5 Animals Making Headlines Today

Image credit The National Museum of National History, Washington
If you flipped open the morning paper, tuned in to some news radio or surfed through a few websites today (it was the latter, of course, we know) you might have noticed a trend in the day’s headlines. If you manage to block out the political farces unfolding around the nation—and globe—you would have seen that many of the day’s news stories belong not to politicians or even to people at all, but to animals! If you welcome a break from the standard news cycle as much as we do, then try out these five bulletins.

5 A Cattle Catastrophe

In a tragedy for both the afflicted livestock themselves and for the farmers counting on the cattle, an estimated 100,000 cows froze to death during an early and record-breaking freak snowstorm in Wyoming this month. During the days-long storm, howling winds and more than five feet of snow assailed the helpless creatures. Adding insult to injury, the cattle have died in vain: according to legal guidelines, they must be disposed of rather than used for meat, leather or anything else.

4 A Red Wine for Cats

Let us preface this paragraph noting that yes, this might be a hoax, but we have vetted it as much as possible and… apparently a Japanese company truly is bottling a wine intended for cats. This feline wine is made by the pet product company B&H Lifes (not Lives) and contains catnip rather than alcohol. So your kitty will get nice and fuzzy rather than nice and toasted when sipping this strange elixir. Of course, seeing as it is made from Cabernet grapes and is said to taste like regular red wine, one assumes it is rather sweet, and we’re under the impression that cats don’t respond to sweets.

3 A Fossilized Mosquito Meal

In a feat of immense scientific achievement performed on the smallest of scales, researchers have identified the contents of a dead mosquito’s stomach. That alone would be quite a feat for most scientists, but this team from the Smithsonian Institution managed to identify the contents of a meal from a mosquito that died some 46 million years ago. Apparently the long dead bloodsucker was feasting on a bird when it became trapped in sediment and died, ultimately becoming fossilized. Isolating this one ancient insect’s dinner unlocks the potential to trace the progress of evolution and species interaction at the DNA level.

2 The Cockroach Farmers

All across China, it’s boom times for a new kind of farm: the cockroach farm. Don’t worry, though, the tens of millions of these horrid insects being harvested by entrepreneurial types aren’t for consumption, exactly. Rather they are being raised as a source of protein and a cellulose substitute. The former are used widely in the cosmetics industry, where pulverized roach powder can help thicken, smooth and bond other materials. As for the cellulose-like material from roach wings, that can be used in everything from clothing to energy to paper products.

1 A Sad Story of Panda Pregnancy

It seems as though Tian Tian, the star attraction of Edinburgh Zoo, is either not pregnant after all, or has lost her panda baby. This would be a sad story under any circumstances—an expectant mother losing her fetus—but it is all the more lamentable given the difficulty of panda reproduction. The endangered mammal mothers are usually in heat and able to conceive for only a few days a year, and their pregnancies rarely follow set schedules, with gestation periods fluctuating between fewer than 100 and as many as 160 days.

Steven John is a published novelist and competitive pole vault champion. (The latter is not true.) His writing runs the gamut from speculative fiction to essays fueled by a mix of mirth and derision. He has never been to Lisbon but, statistically speaking, is probably taller than you.

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