Since Monday’s news that a few thousand birds fell from the sky on New Year’s Eve over Beebe, Arkansas, the world has gone a little crazy with talk of the “aflockalypse”: the mass bird deaths that have been documented worldwide.
Bird die-offs have been reported in not only Arkansas but also in Italy, Sweden, Louisiana, Texas, and Kentucky. Die-offs of other animals, including thousands of fish in Arkansas, Florida, New Zealand and the Chesapeake Bay have also been noted, while dead crabs washed up on UK shores.
Causes ranging from UFOs, monsters (our personal favorite), fireworks, secret military testing, poison, shifting magnetic fields, and odd weather formations have been blamed for the deaths, but researchers are saying these types of die-offs are normal. It’s simply a coincidence that a few big ones happened right around the new year–and once the global media started paying attention to wildlife mortality, we saw examples everywhere.
BoingBoing quotes Smithsonian Institution bird curator Gary Graves on the Arkansas bird die-off that got the conspiracy theory ball rolling:
He doesn’t think these bird deaths are a sign of anything nefarious–or, at least, nothing more nefarious than local people taking it upon themselves to stress out a large roost of “nuisance” birds until it flies away. There’s a head count associated with that kind of thing, he says, and it’s not particularly odd to see a few thousand birds die this way. But, with roosts numbering in the millions of birds, that’s not a large percentage lost. The only thing different in this case, he says, is that the dead birds landed on lawns, rather than in the wilderness.
It’s furry like a mouse but sings like a bird. What is it? It’s a mutant mouse developed by the genetic engineers at the University of Osaka that is able to tweet and chip like a bird, instead of a mouse’s normal squeak.
Like dog breeders, who actively select for certain traits (like size, hair color, or disposition) the researchers from the Evolved Mouse Project crossbred their mutant mice to select for various traits. When they find one they like, like this singing mouse or the one that looks like a miniature Dachshund, they breed them until they have a sizable breeding stock of animals to establish a new breed.
The research group currently has over a hundred singing mice (it must get noisy in those labs) and they are continuing to study how they use their chirps, researcher Arikuni Uchimura told the AFP:
“Mice are better than birds to study because they are mammals and much closer to humans in their brain structures and other biological aspects,” Uchimura said. “We are watching how a mouse that emits new sounds would affect ordinary mice in the same group… in other words if it has social connotations.”