Neuronov, too, had a confidence-inspiring tale of the innate abilities of the metro dog. One morning, on his way to the office, he noticed a businesslike little puppy entering the metro station just ahead of him. “He didn’t ask for food, nothing,” said Neuronov, who followed the confident little puppy down the escalator. They boarded the same train, and got off at the same stop. “Then I had to go to work,” said Neuronov. “And the puppy went his own way. But he looked like he knew where he was going.”— Sally Mcgrane, “Moscow’s Metro Dogs,” The New Yorker
[C]an a crocodile really weep? The experts say yes: they have tear glands just like most other animals. And zoologists have recorded alligators, close relatives of crocodiles, shedding tears while they’re eating. This parallel may be significant—rather than being an emotional response, the shedding of tears probably happens because of the way crocodiles and alligators eat: when eating their prey they will often huff and hiss as they blow out air, and their tear glands may empty at the same time. The idea of crocodile tears being false was used both in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and in Shakespeare’s Othello. They provide just two of the many allusions in literature that have cemented the idiom in the language.
Incidentally, the word ‘crocodile’ means, literally, ‘worm of the stones’. It is from Greek, and is a reference to the croc’s habit of basking in the sun on the shingly banks of a river.
— An extract from What Made the Crocodile Cry? by Susie Dent (via OxfordWords blog)
I found out that I am not allergic to bees. I discovered this when I was pegging wet sheets to the clothesline and was stung on my temple by a rogue bee tangled in the pillowcases and I suffered no grave consequences.
This happened during the few weeks that our back courtyard was plagued by bees. A low hum reverberated around the walls, and every surface – the gravel, the bench, the ivy – seemed to shimmer until you looked a little closer and realised that it was just a dozen or so wriggling bees, animating the ground beneath them.
The source was a hive lodged like a football in our next-door neighbour’s tree. By the time we politely enquired next door as to whether they had noticed the swarming honey-pot in their garden, our sweet young neighbour’s nerves, as she put it, were shot. She could no longer go outside. Her landlord wasn’t returning her calls. And if, as I had suspected, our yard was where the bees went to die, theirs was the colony spawning ground. “When I switch on the bathroom light in the morning,” she said, “a wall of bees sleeping on the window shake themselves awake.” She added: “I find it hard to sleep.”
When I went outside this morning, I noticed the beehive was gone. I would have liked to see the removal operation, the capable apiarists in white bodysuits extracting the hive and taking it to a nice farm or wildlife reserve where the bees could romp and roam free.
A. Cordier, page (K) from Amusing Alphabet: Le Jardin d’Acclimatation (The Zoological Garden), c. 1863-65.
Children’s picture alphabet of birds and animals in French with English translation. The fauna are anthropomorphised and dressed in the clothes of the common people. The kanguroo or kangaroo has four joeys in her apron.
"Why did Hendra [Virus] emerge in 1994, not decades or centuries earlier? Something was different. Some sort of change, or combination of changes, must have caused the virus to be transferred from its reservoir host into other species.
The fancy name for such transfer is spillover. Maybe the virus needed horses (which only reached Australia with European colonists), as distinct from kangaroos (which have been eating grass beneath Australian fig trees for millennia), to mediate its spillover from the reservoir. Maybe bats, figs, horses, and humans had simply never been brought so closely together.”
In 1997 on a remote farm in Victoria’s Gippsland, the state’s Department of Sustainability and the Environment (DSE) was called in to deal with an unknown predator that had slaughtered more than 400 sheep in two years.
DSE officials were stumped, and they were pulling out all stops to try to solve the mystery that had so far cost a Victorian farmer thousands of dollars in lost stock – and threatened the credibility of the department. Trapping, snaring and fur traps had all failed to reveal the true nature of the beast, so thermal imaging equipment was employed in an eleventh-hour bid to halt the stock losses. There was talk of wild dogs at the time, but none of the corpses bore the hallmarks of dog attacks. There was no mess and little blood, and most of the corpses were devoid of flesh with only head, hide and hooves left behind. It was, for the most part, a clean, clinical kill every time.
Just as unusual – and even more disturbing – was the discovery early one morning of several sheep standing in a field, their faces mauled beyond recognition. They were still alive – just – but where a snout should have protruded from each woolly face there was now just a mass of red, shredded flesh and broken cartilage and bone.
[…] So who, or what, was responsible for the carnage? And why have the experiences of three Victorian farmers been echoed all over the country? For almost 150 years, sightings of strange, cat-like creatures have been reported and documented across Australia. While predominantly described as resembling jet-black panthers or sandy-coloured pumas and lions, spotted and striped large cats have also been reported since white settlement.
In their wake they have left a trail of destruction. Mutilated cattle, sheep and family pets are a testament to the ruthless efficiency of these mystery predators, which occasionally leave behind large, feline-like prints that further tantalise and torment their trackers. Where do they come from? And how did they get here?