Since the pandas’ arrival, the team at Edinburgh zoo had already tried three times to breed the bears – with considerable fanfare and public attention – and each attempt had ended in disappointment. After a thoroughgoing review of these attempts in late 2014, this year’s season carried with it a sense of added pressure. But the keepers had also come up with one or two new tricks. A few weeks earlier, Maclean had daubed urine from Long Hui, an impressive male panda kept at Schönbrunn zoo, in Vienna, all over Yang Guang and Tian Tian’s enclosures, in order to spice the air with competition and possibility. “She spent a lot of time sniffing and seeing what was going on,” said Maclean. “He came out and was just like, ‘Whoa!’ He was all over the place.”
And the answer is none. None more black. A look at Ayam Cemani, a breed of chicken so black you half expect to see it smoking clove cigarettes and listening to Bauhaus. Black feathers, skin, muscle, bones, and a black, black heart. [more inside]
From toygers to GloFish This author says harm to the animals and risk to the environment are more important factors than means the of modifying an animal's appearance. So "docking" the tail of a horse or dog is worse than making a GMO pet. Surprise, genetically modified GloFish are already on sale in pet stores. (Previously.)
You've heard of dog and horse shows, but are you familiar with rabbit shows? Rabbit Fever is a coming-of-age story that follows six competitors as they strive to win the top title at the National American Rabbit Convention - an event that draws more than 20,000 rabbits in one building, the largest mass of rabbits in the world. While adult members of the rabbit habit compete for BEST IN SHOW, the teenage enthusiasts quest for an even more coveted honor in the rabbit community - Rabbit King and Queen!
Monsanto Is Going Organic in a Quest for the Perfect Veggie - "The lettuce, peppers, and broccoli—plus a melon and an onion, with a watermelon soon to follow—aren't genetically modified at all. Monsanto created all these veggies using good old-fashioned crossbreeding, the same technology that farmers have been using to optimize crops for millennia. That doesn't mean they are low tech, exactly. Stark's division is drawing on Monsanto's accumulated scientific know-how to create vegetables that have all the advantages of genetically modified organisms without any of the Frankenfoods ick factor." [more inside]
Just how much have dog breeds changed in the past hundred years? A lot (and for the worst). [more inside]
The Swedish Vallhund is an ancient dog, believed to have been brought to Sweden with the Vikings and used as an all-purpose farm dog, cattle herder, and pest controller. It was close to extinction by the mid-twentieth century, when a Swedish Count and a school teacher worked together to revive the breed from one male with only one testicle and three female dogs. [more inside]
Design Decoded, a new blog on Smithsonian.com, kicks off with a seven part series on the century-long process behind creating and marketing the perfect citrus. [more inside]
What we do is what we do. The brand new DEVO video takes the crowd-sourcing/focus-grouping element of their album Something For Everybody to the music video world. It's a 360-degree video where the user can control the camera. (For the lazy among us, there's also a "random" button that moves from shot to shot.) The link also includes a brief interview with DEVO co-founder/video co-director Gerald V. Casale.
The silver fox, domesticated over 40 generations by the late Siberian scientist Dmitri Belayev. Belayev and his students started this experiment in 1959 by selecting specifically for human-friendly behaviors. More on the observed differences between domesticated and wild foxes in the original paper that appeared in American Scientist Early Canid Domestication: The Farm-Fox Experiment (pdf). [more inside]
"Mountain chickens have very peculiar breeding habits" "Alien-like" scenes of tadpoles feasting on eggs emerging from their mother have been caught on camera. The footage marks the success of a captive breeding programme for the critically endangered mountain chicken frog, one of the world's largest frogs. (BBC) Not for the easily squicked.
More cuckoo than cuckoos: mate two salmon, get a... trout! Just give the parents a sperm transplant. And the sperm stem cells work in females too:
...Injecting the male cells into female salmon sometimes worked, too, prompting five female salmon to ovulate trout eggs.... The stem cells were still primitive enough to switch gears from sperm-producers to egg-producers when they wound up inside female organs....
Engineering Perfect Americans Were your immigrant ancestors considered genetically predisposed to become criminals? Were your mixed-ethnic ancestors thought to be polluting the nation's 'germ-plasm'? The Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement presents a well-put-together online exhibit/walkthrough of this disturbing vein in American history.
How do you make a pug more adorable? It's a trick question, you can't. But if you DO enjoy the odd bit of miscegenation in your puppy's bloodline, apparently pugs & beagles make a nice mix.
The Flawed Dog-O-Matic, a Friday Flash piffle that 'morphs' dog breeds, shamelessly promoting Berkeley "Bloom County" Breathed's new book and Humane Society pet adoption (in that order). Everybody go "Aw-w-w-w-w."
The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement "Phasing out the human race by voluntarily ceasing to breed will allow Earth's biosphere to return to good health. Crowded conditions and resource shortages will improve as we become less dense." More inside...
In case you thought you have already heard every crazy idea in the world, an Israeli geneticist has bred a featherless chicken. This changes everything.