Some of them come with batteries

Last year, the first year of the pandemic, people needed so much to cheer themselves up that they clung to all kinds of wellness stories, many of which turned out to be false.

There were dolphins and swans returning to the canals of Venice… because the water was beautiful and clear… because all these tourists stayed away.

The story went viral, but it wasn’t true.

Ditto for this group of elephants who paraded through a locked village in China, got drunk on corn wine, and passed out in a tea garden. Not true either.

To restore your faith in animal stories, here are some threads from 2021, some cute, some amazing, and all real.

The smallest reptile in the world, probably

The diameter of our five-cent coin is 19.41 millimeters.

From snout to tail, a newly discovered “nano-chameleon” is 21.6 millimeters long, possibly the smallest on Earth.

Researchers announced the discovery of this tiny new species of chameleon in February.

A male and female pair were found in a high altitude rainforest in Madagascar, where scientists were believed to be walking very cautiously.

German and Malagasy researchers named the new species Brookesia babe.

“With a body length of only 13.5 millimeters and an overall length of only 22 millimeters including the tail, the male nano-chameleon is the smallest known male of all ‘higher vertebrates’,” said Dr Frank Glaw. , curator of herpetology at the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology and first author of the study that describes the new species.

The female is larger at 19 millimeters in body length and 29 millimeters in total length.

Despite intensive efforts, the authors could only find two individuals.

The man’s genitals were “unusually large” – about 20 percent the size of the man’s body.

The genitals are called “hemipenes,” a pair of penis-like reproductive organs found in male snakes and lizards.

Juvenile Brookesia micra on a match. It is no longer the smallest chameleon in the world. Photo: Frank Glaw

These unusual proportions are probably explained by the difficult mechanics of the much smaller male attempting to mate with the female.

An even smaller chameleon might exist.

In 2012, scientists discovered four new species of super tiny chameleons in Madagascar.

The smallest of them was Brookesia micra – which, measured from nose to tail, measures a maximum of 29 millimeters.

It was considered probably the smallest in the world.

Bees use social distancing

Honey bees increase social distance when their hive is threatened by a parasite, according to British and Italian researchers.

Scientists have discovered that honey bee colonies respond to a pest mite infestation by altering space use and interactions between nesting mates to increase social distance between young and old bees .

When the hive is at risk of infection, honey bees practice social distancing. Photo: Getty

Dr Alessandro Cini of University College London is co-author of the new study, published in November.

He explained, “Bees are a social animal because they benefit from the division of responsibilities and interactions such as mutual grooming.”

But when these social activities can increase the risk of infection, “bees seem to have evolved to balance risks and benefits by embracing social distancing.”

Just like we did during the pandemic.

Love dogs

According to a US survey of 2,000 dog owners, 66% of pet owners believe their dog has a “better social life” than them.

More than half say their pet has “more friends”.

And while 85% worried their pets wouldn’t socialize enough with other puppies during quarantine, dogs made an average of three new furry friends. during confinement.

Read more here.

Tweet of the day

A few years ago there was a story of a young college student in Arizona who dressed as a man to avoid harassment on the streets.

It involved wearing loose clothing and drawing on a fake beard.

She told the college newspaper it was a bit of a joke, but it seemed to work.

animal stories
Female Jacobean white-necked hummingbird in masculine colors. Photo credit: Irène Mendez Cruz

A recent study found that a species of hummingbird does the exact same thing.

About 20 percent of all female Jacobean white-necked hummingbirds disguise themselves as showy males, to avoid harassment and violent attacks when feeding on flowers.

This behavior may have lasted for hundreds or even thousands of years.

But it is only now that scientists have embarked on the strategy of cross-dressing.

Read more here.

Funnel spiders to the rescue

The venom from a funnel-shaped spider can kill you in about 15 minutes … or potentially save your heart from a death spiral, according to Australian researchers.

Experiments with beating human heart cells have led to a drug candidate – developed from a molecule found in the venom of the Fraser Island funnel-web spider – that can “prevent damage from heart attack and prolong the life of donor hearts used for organ transplants ”.

Read more here.

Catnip not just for getting high

When cats rub catnip or silver vine on their face and the top of their heads (so cute!), It’s not just to create a buzz – they also purposely protect themselves from mosquito bites. .

In other words, catnip is like an Aerogard spray – with mind-altering benefits.

Scientists have known for years that nepetalactone – an essential oil that serves as a feline attractant in catnip – is responsible for the euphoria that causes cats to lie down in stupor.

But nepetalactone also has powerful insecticidal properties.

The big question is: do cats know that catnip and silver vine have these protective properties?

Read more here.

Rambo the fox: he’s still here

About three years ago, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service fenced in 5,800 hectares (58 square kilometers).

The idea was to provide a safe and predator-free habitat for extinct species in the region, such as brush-tailed bettong, plains mouse, Shark Bay bandicoot, and western quoll.

animal stories
Rambo, the fox that cannot be caught. Not yet anyway. Photo: AWC

Topped with an electric wire and a flexible overhang, the fence was designed to keep animals out, especially species that are top-notch killers.

Sadly, a very cunning fox with the nickname Rambo already lived in the compound – and played and won a game of hide and seek with the authorities.

This despite an average of 97 cameras deployed, 2,800 poisoned baits laid, weeks of scent-tracking dogs on the hunt and even multiple searches by helicopter.

He had a few close calls, however.

Read more here.

Patients thought robots loved them

A fascinating new study – from the College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University – has found that interactive and affordable robotic pet cats can help improve mood, behavior, and cognition in older people with mild to moderate dementia.

In the study, 12 patients attending an adult daycare were given a robotic cat as a pet.

Participants were told that “their pet was a robot and not a living animal”.

Each of them chose a name for their cat, which was fitted with a collar and a personalized name tag. The patient and animal were observed during 12 visits.

Before and after the intervention, the researchers assessed the mood and behavioral symptoms of the participants.

They also assessed cognition via the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE).

The MMSE is a set of 30 questions commonly used to check for cognitive impairment.

The results showed that engaging with a robotic cat improved all mood scores over time, with significant improvements in the Observed Emotions Rating Scale and the Cornell Depression Scale in Dementia.

Over half of the participants scored higher on the MMSE post-test than on the pre-test, with slight to moderate improvement in attention / math, language and recording.

Researchers frequently observed study participants “smiling and talking to their robotic cats and expressing feelings such as ‘The cat looks at me like someone who listens to me and loves me.’

They believed the robotic pet “was responding to their statements by meowing, turning its head, or blinking and having a conversation with the animal.”

Read more here.

First the love song, then the species

The fate of the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater of Australia may depend on how many young birds learn the species’ particular love song – and other tunes passed down from generation to generation.

Regent Honeyeater do not learn their love songs. Photo: Murray Room

Research from the Australian National University (ANU) found that the Regent Honeyeater – with around 200 to 400 left in the wild – is losing its “song culture” by which it communicates.

These few hundred birds are confined to territories spread over an area of ​​south-eastern Australia “which is larger than the United Kingdom”.

This means that many of these birds never meet.

If young male birds do not meet older males, then they have no one to teach them the songs they need to maintain territory or court.

If there is no successful courtship display, there is no new generation of honeyeater.

But scientists have a harmonious plan.

Read more here.

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