TIME animals

New York Makes Tattoos and Piercings on Pets Illegal

Puppy Dog
Getty Images

Offenders could face up to 15 days in jail or $250 in fines

If you live in New York and were planning to get matching tattoos for you and your cat, think again.

Body art like tattoos and piercings on pet animals will soon be a crime across the state following a law passed on Monday, the Associated Press reported.

Assembly member Linda Rosenthal sponsored the legislation, which was signed by the state’s Governor Andrew Cuomo and will take effect in 120 days. “It’s simply cruel,” said Rosenthal, adding that unlike humans, animals do not have the ability to choose the pain that comes with body art.

The law does make exceptions for markings made for identification or medical reasons, but those only include preapproved letters and numbers.

Other than that, the governor’s office says, piercing your pooch could now get you up to 15 days in jail or $250 in fines.

[AP]

TIME Science

Scientists Name New ‘Punk Rock’ Snail After The Clash’s Joe Strummer

Five new species of Alviniconcha snails were identified using DNA sequences. Shannon Johnson—MBARI

Alviconcha strummeri lives life to the extreme.

Correction appended: Dec. 16, 2014

Alviconcha strummeri is a snail with serious attitude.

These snails live in the deep sea near thermal vents 11,500 feet under water and their golf ball-sized shells are fully spiked. It’s no wonder the scientists who discovered them were reminded of mohawk-wearing, leather-clad punks.

“Because they look like punk rockers in the 70s and 80s and they have purple blood and live in such an extreme environment, we decided to name one new species after a punk rock icon,” said Shannon Johnson, a researcher at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Specifically, they named him Joe Strummer, after the leader of iconic British rock band The Clash. Strummer isn’t the first punk legend to have a species named for him: Sex Pistol John Lydon and members of The Ramones have had species of extinct trilobite named after them. In fact, an exhibition of “Heavy Metal And Punk Fossils” opened at Oslo’s Natural History Museum last year.

Plenty of non-rock celebrities have had species named for them, too. There’s a lemur named for Monty Python comedian John Cleese, a small parasite named after reggae legend Bob Marley and a species of whale named for Moby Dick author Herman Melville. The practice is an easy and humorous way for scientists to draw attention to their discoveries. “This gets people excited about science,” Johnson said. “Otherwise, people might not see these snails.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated how deep these snails live under water. The correct distance is 11,500 feet.

TIME animals

We Are All This Pug Named Doug Whose Only Real Christmas Wish Is Food

Watch his very relatable parody of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You"

I don’t want a lot for Christmas, Mariah Carey coos in her hit song “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” There is, however, just one thing she needs.

That one thing, of course, is you. (Well, not you you, but you get it.) Not everyone can relate to Mariah’s song — but we feel confident that everyone can relate to this new version performed by Doug the Pug. All he wants for Christmas is food. Tacos, pizza, cookies, Chex Mix, doughnuts, Doug wants it all. And that’s all he wants. It’s all he’s ever wanted.

TIME animals

Unique Australian Turtle Is Critically Endangered

The White-throated snapping turtle
The white-throated snapping turtle Stephen Zozaya

The turtle breathes out of its butt

A white-throated snapping turtle (Elseya albagula) native to Australia is critically endangered.

James Cook University researchers are raising awareness for the turtle’s plight. The turtle, which lives in the Queensland’s Connors River, has a unique breathing mechanism: it breathes out of its rear. It’s a breathing process called “cloacal respiration.”

The now critically endangered turtle does best in clear-flowing water, but construction projects like dams have restricted the turtles’ movement, and increased land use has caused sedimentation and erosion that harms the animal’s nesting spots.

“If the increased water infrastructure development and drought in northern Australia continues, they will continue to get hammered,” says James Cook University researcher Jason Schaffer who has been studying the turtle for the last eight years.

“These turtles breathe out of their ass, which is super awesome,” Schaffer told Scientific American.

Schaffer is calling for more nest and habitat protection.

TIME animals

One of the World’s 6 Remaining Northern White Rhinos Has Died

Northern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simu
A northern white rhino named Fatu, left, and Nabiro walk in a zoo in Dvur Kralove, Czech Republic, on Dec. 16, 2009 Michal Cizek — AFP/Getty Images

The animal died of old age at the San Diego Zoo

One of the world’s six remaining northern white rhinos died at the San Diego Zoo on Sunday, according to park officials.

Angalifu, 44, reportedly died of old age and had begun refusing to eat last week, reports the Los Angeles Times.

“Angalifu’s death is a tremendous loss to all of us,” said Rancy Reiches, curator of mammals at the zoo’s Safari Park.

Myriad attempts to breed Angalifu with the park’s only other northern white rhino failed. The species now faces complete extinction after decades of wide-scale poaching.

[LAT]

TIME animals

There Was a Big Bang for Birds

An ex-crocodile. Clearly a step up
An ex-crocodile. Clearly a step up Luis Costa—AFP/Getty Images

A sweeping new study tells a long genetic tale

If there’s a factory where birds are built, the workers were clearly smoking something the day they designed the hummingbird. And the ostrich. And the toucan. Imagine, too, the pitch meeting for the parrot, (“Let’s make this one talk!”), or the peacock (“So we got this crate of feathers…”).

Of course, that’s not how it really happened. Birds came along without our help, evolving from the Aves class into 23 orders, 142 families, 2,057 genera and finally 9,702 species—the most prolific speciation of all four-limbed vertebrates. The problem with such prodigious divergence is that it makes it hard to determine how the great bird explosion began in the first place. Now, however, in a pair of papers in Science, scientists report that they have an answer. Modern birds, they have learned, got their start like the universe itself—with something of a Big Bang, a burst of specialization that began 65 million years ago with the same asteroid hit that wiped out the dinosaurs and made room for mammals and other land animals.

This finding results from the work of hundreds of scientists at 80 labs and universities across 20 countries, done with the help of bird tissue collected from labs and museums around the world. Those specimens were sent to the Genome Tissue Institute in Beijing, where the basic sequencing was conducted. The first and most basic conclusion the investigators reached was a big one. “This confirms that there was a very rapid radiation and that major lineages of birds were in existence 5 to 6 million years after the extinction event,” says Joel Cracraft, an avian systemicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and a contributor to the papers. “They were very widely distributed as well.”

But there was much more to be learned, and that required the hundreds of others scientists to get busy parsing the genomes. A lot of their results live down in the technical weeds, where geneticists speak of such things as total evidence nucleotide trees and GTR+GAMMA models. Among the plain-English findings, however, there were some important top-line results. The investigators identified a sort of progenitor bird, for example, a so-called apex predator that came along shortly after the asteroid hit and was the great-great-great granddaddy of all extant land birds. The descendants that that founding father left can be connected in unexpected ways.

The gaudy flamingo and the proletariat pigeon turn out to belong to sister clades—or groups descending from one common ancestor. Similarly, there is a three-way kinship among the cuckoos; the bustards (medium-size game birds that include the paauw and its larger cousin, the straightforwardly named great paauw); and the turacos. The last group is a brilliantly colored and plumed family of birds that include the African banana eaters and the go-away birds, species that got their names because one of them, well, eats bananas and the other issues a warning call that sounds like it’s saying “go away,” which it sort of is.

Among the more granular discoveries, the investigators report that so-called vocal learners—birds with flexible repertoires of songs and mimicked speech—actually share some of their molecular brain structures with humans. And the very act of singing appears to change the birds’ epigenomes—the regulatory system that sits atop the genes and determines which ones are expressed—meaning that the more frequent the song the more specialized the bird’s genetic wiring will become.

But just in case the big, fun, colorful Aves class gets above itself, the papers do stress that every extant bird can trace its line back even further than the apex predator, all the way to a small and rather vulgar group of ancestors that are actually alive today; the saltwater crocodile, the American alligator and the Indian gharial—which is sort of an alligator with an absurdly skinny snout. For birds as much as for humans, it seems, no matter how high you climb, there are always a few embarrassing family members to keep you humble.

TIME animals

Here’s What It’s Like Inside New York’s First Cat Café

The purrfect place for cat lovers

Meow Parlour, New York City’s first permanent cat café, will open its doors on Monday, Dec. 15. Cat lovers will be able to make reservations online and spend up to five hours ($4 per 30 minutes) hanging out at a storefront space on Manhattan’s Lower East Side while playing with cats provided by Kitty Kind, a local rescue and adoption group. Seven felines are there to start — with names like Lucky Lemon and Squinkles — but co-founders Emilie Legrand and Christina Ha hope to eventually feature about a dozen cats. Later this month, the Meow Parlour Patisserie will open nearby so customers can buy macarons and jam cookies shaped like cat faces and bring them to the Meow Parlour, which is how the space complies with city health regulations.

Upon entering Meow Parlour, humans must take off their shoes on a mat that says “BEWARE OF CAT” (a house rule meant to prevent the spread of germs). A few steps past the litter boxes, friendly felines may be curled up atop brown and beige pillows scattered across the floor or inside a cardboard ice cream truck or a comfy gray nap pod. There’s a custom-built wooden bench along the back wall where the cats weave in and out of openings underneath or perch in the bookshelves above, which have more cotton-canvas cat beds for napping and people watching, as well as throw pillows featuring cat illustrations and the words “le chat” (French for cat). Even the legs of the tables for humans have steps inside so the animals can climb up as customers sit on metal bar stools.

This “cat heaven” of sorts is the latest in the cat café trend that dates back to the late 1990s in Taiwan and Japanese cities like Tokyo and Osaka, where they became refuges for people who lived in apartment buildings that didn’t allow pets. While Purina ONE hosted a four-day-long pop-up cat café in the same Manhattan neighborhood earlier this year, Meow Parlour would be the second in the U.S. — Cat Town Cafe in Oakland became the first when it opened almost two months ago. Now there are cat cafés throughout Europe in Paris, London, Vienna, Budapest, as well as in Canada and Australia. More are expected to open in Seattle, Portland, Oregon and Washington D.C. sometime in 2015.

And at a time when cat videos are so popular online that there are cat video festivals and cat art shows nationwide, cat cafés are sure to become another space where cat fans can connect IRL.

With reporting and video by Salima Koroma, Carlos Martinelli, and Adam Perez.

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TIME Mexico

Mexican Government Votes to Ban Circus Animals

A tiger jumps through a ring of fire during a performance of the Fuentes Gasca Brothers Circus in Mexico City, June 22, 2014.
A tiger jumps through a ring of fire during a performance of the Fuentes Gasca Brothers Circus in Mexico City, June 22, 2014. Sean Havey—AP

Not certain yet whether President Enrique Peña Nieto will sign bill into law

The Mexican legislature has passed a bill to ban the use of animals in circus performances.

Mexico City has already passed a ban on using animals in the circus, along with six states. The legislature’s lower chamber voted Thursday to ban the use of animals, following an earlier vote by the Senate. The bill requires circuses to make a list of all their animals and make them available to zoos in case they want to take them. It also imposes fines for violation.

President Enrique Peña Nieto hasn’t said whether he’ll sign the bill into law.

 

 

TIME portfolio

50 Astonishing Animal Photos of 2014

TIME looks back over the past 12 months and presents a selection of underreported, astonishing and apparently-implausible animal images

Whether cute and cuddly, wild or exotic, animals seem to endlessly fascinate. Our furry, feathered friends provide us with constant surprises and hours of viral entertainment on an annual basis. And this year was no exception.

Here, TIME looks back over the past 12 months and presents a selection of underreported, astonishing and apparently-implausible animal images—from a bear in a hammock and swans in a boat, to a koala with a camera and a “happy” sloth. Images, we trust, that will maintain their ability to utterly and thoroughly surprise.

TIME viral

Here is a Cat Playing Whac-A-Mole with Its Owner’s Fingers

They don’t allow cats in Chuck E. Cheese’s, after all

Today in pet owners who love their animals enough to risk losing digits, a cat plays Whac-A-Mole with its owner’s fingers as she pokes them through holes in a cardboard box. The cat seems to be having fun at first, but when the owner begins to increase the challenge, the cat gets a look on its face that we can only assume to mean, “why would you do this to me?”

It’s not clear whether this is a creative, homemade scheme for cat entertainment or a form of very benign torture. Either way, the cat’s going to have to try again for a better score.

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