On the 29th December 2009 our news blog with over 2000 entries was taken down by blogger on suspicion of it being a `spamblog`. Whether this was as a result of malicious intent by persons unknown (well, we know perfectly well who they are, but you know what I mean), or as a result of over zealous spambots. However at the CFZ we like to take inspiration from the best, and so - like London's Windmill Theatre who presented nude tableaux vivant throughout WW2 - We Never Close!

Herewith the temporary News Blog.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Thursday, 14 January 2010






(Because Blogger threw a hissyfit, all the pictures were summarily deleted. However pictures from the 2008 event can be found HERE

The 2007 WW can be found:



The Cryptozoology Online Daily News blog has been restored.

Please visit for all latest news.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Four-inch Chihuahua 'is priceless'

Tuesday, January 12 2010, 16:08 GMT
By Mayer Nissim, Entertainment Reporter

A dog-breeding pensioner from West Yorkshire has said that she will not sell her four-inch Chihuahua.

Jean Tindall, 76, named the puppy Lulu after the diminutive Scottish singer, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Tindall, from Bradford, said: "I didn't think anything of it when her mum gave birth to the litter, she looked the same size as all the others.

"But puppies grow quickly and I soon realised that her brothers and sisters were all overtaking her. I don't want to sell her because she will need so much extra care and attention being so small."

She added: "She is so tiny. She's only four inches. She can fit in my hand she's so tiny. You can't believe she's out of the same litter because the rest are twice as big as her.

"I've been breeding and selling Chihuahuas for most of my life and I've had a few inquiries about Lulu because she's such a wonderful, cute little thing. But to me she is priceless, I would never sell her. She is a little star and loves all the attention she gets."


Kylie Minogue congratulates giant carp catcher on Twitter

Kylie Minogue praised hero angler Martin Locke after he caught a giant carp which weighed the same as the princess of pop.

Published: 4:04PM GMT 12 Jan 2010

Mr Locke braved sub-zero temperatures in just a T-shirt to break the world record for catching the biggest ever carp a 94 pound whopper.

The enormous mirror carp weighed the same as Minogue and beat the previous record by 3lbs.

Angling records and their celebrity equivalents

After reading about his feat on Telegraph.co.uk she Tweeted: "Hahaaaa congrats Mr Locke!!"

Brit Mr Locke jumped out of his lakeside tent at 6am in temperatures of -3C to net the monster fish that tipped the scales at 94lbs.

Angling records and their celebrity equivalents
Wearing only a T-shirt and trousers, he jumped in his boat and motored 200 yards out to the fish and began reeling it in.

At first he thought he had hooked a sunken tree trunk due to the weight of it but was gobsmacked when he heaved the carp to the surface.

Getting it in his landing net was like 'trying to land a small hippo with a tennis racket,' but after succeeding he towed it to the shore to weigh it.

Despite the early hour and freezing temperatures, many other anglers gathered round to celebrate with the new record holder.

Mr Locke, from South Darenth, Dartford, Kent, left the fish in the shallows until daylight when he photographed the aquatic beast before returning it to the lake in good health.


Camel-drawn solar van passes through Alice

13 January 2010

Alice Springs residents have been treated to an unusual sight - a camel-drawn, solar-powered mini-van travelling along the Todd River.

Only a trickle is left in the river, whcih began flowing for the first time in a year last Thursday, and peaked at 2.85 metres at the weekend.

Klaus Menzel, 61, has been on the road with his camels Snowy and Willy for eight years and says he is enjoying the desert's wet conditions.

"It is good to have but it is hard to pull through," he said.

"Willy was with me over at Camels Corner but then Snowy his partner came from Queensland.

"We walked 14 wild ones up to Queensland and as a reward I got these two fellas and they been pulling me around ever since."


Pony is left to drown in frozen canal

Click to enlarge

Metro Ireland, 13 January 2010, p7.

Gay man who tried to poison lesbian neighbours with slug pellets over three-legged cat feud walks free

By Jaya Narain
Last updated at 9:24 PM on 12th January 2010

A gay man who attempted to poison his lesbian neighbours by pouring slug pellets into their curry after they accused him of kidnapping their three-legged cat has walked free from court.

Gary Stewart, 37, had fallen out with his neighbours, Ann Marie Walton, 38, and Beverley Sales, 36.

But in an apparent bid to restore cordial relations with the pair he offered them a curry from a local Indian takeaway.

When the couple went to eat the meal they found the curry sauce was laced with dozens of tiny blue slug pellets.

Afterwards Stewart said he had done it after he had found the tyres to his car had been slashed with a knife.

He texted a friend saying: 'It was them next door, the f******* fat lesbians, I'm glad I've poisoned them and yes it was slug pellets.'

He was sentenced to a six month suspended jail sentence at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester after pleading guilty to attempting to poison the two women on September 22 last year.

The court was told Mr Stewart, who is HIV positive, was devastated after his partner Paul Kleisier, 43, died of an Aids related illness last summer.

He had previously got on well with his neighbours in Denton, Manchester, Miss Sales, an HGV driver, and Miss Walton, a full-time mother, but fell out with them last year after a series of petty arguments.

Then last summer they were involved in a furious row after Stewart told the council they were neglecting their eight-year-old son, Jack, and social workers were called to carry out an investigation.

After that Stewart is alleged to have kidnapped the family's three-legged cat, Amber, and dumped her in a village miles away.


Dog Senses Arcata Earthquake at News Station

Dog Senses Arcata Earthquake at News Station - Watch more Funny Videos


Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Hippo swims away from flooded Montenegrin zoo, shocks villagers by strolling past their homes

Jan 12, 8:07 AM EST

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) -- A hippo escaped from a flooded private zoo in Montenegro on Tuesday, shocking villagers who found her strolling near their homes.

Even more shocking, the zoo owner plans to wait a bit before trying to recapture the 2-ton hippo named Nikica.

Nikica escaped as heavy rains sent water flooding through the zoo, raising the water level in her pen and allowing her to swim over the top of the cage surrounding it. The 11-year-old hippo made her way to the hamlet of Plavnica on Skadar Lake in southern Montenegro, where she was still walking around Tuesday afternoon.

"When I got out from my house to feed my cow, I saw a hippo standing in front of the stall," said villager Nikola Radovic. "I thought I was going mad."

The massive animals, which spend much of their days submerged in water, are considered one of the most dangerous animals in the world.

Hippos, native to Africa, are the third-largest land animals, after elephants and white rhinos. They can weigh up to 3 1/2 tons and are plant eaters. They are also intelligent, fiercely territorial, can run faster than the average human over short distances, and have powerful teeth and jaws.

But zoo owner Dragan Pejovic said he plans to wait until the water levels drops before he attempts to recapture Nikica.

"Of course, we will not be able to bring her back until the water recedes," he said, without further explanation. "There is no reason for panic."

"Our hippo is a peaceful and tame animal," Pejovic said, adding that she had lived in his zoo for nine years without causing any trouble to villagers.

(Submitted by D.R. Shoop)

NH Artist Protests Halt To Bigfoot Project

Jan. 06, 2010

New Hampshire Artist Behind Bigfoot Art Project Says Park Ranger Trampled On His Rights

(AP) JAFFREY, N.H. (AP) - A New Hampshire artist and videographer who dressed as Bigfoot in a state park says his rights were trampled by big government.

Jonathan Doyle, of Keene, has complained in a letter to the state parks department that a Mount Monadnock park ranger halted his performance art project in the fall because he didn't have a permit.

Doyle is arguing through the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union Foundation that his free-speech rights were violated when he was expelled from the state park in Jaffrey. He says he and others with him, some also in costume, were on a lesser-used trail and weren't bothering other park visitors.

Doyle says the state hasn't responded to his letter. The Division of Parks and Recreation says it has been forwarded to the state attorney general's office.

(Submitted by Dave McMann)

New cricket species filmed pollinating orchids

Tuesday, 12 January 2010
By Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC News

A new species of cricket has been caught on camera - and its bizarre behaviour has surprised scientists.

Far from living up to the cricket's plant-destroying reputation, this species lends a helping hand to flora by acting as a pollinator.

Scientists say this is the first time a cricket has been spotted pollinating a flower - in this case, an orchid.

A study of the nocturnal insect, which was found on the island of Reunion, has been published in the Annals of Botany.

The creature has yet to be given a scientific name, but it belongs to the Glomeremus genus of crickets, which are also known as raspy crickets.

The insect was spotted by researchers who were attempting to find out how a species of orchid called Angraecum cadetii was being pollinated.

This green-white flower is closely related to the comet orchid, which is found in Madagascar.

Naturalist Charles Darwin predicted that because the comet orchid has an incredibly long nectar spur (the part of the plant that holds the sweet nectar), it would be pollinated by an insect with an equally long tongue.

It was later found that the nocturnal hawk moth with a proboscis measuring approximately 35cm (14in) in length was the pollinator.

However on Reunion, which is situated in the Indian Ocean, hawk moths are very rare and the Angraecum cadetii orchid has a shorter nectar spur than its Madagascan relative, so scientists suspected something else was pollinating it.

To solve this mystery, scientists trained a night-vision camera on the flower.

Claire Micheneau, from the University of Reunion, who carried out the research with the UK's Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), Kew, and the University of Strasbourg, France, told BBC News: "We were very surprised when we saw a cricket.

"Crickets usually eat flowers, not pollinate them."

The film shows a wingless cricket, which measures about 2-3cm (0.8-1.2in) in length and has extremely long antennae.

It crawls onto the flower and pokes its head in to the nectar spur to drink up the sweet liquid before leaving with lumps of pollen attached to its head and visiting other flowers on the orchid.

Dr Micheneau said: "This is the first time that we have seen flowers being regularly pollinated by a cricket."

The team added that the cricket seemed to be the only pollinator present on the flower and that it was extremely effective at doing the job, possibly thanks to the fact that the size of its head matched the size of the nectar opening on the orchid.

'Sophisticated' cricket

Further analysis of the cricket revealed that the species was new to science.

Professor Mark Chase, director of the Jodrell Laboratory at RBG Kew, said: "It really is a completely bizarre thing for a cricket to do and it is strange for an orchid to become adapted to that kind of pollinator."

The team added that the cricket was also unusual in other ways.

Professor Chase explained: "They do some fairly sophisticated things by cricket standards.

"Most crickets just stop eating and find a place to hide away during the daytime and it's usually a different place every time. But this one finds its way back to its own specific nest.

"And that is a key thing for being able to re-locate the orchids, because they go back to those several times, and it is that capacity to keep track of where they are in their environment that allows them to do this sort of navigation."

The research team is now looking at how the relationship may have come about.

Professor Chase said: "Orchids rarely co-evolve with their pollinators, mostly it is a case of the orchid adapting to an insect or animal that already exists that may visit flowers of other plants, and the orchids sort of tap into that."

(Submitted by Tim Chapman)

Britain's goat talent

Click to enlarge

Metro Ireland, 12 January 2010, p11.

So, how do you make a gorilla stew?

YOU keep him waiting for three hours. And if you told that joke in Africa, you'd get more hearty laughs than in Asia. Naturalists have discovered orang-utans and other Asian apes laugh less than their African cousins, such as gorillas and chimps. And they also found that, while humans first learned to laugh from their ape ancestors millions of years ago, we have since learned to use laughter to sneer, mock and ridicule.

'Our observations showed strong differences in the use of laughter between the Asian great apes (orang-utans) and the African great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos),' said Dr Marina Davila Ross, of the UK's University of Portsmouth.

'Asian apes and humans laugh clearly more often.'

Evolution has enabled humans to use laughter to mock others while apes simply laugh to enjoy themselves and influence others, she concluded.

'But something happened in the last 5 million years which means humans use laughter for a much wider range of situations.'

Dr Ross, who worked with the University of Veterinary Medicine in Germany, also showed sounds other than laughter can evolve in the context of tickling. Mammals, including flying foxes, make sounds when they are tickled but they are not necessarily laughing.

Metro Ireland, 12 January 2010, p5.

Deadly octopus turns up in girl's bath

January 12, 2010

A six-year-old Melbourne girl's weekend hobby has almost turned deadly.

Holly Smith was washing a shell she'd collected at Point Lonsdale beach on Sunday when a blue-ringed octopus fell into her bathtub.

The Geelong Advertiser reports the girl was washing a large, curled periwinkle shell when the deadly octopus fell into the bath.

The blue-ringed octopus is recognised as one of the world's most venomous animals and can cause paralysis in humans within minutes.

The girl's father, Justin Smith, was understandably alarmed by the incident.

"It was just a complete surprise that my daughter's hobby, which I'd been watching in a relaxed manner, turned out to be one that in future I'll need to be watching much more carefully," he told the Geelong Advertiser.

Holly told Channel Seven, "The octopus just plopped out."

"It would have poisoned us," she said.

Holly says she'll keep collecting shells but will be more careful, and is taking the preserved octopus into school for 'show and tell'.

Her mum reiterated that it's a good warning.

Blue-ringed octopuses are common throughout Australia and rest in quiet places before feeding at night.

A bite from the octopus is often relatively painless and may go unnoticed.



A new species of lichen discovered in the Iberian Peninsula

11 January 2010 Plataforma SINC

Spanish scientists have described the lichen Phylloblastia fortuita, new to the Iberian Peninsula and to science. Another species from the same family, Phylloblastia dispersa, is also a new entry for Europe and is the first time it has been found outside the tropics. Foliicolous lichens, symbiosis between fungi and algae, are organisms associated with tropical or sub-tropical climates, and their presence in environments such as the Iberian Peninsula, outside of the tropics, is associated with conditions of very stable ecological and environmental conditions

"We have identified three Phylloblastia lichens in the Iberian Peninsula, one of which is new to science (Phylloblastia fortuita), and we present a fourth species new to European flora, Phylloblastia dispersa", Esteve Llop, main author and research at the Departamento de Biología Vegetal-Botánica [Department of Plant-Botanical Biology] of the University of Barcelona (UB) explains to SINC.

Together, the scientists Esteve Llop and Antonio Gómez-Bolea analysed the lichen flora in a protected area near Barcelona. Although some species of lichen have already been recorded on leaves in the North East of the Iberian Peninsula, this is the first time new species have been described.

The study, recently published in The Lichenologist, brings together biological material that had not been identified by researchers in a previous study carried out in 2006, as well as new material related to previous samples. Llop points out that "the literature about the group to which the samples belong had increased because of contributions from intertropical zones with extratropical species".

The field of study where the lichens were found in Catalonia is also important for science. The presence of Phylloblastia fortuita in the Iberian Peninsula and of Phylloblastia dispersa in Europe reveals areas of "great sensitivity" to environmental changes and may serve as indicators of climatic change.

The biologist states that "we have found a new area with Foliicolous lichen flora, rich in important plant life, which, as in other locations, is associated with conditions of ecological and environmental stability", and concludes: "Scientists consider the importance of protecting these locations based on their relevance to ecology and biodervsity".

Full bibliographic information
Llop, Esteve; Gómez-Bolea, Antonio. “The lichen genus Phylloblastia (Verrucariaceae) in the Iberian Peninsula, with a new species from Western Europe”, Lichenologist 41: 565-569 Part 6, noviembre de 2009

(Submitted by Tim Chapman)

Police Investigate Cougar Sighting In Minneapolis

Jan 11, 2010 10:23 pm US/Central

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Police are investigating another possible cougar sighting in Minneapolis.

When Norm Mosher was driving home from work Monday morning, he saw what he thought was a golden retriever crossing the road in Northeast Minneapolis near along St. Anthony Parkway near Marshall Avenue.

It was only when the long-time outdoorsman got up close that he realized it was a cat by the way it walked. Its long tail was swinging.

"Cats move in a more sultry manner I guess, people call it slinking," said Mosher. "I call it sauntering."

He drove a little ways but decided to turn back around and check the tracks. He found typical cat's tracks -- no claw marks and a line where the tail hit the ground.

"I'm terribly surprised, terribly surprised," he said. "We're out here in the middle of Minneapolis."

Mosher told police, who wanted to issue a warning. Although cougar attacks on humans are very rare, Minneapolis Police Sergeant Jesse Garcia asked the people who live in the area keep an eye out.

"If you're jogging down this trail early morning or if you've got small children in you're neighborhood, this thing might make it into the neighborhood," he said. He asked if anyone sees a cougar to call police.

The police called the DNR, who have not yet confirmed the tracks. Last month, there were sightings of a cougar in Champlin, Stillwater and Vadnais Heights.

The DRN warns that if you get close to a cougar, don't turn and run. Rather, back away slowly, puff up your body to appear intimidating and offer it an escape route. Cougars are very solitary animals and will likely run away.

(Submitted by Matt Cardier)

Monday, 11 January 2010

Cool for cats

Click to enlarge

Brother and sister Sumatran tiger cubs Emas and Wanita, born in May, play in the snow in their enclosure at Dublin Zoo yesterday. The tigers, whose species are native to the hot and humid Sumatran jungle, don't seem too bothered by the cold.

Metro Ireland, 11 January 2009, p5.

Warm and hoppy

Click to enlarge
A Turkish Angora cat is dressed in a rabbit costume, complete with carrot, for a carnival dress show, part of the World Xoo exhibition, in Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.

Metro Ireland, 11 January 2009, p11.

Pets also need care in the cold

PET owners have been urged to ensure their animals have enough food and shelter to survive the freezing conditions. The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it has witnessed several cases of neglect and cruelty since the cold snap set in. ISPCA chairwoman Barbara bent said: 'We are calling on animal owners and members of the public to be vigilant during the the current cold spell and winter months o report any neglect or cruelty to animals to the ISPCA.' The charity also advises that dogs not be chained into a kennel, as this restricts the animal from being able to walk around to keep warm.

Metro Ireland, 11 January 2010, p5.

Norfolk cat found frozen in snow survives

NORFOLK, Mass. -- A cat found frozen in the snow has made a miraculous recovery.

Annie, a 13-year-old tuxedo cat, disappeared during snowstorm in early December on the day her family was moving. After Annie had been missing for five weeks, her family feared the worst.

“We were so worried about her with the cold temperatures and the snow. We really just kept our fingers crossed, and it’s a miracle she's here,” said her owner, Alison.

Alison helped put up missing pet fliers. The family also contacted Animal Control for help.

“We just crossed our fingers that she could come home and that she would come home or that someone would find her,” said Alison.

This past weekend, Animal Control officers received a call regarding Annie.

“Basically, when I picked her up, she had no signs of life. She was stiff, she was unconscious, cold to the touch and not responding to anything,” said Hilary Cohen, a Norfolk Animal Control officer.

Yet Annie started to move about once she was inside the cruiser.

“I realized driving down the road that her whiskers started twitching, and I realized we needed to work on this cat right away,” said Cohen.

Annie received fluids and heat therapy for nourishment. She also was treated for frostbite.

The cat is recovering nicely and expected to go home some time next week.

“She had a strong heart and a strong will to live that was just incredible,” said Alison.

Animal Control officers say if Annie had been out in the cold any longer, she may not have survived.

See video at: http://www1.whdh.com/news/articles/local/BO133058/

Deadly Portuguese Man O' War jellyfish 'likely' off NI

Monday, 11 January 2010

Sightings of whales, dolphins and basking sharks off the Northern Ireland coast are becoming more common.

But a new visitor to the Irish Sea has been raising eyebrows in the Republic of Ireland, and it is also quite likely to be in waters nearer home.

The potentially deadly Portuguese Man O' War (physalia physalis), has been seen off the coast of County Louth, with 30 sightings reported to marine researchers last year, stretching from Wexford to the more northerly county.

In 2007, a swarm of Mauve Stinger jellyfish wiped out 100,000 salmon when they swamped a fish farm off Glenarm in County Antrim.

Since then, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency has been working with Queen's University, Belfast, to carry out small scale surveys of jellyfish activity, concentrating on the Mauve Stingers.

The stinger and Man O' War are normally found further offshore and researchers believe it is likely that a combination of warmer seas and prevailing winds, are responsible for both 'stingers' being in the Irish Sea during the autumn of 2009.

"To date, there have been no confirmed sightings of the potentially lethal Portuguese Man O' War jellyfish around Northern Ireland," an NIEA spokesperson said.

"However, during the latter part of 2009 there were several reported sightings from the Isle of Man and County Louth suggesting that it is likely that small numbers have also been in Northern Ireland waters.

"These sightings peaked during September and October with further reports during November and December."

The Mauve Stinger is a very small orange or purple jellyfish, while the Portuguese Man O' War has a very distinctive shape, including a bottle shaped gas bladder and stinging tentacles that can be several metres long.

The Portuguese Man O' War is not a true jellyfish as such, but a siphonophore - a single creature made up of a colony of organisms.

Both have powerful stings that can potentially produce a severe reaction and the NIEA said people should avoid touching them and seek medical advice if stung.

There are at least eight species of jellyfish which are regularly recorded in Northern Ireland waters, including Moon, Lion's Mane, Compass, Root Mouth, By-the-Wind-Sailor, Blue, Portuguese Man O' War and Mauve Stinger.

Half of the species produce powerful stings.


Sunday, 10 January 2010

Behemoth bruin terrorizes Incline Village homes

Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, January 10, 2010

(01-10) 04:00 PST Incline Village, Nev. --

A gigantic, bullet-scarred black bear with a hankering for human food and a knack for breaking and entering has been terrorizing homeowners on the north shore of Lake Tahoe and deftly outmaneuvering gun-toting rangers, bear dogs and traps.

The burly bruin - a male that weighs an estimated 700 pounds, roughly twice the poundage of the average adult black bear - has broken into and ransacked dozens of homes in Incline Village since last summer, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage and more than a few sleepless nights.

Wildlife officials have tried everything, but the food junkie apparently knows a bear trap when he sees one, shakes off bullets like they were mosquito bites, and keeps coming back for more.

"He's busted into probably 40 or 50 homes," said Carl Lackey, a bear biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. "I've never seen anything like that before."

Trappers plan to kill the bear if they ever catch him, prompting some animal lovers to rally to the muscular mammal's defense.

Save or kill?

"We offered to capture him and put him in a wildlife sanctuary where he'd have about 100 acres to roam free, but the Nevada Department of Wildlife said they don't want to do that," said Ann Bryant, executive director of the BEAR (Bear Education Aversion Response) League. "They'd rather capture and kill him."

A bear habituated to humans is dangerous because it is more likely to attack when cornered, Lackey explained. This bear, he said, has been shot on two occasions while breaking into homes. One of the bullets reportedly bounced off his head.

"Relocation doesn't work. They come right back no matter how far away you take them," Lackey said. "If they do stay where you put them, a bear that has been breaking into homes is going to continue to do it. How would you feel if we relocated a bear like this near your home?"

The ursine prowler, which some have taken to calling Bubba, has learned how to smash out panels on garage doors and rummage through garbage and garage refrigerators. He has a tendency to barge in long after supper time.

Bubba at the fridge

Marianne Lyons, 68, of Nevada City, was alone in a back bedroom at her son's Incline Village house last summer when a "huge bear" busted into the garage, popped open the fridge and began feasting on frozen meat and other goodies. The behemoth sauntered nonchalantly away when animal control officers came, Lyons said, but returned after they left.

"This happened every hour on the hour until 4 a.m. He would come in, get what he wanted and leave. I was ready to jump out the window," Lyons said. "I just had this feeling he was going to come barreling into the house any minute. I have never been more scared."

Lackey said one resident reported shooting the bear right between the eyes with a .44 Magnum after the hungry giant lifted a sliding-glass door off the tracks and started toward him. The bullet glanced off and sent the bear whirling around the kitchen, and a second shot prompted him to scramble out the back door, according to local newspaper accounts.

'Scars on its face'

A Diamond Peak, Nev., resident said he shot the bear in the back with a .30-30 rifle when the animal charged him just after Thanksgiving.

"I've seen bears before, but this was the biggest bear I've ever seen," said the man, who did not want to be identified out of fear that animal lovers would harass him. "I can tell you this thing was nasty looking, with scars on its face and a gash on its neck."

Lackey said the bear is unusually smart. He has eluded the Karelian Bear Dogs that were put on his trail and waltzes right by bear traps. He even knows the garbage pickup dates in certain neighborhoods and routinely shows up to feast when cans are full, Lackey said.

The bear often leaves a humongous, smelly deposit as a kind of calling card.

Three break-ins

"He actually broke into my garage three different times," said Bill Philpott, whose garage on Pelton Lane in the Mill Creek subdivision was first punched open for an apparent look-see at the end of October and then smashed completely three days later.

"I have a refrigerator in the garage. He opened it up, drank a gallon of orange juice, opened the freezer above and munched two frozen pizzas and snacked on frozen chicken," Philpott said. "He broke all the shelves and racks out of the refrigerator, bit into some fruit punch and squirted it all over everywhere, then dragged the trash can outside and took a crap the size of a basketball on the front lawn."

Philpott replaced the garage door in November, only to have the bear tear it down again.

Plenty of bears

Problem bears are not unusual in the Lake Tahoe area, where 350 or so bruins compete for food. Black bears are rarely dangerous to people - no one has been killed by one in California in the past 100 years - but problems can develop when the carnivores learn to associate an easy food supply with humans, according to experts. Such bears rarely hibernate and tend to be more aggressive.

Bubba hasn't been seen in about three weeks, the longest respite since summer, but Lackey is confident the big bruin is still around, readying himself for another raid.

"Bears like this continue to feed year-round," Lackey said. "That's how you get these 600- to 700-pound bears when they are normally 350 to 400 pounds. At this point there is no point in putting out traps. We'll wait until we get a call saying he is in the area and we'll try to catch him."
E-mail Peter Fimrite at pfimrite@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle


Baby Panda Shows His Bounce Back Ability

10:21am UK, Friday January 08, 2010
Angela Barnes, Sky News Online

San Diego Zoo's newest baby panda, Yun Zi, made his media debut by showing off his bounce back ability.

The five month old giant panda cub climbed a tree branch, fell off, and promptly climbed back on.

The zoo's senior keeper, Kathy Hawk, said: "It's all part of the learning process."

She added it would help Yun Zi help get his "climbing legs going."

The cub's mother, Bai Yun, was equally unpeturbed.

She looked on proudly as her bubbly baby boy performed for the cameras.


Fish 'acts like Lord Sugar when dealing with subordinates'

A species of fish exhibits traits similar to Lord Sugar when dealing with subordinates who fail in a task, new research has shown.

Published: 7:30AM GMT 08 Jan 2010

Cleaner wrasse, which live on reefs, provide a valuable service by feeding on the parasites of ''client'' fish.

Males are in charge in communities of cleaner wrasse and the new research shows they have much in common with their ''Lord Sugar'' style human counterparts.

Like the belligerent Amstrad founder and boss on the television show The Apprentice, male cleaner wrasse will not tolerate failure.

When the females fall down on the job by offending a client, they are chased aggressively by the angry males.

The behaviour is an unusual example of animals delivering a ''third-party punishment'' for misdeeds that do not directly affect them.

Although cleaner fish pick parasites off their larger reef-mates, they can get a bigger meal by taking a bite of the mucus on a client's skin. However this is seen as an offensive ''cheating'' act, and likely to drive the ''customer'' away.

Any female spotted committing such a flagrant breach of the rules provokes a sharp reaction from the boss.

The boss/employee relationship between male and female cleaner fish was investigated in the laboratory by scientists led by a team from the Zoological Society of London.

A plate full of ordinary food and more tempting prawns was offered to the fish, but removed whenever one of them ate a prawn.

Researchers quickly saw that males would chase females who could not resist the prawns, thereby causing the food plate to be lost. After being punished, the females were less likely to eat a prawn again.

The study, reported in the journal Science, shed light on what occurred between the fish and their ''clients'' in nature.

Dr Nichola Raihani, from the Zoological Society of London, said: ''Clients will leave if they are cheated at a cleaning station. That means the male's dinner leaves if the female cheats. By punishing cheating females, the males are not really sticking up for the clients but are making sure that they get a decent meal.''


Dogs flown to new homes

A group of Chihuahuas are being flown across the US to find new homes.

08 January 2010 16:30 PM

A group of Chihuahuas are being flown across the US to find new homes.

15 of the animals are being jetted from San Francisco to New York in the hope of finding loving new owners - because they have become a must-have fashion accessory in the area.

While California animal shelters are inundated with the breed, Chihuahuas are in high demand in many other states.

Over recent years a growing number of trend-setting celebrities - including Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Cheryl Cole - have become owners of the tiny pooches.

The homeless pups will now be flown into New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport by officials at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and then hopefully re-homed.


Japanese fisherman catches 22-pound bass


DANIA BEACH, Fla. - A Japanese man is being credited with tying the 77-year-old world record for catching the biggest largemouth bass.

The International Game Fish Association announced Friday that it had confirmed the 22-pound, 4-ounce fish caught by Manabu Kurita. The Florida-based group said Kurita caught the fish July 2 on Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake.

Kurita's fish tied the record of George Perry, who caught his bass on Georgia's Montgomery Lake on June 2, 1932.

Kurita used 25-pound test line and a live blue gill as bait.


Electric ray gives birth to 16 babies

A rare electric ray has given birth to 16 babies at a sealife centre.

Published: 8:00AM GMT 09 Jan 2010

It is believed to be the first time the marbled electric ray - which can give a shock almost as strong as mains power - has given birth in captivity in Britain.

The baby rays are in good health and feeding happily on slivers of squid in a nursery tank at Brighton Sealife Centre in Brighton, East Sussex.

The mother was delivered to the centre in September by a local fisherman who was surprised to find the ray among his catch.

Marbled electric rays, or Torpedo marmorata, are usually found in the Mediterranean.

Curator Alex Gerrard said: "She settled in well, but started to go off her food mid-way through December.

"We were worried she might be ill but realise now it was because she was ready to go into labour."

The mum is the size of a large dinner plate and her babies are each as big as the bottom of a coffee cup.


Man-Eater Shark Spines 'To Be Severed'

7:03am UK, Sunday January 10, 2010
Huw Borland, Sky News Online

Sharks that attack swimmers will be hunted down, shot in the head and sawed apart until their spines are severed, according to reports.

Perth's Sunday Times revealed the gruesome methods for dealing with man-eaters approved by the Government of Western Australia.

A shark that attacked a swimmer would be slaughtered if it continued to pose a threat to beachgoers, WA Department of Fisheries's Tina Thorne was quoted by the paper as saying.

But the kill order would only be given in "extreme circumstances", as a last resort where there was an immediate danger to the public.

Ms Thorne said fisheries officers would first use a baited drumline and put "attractant" in the water to try to hook the shark.

The creature would then be hauled aboard a boat where officers would "have to use a large firearm to dispatch the animal".

"That is not an easy task, as sharks have very small brains," she said.

Once shot through the head, officers would ensure the creature was dead by "severing the spinal cord and bleeding it out".

"Even if you hook it, you can't just fly over in a chopper and shoot it because of refraction (of the bullets) in the water," Ms Thorne said.

But great whites - the species responsible for most fatal attacks - are protected and a special exemption from the law is required to kill one.

Six people have been killed by sharks in Western Australia in the past 20 years, the paper added.


Saturday, 9 January 2010

Footprints fuel rumours of the beast of Workington's Borough Park

By John Walsh
Friday, 08 January 2010

Could these paw prints in the snow be the proof there is a beast of Borough Park who prowls near the pitch at Workington Reds’ football ground?

The mysterious tracks, almost the size of an adult human hand, have been discovered at the sports stadium, supporting previous sightings of a huge black cat-like creature.

Groundsman Jeff Curwen and Reds fan Peter Bratley discovered the mysterious prints in the snow when they were first to arrive at the ground this week.

Jeff said: “I can tell tracks by now. There was a fox there as well because his prints are neat and all in line and there were also marks and tracks from rabbits and birds.

“But these prints were different. They certainly made Peter and I look around for more.

“They didn’t seem to be on the pitch, funnily enough, but round the tunnel side and behind the Derwent end goals.”

Jeff has an inkling of what might have been responsible as two years ago he had a nerve-jangling moment while working on the ground.

“I was working on my own over by the popular side when I noticed something move behind the seats on the terracing,” he added.

“It walked behind the seats and I could see its tail and the top of a head.

“It was a big, black cat-like creature and when it seemed to see me it turned to its right and got away out through the entrance at the back and apparently over into Lonsdale Park.

“I told a few people what I had seen but nobody seemed to believe me.

“There has got to be some connection with that creature and the prints. You could see the claw marks at the end of the prints.”

There have been several sightings in Cumbria over the years of large, black cat-like creatures.

The British Big Cats Society say that the non-native creatures are stalking Britain and their numbers could be on the rise.

First published at 11:26, Friday, 08 January 2010
Published by

(Submited by Lindsay Selby)

Neanderthal 'make-up' discovered

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Scientists claim to have the first persuasive evidence that Neanderthals wore "body paint" 50,000 years ago.

The team report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that shells containing pigment residues were Neanderthal make-up containers.

Scientists unearthed the shells at two archaeological sites in the Murcia province of southern Spain.

The team says its find buries "the view of Neanderthals as half-wits" and shows they were capable of symbolic thinking.

Professor Joao Zilhao, the archaeologist from Bristol University in the UK, who led the study, said that he and his team had examined shells that were used as containers to mix and store pigments.

Black sticks of the pigment manganese, which may have been used as body paint by Neanderthals, have previously been discovered in Africa.

"[But] this is the first secure evidence for their use of cosmetics," he told BBC News. "The use of these complex recipes is new. It's more than body painting."

The scientists found lumps of a yellow pigment, that they say was possibly used as a foundation.

They also found red powder mixed up with flecks of a reflective brilliant black mineral.

Some of the sculpted, brightly coloured shells may also have been worn by Neanderthals as jewellery.

Until now it had been thought by many researchers that only modern humans wore make-up for decoration and ritual purposes.

There was a time in the Upper Palaeolithic period when Neanderthals and humans may have co-existed. But Professor Zilhao explained that the findings were dated at 10,000 years before this "contact".

"To me, it's the smoking gun that kills the argument once and for all," he told BBC News.

"The association of these findings with Neanderthals is rock-solid and people have to draw the associations and bury this view of Neanderthals as half-wits."

Professor Chris Stringer, a palaeontologist from the Natural History Museum in London, UK, said: "I agree that these findings help to disprove the view that Neanderthals were dim-witted.

But, he added that evidence to that effect had been growing for at least the last decade.

"It's very difficult to dislodge the brutish image from popular thinking," Professor Stringer told BBC News. "When football fans behave badly, or politicians advocate reactionary views, they are invariably called 'Neanderthal', and I can't see the tabloids changing their headlines any time soon."

Hybrid boy?

Another study published in the same issue of PNAS provides intriguing evidence about the relationship between humans and Neanderthals.

An international team of researchers examined teeth from the skeleton of a human child that was discovered in Portugal in the late 1990s.

It was suggested by some scientists at the time that this skeleton, which dates from the Upper Palaeolithic period - between 10,000 and 40,000 years ago - might have been the product of human and Neanderthal interbreeding.

The researchers found that the skeleton's teeth shared some features with Neanderthals rather than modern humans.

Although this does not settle the argument of whether the child was a hybrid, it does indicate, the researchers write, that "these earlier Upper Palaeolithic humans are not simply older versions of [today's] humanity".

(Submitted by D.R. Shoop)

Friday, 8 January 2010

'Bear Cam' from a Minn. den may show live birth

Associated Press

Last update: January 8, 2010 - 8:14 AM

ELY, Minn. - A video feed is going live from the den of a hibernating wild bear.

The den is near Ely in northern Minnesota, and researchers say there's a better than average chance that its resident, Lilly, will give birth to 1-pound cubs around mid-January.

It's the work of film-and-video producer Doug Hajicek. He set up a similar "bear cam" in 1999, but no cubs were born.

Viewers and researchers will be able to witness Lily around the clock. The camera will transmit in color by day and produce infrared images at night. A motion sensor will trigger video and sound transmission when there's activity. Otherwise, it will send stills.

The feed will be available on the North American Bear Center's Web site at http://www.bear.org starting at noon Friday.


Disturbing spread of invasive bees

January 8, 2010 - 6:13AM

A bee that has caused untold harm overseas is causing grave concern after it was found on the rich Atherton Tableland west of Cairns in far north Queensland.

Two swarms of Asian honey bees have been located on the Tableland, the latest near Lake Eacham.

It is not the bees themselves that are causing great concern, but the fact they can host the varroa mite.

These mites attack European honey bees and the hives sicken and eventually die.

No country has yet been able to eradicate these honey bees or the mites once they've become established.

Quarantine authorities managed to contain and destroy an incursion of Asian honey bees into Darwin in 1998.

Asian honey bees were first detected at the port of Cairns in May, 2007 and while none of the 41 colonies located and destroyed thus far have carried the mite, it may only be a matter of time before varroa mites invade the continent.

Australia is considered the last bastion against the mite which has devastated commercial honey production in the United States and Papua New Guinea.

Biosecurity Queensland's Asian honey bee eradication co-ordinator Charlotte Greer said while Cairns was home to few bee hives, there were many on the Atherton Tableland, adding to the risk the exotic bees could bring.

While the risk from the varroa mite to Australia's $75 million honey and beeswax industry is obvious, it pales into insignificance against bees' value in pollinating plants, estimated to be between $4 billion and $6 billion, according to a House of Representatives report.

Ms Greer said authorities were nonplussed that swarms were appearing on the Atherton Tableland up to 50 kilometres from the coastal areas around Cairns.

A swarm was found near Mareeba in August and another was spotted by an alert local at Lake Eacham this week.

"It's so far away from everything, that's the shock to us," Ms Greer said.

"We're just scratching our heads as to how the bloody hell it got there, but we're very keen to find out."

She said an "uninformed hobbyist" may have inadvertently moved the bees or a swarm may have escaped from a shipping container during transport.

Far north Queenslanders are being asked to check their properties for signs of the invaders.

(Submitted by Matt Cardier)

'Scary' internet plot to disrupt live TV ghost-hunter show sparks security alert

By Daily Mail Reporter
8 January 2010

A bizarre plot to disrupt a live TV ghost show and even attack its presenter has been uncovered.
Bloggers on a so-called 'urban exploration' website were caught discussing plans to wreck tomorrow's opening edition of 'Most Haunted'.

The show is being broadcast every evening for the next seven days from a deserted RAF base in Norfolk.

The episode - called The Silent Town - is expected to focus on ghosts and spirits said to haunt RAF West Raynham, which lost 86 planes during bombing raids and attacks on Nazis.

Fronted by ex-Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding, the show on Living TV is watched by more than half a million viewers.

But after Most Haunted announced its new location for the January show, bloggers on an urban exploration site quickly hatched a plan to turn the tables on the programme.

Urban explorers sneak into disused buildings - from manor houses to military bases and closed down mental institutions - and take photos of the site before posting the pictures online and describing the site.

But in a new twist, a group of the explorers - who are well-acquainted with the layout of RAF West Raynham - said they wanted use their knowledge of the site to 'scare the s***' out of the presenters live on TV.

One called dangerous dave even offered a pint of beer to anyone who smacks Yvette Fielding.

He said on the blog: 'If someone does a hit on that dippy cow in Most Haunted (Yvette Fielding) there's a pint in it.'

Another said: 'Right - lets go f*** with them and don our white sheets.'

One member, calling himself ukmayhem, asked the blog: 'Is it illegal to disrupt live filming?'

Another added: 'I'd be right up for messing with their show, its such bulls***. We are currently working on a plan.'

A reply on the same thread stated: 'We really should arrange to sneak in and scare the s*** out of them - what's the best options for spooking the spook-hunters?'

One blogger branded the Most Haunted team 'w******', adding: 'I am gutted that Most Haunted are going to ruin the place.'

In 2006 filming on Most Haunted was cancelled after three members of the crew were 'slashed by an unseen force' on their backs an legs as they investigated underground vaults in Edinburgh on Halloween.

And former presenter Derek Acorah was regularly 'possessed' by phantoms and even 'pulled down a mineshaft' by a spirit during a live episode in West Yorkshire in 2005.

RAF Raynham has two runways, four hangars and a watch tower which was used to direct bombing missions to Germany.

Until 1994 the base was used as a summer training camp for soldiers, but in the past 16 years it has fallen into a state of total disrepair and was sold by the Ministry of Defence in 2005 to a private housing contractor.

The 160-acre site, however, remains a deserted wasteland with remnants of it's past history strewn all over the base.

The interactive live show, presented by Yvette Fielding on location and by Paul Ross in the studio, uses demonologists and historians to explain to viewers what is going on.

Viewers can also access four webcams and report ghostly happenings to the studio online.

A spokesman for Living TV said today that they were aware of the plans and that security was now 'tight'.

She added: 'Disruption to the live show will be almost impossible.'

(Submitted by Dave McMann)

Earliest Four-Limbed Animals Left Mud Tracks

The finding of 395-million-year-old footprints in Poland turns back the clock on the evolution of four-legged creatures.

By Jennifer Viegas Wed Jan 6, 2010 07:57 AM ET

This is a sketch of a Devonian tetrapod making tracks. It is based on a species from the Late Devonian of Greenland but is a reasonable approximation to the track-maker of newly-found prints in Poland.
Per Ahlberg
The world's first four-limbed animals, called tetrapods, crawled on land much earlier than scientists thought, judging by tracks left behind by some of the animals in a prehistoric Polish lagoon.

The fossilized footprints from these animals are 18 million years older than the earliest tetrapod body fossils, pushing the emergence of four-limbed creatures back to at least the early Middle Devonian period, according to two papers published in the latest issue of the journal Nature.

Tracks left behind by the animals 397 million years ago show how they walked on their short, thick legs through the mud of what was once a coral reef lagoon. That type of location, with its regular tides and abundant food sources consisting of "washed-up dead animals," likely set the stage for the fish-to-land animal transition, according to the authors.

The crawlers have not yet been identified, but co-author Per Ahlberg told Discovery News that they were "basal tetrapods, the common ancestral stock of all the living tetrapod groups."

Dogs, cats, humans and any other animal with four limbs fall into that large overall group.

But there was something fishy about these early animals.

"There isn't anything living today with the strange combination of fish and tetrapod-like characteristics that we see in the earliest fossil tetrapods," said Ahlberg, an Uppsala University Professor of Evolutionary Organismal Biology.

Ahlberg and his colleagues found and studied the tracks at what is now the Zachelmie Quarry in southeastern Poland. Their analysis shows some of the animals appear to have moved in a straight line without dragging their bodies on the ground, while others had a less symmetrical gait.

The largest of the individual prints shows not just feet, but the animal's "whole limb as far as the knee," the researchers wrote. On one fossil track, "the tip of each triangular toe shows a small distinct cushion or pad," they added.

Before the discovery of these tracks, it was thought certain fish evolved into four-limbed animals during the Givetian Period, 391 to 385 million years ago. Fossils seemed to neatly support this timing for the fin-to-limb gradual change, since some fish, known as elpistostegids, appeared to belong to a mid-point stage where the fish had tetrapod-like heads and bodies, but retained fish characteristics, such as paired fins.

"In fact, tetrapods and elpistostegids coexisted for at least 10 million years," the researchers point out. "This implies that the elpistostegid morphology was not a brief transitional stage, but a stable adaptive position in its own right."

The scientists compare the coexistence of four-limbed animals and these fish with what happened to dinosaurs and birds. Dinosaurs didn't all just evolve into birds. Feathered and winged theropod dinosaurs were still around long after the first birds appeared about 150 million years ago.

Another revision to the animal history books concerns the habitat of the first tetrapods, according to Philippe Janvier and Gael Clement of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

In a separate commentary in Nature, they call the new finds a "stunning discovery." They write that the sea and lagoon location described by Ahlberg and his colleagues "is at odds with the long-held view that river deltas and lakes were the necessary environments for the transition from water to land during vertebrate evolution."

Given this difference, and the very early date of the tracks, Janvier and Clement believe the new findings "lob a grenade" into accepted theories of the fish-to-tetrapod transition.


BBC to launch review into allegations of bias in its science coverage

The BBC Trust is to launch an investigation into allegations of bias in its coverage of science.

By Urmee Khan, Digital and Media Correspondent
Published: 3:18PM GMT 06 Jan 2010

The BBC has been criticised for its reporting of science stories in recent months and it has been accused of failing to cover the climate change debate objectively.

The Trust will carry out the review in the spring to assess the "accuracy and impartiality" of the corporation's coverage of science.

The corporation’s governing body said the review follows "heated debates" around topics like GM crops, MMR and global warming.

The BBC came under fire in November, after a broadcaster admitted he knew about controversial emails in which scientists discussed "spinning" climate data long before it reported on them.

Paul Hudson, a BBC weather presenter and climate change expert, said he was sent the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia, indicating that researchers massaged figures to mask the fact that world temperatures have been declining in recent years, a month before the story broke.

It raised questions about why the BBC did not report on the matter sooner, and it reignited the debate over whether the corporation is biased on the issue of climate change.

Peter Sissons, the veteran newsreader, claimed last year that it was now "effectively BBC policy" to stifle critics of the consensus view on global warming.

The review, which will be published in 2011, will assess science output relating to public policy and "matters of political controversy".

The "science" label will include technology, medicine and environment coverage that "entails scientific statements, research findings or other claims made by scientists". The review is expected to consult scientists and experts in the field.

Richard Tait, a BBC trustee and chair of the Trust's editorial standards committee (ESC), said: "Science is an area of great importance to licence fee payers, which provokes strong reaction and covers some of the most sensitive editorial issues the BBC faces.

"Heated debate in recent years around topics like climate change, GM crops and the MMR vaccine reflects this, and BBC reporting has to steer a course through these controversial issues while remaining impartial.

"The BBC has a well-earned reputation for the quality of its science reporting, but it is also important that we look at it afresh to ensure that it is adhering to the very high standards that licence fee payers expect."

However, some critics have said the BBC Trust is not in a position to conduct the review as it is regarded as being to close to the corporation.

Godfrey Bloom MEP said: "I would like to see a completely independent judicial review, the BBC cannot be objective as it has consistently shown. It has blocked sceptics of a scientific view point of climate change for years. No debate is allowed. It is biased in its reporting which is a disgrace and nothing less than a fully independent review is good enough."

A BBC Trust spokeswoman said: "As set out in the BBC's Charter and Agreement, the Trust is the body charged with ensuring that the BBC's coverage of any issue is duly impartial. This review, which will be carried out independently on behalf of the Trust, will take an in-depth look at the BBC's coverage of science, taking into account the views of relevant stakeholders, to make sure that the coverage adheres to the high standards that audiences expect."

(Submitted by Ray D)

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Alan & Fleck have an "Arctic Fox" of a time

There are two particular residents of Kent who have been enjoying the cold snowy conditions more than anyone else.

Wildwoods resident Arctic foxes have been feeling right at home as snow blankets their enclosure making them truly feel they are in the arctic.

During the rest of the year Alan and his daughter Fleck find modern Britain a bit on the warm side but in the winter they really perk up.

Arctic foxes are natives of the cold arctic regions of Northern Europe and can cope with temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius. Once a British species they became extinct in the UK after the last ice age - mainly killed by man for food and fur.

Arctic Foxes are just one of the huge range of British animals that can be seen at the Wildwood Discovery Park, for more information visit the website at http://www.wildwoodtrust.org/ or telephone 0871 7820087.

Wildwood is an ideal day out for all the family where you can come 'nose to nose' with British Wildlife. Wildwood offers its members and visitors a truly inspirational way to learn about the natural history of Britain by actually seeing the wildlife that once lived here, like the wolf, beaver, red squirrel, wild boar and many more.

Wildwood is situated close to Canterbury, just off the A291 between Herne Bay and Canterbury. For more information visit our website at http://www.wildwoodtrust.org/ or telephone 0871 782008.
Arctic Fox Facts
  • Arctic fox a member of the order Carnivora and is one of 14 fox species in the dog family, the Canidae.

  • Foxes, unlike wolves, share many traits with cats – highly sensitive whiskers on their muzzles and wrists, lighter, more agile bodies, partially retractable claws, they stalk and pounce and have soft toe pads and hair between their toes (thought to be adaptations for sneaking up on rodents), and pointier cat-like canines for efficient killing.

  • One suggestion for these adaptations is that Nature came up with common solutions to common problems; another is that the fox’s cat-like features were inherited from an ancient ancestor that lived before the cat-dog split.

  • Intelligent and adaptable, brazen and curious.

  • It will defend its food against a marauding wolf, explore the deck of an icebound ship and stick its nose in an explorer’s tent.

  • Generally a solitary predator, hunting and feeding alone, unlike its more sociable cousins, the wolf and the dog; largely nocturnal.

  • The Sami people of northern Scandanavia call it svale – the bold one.

  • Its range is circumpolar, everywhere north of the Arctic Circle – US northern tundra, Canada from the Yukon to Hudson Bay, Labrador and Baffin Island, Norway, Sweden, Finland and northern Russia, plus almost all Arctic islands and the polar ice cap (explorers have found Arctic fox tracks within a few miles of the North Pole itself).

  • Some foxes stay in the same area throughout their lives; others undertake epic journeys of thousands of miles.

  • Population estimates vary between 300,000-1 million worldwide, but the number is considered irrelevant because populations reproduce and die in dramatic waves (boom and bust). The important consideration is that the species survives successfully on such an extreme environment.
  • Almost every aspect of Arctic fox physiology is finely tuned to conserve heat energy.

  • The Arctic fox breaks some of the key rules of biology: 1) that larger animals have an easier time in cold conditions because a large body has a smaller surface area, relative to its body mass (i.e. heat doesn’t leave a bulky mass as fast as it does a small one) and 2) Allen’s Rule - after zoologist Joel Allen – which states that warm-blooded animals living in cold environments tend to have shorter limbs and more compact bodies.

  • The Arctic fox is tiny and combines long legs and a slender body with a flatter face and shorter ears.

  • Its circulation is designed to conserve heat loss. The arteries and veins in the animal’s extremities are very close together, transferring heat energy from the outgoing warmed arterial blood to the incoming veins, before it can be lost in the outer extremities. So the blood in the feet and extremities is a lot cooler and the warm blood is kept circulating in the core areas of the head and torso, conserving heat. Rather than heat the whole house, the Arctic fox closes the door on those areas than can withstand a lower blood temperature. Caribou/reindeer do the same.

  • It can also shrink the blood vessels leading to its skin to control heat loss.

    This means its paws in particular can be maintained at just above the point at which they would succumb to frostbite, well below the animal’s core body temperature.

  • Why is this cold tolerance so amazing?

    Scientists regard the Arctic fox’s cold tolerance with awe, especially as instead of using shelter as they are usually out in the open, curled in a ball, against the worst Arctic blizzards.

    The fox is dealing with the following problems:

    • a difference in temperature between its blood and the air around it of perhaps 100ºC

    • a barren Arctic environment with little food

    • no behaviour changes to cope with the cold – it doesn’t hibernate, migrate or socialise to huddle together and conserve heat

    • its size is tiny – it’s the smallest tundra animal living out in the open in winter (an adult Arctic fox weighs just 3.5Kg, compared with an Arctic hare which weighs 50% more).
  • Scientists say the Arctic fox is pushing animal life as far as it can go.

  • Many of the other Arctic species are considered cheaters – they have evolved to avoid the cold rather than endure it. Many bird species migrate south to avoid the worst of the Arctic winter and small mammals like lemmings survive by spending the entire winter in a relatively warm network of tunnels under the snow.

'The bat swooped down and bit each of the men'

January 6, 2010

There are fears for three men bitten by a bat infected with the potentially deadly lyssavirus in central Queensland on Tuesday.

The animal has tested positive to the Australian bat lyssavirus, which can cause serious illness in humans and has killed two people since it was identified in 1996.

The men were all attacked by the 'little red flying fox' while walking separately along a track at Joseph Banks Conservation Park near the Township of 1770, south of Gladstone.

Australian bat lyssavirus is one of seven types of lyssavirus which are found around the world, according to a Queensland Health fact file.

Another type of lyssavirus is the potentially fatal rabies.

The men - two of whom were visitors to the area - have returned to their homes in Ipswich, Hervey Bay and Agnes Water while a course of post-exposure prophylactic treatment and counselling are arranged.

''The bat swooped down and bit each of the men on the head or ears,'' acting chief health officer Christine Selvey told reporters.

"There is a risk the virus can be transmitted to humans, however we have a very highly effective treatment regime.

"If it's not correctly treated then the virus can spread along the nerves to the brain which causes an infection of the brain which would be fatal.''

The bat was killed by the third victim and then taken to Queensland Health's Coopers Plains lab for testing.

Biosecurity Queensland's principal veterinary scientist Janine Barrett said the Australian bat lyssavirus was carried by less than one per cent of the bat population, and passed on from animal to animal by scratching or biting.

Queensland Health figures show five bats tested positive to Australian bat lyssavirus last year.

Dr Selvey said the only two known cases of Australian bat lyssavirus in humans were in the 1990s.

Both were fatal.

''Since then we have introduced routine prophylaxis for bat bites and scratches and there have been no further cases,'' she said.

Anyone attacked by a bat is urged to contact medical authorities.

(Submitted by Matt Cardier)

Why Nessie may have sunk without trace

Click to enlarge
Metro, 7 January 2010, p25.

Melbourne Zoo's pregnant elephant

Metro, 7 January 2010, p21.

Taiwan scientist discovers 'strawberry' crab

5 January 2010

TAIPEI — A Taiwanese marine biologist said Tuesday he had found a new species of crab which is coloured like a polka-dotted strawberry.

Professor Ho Ping-ho of National Taiwan Ocean University said he made the discovery while carrying out research on the environmental impact from a shipwreck last year on the beaches of southern Kenting National Park.

"One was dead while the other was dying when they were found on a beach of Chialoshui," Ho told AFP, referring to a scenic coastal village in the national park.

The two female crabs, with the bigger one measuring 2.5 centimetres (one inch) in size, have been made into specimens.

"Luckily the oil leak from the shipwreck was not serious, otherwise the two crabs might have been polluted and escaped our eyes," Ho said.

The professor said he was writing an essay on the new species.

(Submitted by Chad Arment)

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Fossil tracks record 'oldest land-walkers'

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

By Jonathan Amos
Science correspondent, BBC News

The oldest evidence of four-legged animals walking on land has been discovered in southeast Poland.

Rocks from a disused quarry record the "footprints" of unknown creatures that lived about 397 million years ago.

Scientists tell the journal Nature that the fossil trackways even retain the impressions left by the "toes" on the animals' feet.

The team says the find means that land vertebrates appeared millions of years earlier than previously supposed.

"This place has yielded what I consider to be some of the most exciting fossils I've ever encountered in my career as a palaeontologist," said team member Per Ahlberg from Uppsala University, Sweden.

"[They are] fossil of footprints that give us the earliest record of how our very distant ancestors moved out of the water and moved on to the land and took their first steps."

Numerous trackways have been identified in the Zachelmie Quarry in the Holy Cross Mountains.

They represent the movements of many animals as they scurried around what would have been a tropical muddy shoreline in the Middle Devonian Period of Earth history.

Slabs of carbonate rock are dappled with prints that range in size and detail.

Some indentations are obscured where successive animals have trampled over the same patch of ground; but others retain exquisite features of the pads and digits that made them.

The animals were probably crocodile-like in appearance and lived an amphibian-like existence (although those specific animal forms did not appear until many millions of years later).

The dimensions of the prints suggest some individuals were more than two metres long.

The Polish and Swedish scientific team analysed the trackway patterns to reconstruct how the ancient creatures would have moved their "hips", "elbows" and "knees".

This confirms that only true four-legged animals, or tetrapods, could have left the marks.

Theory holds that the first land creatures evolved from fish that had pairs of lobed fins. The precise timing of this transition has been a dynamic field of study in recent years.

The assumption of palaeontologists had been that there was a swift but stepwise transition between water and land.

Perhaps the most notable fossil in this story is an organism called Tikaalik rosea, an animal that had features intermediate between fish and tetrapods.

But Tiktaalik lived about 375 million years ago; and although there are slightly older transition fossils, the Zachelmie Quarry tetrapods break the neat and simple timeline.

"The discovery of undoubted trackways from the earliest period of the Eifelian - that is 379 million years ago - pushes back the divergence between fishes and the four-legged vertebrates by about 18 million years, if not probably more," commented Dr Philippe Janvier from the National Museum of Natural History, Paris, France.

"I suspect that now we can push the divergence back to the Emsian stage, maybe 400 million years ago. That's surprising, but this is what the fossil evidence tells us," the independent researcher told BBC News.

Another key surprise from the research is the recognition that these tetrapods lived in a marine environment, perhaps a coral lagoon.

The favoured origin before now for the emergence of tetrapods had been marshy environments, such as deltas or lakes where freshwater dominated.

The team behind the latest research said the new explanation made sense because it would have allowed marine ancestors of tetrapods gradually to acquire terrestrial competence while accessing a new and essentially untouched resource of food washed up with the tides.

"In the intertidal setting, you've got a smorgasbord laid out twice a day," said Dr Ahlberg.

"Every time the tide goes out, it leaves behind this drift-line of dead and moribund animals. All this was just left there for vertebrates - our ancestors - to emerge on to land and pick them off."