It’s hard not to be totally captivated by the animal kingdom even when they’re just up to their normal activities. But when animals interact with the human world in unexpected ways, they have our full attention – whether by crashing a car in search of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, giving us clues to ancient history or even helping us evolve.
Sandwich-Seeking Bear Crashes Car
The Story family of Colorado got the surprise of their lives in July when the police called at 3:30am to inform them that a bear had taken their teenage son’s car on a joyride down the street before crashing it into some trees, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and proceeding to completely destroy the interior.
“So this bear opened the door on his own. Somehow the door closed behind him. He panicked and started thrashing around, hit the shifter and put the car, took it out of park,” Ralph Story told The Denver Channel. “It rolled back, down over the hill, and down into here, and stopped. The four way flashers were on. It’s like he knew what was going on, and kept hitting the horn.”
Sheriff’s deputies had to tie a rope around the car door handle and open it from afar. Eventually, the bear came out on its own and wandered off into the woods.
Oil Spill Turtles Get Disney Vacation
(image via: usfws/southeast)
For turtles, this year’s voyage to the Gulf of Mexico has been less than successful, with massive amounts of oil making it difficult to survive, let alone procreate. But 32 of the turtles rescued from the Gulf area are getting a treat that is decidedly rare among their kind: a trip to Disney World. Disney’s Animal Kingdom has taken in the turtles to treat and care for them while the spill is cleaned up.
“We actually swim test them, we will look at their general condition, we take body weights, and from there we will actually start a regiment to get them back into healthy condition to be released back into the wild,” Andy Daneault told WDBO Local News.
The turtles, which experienced ill health effects from the spill including abrasions and irritation, will be released back into the Gulf once the spill area is declared fully safe for wildlife.
Beer Bottled in Dead Animals
(image via: msnbc)
Some beer lovers will dish out a lot of dough for a bottle of high-gravity brew – but what makes BrewDog’s bottles clock in at $765 per bottle? Well, taxidermied squirrels and weasels don’t come cheap. The Scottish brewery has bottled its “The End of History” ale in the preserved carcasses of roadkill.
“We were making such a tiny amount that we wanted to do something epic,” BrewDog co-founder James Watt told msnbc.com. “We wanted to challenge people’s perceptions about how beer can be packaged; taxidermy helps open people’s eyes to the fact that beer doesn’t have to be made by a multi-national organization.”
Of course, animal activists aren’t thrilled about the decision, with some calling the packaging “terribly degrading” for the animals.
But bizarre and perhaps vomit-inducing packaging aside, the beer is special too – it’s 55% alcohol, with hints of cinnamon and juniper and the slightest tinge of musty fur.
Cat-Like Crocodile Hunted Dragonflies
(image via: the telegraph)
A newly-discovered ancient reptile seems to have more in common with today’s domesticated cats than with its own descendents, according to scientists studying remains of the “Paksuchus”. A precursor of crocodiles, this bizarre creature lived on land and had mammal-like teeth and a small, short skull.
“At first glance, this croc is trying very hard to be a mammal. Its head would fit in the palm of your hand,” Patrick O’Connor told The Telegraph.
“If you only looked at the teeth, you wouldn’t think this was a crocodile. You would wonder what kind of strange mammal or mammal-like reptile it is. This gives us a number of interesting evolutionary-developmental research questions to begin addressing using living crocodiles as models.”
Giant Jellyfish Attacks 150 People
How can one jellyfish sting 150 people almost simultaneously? By dying and decomposing into hundreds of tiny pieces. That’s exactly what happened in July at New Hampshire’s Wallis Sands State Park. So many people reported itching and burning that the fire department had to call in backup from five other nearby departments to pick up all the sticky, gelatinous pieces with pitchforks.
The responsible party was a lion’s mane jellyfish, known as one of the largest jellyfish in the world. With bodies that reach 3 feet across and 150 tentacles that can each be as long as 32 feet, this billowy creature wouldn’t have too much trouble harming a lot of people. This species was far outside its usual range in the cooler areas of the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea and North Sea.
“In terms of a large lion’s mane being able to sting so many people, I know from smaller ones say ones that are only 6 inches [15 centimeters] in diameter, those little ones the might have tentacles that are trailing 5 or 10 feet [1.5 to 3 meters] behind them. So if you’ve got one much larger than that you can imagine how long the tentacles could be trailing,” marine biologist Sean Colin told MSNBC.
Dogs, Cats & Cows Helped Humans Evolve
(image via: wikimedia commons)
It may not be too surprising to learn that early humans experienced a huge uptick in intelligence after our formerly vegetarian species began eating brain-enriching meat. But it’s the way in which we managed that – and the role that domesticated animals played – that is truly incredible. Paleoanthropologist Pat Shipman of Penn State University believes that taking in animals and giving them work to do made humans more adept at hunting prey for food.
“On the face of it, you are wasting your resources. So this is a very weird behavior,” Shipman told Discovery News.
But, Shipman says, managing all these animals forced humans to develop tools and technology that spurred growth in other areas as well – like compassion. Humans that were caring enough to keep dogs healthy might have prospered more than others, and passed this compassion down to their offspring.
Rodent Poop the Key to Discovering Ancient Climates
(image via: greencolander)
How much rain did Chile’s Atacama Desert get thousands of years ago? We might never have known, if it weren’t for big pits full of fossilized rodent feces. Paleoecologists at Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Chile in Santiago believe they can tell just by the size of these poop pellets whether a particular period of history experienced lush rainfall or parched drought.
Ancient rodent latrines – made up of lots of these pellets, cemented together with crystallized urine – provide a trove of data, not just about the animals that excreted the waste, but about the climate of the region. The scientists studied chinchilla waste pits; radio carbon dating provided an approximate age. Other known gauges of approximate rainfall were used to back up the results.