Friday, October 31, 2008

Capra aegagrus pseudohircus

[…] But currently, the most serious case of pastoral imposture afflicting UK farms is that of the False domestic ibex (Capra aegagrus pseudohircus).

They arrive on the scene in packs of about five, and insinuate themselves into a proper herd of goats with little initial violence.

The males work together to remove the native alpha bucks, either driving them away or killing them. They will often trample newborns.

This alien threat can dominate and even completely replace a herd of domestic goats in a space of six months. Very frequently, the minder detects nothing of the invasion until it is too late.

Rather than face economic ruin, farmers are likely not to report an infestation, and instead attempt to pass off their herd as genuine. Consumers of the resulting wool, meat and milk often fail to notice a difference, exacerbating the problem.

False domestics are thought to originate from the South Caucasus. They most closely resemble the common British Alpine breed. Telltale differences include a beard several millimetres shorter than average, particularly dense horns and (reportedly) ranker odour than usual.

From: Khabilla Simmic, “Key players in the growing invasive livestock problem”, BBC News (30 October 2008). Retrieved on 2008-10-30.

Pica proditor

Wake up, kids! It’s time for another

Tonight’s story is called

A shy princess was once married off to a king far from her own country. The young queen felt lonely in her new home, and wished for children to come into her life. But alas, none came, and the king soon complained that his wife was barren. One day, as she walked past a wastebasket, the queen noticed a peach-pit shaped like an unborn infant. She snatched up the pit and planted it in a pot on her windowsill. Soon it blossomed into a little tree, with three luscious peaches dangling from its branches. The queen ate all three fruits greedily, and within a week, she could feel three little heartbeats inside her newly swollen womb.

Unfortunately, on catching a glimpse of a rare and supremely revolting Moaning slug-bird as it flapped past her window, the queen was severely frightened, and as a result, her three daughters all turned out half-witted, deformed and gnome-like. This caused the young queen no end of anguish. “If only my children were normal and pretty!” she would lament over and over.

One day, an old woman overheard these words while passing through the palace grounds. “There’s no need to cry, your majesty,” she said to the queen. “Your daughters will become as splendid as they ought to be if you follow my advice: In the palace churchyard, amid the crypts of the royals, stands a solitary oak. On one of its higher branches is a nest built by a Copper-billed magpie, that notorious breed that steals only from other birds. Go to this nest now and you’ll find a group of eggs, with one colored differently from the rest. Inside this egg will be three silk ribbons — stolen from the heads of beautiful princesses who died too young, and swallowed by a bird who was in turn robbed by our greedy magpie. Tie these ribbons around the necks of your daughters, and they will become the children you wished for. Go do this now, and tell no one about it!” The queen thanked the old woman from the bottom of her heart, making her take a sack of gold with her before she went away.

Without delay, the queen rushed to the churchyard, climbed the oak, found the egg with the ribbons inside and returned to the palace. But once she had tied the ribbons around each of her daughters’ necks, they immediately lost all of their hair — and nothing else happened to them. Seeing that his offspring were not only deformed idiots but now also hairless, the king promptly annulled his marriage. The former queen was sent to a convent, where she hung herself to end her misery.

“Haw haw! Stupid bitch!” said the old woman, once her friend the magpie had told her the news. She then cackled to herself and touched her privates — and continued at it for nearly a fortnight, so ecstatic was she to have caused such grief.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phocoena cetus

The Angolan monk porpoise, a truly one-of-a-kind species, is now critically endangered. With its unmistakable lantern-like eyes and patterned, glowing underside, the Angolan monk porpoise is the only known marine mammal with bioluminescent features. Its rostral filament, equipped with a photophoric lure, has yet to be properly researched and is unique in all deep-sea cetaceans. Until recently, the species has thrived by using this growth to attract its foremost prey: the famously nearsighted Lesser neonback shortfin squid. But in the past five years, the sub-photic regions of the Atlantic nearest to the African coast have been subject to explosive releases of giant air bubbles from hydrothermal vents — a phenomenon nicknamed “the uncola effect” by geologists who admit to not fully understanding its cause. The resulting sonic disturbances reach amplitudes unendurable for a porpoise’s ears. This has driven the animals away from their principal habitat and main food source. As a result, the Angolan monk porpoise population is declining rapidly, and
a calf's chances of reaching reproductive age is roughly one in five.

But the Angolan monk porpoises can be saved. A successful method has been documented in trial CCIS treatment-and-release programs. It involves recycled silicone, specially molded plugs, and you. To find out what you can do to help, please click on the yellow krill.

From: CCIS (Cetacean Conservation International Society) website. Retrieved on 2008-09-13.