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Category Archives: Animals

Deadly fungus creates ‘zombie ants’ and hijacks their jaws to cause suicide

By Chris Ciaccia | Fox News

If you thought fictional zombies walking around on film were scary, the condition that turns creatures into mindless eating machines actually exists in nature. In ants.

According to research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, ants that come in contact with the deadly fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis have their jaw muscles taken over until they eventually die.

Image of an ant who received honeydew from aphid. (Credit: Dawidi, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Image of an ant who received honeydew from aphid. (Credit: Dawidi, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Mangold, along with her other researchers found that the infected muscles showed evidence of hypercontraction as the ants clamped their jaws tightly onto a leaf vein or twig.

“Despite the extensive colonization, both motor neurons and neuromuscular junctions appear to be maintained,” the study’s abstract reads. “Infection results in sarcolemmal damage, but this is not specific to the death grip. We found evidence of precise penetration of muscles by fungal structures and the presence of extracellular vesicle-like particles, both of which may contribute to mandibular hypercontraction.”

Ultimately, the ant dies, as it’s consumed from within by the fungus. Making matters worse, spores of the deadly fungus drop below from the stalk that grows out of the dead ant in hopes of finding a new host.

The fungus is largely found in ants that live in tropical climates such as Brazil, Africa and Thailand.

Mangold’s research follows up on a 2017 study into the deadly effects of Ophiocordyceps unilateralis.

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Massive 16-foot python with nest of 50 eggs removed from Florida Everglades

By Stephen Sorace | Fox News

A female Burmese python that stretched 16 feet was found in the Florida Everglades over the weekend with its nest of nearly 50 eggs.

Ron Bergeron, an Everglades conservationist, removed the 165-pound snake from its nest beneath a home in Possum Head Camp, about four miles south of Alligator Alley. Some eggs hatched as Bergeron inspected the nest. Brian Van Landingham and Frank Branca assisted in the capture and destruction of the snake and its nest.

“The Burmese python poses a significant threat to the Florida Everglades by disrupting the natural food chain,” Bergeron, who goes by the nickname “Alligator Ron,” told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “With good fortune, we were able to find a large female, and remove her and an entire nest of up to 50 baby snakes which would have continued killing off our precious habitat.”

The Burmese python is an invasive species of snake that is damaging the natural ecosystem of the Everglades, experts have said.

The Burmese python is an invasive species of snake that is damaging the natural ecosystem of the Everglades, experts have said. (Ron Bergeron)

Native to Southeast Asia, the Burmese python is one of the largest snakes and considered an invasive species. It began appearing in the Everglades more than 20 years ago when the reptiles were imported as pets, the U.S. Department of Agriculture states on its website.

The apex predator has caused severe declines in mammal populations in the Everglades, including endangered species, according to the Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area.

Bergeron said in a video posted online that the reptiles eat rabbits, possum, deer and bobcats. A Burmese python has previously been seen devouring a 7-foot alligator in the Everglades, according to National Geographic.

The python caught over the weekend measured 16 feet, 1-inch long. It was about 1 foot shy of the record length in Florida.

The python caught over the weekend measured 16 feet, 1-inch long. It was about 1 foot shy of the record length in Florida.(Ron Bergeron)

Wildlife officials encourage the removal or humane killing of the Burmese python to reduce its impact on the environment. The pythons can be killed at any time throughout the year and no permit is required, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

The snakes can reach a length of over 25 feet and weigh as much as 200 pounds. The average size of a python removed in Florida is usually between 8 and 10 feet, the agencysaid.

The Burmese python Bergeron helped remove was 16 feet, 1-inch long — about 1 foot shy of the record-setting length of the Everglades python captured in April.

Bergeron, a board member of the South Florida Water Management District, said he and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are working on a plan to “increase the pressure” on the pythons to preserve the Everglades.

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Mysterious dinosaur remains discovered in Colorado are from an adult triceratops, experts confirm

The fossilized remains of a dinosaur that was discovered at a Colorado construction site last month have been identified as a triceratops.

The fossils were found last month at a construction site near a retirement community in Highlands Ranch. In a statement, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science said that the remains were found in a rock layer that dates to between 66 million and 68 million years ago.

A limb bone and several ribs were the first fossils to be uncovered from what paleontologists described as a horned dinosaur.

Natalie Toth, the Museum’s chief fossil preparator, has confirmed that the remains are from an adult Triceratops, a Museum spokeswoman told Fox News.

The dinosaur dig. (Denver Museum of Nature & Science)

The dinosaur dig. (Denver Museum of Nature & Science)

Citing the museum, Fox 31 reports that the triceratops could have been 30 feet long, weighing up to 13,000 pounds.

In 2017, a fossilized torosaurus skull was found at a construction site in Thornton, Colorado.

Other dinosaur discoveries have been getting plenty of attention recently. Researchers, for example, have discovered the fossilized remains of a herd of dinosaurs in an opal mine in the Australian outback.

The remains have been identified as an adult triceratops. (Denver Museum of Nature & Science)

The remains have been identified as an adult triceratops. (Denver Museum of Nature & Science)

In a separate project, paleontologists in the U.S. recently named a tiny 3-foot-tall relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Elsewhere, paleontologists recently discovered a new spike-armored dinosaur in Texas. Paleontologists in Canada have also touted the discovery of the world’s largest Tyrannosaurus rex.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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Giant pig caught on camera ravaging dumpster near school goes viral

The moment a gigantic boar stands on his hind legs to chow down on garbage has been caught on camera — but it’s where the animal is doing it that’s causing concern.

Shocked parents taking their kids to school in Hong Kong spotted the huge animal standing on the tips of his hooves to get his head in the dumpster, while two piglets stand next to him.

The terrifying video, posted to Facebook by Tu Dong, has since gone viral.

More than 2,500 social media users also commented on the video, many of which expressed concern about how close the wild pigs were to the school.

Misaki Ceci wrote: “The wild pig is in front of the left school. I’m careful with Hyung-Hyung’s primary school, and I’ve got a wild boar.”

The footage shows the boar trying to pull a black garbage bag out of the can while his piglets stand guard.

In Australia, feral pigs were declared pest animals in 2013, meaning they can be legally killed by farm owners.

In July 2013, a 10-year-old boy was gored in the neck by a wild boar at an Australian beach. He had been riding his bike when the pig charged at him and stabbed him in the neck with his tusk.

Feral pigs are also known to cause significant economic losses to agriculture by damaging crops, water holes and fencing.

There are strict laws in place to deter people from transporting and releasing live feral pigs, with fines starting at $2,200 for possessing a wild animal.

Fines climb to $22,000 for transporting live feral pigs.

This story originally appeared in news.com.au.

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Cute Dogs for Your Monday Blues!

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March 13, 2017 · 7:00 am

Tyson Foods CEO: The Future of Food Might Be Meatless

By , Published March 07, 2017

Tyson Foods’ new CEO is on a mission to change people’s perception of the iconic brand-which has faced chicken abuse and price-fixing charges. Hayes says he is now pushing the 80-year-old meat processor towards sustainability, plant-based …
The new CEO of one of the world’s largest meat processors, Tyson Foods Inc., sees plant-based protein as a big part of the food industry’s future.

“If you take a look at the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) stats, protein consumption is growing around the world—and it continues to grow. It’s not just hot in the U.S.; it’s hot everywhere, people want protein, so whether it’s animal-based protein or plant-based protein, they have an appetite for it. Plant-based protein is growing almost, at this point, a little faster than animal-based, so I think the migration may continue in that direction,” Tom Hayes, CEO of Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN) told FOX Business.

Today, the U.S. food giant, which got its start during The Great Depression, already owns a 5% stake in a plant-based protein start-up called Beyond Meat. The company also launched a venture capital fund worth $150 million to invest in startups that develop meat substitutes.

“We just got to the point last year where the consumer is demanding [the elimination of antibiotics in the food chain] and wants transparency. They want to have trust in the brands they buy …. [so] let’s push ourselves to go all the way,” Hayes told FOX Business.

Tyson made news earlier this week when a strain of bird flu was detected at one of its Tennessee contracted chicken farms.

“We’re addressing a form of avian influenza on a single contract chicken farm in Tennessee. It’s a bird health issue and not a food safety or human health concern. We’re responding aggressively, and are working with state and federal officials to contain the virus by euthanizing chickens located on the farm,” Tyson Foods Inc. told FOX Business in a statement.

Tyson has also faced charges of chicken abuse and price fixing.

Hayes, who originally spoke to FOX Business prior to the news Monday of the bird flu case in Tennessee, at the time acknowledged challenges in running a company the size of Tyson.

“We do a lot. We have 114,000 people and we have 100 plants and we have 11,000 family farms that we work with, so there is a lot that can go wrong. But we do things really well and we have team members who are really focused on making good food, and are actually doing things for the world,” he said.

Hayes said the company today is committed to helping to create a more sustainable food system, which involves cleaning up its factory farms and investing in more plant-based proteins.

“It’s important for us to continue to make progress. We don’t get everything right all the time, we know that. But the idea of how do we continue to try to get better … and we have done a lot of research for our poultry business to really understand what a closed loop farm of the future looks like,” he said.

To that end, he said the company is looking into a vertical farming approach that uses 60 percent less land and provides a healthier environment for the birds.

“It’s a lower stress environment because there’s not interaction with humans … it’s been greatly reduced. And we have barns that collect the rain water in roofs that can be used for grain, irrigation and a lot of things that are pushing our thinking,” he said.

Hayes said the company has created a new corporate logo to separate its top office from its shelf brand, which he says is just the beginning.

“Our new purpose as a company is to continue to raise expectations for the good big food can do. Big food is often seen as potentially bad, and in order for us to feed … 9 billion [people] we have to get in the game and say how do we come up with solutions and innovations,” said Hayes.

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Cute Dog Pics for Your Tuesday

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March 7, 2017 · 1:10 pm
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