TIME animals

DNA Analysis Debunks Bigfoot Myth, Points to Unknown Bear Species

Legend of Bigfoot roadside attraction outside Richardson State Park.
Legend of Bigfoot roadside attraction outside Richardson State Park, Calif. National Geographic/Getty Images

Bad news for cryptozoologists, good news for zoologists

The legend of the enormous creature variously known as a yeti, Bigfoot or Sasquatch has long been a source of mystery. But now a study of supposed Bigfoot hair samples has revealed that they actually derive from known mammals including bears, cows, dogs or horses.

A team of scientists led by Bryan Sykes, a human genetics professor at the University of Oxford, analyzed DNA from 30 samples of Bigfoot hair donated by museums and enthusiasts. Although this may come as a blow to cryptozoologists — those who search for creatures whose existence is unproven — the analysis may herald the discovery of a new species of bear.

Two hairs from India and Bhutan show an unknown species that could be a distant cousin of the polar bear or a hybrid of local species and a brown bear. “If these bears are widely distributed in the Himalayas, they may well contribute to the biological foundation of the yeti legend,” the authors said in the study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Although the search for the illusive Bigfoot will likely continue, scientists hope believers will at least step up their game. “The techniques described here put an end to decades of ambiguity about species identification of anomalous primate samples and set a rigorous standard against which to judge any future claims,” researchers said in the study. DNA analysis even revealed that a clump of hair found in Texas actually belonged to a hairy human.

TIME climate change

Climate Change Threatens Antarctica’s Emperor Penguin Population

A pair of Adelie penguins are pictured at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica on Dec. 28, 2009.
A pair of Adelie penguins are pictured at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica on Dec. 28, 2009. Reuters

The greatest hazard comes from warming temperatures' impact on sea-ice cover, which the penguins rely on for travel and hunting

New research suggests that Antarctica’s population of emperor penguins will be cut down by a fifth by the end of the century as a result of changing climates, which will impact the species’ feeding and mating patterns.

According to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, there are currently about 600,000 emperor penguins living in Antarctica. Researchers, anticipating a 19% to 33% drop in their numbers, have encouraged governments across the world to list the species as endangered. Doing so would place restrictions on tourism, fishing and other activities that may prove further detrimental to their survival.

Still, the greatest hazard comes from warming temperatures’ impact on sea-ice cover, which the penguins rely on for travel and hunting.

TIME animals

75,000 Snakes Gathered in Most Terrifying Animal Meet-Up Ever

It's a mating ritual.

When we think of animal meet-ups, the image of corgis frolicking on a beach comes to mind:

A recent animal meet-up in Canada was the exact opposite of that. Every spring, the Narcisse Snake Dens of Manitoba, Canada hosts an event for 75,000 writhing snakes. Say hello to your waking nightmare:

According to National Geographic, the red-sided garter snakes flock to limestone caves for “mating balls.” What’s that? It’s an event in which:

Up to a hundred male snakes vie for a single female. She, in turn, “is desperately trying to get out of the pit,” said Colangelo, an environmental documentary photographer.

Disturbing on just about every level. We’ll stick to corgis in neckerchiefs, thanks.

 

TIME animals

Adorable Baby Goats Use a Very Patient Horse as Their Playground

Your daily dose of cuteness

When these remarkably resourceful goat kids wanted to play but couldn’t find a jungle gym, they were like, Oh, no worries, we’ll just use this horse instead. Nobody will know the difference.

Um, we totally noticed the difference. Watch as the cute little creatures climb on the horse for a solid minute and a half before adorably jumping off and prancing away.

After watching this video, we’d like to nominate this horse for World’s Most Patient Animal.

(h/t Laughing Squid)

TIME animals

This Dog Eating Corn on the Cob Would Be a Hit at Your Next Barbecue

A real corn dog.

There’s something strangely mesmerizing about this golden retriever calmly chowing down on a big ol’ hunk of corn on the cob. Though the video was uploaded last September, it’s just starting to make its way across the web now. Shame on all of us for waiting this long to discover this joyous clip, but at least now you can share it with friends at your July 4 barbecue.

TIME animals

Global Warming is Tough on Chickens Too, You Know

FRANCE-AGRICULTURE-HENS
Getty Images

High temperatures are associated with sicker chickens. Researchers are using selective breeding to come up with a solution

May was Earth’s hottest month on record — and as the planet gets warmer, chickens are struggling to adapt. Their body temperatures rise, which leads to higher mortality rates and an increased risk of disease that may threaten global poultry supply in the next decades.

Enter geneticist Carl Schmidt and his team from the University of Delaware, who believe that reducing a chicken’s feather count — making it look bald, basically — will cool it down and reduce health risks.

“We’re going to be seeing heat waves that are both hotter and longer,” Schmidt told Modern Farmer. “And we need to learn how to mitigate the effect of climate change on animals — we need to figure out how to help them adapt to it.”

For three years, Schmidt and his team traveled throughout Uganda and Brazil to study birds with featherless necks and heads in the hopes of crossbreeding them with the feathered North American breeds.

Researchers stress that this is selective breeding, not genetic modification.

Schmidt and his team will spend the next two years analyzing the DNA of the bare-necked birds – however it’ll be much longer until crossbreeding actually takes place.

“It could take two decades of research before resulting in any actual chickens,” he said. But at least a start is being made in preserving a food source that can only become more important as the effects of climate change make themselves more broadly felt.

[Modern Farmer]

TIME animals

Here’s What the World’s Ugliest Dog Looks Like After a Makeover

The two-year-old rescue mutt got the help of a team of stylists

In case you missed it, a pooch named Peanut was recently crowned the World’s Ugliest Dog. Jimmy Kimmel decided to enlist a team of hair, makeup and clothing specialists to the dog, who previously suffered from abuse and had been injured in a fire.

It’s a nice gift, but after the makeover, Peanut still looks … pretty ugly. It’s okay, your fans still love you, Peanut.

WATCH: Jimmy Kimmel Gets Parenting Advice from a Child

WATCH: Jimmy Kimmel’s 2013 Clip of the Year

TIME animal welfare

The Problem With People, Not Pit Bulls

Rodney Scot Photography for APBF

The president of the American Pit Bull Foundation on why responsible dog ownership matters more than breed

A June 20th Time.com piece by Charlotte Alter called “The Problem With Pit Bulls” elicited a flood of protest mail from supporters of the breed. We asked Sara Enos, the Founder and Executive Director of the American Pit Bull Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to promoting responsible breed ownership through education, programming, and assistance, to respond to Alter’s piece. Here’s what she had to say:

“Good dragons under the control of bad people do bad things”. Eloquently stated by an animated character in the new, How to Train Your Dragon sequel recently released. The same can be said of dogs, and in the noisy confusion of the media sensation that is the current argument of the “Pit Bull” problem, it can be difficult for the average person to differentiate fact from fiction. The truth is, there is a lot of researched, solid information about canine aggression out there that can aid in preventing dog bites and attacks. The misfortune is that the information is not yet common knowledge, especially in the sense that human behavior is what leads to companion animal attacks. Animal welfare advocates, veterinary professionals, and responsible dog owners are determined to remedy that.

A Brief History

Dogs are products of their environment as well as their genetics. They have been bred for many different jobs over centuries, however, they have primarily been bred as family companions and they need to be treated with compassion. Pit Bulls are no different. They were bred as working dogs and family companions prior to being bred to bull bait and then dog fight. Animal aggression and human aggression are not synonymous in the canine world, as they are in the human world and it is often difficult for people that are unfamiliar with the breed/s to understand that dog-aggressive does not mean human aggressive. Even breeders who selected dogs for reproduction specifically for dog fighting would not tolerate dogs that showed any signs of aggression; they had to be able to pull their dog out of a fight without getting bitten, and to trust the dog with the family at the end of the day. Responsible breeders now breed against all forms of animal and human aggression, and have done so for many years. With all of that said, though there are certain breed “normalcies” such as the herding instinct in cattle dogs, all dogs are individuals and exhibit their own unique personalities. They should be treated and trained as such.

 

Rodney Scot Photography for the American Pit Bull Foundation

Let’s Talk Statistics

When it comes to animal statistics, a good rule of thumb is to know the source of your statistics as a reputable one. People skew numbers and fudge the facts to gain support for their personal opinion, routinely.

Would you ask a gas station attendant about the side effects of a medication that your toddler was prescribed? Would you ask a clothing retail clerk about the knocking sound coming from your automobile engine? People choose professions based on their interests and experience. They are educated in their fields and we rely on them for their very specific knowledge base. PETA seems to get a lot of press for their quotes in regards to their support of breed specific legislation, (which has been proven ineffective, leading to ban lift after ban lift). How many Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorists, (the experts on animal behavior) are employed by PETA, or even support PETA’s stance on breed specific discrimination?

Bite statistics are public record. They can be found at local county facilities as a source to read bite reports, but, with the understanding that what you are looking at is a set of numbers without explanation. Bites and attacks are effects, to which there are always causes. Whether an owner understands the reason for the behavior or not, there is always an underlying cause to a bite or an attack. Pain and fear are two leading causes. In 2005, at a local animal hospital in Charlotte, NC, a bite report had to be filed when a technician reached into an unconscious dog’s mouth to find a source of bleeding. The very ill and sedated dog went into convulsions as a seizure came on, and the technician’s skin was broken on her hand when the dog began to seize. You won’t find these details on the bite report from 2005, but you will find that a “bite” occurred by a Pit Bull.

Secondly in regards to statistics, when Pit Bulls are routinely mis-identified, it is more than plausible to see how their numbers are high on reports even though they are rated very high by the American Temperament Test Society as friendly dogs. An animal control officer was once asked why a dog in the lost dog runs was labeled as a Pit Bull even though it was an excellent specimen of an American Bulldog, the response was given that “he’ll end up in the wrong hands anyway just because people will think he’s a Pit”. Greyhounds, Boxers, French Bulldogs, and Presa Canarios all come in brindle colorations but brindle colored dogs often get labeled as Pit Bulls, though they may not have an ounce of bully breed in their DNA. Dogo Argentinos are a Mastif variety, yet are routinely mislabeled as Pit Bulls. All of the above are important considerations to be made when researching statistics.

What if We Did Get Rid of Pit Bulls?

If we were to take the approach of banning the Pit Bull breeds, it is important to see the full scope of what we would be eliminating. As mentioned before, Pit Bulls are working dogs. They are typically excellent athletes that can provide a wide variety of job-related tasks. Many are not just family companions, but also search and rescue dogs that find missing children and lost dementia patients. They help kids become stronger readers because many kids with reading disabilities won’t read to an adult but they will read to a dog. They are seizure watch dogs, diabetic alert dogs, comfort nursing home residents and offer a plethora of services to human counterparts. Eradicating Pit Bull dogs will affect more than just our family dogs; it will affect the much larger number of citizens that these dogs help, as opposed to attack.

Lulu B. Photography

So What is the Answer to the People Problem (Not the Pit Bull Problem)?

Getting a dog is not like purchasing a piece of furniture that you will show off to friends at dinner parties, it is bringing a new member in to your family and requires daily commitment for a successful relationship. All dogs need to be subject to balanced training, should be well socialized and taught proper human/dog social behavior, maintained from a health perspective, and treated with compassion.

Dogs need an adequate leader and children need adequate direction from their parents as to how to properly interact with dogs. Dogs are not people and do not always enjoy hugging or sharing their food like humans do. Proper family education prior to obtaining a family dog, of any breed, can make for a more successful and safer match. Training as a family is a must.

Courtesy of the American Pit Bull Foundation

Avoid behaviors that are known to lead to aggressive tendencies such as leaving your dog tethered and unattended, or training with aggressive correction. Don’t allow your dog to roam the neighborhood or escape because he/she is bored in your backyard.

Most importantly, be a responsible owner.

Sara Enos is the mother of three children who is actively involved in community education efforts to increase responsible dog ownership. She has been a veterinary nurse for 17 years and has had extensive continuing education training with a focus on canine behavior. Sara is the Founder and Executive Director of the American Pit Bull Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to promoting responsible breed ownership through education, programming, and assistance.

 

TIME animals

Woman Climbs Into Lion Cage to Feed Them Cookies

A lion at the London Zoo plays with a football in honor of the 2014 World Cup kick off in London on June 12, 2014.
A lion at the London Zoo plays with a football in honor of the 2014 World Cup kick off in London on June 12, 2014. Terry Scott—Demotix/Corbis

Oh my!

The Memphis Zoo has banned a woman for life because she jumped the barrier of the lion enclosure to feed them cookies, the Associated Press reports.

Last week she was caught throwing objects into the exhibit, according to a zoo spokesperson. After climbing the barrier, she started singing to the wild animals about how much she missed them.

“I’ve never seen someone singing to a lion before,” witness Michelle Beasley told WMC Action News 5. “It was really loud.”

MORE:You Can Name These Baby Lions

LIST: West African Lion and 8 Animals That Are on The Verge of Disappearing Forever

TIME nature

Beachgoers Beware: The Great White Shark Population Is Growing Again

Great White Sharks
This undated photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a great white shark encountered off the coast of Massachusetts Greg Skomal—AP

There are over 2,000 living off the coast of California alone, according to recent studies

New research suggests that the population of great white sharks off both coasts of the U.S. is growing again after years on the decline.

One report ventures that there are over 2,000 great whites living off California — 10 times the amount estimated by a recent Stanford University study. On the other side of the country, scientists haven’t been able to conclude an exact population size, but estimations suggest that the sharks in the Atlantic are rebounding, after a significant drop in the 1970s and 1980s because of commercial shark fishing.

The upswing is likely the result of wildlife-preservation efforts over the past two decades, although conservationists are hesitant to celebrate the news. For one, the great white belongs to a group of aquatic species that typically struggle to recover from sharp declines in population. What’s more, their generally reclusive behavior often requires scientists to rely on guesswork when keeping tabs on them — and a dearth of historical information doesn’t help

“They’re back on the way up, but to be honest, I don’t think any of us know what ‘up’ is,” George Burgess, a Florida-based researcher, told Live Science. “The fact is, we have no real idea what [the population] was before we started screwing around with the environment on both coasts.”

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