How to dispose of a dead pet: is taxidermy the very best option?

Have you considered having your dead puppy stuffed? Or perhaps turning it into a rug? Or a drone? With no established style to mourn the loss of a loved animal, pet proprietors have turned to any number of curious methods

This year, a woman from Dundee posted an unusual ad for her puppy, Snoopy, on Facebook’s Marketplace. The unusual thing about it was that the dog was dead.” Had our dog turned into a rug when he died ,” the ad read.” Treasured family pet. Has to be sold as new puppy maintains trying to hump it. Lookin for 100 pound ONO. Very cosy and unusual piece .”

Cosy is questionable; unusual was an understatement. Snoopy’s flattened kind and smiling face were considered so shocking that editors on the Telegraph and Argus and the Dundee Evening Telegraph set warns at the top of their tales. By then the ad had already been howled off Facebook and the owner of the dead pet had backed away into anonymity.

What do you do with a dead pet? What is the appropriate parting to these beings that psychologists bellow “self-objects”, so familiar they are almost a part of you, sighing sympathetically while you weep, cavorting idiotically, loving you uncritically. How do you cope without the pet whose lifespan encompassed long-outgrown childhoods and that your children loved sometimes more than they loved their parents?

And why, when we stimulate desirable items out of leather, and admire stuffed animals in natural history museums and pass the mounted head of a stag without a second glance, why does turning this pet into an animal scalp seem so … incorrect?

Psychologists can explain how we love the way a pet offers uncritical, uncalculating affection in an otherwise conditional world. They talk of pets as witness to our lives. I’m with them on that. More than a year after the second of our own borders terriers died, her earthly remains, along with her mother’s from a couple of years earlier, are still boxed up just as they came from the pet crematorium. They live under a chair, out of sight, but not in any way finished with. For a start, we still have to summon the fortitude to say goodbye. And we can’t decide how to do it: burying in the garden, or scattering along the way of a favourite walk? Casual and informal, or with readings and tearful recollections? This is what they call disenfranchised grief.

Sam Carr, a psychology lecturer at the University of Bath who is interested in animals and attachment hypothesi, says pets are” there in every page of your narrative. When you lose that various kinds of figure, there’s a trauma .” It is a kind of bereavement, which demands some formal reaction. But there isn’t one.” I’ve never met anyone who either scalped or stuffed their pet ,” says Carr,” but I can imagine it offered some kind of respectful way of commemorating their life, maybe a tribute or a festivity .”

George
George Jamieson at work. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

George Jamieson, a taxidermist who works near Edinburgh, describes good taxidermy as” a frozen moment. It’s as if the soul of the animal is still there. It’s somewhere between not being able to let go and wanting to keep something of what was .”

Jamieson are applied to stuff pets, but now he find it’s too intensive, trying to make a realistic portrait of an animal that is already dead. He doesn’t say so, but I’m left with the impression that people who want their dead pets stuffed are psychologically needy in a way that someone who deals with dead animals for a living finds difficult to handle.

Victorians loved taxidermy. Death was a daily menace and the death of a loved one commonplace. Sentimentality seems to have been a way of holding fear close in order to control it. Walter Potter’s Museum of Curiosities exhibited homemade anthropomorphic dioramas of stuffed white rabbits garmented as small schoolchildren sitting in rows in a classroom. Others featured kittens at tea and animal bridals. It was a hugely successful guest attraction in Sussex( and, more recently, at the short-lived Brooklyn Morbid Anatomy Museum ). At Bitov Castle in Moravia, whole rooms are dedicated to the deceased pets of the castle’s last owned, Baron Georg Haas. Unlike the clumsy realisations in the Potter museum, the baron’s dogs, principally terriers, lie heads up, ears cocked, poised to leap up after a rabbit.

A pet, by definition, is an animal without special purposes, maintained for love and amusement. They have been maintained since at least classical times- we know because their lives were recorded on vases and stellae as lovingly then as they are photographed and painted and memorialised now. Pet proprietors have been scolded for their excessive attention to their pets in the face of the suffering of the world for just as long. And the negotiation between the pet as an animal( and therefore a beast without a spirit, ultimately lesser than a human) and the pet as a family member, which is part of the everyday business of being a pet owned, isn’t resolved by the pet’s death.

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The work of Walter Potter at Potter’s Museum of Curiosity in Bolventor, Cornwall. Photo: Graham French/ Getty Images

Yet there has never been any culture accommodation with the peculiar nature of our attachment to some animals and not others. Most western guessed divides all humans from all animals. So although it is widely acknowledged that we can love animals as much as or even more than humans, western society has never developed culture forms that help us to manage the trauma of animal loss.

On the whole, pet devotees who do anything choose burying. Some people genuinely splash out. Pet cemeteries’ offers range from statues and trees to online tribute sites. Frederick the Great, the Prussian enlightenment monarch, built himself a summer palace at Potsdam, where he buried his beloved greyhounds and marked their lives with exquisite calligraphy on marble tablets, and when he died he was buried with them. Peggy Guggenheim, one of the few people since who could match both Frederick’s wealth and his love for his dogs, is interred with her terriers at her Venice palazzo.

There is even the “undeath” alternative: a cloning service is now available in South Korea. More often, though, people try to cheat the fact of demise by preserving the likeness of the living. Ronald, the pony that carried Lord Cardigan in the charge of the Light Brigade, has been split up into four feet( inkwells scattered around stately home in Britain) while his head and tail remain at his master’s home, Deene Park.

But something about our sensitivities has changed. The animal carpet- let’s call it the Dundee option- is now on the outer edge of platitude. Though not as far out as the Dutch artist Bart Jansen, who turned his dead cat, Orville, into a droning. Jansen insists he loved his cat, and denies there was an element of revenge in turning him into furry drone even though, when thwarted, Orville was a biter.

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The Orvillecopter by Dutch artist Bart Jansen. Photograph: Reuters

About the same time as Snoopy went on sale in Dundee, I saw an exquisite, unmarked kingfisher that must have flown into a window. The russet and turquoise streak that I have only glimpsed once or twice on the periphery of my vision was lying just outside my house. The desire to preserve it was overwhelming- not an image, but the creature itself, so rarely find and still more rarely touched. Without truly supposing, I determined a taxidermist nearby and delivered the small body into her freezer, from where at sometime in the future I hope it will be resurrected. This, I realise, is what Damien Hirst entailed when he called his shark the physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living.

Hirst is not the only contemporary artist who is fascinated by the dead/ aliveness represented by taxidermy. Nature morte , the French expression for still life, runs better as a literal translation. The artist Polly Morgan utilizes taxidermy to explore what was called in one of her exhibitions” the poetics of strangeness “~ ATAGEND. She and Hirst were both represented in a show of 18 contemporary artists in Rhode Island last year.

Of course, they used wild animals. We may try to avoid thinking about current realities of stuffing a wild animal, but it is not- yet- an uncomfortable idea. My stuffed kingfisher will not shock.

According to Clare Fowler, the taxidermist I took my kingfisher to, people who want their pets stuffed often come to her as I did, in a state of unanticipated bereavement. She thinks that taxidermy serves as a waypost in the process of grieving. The ones who call her in advance- she works in deep, rural Dorset- because they are going to have their pet put down, usually change their intellects after they have understood what taxidermy entails.

The day I go, she is working on an old lady’s pet cat, the second she has done for this client. It lies on her workbench- or at least the cat’s head, still attached to its empty scalp, lies there looking mildly astounded. Fowler will make a fibreglass mould from the body that the fur once encased, and then, after preserving the scalp, stretch it back over the artificial sort. This one will be a sleeping cat.” I like to do them sleeping. It looks passive, and I think it’s less difficult for the subconsciou. Sleeping ones are lovely and most people agree and go with it .”

Not all pet owners want a grief object. Fowler has mounted the head of a young man’s terrier on a shield. It was an unusual request, but it didn’t upset her.” Some people would be shocked, but no one would think twice about a deer or a game animal. I do get a few people attacking me on Facebook. But people want it done. And I love animals. I think they[ her critics] must think I’ve scalped them alive or something, but I love fur and feather and this is about maintaining that beauty .”

Her worst experience was a woman who first arranged for her cat to be stuffed and then asked her to take it out of the storage freezer and thaw it because she had bought a magical incantation on the internet that was guaranteed to bring it back to life. It didn’t work.

And then there was Elfie. Elfie was a cat who was fulfilling an important attachment role for her two owneds, Rachel and Matthew, whose relationship was going through a rough patch. Elfie was killed on the road when Matthew was caring for her.” I supposed, what would Rach want- I know, I’ll get her stuffed .”

Work
Work by Polly Morgan. Photograph: Alex Lentati/ Evening Standard/ REX

The news of Elife’s death was broken to Rachel. In secret, Elfie’s unscathed body was rushed into a freezer, and then transported in an insulated box to Fowler in Dorset. Nine months later, the job was done. By then Rachel and Matthew were merrily back together, and Rachel knew about the preservation project.” Rach was over the moon ,” according to Matthew, and- this must be why they are together- she says:” I thought it was the most romantic thing ever .”

The not-dead Elfie sits alert at the top of the stairs.” She’s been through it a little bit, she looks a bit older ,” Matthew and Rachel concur.” Some people jump and shriek. The new cat is a bit puzzled. But we don’t get a big negative reaction. I know a lot of people don’t have taxidermy in their home- but we love it .”

For nearly a decade, up until about 2012, the British artist David Shrigley employed pet dogs and cats, stuffed, often standing anthropomorphically on their back legs holding placards saying:” I am dead “. It was an exploitation of the transgressive notion of stuffing a family member. Shrigley watches the pieces as something between black humour and a conversational gambit about the nature of demise. And life.

Since he acquired a puppy five years ago, Shrigley has abandoned use pets( although, he adds speedily, he never hurt an animal in his earlier run ). He says he wants his work to be more positive( his was the thumbs-up on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square last year ). Recently, struck by how the lambs gambolling outside his bedroom window were playing just like his puppy had, he stopped eating meat entirely.

” Taxidermy is such a weird thing ,” he says.” It’s supposed to be a the representatives from life. But it’s a the representatives from demise .”

Odder still is that as the number of Britons who, like Shrigley, take up vegetarianism rises( 6% now ), so does the passion for pets and for unusual, unexpected ways of preserving their memory.

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DNA sampling exposes nine ‘yeti specimens’ as eight bears and a dog

Although it has not revealed the existence of the abominable snowman, DNA analysis has shed light on the evolutionary family tree of bears, scientists say

Huge, ape-like and hairy, the yeti has roamed its route into legend, tantalising explorers, mountaineers and locals with curious footprints and fleeting appearances. Now researchers say the elusive dweller of the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau has been unmasked.

Scientists analyzing nine samples- including hair and teeth- supposedly from yetis, say the samples are not from a huge hominin but in fact largely belonged to bears.

Just one sample, taken from a curious stuffed “yeti”, bucked the trend- the being turned out to be a taxidermy mash-up boasting the hair of a bear and the teeth of a dog.

” It demonstrates that modern science can really try and tackle some of these mysteries and unsolved questions that we have ,” said Dr Charlotte Lindqvist, an expert on bear genomics and co-author of the research from the University at Buffalo.

The study is not the first time it has been suggest the yeti might be more ursine than abominable.

A recent analyse, based on genetic analysis from samples purportedly from yeti-like beasts the world over, found that while most of the samples came from known animals, two from Bhutan and the Indian Himalayas were more mysterious. The team suggested they might be from an unknown species of bear, or a descendant from a hybrid of a polar and brown bear.

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A footprint purporting to be that of the abominable snowman, taken near Mount Everest in 1951. Photo: Topical Press Agency/ Getty Images

But Lindqvist was unconvinced, pointing out there was too little data to rule out a more mundane explanation.” I simply didn’t trust these asserts ,” she said.

Lindqvist and colleagues analyzed nine samples gathered by a company shooting a cinema on the topic. Sources included mummified animals found in monasteries, hair collected by nomadic herdsmen, bone from a spiritual healer and a stuffed “yeti” from the Messner Mountain Museum.

The team also analysed 15 other samples from zoos, national park and museums, the majority of which were known to be from Himalayan brown bears.

The analysis, which was based on sequences of Dna from the energy powerhouses of the cell known as mitochondria, involved a comparison of all of the samples with genetic data regarding a large international database.

” Of those nine samples, eight of them matched local bears that are found in the region today ,” said Lindqvist, adding that the ninth sample was the dog tooth from the stuffed yeti.” The purported yetis from the Tibetan plateau matched Tibetan brown bears, the ones from the western Himalayan mountains matched the Himalayan brown bear and then, at maybe somewhat less altitude were Asian black bears .”

Lindqvist added that the finding rendered mixed emotions.” That was plainly very interesting to me, perhaps somewhat disappointing to the movie company ,” she said, adding that the new samples also helped the team to gain new insights into the evolutionary “family tree” of bears.

But Lindqvist says she doubts such studies is likely to be the final word on the yeti.” I am sure, though, that the legend and the myth will live on ,” she said.” You can never for sure prove that there is nothing out there .”

The results, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, are likely to disappoint cryptozoologists. Jonathan Downes, director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, said that while he applauded the scientific work and agreed that many samples are plainly from bears, he believes the mystery is not yet solved.

” I think there is still a potential that there are unknown species of higher primate which are still awaiting discovery in what used to be Soviet central Asia ,” he said.

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‘Celebrity’ elephant crushes owner to death in Thailand

Incident involving five-tonne elephant that has starred in cinemas and commercials prompts fresh debate over employ of animals in tourism

An elephant that has starred in feature films and commercials has crushed its owner to demise in Thailand, zoo officers say, defining off fresh debate over the kingdom’s animal tourism industry.

The accident took place on Monday morning in the northern city of Chiang Mai, just after the owner, Somsak Riengngen, unchained the five-tonne elephant, called Ekasit.

With a mahout, or handler, on his back, Ekasit took a few steps before reversing course and attacking 54 -year-old Somsak, who was on the ground.

” The elephant suddenly referred back and used his trunk to grab the victim. Then the elephant use his trunk to crush him ,” Wuthichai Muangman, acting director of Chiang Mai zoo, told AFP.

The 32 -year-old animal was being temporarily housed at the zoo under a contract due to expire in April.

Thailand is notorious for an elephant tourism trade, with the animals performing in circuses, giving rides, or being hired out for other forms of entertainment.

A July report by World Animal Protection found that twice as many elephants were pushed into Thailand’s tourism industry as in the rest of Asia combined, with most kept in” severely inadequate conditions “.

Out of 2,923 elephants documented as working in Asia’s tourism trade, 2,198 were in Thailand. Wuthichai said Chiang Mai zoo did not hold elephant displays but allowed tourists to feed the animals.

The animal rights campaign group Peta said that while the keeper’s death was a misfortune, it represented the potentially violent consequences of keeping elephants confined.

” Is it any wonder that some of these gentle animals eventually become fed up and fight back after being chained while confined to small enclosures that are a fraction of the size of their natural habitats ?” a statement said.

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Orcas vs great white sharks: in a battle of the apex predators who wins?

Its difficult to imagine the voracious great white shark as prey. Could orcas genuinely be overpowering them and removing their livers?

The great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias , is considered the most voracious apex predator in temperate marine ecosystems worldwide, playing a key role in controlling ecosystem dynamics.

As a outcome, it is difficult to imagine a great white as prey. And yet, earlier this year the carcasses of five great whites rinsed ashore along South Africa’s Western Cape province. Ranging in sizing from 2.7 metres( 9ft) to 4.9 metres( 16 ft ), the two females and three males all had one thing in common: pits puncturing the muscle wall between the pectoral fins. Strangest of all, their livers were missing.

The bite marks inflicted, along with corroborated sightings indicate that orcas, Orcinus orca , were responsible for this precisely-targeted predation. Although the opening scene from Jaws II immediately springs to mind, in which an orca washes up with huge bite marks on it, current realities has turned out to be the exact opposite.

Orcas
Orcas are apex predators whose diet is often geographic or population specific. Photo: Martin Ruegner/ Getty Images/ age fotostock RM

When comparing these two apex predators alongside one another, the stats read like a game of Top Trumps. Max length: great white 6.4 metres, orca 9.6 metres; max weight: great white 2,268 kg, orca 9,000 kg; burst swim speed: great white 45 km/ h, orca 48 km/ h. On newspaper, at the least, it does seem that orcas have the edge.

The diet of orcas is often geographic or population specific. Those populations predating in South African waters have been documented targeting smaller shark species for their livers. Cow sharks, blues and makos caught on longlines have had their livers removed by orcas, alongside the brains of the billfish also caught. Cow shark carcasses without livers have also rinsed ashore near Cape Town, and again, this followed nearby orca sightings.

With no doubt that orcas are utilizing highly specialised hunting strategies to target the liver; the real question is: why?

Shark livers are large, typically accounting for 5% or more of a shark’s total body weight. They are oil rich, with a principal component, squalene, serving as an energy store and providing buoyancy in the is a lack of the swim-bladder may be in teleosts( bony fish ).

Analysis of white shark livers including with regard to depicts an extremely high total lipid content, dominated by triacylglycerols (> 93% ). This outcomes in an energy density that is higher than whale blubber. For the sharks this serves as an energy storage unit to fuel migrations, growth and reproduction( Pethybridge et al 2014 ). For the orcas this is like feeing a deep fried Mars Bar with added vitamins. Generally speaking, livers contain vitamin C, vitamin B12, folate, vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin A, iron, sodium and of course fat, carbohydrate and protein energy sources.

Since the attraction of this delicacy to the orca is clear, how exactly does an orca go about removing a great white shark’s liver? The proof we have shows that it is does so with some accuracy- the shark carcasses were not obliterated.

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The examination of one of the great whites begins. The incision under the pectoral fin was made by the orca. Photo: Dyer Island Conservation Trust, Michelle Wcisel

During a 1997 encounter off the Farrallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco, a group of whale watchers witnessed an orca ramming into the side of a great white shark, momentarily stunning it and allowing the orca to flip it over and holding it in place( ventral/ belly up) for around 15 minutes, after which the orca began consuming its prey, much to the surprise of the whale watchers on board. A similar incident was captured on cinema off Costa Rica in 2014 – this time the orca’s prey was a tiger shark. And it’s not just sharks; orcas have been observed doing the same to stingrays too.

What the orcas were exploiting to their own advantage is a curious phenomenon known as” tonic immobility”( TI ). This is a natural state of paralysis, which occurs when elasmobranchs are positioned ventral side up in the water column. For certain species of shark like the great white, which is unable to pump water across its gills unless it keeps swimming, the consequence of being maintained within this’ tonic’ state for too long is final. Effectively, the orcas have learned how to drown their prey whilst minimising their own predatory exertion.

T I is a reflex that is characterised by a catatonic nation and total loss of muscle tone- it equates to at least stage IIb of anaesthesia( loss of consciousness to automatic respiration, as shown by McFarland, 1959 ). It has been observed and documented for a variety of terrestrial species, but in the aquatic surrounding it is usually links with elasmobranchs.

Sub-adult
Sub-adult lemon shark held in tonic immobility for hooking removal. Photo: Lauren Smith

Researchers often use this reflex to help with the surgical implantation of acoustic tags. The rapid induction and recovery of the animals optimises the surgical procedure, which is particularly desirable during what are often complex field work conditions( Kessel& Hussey 2015 ).

Helpful to researchers and predatory orcas it may be, but the evolutionary benefit to those elasmobranchs exhibiting TI is less certain. It may serve as a defence strategy, but the advantage of sharks being able to “play dead” is not clear. An alternative hypothesi been shown that TI may be related to mating, with males using it as a technique to temporarily immobilise the female.

Whatever the primary use of TI is in the wild for elasmobranchs, orcas are known to exploit this to aid their predation. The sharks however, also learn, and sightings of great whites off the South African coastline rapidly declined whilst the orcas were in the area. Once the orcas moved on, the great whites slowly began to return.

References

Pethybridge HR, Parrish CC, Bruce BD, Young JW, Nichols PD. 2014. Lipid, Fatty Acid and Energy Density Profiles of White Sharks: Insights into the Feeding Ecology and Ecophysiology of a Complex Top Predator. PLoS ONE 5: e97877.

Kessel, ST, Hussey, NE. 2015. Tonic immobility as an anaesthetic for elasmobranchs during surgical implantation procedures . Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquaculture Science. 72. 1-5.

McFarland, WN. 1959. A study of the effects of anaesthetics on the behaviour and physiology of fishes. Publication of the Institute of Marine Science, University of Texas at Austin, 6: 23-55.

  • This headline on this piece was edited on 16 November to correct a mistake made by a subeditor- orcas, technically speaking, are the largest dolphins and not whales.

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Snake charmer: man held in Germany found with python in his pants

Darmstadt police detained 19 -year-old after a drunken row with another man and said they ensure significant protrusion in his trousers

A man detained by police during a drunken argument in Germany may have violated animal welfare laws after being be considered to be carrying a baby python in his pants.

Police in Darmstadt, in the west of the country, said he was held on Tuesday night after a loud row with another man disturbed residents. They said he was searched and officers noticed” a significant protrusion in his trousers “.

The man, 19, told officers he had a snake in his pants and pulled out a 14 -inch( 36 cm) royal python.

He was taken to a police cell to sober up and the serpent was put in a box. Speaking on Wednesday, police said they were looking for the reptile’s owner and examining whether” the non-species-appropriate transport” broke animal protection regulations.

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Photo of elephant and calf fleeing fire-throwing mob wins top prize

Photograph taken in eastern India, titled Hell is here, indicates mob lunging flaming tar balls at animals

An arresting image showing an adult elephant and its calf fleeing a rabble assault has won a top Asian wildlife photography prize.

It shows the two animals operating among a mob that has lunged flaming tar balls and crackers at them, reportedly to ward the elephants away from human settlements.

The picture, titled” Hell is here”, was taken by Biplab Hazra, a wildlife photographer from West Bengal state, and won the 2017 Sanctuary’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year award.

The Sanctuary Nature Foundation, which awarded the award, said:” In the Bankura district of West Bengal, this sort of humiliation of pachyderms is routine, as it is in the other elephant-range nations of Assam, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and more .”

” This sort of conflict is increasing every day ,” said Christy Williams, the World Wildlife Fund country director in Myanmar, who researches elephants in the region.

He said elephants become increasingly being pushed out of existing habitats by human behaviour.” There are forests being cut down, degraded, and also being fragmented by growth like new roads and pipelines .”

India is home to around 30,000 Asian elephants, 70% of the world’s population, with around 800 in West Bengal, according to the most recent official count.

Co-existence between humans and elephants was especially difficult, Williams said.

” Elephants are huge- they are the biggest mammal on land and they have huge home ranges, around 800 sq km. Such huge unreserved forest tracts are becoming very rare ,” he said.

” In the end, humen always win, whatever the species, however powerful it is .”

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Fishy business: Trump and Abe dump fish food into precious koi pond

US president and Japanese host devote fish a large feast on second day of formers five-nation tour of Asia

Donald Trump and the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, have taken a forceful approach to feeding fish on the second day of the US president’s five-nation tour of Asia.

Standing beside a pond brim with colourful koi in the Akasaka palace in Tokyo, the two men began spooning out fish food before appearing to lose patience and emptying their wooden containers with a shake.

The palace’s big collecting of koi have been viewed by a succession of world leaders, including Margaret Thatcher. It is not known whether the former British prime minister was as aggressive as Trump when it came to feeding the pond’s inhabitants.

White House reporters, keen perhaps to pick up on a Trump gaffe, captured the moment when he upended his box on their smartphones and tweeted evidence of his questionable grasp of fish keeping. However, other footage made clear that Trump was merely following his host’s lead.

Alex Pfeiffer (@ PfeifferDC)

pic.twitter.com/ 6u28ZYAJd9

November 6, 2017

Abe is considered grinning, as is a woman in a kimono standing to one side. Next to her, Rex Tillerson- perhaps grateful for a moment of comic relief after he was named in the Paradise Papers– could not squelch a chuckle, according to witnesses.

Some speculated that a poor palace employee would be dispatched to the scene to clean up the mess as soon as the two leaders disappeared inside.

Trump and Abe are not alone in misjudging the fishes’ appetite. According to the Aquascape website, overfeeding is the most common mistake made by keepers of koi.

” This can attain your fish sick, and excessive quantities of trash that strains the limits of what can be biologically reduced, outcomes in a decline of water quality ,” the site says.

This article was amended on 6 November 2017 to make clear that Shinzo Abe also emptied the contents of his container into the pond

Meet Junornis:the tiny Cretaceous bird which reveals the earliest form of bounding flight

Newly-discovered Junornis huoi was the oldest bird capable of bounding flight and represented a arousing update to what we know about complex flight

A 126 -million-year-old fossil has demonstrated that birds were capable of a special form of flight much earlier than previously thought. The freshly named Junornis huoi ( which entails” beautiful wing “) is known from a single unbelievably preserved specimen with a superb skeleton and extensive preservation of plumages, including the wings and two long tail plumages which were likely used for display.

The fossil comes from the famous “Jehol” beds of China, which have produced numerous birds, dinosaurs, and other animals including predatory mammals and tadpoles of salamanders. The exceptional preservation of soft tissues such as plumages, claws, muscles and even gills has added substantially to our understanding of the evolution of various groups. The beds widen across northern China and even into North Korea, but Junornis is from the far western extent of these, coming from Inner Mongolia.

Junornis was a small bird, around 25 -3 0 cm in wingspan. The whole animal is so well preserved it was possible for researchers to get very accurate measurements of the plumages and to calculate the shape of the wings and the likely weight of the animal when alive. These features very strongly constrain how birds fly- the form of the wing( basically its duration vs median width) and weight control how well birds can turn, how quickly they can take off, and if they can exploit gales to soar, or hover and so on. The great differences between the wings of vultures, albatross and wrens or crows underpin the ecology and behaviour of these animals.

Junornis
Another view of the fossil. Junornis it was about the same sizing, weight and wingshape as modern skylarks and therefore would fly in a similar way. Photo: Liu et al.

In the case of Junornis it was about the same size, weight and wingshape as modern skylarks and therefore would fly in a similar way. Birds with this combination of wings and weight are animals that engage in “intermittent” or “bounding” flight where a explosion of rapid flapping is followed by a stage where the wings are tucked against the body and the animal turns into a little weapon before flapping again. Anyone who has seen a woodpecker or sparrow darting between gaps has probably seen this kind of locomotion and it’s really commonly used among small birds. If you have the right wingshape it is actually a quite efficient style of getting around, and these wings also mean that Junornis would have been capable of taking off rapidly, and would be highly manoeuvrable and able to perform tight turns in the air.

Slow motion video of a zebra finch engaging in bounding flight.

Few fossil birds are well preserved enough to demonstrate their likely flight patterns and the discovery of Junornis shows that birds were likely engaging in such behaviours considerably earlier than previously though. Dr Mike Habib of the University of Southern California who was involved in the research said ” we did not expect to find evidence of such a complex flight pattern in such an early bird, so this find is very exciting .”

Junornis is a member of a group of birds “ve called the” Enantiornithes which lived in the Cretaceous Period and have been discovered on every continent except Antarctica. They ran extinct with their non-avian dinosaur relatives at the end of the Cretaceous. The enantiornithines are less diverse in sort and size, so it is not clear if Junornis was typical or unusual but it does mean that this form of flight was one of a number being explored by early birds. As Dr Habib notes,” finding evidence for bounding flight in an early bird is exciting and updates our thinking about the origins of such sophisticated flight behaviours .” There is clearly still much more are in place to in the future we are perhaps likely to find other birds who were capable of some unusual flight styles much earlier than suppose.

References 😛 TAGEND

Liu D, Chiappe LM, Serrano F, Habib M, Zhang Y, Meng Q( 2017) Flight aerodynamics in enantiornithines: Info from a new Chinese Early Cretaceous bird. PLoS ONE1 2( 10 ): e0184637

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lyse puddle: Macron’s dog Nemo filmed urinating in president’s office

Does that happen often? junior pastor asks French leader after labrador-griffon cross relieves himself against a fireplace

Like other French chairmen before him, Emmanuel Macron knows the value of a photogenic puppy at the Elysee Palace. His black labrador-griffon cross, Nemo, is the first French presidential pet to come from a rescue centre, and since his arrival the summer months he has been photographed in the gardens and even standing to attentionon the palace steps to welcome Niger’s president, Mahamadou Issoufou.

But two-year-old Nemo brought a whole new meaning to the term presidential leaks this weekend where reference is cocked his leg for a long and abundant wee against an ornamental fireplace in Macron’s gilded office during a filmed meeting between the president and junior ministers.

In the footage for the channel TF1, three junior pastors are in Macron’s ornate office talking to the president about inner-city investment when Nemo alleviates himself behind them. Macron and the ministers look on helpless until the dog finishes.” I wondered what that noise was ,” says the junior minister for ecology, Brune Poirson, who had been talking when the dog began alleviating itself.

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Vets warn that ‘extreme breeding’ could harm horses

The El Rey Magnum is close to perfection, according to its breeders in Washington state

Vets are warning that the” extreme breeding” of ponies could harm their health and welfare after pictures emerged of a young Arabian horse with a drastically concave profile. Claimed to be already worth “several million dollars”, El Rey Magnum is said to be ” close to perfection” by its breeders at Orrion Farms, an Arabian horse specialist in Ellensburg, Washington state.

But British vets and equine experts have told the Veterinary Record the nine-month-old colt represents” a matter of great concern ,” as its deformed skull could potentially cause exhaling difficulties. The Guardian has been refused permission to publish pictures of the pony, but the creature can be viewed here.

Tim Greet, an equine expert, told the Veterinary Record:” I find the whole thing unbelievable. Arabians have always had a rather’ dished ‘, face but this takes things to a ridiculous level .”

According to Greet, such “deformity” is more significant for a horse than for pedigree dogs such as pugs, which are able to suffer breathing problems. Dogs can breathe through their mouths, but horses can only inhaled through their noses.” I suspect exercising would definitely be limited for this horse ,” said Greet.

Adele Waters, the editor of Veterinary Record, said that every professional veterinarian she had shown the images to had found them shocking.

She said:” My first believes were,’ Is this the work of CGI trickery ?’ Many specialist horse veterinarians have had a similar reaction. But the truth is this is a real pony and it has been bred to meet the demands of a specific market that likes a specific appearance. Where will it aim? Is it genuinely so bad for a horse to look like a pony and not a cartoon character ?”

Waters questioned the morality of such fashion-led breeding, in the wake of similar fears over the health and welfare of flat-nosed puppy breeds such as bulldogs, French bulldogs and pugs.

” The real original Arabian horse’s head was very beautiful but they are now being bred strictly for that[ concave] look. There is no functional value in a pony having a face like that. Veterinarians believe that if you distort the skull like that there’s a risk you affect the airways and the breathing capacity of the pony .”

Dr Madeleine Campbell, an equine reproduction specialist, expert in animal welfare and ethics and director of the Equine Ethics Consultancy, told the Veterinary Record:” Whilst it is obviously impossible to comment on an individual animal based only on photographic proof, as a general principle, any tendency towards breeding for extremes of form which might adversely affect normal function must be condemned, on welfare grounds .”

Doug Leadley, a farm administrator and primary breed adviser for Orrion, claimed that” this horse is a stepping stone to getting close to perfection “. He rejected criticisms of the horse:” I think most of those people don’t breed ponies, or show them or aren’t very involved- those are people who don’t understand .”

American veterinarians have recognised El Rey Magnum as an example of an extreme breed, and one vet has said that the pony has no medical or respiratory issues.

Since launching a promotional video earlier this month, the farm has received interest from across the world, including the UK. According to Leadley, the young pony is already worth several million dollars.

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