Jul 13

Bullfighting: Death by Tradition

I have no objection to animals being killed for food, providing it is done as humanely as possible. Nor do I object to local people killing wild animals for medicine, pelts or for certain aspects of their culture. What I do object to are animals being killed for medicine that doesn’t actually work, or for …

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Nov 18

Blast From the Past: Nautilus

Some of the most numerous fossils that have survived into the modern age are those coiled shells left behind by the prehistoric ammonites. When Pliny the Elder first examined the remains of these ancient marine cephalopods, he called them ammonis cornua (‘horns of Ammon’) because the Egyptian god Amun was typically depicted wearing ram’s horns. …

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Jun 03

Extinct Animal: Moa

For thousands of years, giants lived throughout the forests of New Zealand. These were the moa (Polynesian for ‘fowl’), flightless ostrich-like birds that, in some cases, reached heights of 3.6 m and weighed about 250 kg. They grew so large because they were strict vegetarians and most of them, so far as we can tell …

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Apr 29

General Election Special: The Wildlife Vote

With the UK General Election just over a week away, people will soon be voting on which government they would prefer to see running the country. Most of the general public will probably be more concerned about economy, national security, education and the NHS, but my primary focus will be on where five of the …

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Mar 19

African Clawed Frog: The Living Pregnancy Test

Wanted: African Clawed Frog Famous for: Being a living pregnancy test Crime: Accidentally decimating the world’s amphibian population The earliest reliable pregnancy test, developed in 1928, involved injecting mice with a woman’s urine several times over a number of days. The mice would then be killed and their ovaries examined; if the ovaries were enlarged, the woman was …

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Feb 14

The Spider’s Guide to Not Being Eaten During Sex

Imagine the scenario: you’ve just got a new girlfriend and you’re heading over to her place for the very first time. After some pleasant conversation and a romantic, candlelit dinner, you both head to the bedroom to get intimate. Then, just as things start to heat up, your new girlfriend pounces on you and starts …

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Jan 18

Bizarre Animal of the Week: Wood Frog

The longest a human being has ever willingly held their breath without dying or suffering brain damage is just over twenty minutes. Some species of deep-diving whales can manage a little over two hours. But a small, unremarkable-looking amphibian called the wood frog can hold its breath all winter. Frogs, like all amphibians, are cold-blooded, …

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Jan 07

Extinct Animal: Passenger Pigeon

A hundred and fifty years ago, between five and ten billion passenger pigeons flew over the skies of North America. It was not only the most numerous bird in the world at the time, but quite probably the most numerous bird that has ever existed. Seventy-five years later, the skies were empty. The passenger pigeon …

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Dec 24

Was Rudolph a Girl? (and other Christmas-related mini questions)

Christmas Day is almost upon us, so Extraordinary Animals will once again be asking a few quick questions about the natural world – with a Christmas twist, of course! That means mistletoe, robins and, of course, Santa’s reindeer… Which Christmas plants are parasites? When we think of parasites, we tend to think of tapeworms within …

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Dec 15

Big Question: Does Incest Occur in Nature?

Incest in humans is, and almost always has been, one of the most common of all cultural taboos. Most modern societies have laws regarding incest, not least because children born of close incestuous union have a greatly increased risk of disorders, death and disability because they are more likely to be affected by recessive or …

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