How to find the rarest dog in the world: On the trail of the New Guinea Singing Dog  »


Why is the New Guinea Singing Dog so special? Why should we be trying to save its dwindling wild population?

The Highland Wild Dog of the Island of Papua is considered by many to be the rarest dog on the planet. NGSDs exhibit many unique behaviors found nowhere else in any other breeds of dogs. NGSDs are considered [to be the] link between the first dog—wolf—and today’s domestic breeds. Isolation has kept them pure, but encroaching villagers, accompanied by their domestic village dogs, threatens their continued genetic purity. Little is known about the captive needs and behaviors of NGSDs, but nothing is known about their natural history in the wild. No scientific estimates of the wild population can legitimately be made. Education, scientific captive management, and habitat and species protection are just some of the measures that need to be taken if the NGSD is to survive.

Becky Crew of Running Ponies continues the story of “the rarest dog in the world" with an interview with field zoologist James McIntyre of the Southwest Pacific Research Foundation, who is leading an expedition to find and study the dogs in the wild.

[photo of captive New Guinea Singing Dogs by Nathan Rupert via Flickr]


Rejoice! Looking at cute animal photos is good for you!  »

Good news, everyone! Time to go find kittens, puppies, and bunnies online!

Wired Science reports on a new study that suggests looking at cute animal pictures can improve your concentration. The research was done in Japan, where cute overload is basically the national condition.

Cute baby animals help you concentrate, but they don’t help you just generally be smarter, though, so probably better to use kitten flashcards while studying but not while at cocktail parties. Though that would make you popular in other ways, so go for it! Bring kitten flashcards!

[Photo via cute overload]


Eat less meat: Science says so!  »

A study in Nature this week gives you a new round of paintballs to shoot at the non-vegan world in your mission to convince people that flesh-licking is for zombies. Basically, the researchers asked, “How the hell can we possibly feed the 9 billion people we’ll have on this planet by 2050?!?! FUCK!!!”

In a tiny little nugget of optimism, they found that it actually might be possible to do such a thing, IF we change a lot about how we deal with agriculture on this planet. That’s a huge if.

The team, from four different countries, looked at farm data and satellite images and probably went cross-eyed and bonkers and needed glasses from all the number-crunching.

They found that we could double food production AND reduce environmental impact, for only three easy payments, act now because this offer won’t last, if we:

  1. Stop clearing land for agriculture: We have enough land, we need to use it better.
  2. Catch the rest of the world up to the “developed” world in terms of crop yields (god help us, is that really a good idea?).
  3. Use fertilizer and other chemicals in a smart and frugal way.
  4. Stop throwing so much food out (a third of all food right now!).

YES! The scientists actually say that moving toward plant-based diets will help end world hunger. According to one of the study’s authors, three-quarters of the world’s agricultural land is devoted to raising livestock, either for grazing or for growing feed. 

So put that in your quiver. It’s not like scientific conclusions sway many minds (see: climate change), but it’s nice to know we’re right, you know?


Snails are the new cockroaches!  »

You know how people talk about the world ending and the only beings that survive will be Cher and the cockroaches? Well, now they’ve got company, because snails can be digested by birds and come out inexplicably healthy. This shocking and somewhat disgusting  news comes from research being done in Japan, where grad students are studying bird feces. I do not know about you, but this sounds like one of the worst jobs ever to me. I cannot imagine getting up in the morning and knowing that I would spend the day messing around with bird poop for scientific research. not even if I loved science. not even if I loved it enough to marry it, which I don’t.

The point, however, is not how much I dislike bird poop; what is more important is the fact that tiny snails (not the big kind, yo) can apparently grab onto the insides of the birds’ digestive systems and catch a ride back out into the wild, where they emerge healthy and with a kick-ass story to tell. The only issue I have with this is that in order to find out how many snails would survive, the researchers have to feed the birds multitudes of snails and then see how many will come out the other end. I recognize that this is the circle of life and all, but I kind of feel bad for the snails, who were probably not expecting to get ingested in such large numbers with only 15 percent coming back to tell their tale. I also wonder what these results mean and how they could be useful beyond giving Cher a new audience to perform to after the apocalypse. What do you guys think?

[photo by Melissa Maples via flickr]


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