Sante Fe Science Writing Workshop, but I didn't want anyone to be squirrel deprived...so here goes this week's This Week in Squirrels
Dog goes crazy...over a squirrel
Squirrels don't just make people crazy...they've got an effect on dogs too. If you haven't seen this cute video of a dog making some interesting sounds when he spots a squirrel, check this out!
Like everything else, squirrel hunting is big in Texas
Squirrels used to be the most popular game animal in Texas, which has no "bag limit." But changes in the habitat have made gray "cat" squirrels more elusive, and since they are legally considered game animals, there is no management of squirrel habitat in the Lone Star state. Deer hunters dominate the land, squeezing out squirrel hunting. But there are still plenty of folks who want to nosh on skillet fried squirrel.
Do dogs just like to roll in stinky stuff for olfactory camouflage? Or is there something more complex going on? An alternative hypothesis suggests that worms might use our pets to gain their own benefits...read more of this fascinating idea here.