John: Hi Hurst! It’s John. I’m playing Carol again for this installment of Creature Feature news.
Hurst: Hello, John! It is nice to have you substituting.
John: Yes, I am like the substitute teacher. We should just play a video for this week…On second thought, I have some important news tidbits I’d like to talk with you about. The first is that some researchers revived brain cells from a dead pig. Does that remind you of anything?
Hurst: Why, yes. I am a big fan of Young Frankenstein.
John: That’s Frankensteen, Hurst.
Hurst: What were the details?
John: This is actually a pretty big deal. The scientists were able to trigger some electrical activity in the neurons, but the activity was not coordinated, so, there was not any evidence of consciousness. The point is, it calls into question the line between life and death.
Hurst: That’s what we need you for, John–these big-picture ideas.
John: Yes, thank you, Hurst. This is a bioethical issue as well as a medical one, not only but for humans, but for the pigs. The researchers did not want to take the risk of the brains coming to life, so they had anesthetics at the ready, and were going to quickly chill them to stop the reanimation, if that happened. Read the full story.
Hurst: Well, we are just going to keep a close eye on this. Yeah, you better not donate your brain to science. It might get booted up some time after the fact.
John: Now, I have a story about someone who saved his dog’s life.
Hurst: That somehow seems a little more palatable.
John: Palatable? Maybe for you. Manuel Franco’s Maltese was gasping for air because of his lung disease.
Hurst: Yeah, then what happened?
John: He performed CPR on him.
Hurst: Get out.
John: No, I’m not kidding. He had taken a pet CPR course 6 months prior. The dog ended up living another 6 months. Hurst, do you have any pets?
Hurst: Why, yes I do, John.
John: Are you willing to give your menagerie of animals CPR if needed?
Hurst: I didn’t say I had a menagerie–I just have a goldfish.
John: Hmmm. It’s unlikely that CPR would be applicable for your pet. But, I would encourage people to take a CPR class, at least for humans. You can read more about the rescue here.
Hurst: Got any news on the lighter side?
John: Are you kidding, Hurst? The internet is full of light animal news. My role is to give you the animal news you need to know.
Hurst: OK. What else?
John: Grumpy Cat is dead.
Hurst: I heard that.
John: I guess it is probably not news to many. However, in case there are a few Fanimals that never heard of him, do you want to tell them about him?
Hurst: Why, yes. Grumpy Cat was an internet sensation. To sum it up, the cat looked grumpy all the time, even though he wasn’t. He made millions. I think that is the crux of it. You can see his life in pictures here.
John: Thank you for that, Hurst. What have you got to share today?
Hurst: John, I got a story about a bear that bribes a dog with bones.
John: What in the Sam Hill are you talking about, Hurst? I didn’t think bears were good negotiators.
Hurst: A fellow had trained his dog to protect his garbage from bears coming along and eating it up.
Hurst: The man found his trash disturbed on three separate occasions, and, each time, he found his dog, Brick, chewing on deer bones.
John: Are you trying to tell me the bear would bring along deer bones to keep the dog occupied?
Hurst: Yes, I am, John, but I haven’t independently verified it. You can read about the story here.
John: I guess we have to beware of bears bearing gifts.
Hurst: That was masterful.
John: Thank you, Hurst.
Hurst: John, I know we can get a little heavy with dog news. But, I saw a study that people who choose to own dogs might be influenced to adopt them by the owners’ genetic makeup. One way to study genetic traits is to use twins because they have the exact same genetic code. It turns out that if a twin owned a dog, his or her twin was also likely to own one. Read more about it here.
John: I think I was born to have a dog. But, I have had cats for years, also.
Hurst: You like to hedge your bets a little bit.
John: Well, I like bears, also. I have another dog story.
Hurst: Hit me.
John: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School set up a yearbook page for their therapy dogs. The 14 dogs have been on duty, providing comfort to the students and staff since the day they returned to school after last year’s shooting. You can see the pics here.
Hurst: John, I don’t think you need to apologize for giving us plenty of dog updates. Fanimals never tire of them.
John: Unfortunately, whenever I bring up non-dog animals, it’s often bad news.
Hurst: I know it. And don’t like it.
John: There are a lot of grey whales dying and washing up on the West Coast. They appear to be malnourished. Climate change might be causing their food sources to disappear. They do most of their eating when they are near Alaska. The overall population seems healthy, though. More about it here.
Hurst: Do you know how many koala bears are left in Australia?
John: No, but I have a feeling it’s low.
Hurst: 80,000. That’s down from 8 million before 1927. They are nearly functionally extinct. That means they are having almost no role in the functioning of its ecosystem. It’s happening largely because of deforestation.
John: Nothing would be more depressing than having koala bears go extinct.
Hurst: Well, Australians are trying to save them by introducing the Koala Protection Act, which is modeled after the US’s Bald Eagle Protection Act. It was very effective in bringing the eagles back. You can read about it here.
John: Speaking of animal legislation, I recently read an article about the The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act Of 2019, which is being sponsored by several presidential hopefuls. This legislation follows the UN report that stated that one million animals are facing the threat of extinction.
Hurst: We covered that report in last week’s Creature Feature!
John: It was definitely big news. The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act of 2019 would give federal agencies the power to designate portions of federal lands as wildlife corridors. The hope here is that these wildlife corridors will bridge gaps between multiple ecosystems and create larger habitat networks for these potentially endangered animals. Research has shown that these corridors are effective and the act will rectify the gap in the law to protect these animals.
Hurst: I love to see effective policy, and it is important to let the candidates you care about know that animal conservation is a priority. Speaking of ways you can help animals, I need to share this article about how you can help the Pangolin, one of Carol’s favorite animals.
John: I think most Creature Feature readers know about her fondness for those little scaly guys.
Hurst: I should hope so. As I’m sure you’re aware, pangolins are the most frequently illegally trafficked animals, and it is quickly decimating their populations. It is easy to feel helpless when you hear about an issue like this, but this article tells you a few things you can do as an individual to help. Whether it is raising awareness or donating your money, it is nice to have options to help these fascinating animals.
John: I totally agree! I always like to pango-lend a hand.
Hurst: Nice animal pun! Toucan play at that game. Did you see the report on parrots that came out this week? It seems that escaped pet parrots now have naturalized populations in 23 US states.
John: Oh no, not cute invasive species! Those are the hardest kinds to get rid of!
Hurst: Well that’s where the story takes a turn you wouldn’t expect. Other than isolated incidents, none of the parrot populations in the United States have been proven to be detrimental to the native wildlife. In fact, in the case of the Red Crowned Amazon Parrot, there is a larger population in California than in their native habitat of Mexico. Efforts to conserve this population may prove to sustain a species that would otherwise be in peril.
John: Well that was the feel good story I didn’t expect. In Carol’s absence I want to visit one of her frequent topics, traditional meat substitutes. Cargill, the world’s largest producer of ground meat, is the first traditional meat producer to invest in cell grown meat.
Hurst: Just to clarify, cell grown meat is real meat that is harvested using cell material from animals. However, it does not actually involve the slaughter of any animals.
John: Exactly. This investment is such a big deal because it could indicate a turning point in the meat industry. The industry may finally be recognizing the need and demand for no-slaughter meat.
Hurst: This is great news. As bad as we know the traditional meat industry is for animal welfare, it is equally awful for the environment. Changing topics, I have worrying news about canine brucellosis, a disease found in dogs that we now know is capable of being transferred to humans.
John: Is this swine flu 2.0?
Hurst: Nothing remotely close to that caliber, thankfully. Multiple cases have been documented in the state of Iowa recently. The disease can cause reproductive failure in dogs and can be transferred to humans through physical touch or even through the air. Symptoms in humans are similar to those of the flu, but in rare cases could cause damage to the nervous system.
John: Well I’m glad this outbreak has not reached a substantial amount of people. But it serves as a good reminder to always wash your hands when you come in contact with an animal you aren’t familiar with and to be sure to monitor your furry friend’s health.
Hurst: I have another dog story for you, but this one can end us on a bit of a happier note. Like anyone that has ever come in contact with a dog, I have always wondered if their upturned mouths and bright eyes are actually representative of their happiness.
John: You’re saying that you wonder if dog smiles actually indicate the same emotion human smiles do?
Hurst: Precisely. And turns out researchers have been wondering the same thing. And it turns out the answer is…maybe. Research has shown that humans possess a unique communicative relationship with our canine companions. In a lab experiment, wolves and dogs were given the task of opening a container to access some meat. When the task proved impossible, wolves eventually got frustrated and walked away. Dogs, on the other hand, would turn around stare at their human for help.
John: It sounds adorable just to think about.
Hurst: Research has shown that dogs use eye contact to intentionally communicate with humans. Smiling behavior is a little less clear. Dogs exhibit “relaxed open mouth”, typically in positive settings. So it would seem that this is reminiscent of a smile, however whether this is meant to directly communicate happiness is unclear.
John: Well I am going to choose to believe that every dog I see is smiling at me.
Hurst: I think I am in the same boat. Well John it has been a pleasure, I must say you are very koalified to be a Creature Feature cohost.
John: Thank you Hurst, iguana thank you for having me.
Hurst: Ooh that was a good one, see you soon!