The coyote to the right was caught on video running loose in the middle of Chicago at 3:00 am on Monday morning. The police didn’t seem to know what it was doing there, but Brad Block, a supervisor for the Chicago Commission on Animal Care and Control told Chicago Breaking News that the coyote is let loose in the city to monitor the pest population:
The animal has the run of the Loop to help deal with rats and mice. He said no one has called today to complain. “He’s not a threat…. He’s not going to pick up your children,” Block said. “His job is to deal with all of the nuisance problems, like mice, rats and rabbits.”
Block told Chicago Breaking News that the animal is outfitted with a GPS collar to track its whereabouts while it hunts mice, rats, and any other small tasty animals. Treehugger though, believes that these coyotes are actually part of the Urban Coyote Ecology and Management project, run out of Cook County:
As far as a coyote being released on purpose to eat up rodents… well, that’s probably more a tactic to keep city residents calm about their furry neighbors. Instead, the animals-as-pest-control is likely more a happy side effect of letting the coyotes do their thing to find out more about them.
The rats scuttling around the tracks of the New York City subway pale in comparison to a gargantuan species recently discovered in East Indonesia. In fact, the recently discovered rat tipped the scales at a somewhat frightening 13 pounds. That’s sizably heftier than today’s house rat (which averages 5 ounces) and burliest wild rats (which weigh about four-and-a-half pounds). This mega-rat lived in Timor until it went extinct between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago. It was one of 11 new species discovered at the excavation site–eight of which weighed more than two pounds, and only one of which survives today.
But the now-extinct rats didn’t die off until well after humans first arrived, according to LiveScience:
“People have lived on the island of Timor for over 40,000 years and hunted and ate rats throughout this period, yet extinctions did not occur until quite recently,” said study researcher Ken Aplin… adding that the arrival of humans to an area doesn’t necessarily have to equate with extinctions… “Large-scale clearing of forest for agriculture probably caused the extinctions, and this may have only been possible following the introduction of metal tools.”
East Indonesia is a hotspot for rat evolution, with unique species found on each island, and the possibility of finding more.
“Although less than 15 percent of Timor’s original forest cover remains, parts of the island are still heavily forested, so who knows what might be out there?” [researcher] Aplin said.
Which is fine with us–as long as they stay far, far away from our homes.
Discoblog: Weird Science Roundup: Super-Rats, Heart-Attack Virus, and the Real Breakfast of Champions
Magazine: English Super-Rats
Magazine: A-maze-ing Mole Rats
Image: flickr / korobukkuru
We folks here at Discoblog get very excited when we hear about the discovery of new animals like the psychedelic fish.
But there’s really no place like Papua New Guinea for chance stumbling upon animals that were once mere storybook creations. On a recent six-week expedition, scientists from Oxford University, the London Zoo, and the Smithsonian Institution discovered 40 new species in a volcano that erupted 200,000 years ago. The notable finds include frogs with fangs and a Bosavi woolly rat, a rodent the size of a small cat—it’s 32.2 inches long and weighs 3.3 pounds.
“This is one of the world’s largest rats. It’s a true rat, the same kind you find in the city sewers,” said Kristofer Helgen, a biologist from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, who was part of the expedition team.
Fortunately, the animals in the crater of the volcano are protected from the local hunters since the humans can’t be bothered to hike down into its center. However, the forests around the animals are anything but safe: More than 25 percent of forests in Papua New Guinea have been destroyed or damaged in the past three decades.
Image: flickr/ new species
The idea of growing tissue or an organ isn’t new, but scientists are getting ever closer: A scientist at MIT is creating a liver chip that can act like human liver tissue and react to medicines or toxins, while another group is manufacturing synthetic skin that can be used for testing. Some are trying to create human blood vessels and organs in a petri dish, or even grow organs inside other animals.
Everyone wants their tissue structure to be the one that can replace animals in the lab—now add University of Cardiff’s cell biologist Kelly BéruBé to that list. She can grow lung cells on small plastic spheres, and the cells function just like the insides of human lungs.
Scientists normally need around 200 rats to test the potentially toxic effects of inhaling a single dose of a chemical, and 3000 rats for chronic studies. But the need for lab rats might soon be eradicated if BéruBé’s new microlung can be used to test the safety of thousands of chemicals or drugs.
Astronaut Mike Massimino is the first man to tweet from space. Now we know for sure that the “launch was awesome!!”
Now that the anxiety over swine-flu fears have receded somewhat, a virus that up to 99 percent of us have can cause high blood pressure.
There’s something in the air in Barcelona and Madrid. It’s not love, it’s drugs.
Who needs Gatorade when all you need is the Michael Phelps diet—corn flakes and milk—to perform well.
English rats have reportedly developed resistance to poison. Sometimes we wish evolution were not true.
Police in India have found an unlikely solution for a mouse problem: rats. Almost all over the state of Haryana, mice have been getting into just about anything they find appetizing, including official court documents, food supplies intended for people, and even the fiber sacks used to store confiscated narcotics. Landmine removal efforts near the border with Pakistan were jeopardized in 2002 by rodents moving anti-personnel mines from their mapped locations.
On a tip from a local citizen about a month ago, the police in Karnal, a district with a particularly high mouse infestation, bought two domesticated albino rats and released them into problem areas. It worked, the police said, “like magic.” They have since been releasing the rats every night into the storage room of official documents, and the mice have “just disappeared.”
In the category of “conclusions we can’t believe needed to be reached,” Australian researchers who studied 299 women over eight years—including during their pregnancies—found that they were no mentally worse for wear after bearing children. Neither pregnancy nor motherhood had any detrimental effect on each mother’s cognitive capacity, said Helen Christensen, director of the Center for Mental Health Research at Australian National University.
Christensen says previous studies may have linked cognitive deficits to pregnancy because they were comparing pregnant women with other non-pregnant women. In this study, they were able to compare a woman’s mental capacity to herself, by measuring it before, during, and after her pregnancy.
The researchers did find, however, that the mothers were slightly less well-educated than women of the same age who didn’t have children (the study followed a total of 2,500 women’s lives in detail). Future studies will reveal whether this small difference, attributed to an interruption in education, will give mothers a long-term disadvantage—although there is indication that delaying motherhood increases earnings.