Birds had to relearn flight after meteor wiped out dinosaurs

Fossil records indicate merely flightless birds survived when T rex was wiped off the Earth

Birds had to rediscover flight after the meteor strike that killed off the dinosaurs, scientists say.

The cataclysm 66 m years ago not only wiped out Tyrannosaurus rex and ground-dwelling dinosaur species, but also flying birds, a detailed survey of the fossil record suggests.

As woodlands burned around the world, the only birds to survive were flightless emu-like species that lived on the ground.

” Seeming at the fossil record, at plants and birds, there are multiple lines of proof is recommended that the forest canopies collapsed ,” said Regan Dunn, a member of the team from the Field Museum in Chicago, US.” Perching birds ran extinct because there were no more perches .”

The six to nine-mile-wide meteor struck the Earth off the coast of Mexico, releasing a million times more energy than the largest atom bomb. Hot debris raining from the sky is thought to have triggered global wildfires immediately after potential impacts.

Fossils
Fossil records reveal that birds surviving the end of the Cretaceous period had long sturdy legs for living on the ground. Photo: Denver Museum of Nature& Science/ University of Bath

It took hundreds or even thousands of years for the world’s forests of palms and pines to recover. Fossil records from New Zealand, Japan, Europe and North America, all show evidence of mass deforestation. They also reveal that birds surviving the end of the Cretaceous period had long sturdy legs made for living on the ground. They resembled emus and kiwis, said the researchers whose findings are reported in the journal Current Biology.

” The ancestors of modern tree-dwelling birds did not move into the trees until the woods had recovered from the extinction-causing asteroid ,” told Daniel Field, from the University of Bath and a co-author of the paper published in Current Biology.

” Today, birds are the most diverse and globally widespread group of terrestrial vertebrate animals- there are nearly 11,000 living species ,” he added.” Merely a handful of ancestral bird ancestries succeeded in surviving the mass extinction event 66 million years ago, and all of today’s amazing living bird diversity can be traced to these ancient survivors .”

The team are now focused on reconstructing the recovery of bird populations and how new species emerged and thrived in the ecological niche left by the extinction of dinosaurs.

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Cougar kills one mountain biker and injures another in Washington state

Mountain lion is tracked and killed after second biker called 911 and screamed: Can you hear me? Assistance!

A mountain lion killed one mountain biker and mauled another in Washington state on Saturday when they ride into its territory. State officials afterward tracked the animal and shot it dead, police told.

The mountain bikers were riding together down a remote, backwoods trail at 11 am local time in an area near North Bend, Washington state, around 30 miles( 48 km) east of Seattle, when the they encountered the animal.

In the ensuing assault, the first rider received deep scratches and the other was dragged away by the puma to its den, King county sheriff spokesman Sergeant Ryan Abbot said.

The 31 -year-old survivor rode two miles out of the area and called 911.

KIRO-TV reported that the injured man called 911 shortly before 11 am and hollered:” Can you hear me? Help !” and then the bellow hung up.

Police drove up the road, find the victim’s bike and went into the woods where they came across the cougar standing over the victim’s body, Abbott said.

” He or she, I don’t know if the puma was a male or female, had the body of the victim down in his den ,” told Ryan.

A deputy took a shot at the animal, sending it fleeing into the woods. Officers of the state fish and game department tracked the cat with dogs and killed it, Abbott said.
The surviving cyclist was taken to hospital in Seattle with serious but none-life-threatening traumata, he told.

Fatal cougar attacks are extremely rare in North America, with only about two dozen are available in the last 100 years, the majority of members of them involving children.

It was only the second deadly assault by a mountain lion in Washington state in the last 100 years, Abbott told.

Cougars are the fourth largest cat species worldwide, with adult females weighing up to 141 pounds( 64 kgs) and males weighing as much as 220 pounds( 100 kgs ).

They attack prey by ambush and usually attack humen only if cornered.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report .

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Sharks love jazz but are stumped by classical, say scientists

A study at Macquarie University in Sydney found that sharks could recognise jazz if there was food on offer

Researchers at Sydney’s Macquarie University have discovered that sharks can recognise jazz music.

In a newspaper published in Animal Cognition, the researchers, led by Catarina Vila Pouca, developed juvenile Port Jackson sharks to swim over to where jazz was playing, to receive food. It has been thought that sharks have learned to associate the audio of a boat engine with food, because food is often thrown from tourist boats to attract sharks to cage-diving expeditions- the study shows that they can learn these associations quickly.

The test was induced more complex with the addition of classical music- this confounded the sharks, who couldn’t differentiate between jazz and classical.” It was obvious that the sharks knew that they had to do something when the classical music was played, but they couldn’t figure out that they had to go to another location ,” said researcher Culum Brown.” The task is harder than it sounds, because the sharks had to learn that different locations were associated with a particular genre of music, which was then paired with a food reward. Perhaps with more develop, they would have figured it out .”

Vila Pouca added:” Sharks are generally underestimated when it comes to learning abilities- most people assure them as mindless, instinctive animals. However, they have really big brains and are patently much smarter than we give them credit for .” She said that the evidence would hopefully inspires more conservation work.

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Facing extinction, the North Atlantic right whale cannot adapt. Can we? | Philip Hoare

Once the right whale to hunt, Eubalaena glacialis is now been hit by nets, ships and changing seas. We are losing a beautiful beast

As if to confound everyone, this past week Dr Charles ” Stormy ” Mayo and his squad from the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies reported insuring up to 150 right whales in Cape Cod Bay. Dr Mayo- who has been studying these animals for 40 years and has a scientist’s aversion to exaggeration- is stunned.

” It is astounding for such a rare and utterly odd being ,” he tells me. All the more amazing since he knows this great assembling could be a final flourish. By 2040, the North Atlantic right whale may be gone. He hesitates, then uses the e-word: extinction.

How can such a huge mammal simply disappear within reach of the richest and most powerful nation on globe? Shifting food sources- due to climate change- are leading whales to areas where maritime industries are unused to them. In the past 12 months, 18 rights have died after ship strikes or entanglement in fishing gear. With as few as 430 animals left, 100 of them breeding females in a reduced gene pool, the species is unsustainable.

The right whale may be the strangest brute in the ocean. Vast and rotund, its gigantic mouth is fringed with two-metre strips of baleen, once “harvested” by humen to furnish Venetian blinds and corset remains but used by the whale to strain its diet of rice-sized zooplankton from the sea.

These bizarre animals are not easily known or imagined. They live far longer than us- like its Arctic cousin, the bowhead, the right whale may reach 200, perhaps more. Someones could be older than constitutional America. They exist beyond us in time, dimension and experience. If we lose the right whale, “were losing” part of our planet’s biological history.

If any whale were to be so foolish as to claim nationality, the North Atlantic right whale would be American, spending all its life in US or Canadian waters. Its modern moniker, the urban whale, provokes its habit of foraging close to shore. Its historic name speaks to its fate. Being a surface-feeder, so near to land, made it vulnerable to humen. And when it was killed, its belt of blubber ensured that it floated conveniently. The right whale was in the incorrect place, at the wrong time.

By 1935, with as few as 60 breed people left, the situation was so dire that the right whale became the first cetacean to be protected by statute. But by the start of this century, the numbers seemed to recover. Shipping lanes were shifted and fishing industries took on board the whale’s protected status. It even got its own air exclusion zone.” Like a Hollywood superstar ,” as John Waters quipped to me.

For 18 years I’ve followed that tentative recovery in the water off Cape Cod. I’ve stumbled on to the winter beach to witness their fins and flukes tumbling so near the tide line I might have waded out to them. I’ve even watched them from my bed overlooking the bay. And on research cruises with the Center for Coastal Studies, special licence allowed us to approach close enough to see the whale louse( cyamids) crawling round their heads.

On one memorable trip-up in April 2015, scientist Christy Hudak and her team spotted 80 animals- nearly 20% of the population. It was like watching dinosaurs, but such is the sensitivity of the center’s work that I cannot show you the dozens of photo I took that day.

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A North Atlantic right whale at the surface. Photo: Brian J. Skerry/ NG/ Getty Images

That sense of a huge animal being and not being there speaks to a paradoxical fragility. Veteran whalewatch naturalist Dennis Minsky, are stationed in Provincetown, takes this story personally:” An ancient and noble animal is constitutionally unable to adapt to an array of anthropogenic menaces- speeding water craft, the myriad horizontal lines of fishing gear, an increasingly noisy ocean and poorly understood changes in water quality .” Federal and country efforts to help seem little more than” mere tinkering “. And with 80% of right whales showing scars from entanglement, what about their individual suffering?

” The lucky ones, I suppose, drown ,” Minsky tells.” Others go for months or even years, succumbing an excruciating demise .” Minsky shrugs, summing up the situation in five pithy terms:” They cannot adapt: can we ?”

Like Minsky and Mayo, I feel an intimate connection to the whales of the Cape, a place I hymn in my new book. This is the edge of our world, where we meet the other. As I swim in its water, winter and summer, I find it hard to see this as a site of mortality rather than life. What could save its most enigmatic, sensate and sentient animal? New fishing gear technology, tighter regulations? Maybe. But out there, swimming under the blue expanse that Melville called ” the ocean’s scalp”, Eubalaena glacialis requires one thing more than anything else. Our empathy. Just for a moment, can we stop thinking human, and start thinking whale?

  • Philip Hoare’s RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR is published in the US by University of Chicago Press. An exhibition based on the themes of the book opens at the Merola Gallery, Provincetown, on 25 May

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High-speed pig slaughter will be disastrous for everyone involved | Deborah Berkowitz and Suzanne McMillan

A new rule in the US would eliminate food inspectors and lift limits on how quickly animals can be killed. The impact on workers, animals and consumers would be disastrous

The Trump administration has proposed a radical change in food security protection. They’re misleadingly calling it the” Modernization of swine slaughter inspection rule”, but what it actually does is roll back progress on protecting the public from serious and sometimes fatal cancers such as salmonella.

The proposal drastically reduces the number of trained government food inspectors in pork plants, turns over food security functions to untrained plant managers, and by allowing for an unlimited increase in carnage line speeds, sets public health, employee safety and animal welfare at risk.

Over the past few decades, the public has increasingly relied on the government to assure that, when it comes to food safety, the meat-packing industry won’t cut corners and imperil the health of our children, our families and our communities. But the Trump administration has a different position of how much protection we all deserve.

The new proposal, which seeks to privatize the pork inspection system, would eliminate more than 140 food inspectors who now work in the nation’s swine massacre plants. Most of the remaining government inspectors would be removed from the production lines. In their place, the proposal allows a smaller number of company employees- who are not required to receive relevant develop- to conduct fewer inspections. In other words, it allows the industry to police itself, like the fox guarding the proverbial hen( or swine) house.

Of critical fear, the proposal removes any maximum limits on line velocities in animal slaughter plants. Pigs are already slaughtered at an astonishing rate of approximately 1,100 per hour. With this new rule, those speeds could reach up to 1,300 or even 1,500 pigs per hour. This will directly harm the health and safety of the nation’s tens of thousands of meat-packing employees, make it harder for the limited number of meat inspectors to do their jobs, and threaten the welfare of more than 100 million swine per year.

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The proposed increase in line velocities will result in higher injury rates for employees in our nation’s packing houses. Scores of studies show that pork employees already face serious injury rates three times higher than “the member states national” median, and illness rates that are 17 times higher. The pork processing industry is one of the most hazardous for employees. The already breakneck line speeds, coupled with the forceful and repetitive nature of the jobs in meat-packing plants, lead to high rates of devastating traumata and illnesses.

Faster lines and fewer inspectors won’t only have disastrous impacts on employees but also the animals they are tasked with processing. The removal of line velocity caps has been shown to increase the chances for rough animal managing as employees feel the pressure to move pigs quickly through the massacre. This increased speed can result in improper stunning that leads to animals being slaughtered while conscious. Fast line velocities may leave plant employees unable to detect signs of consciousness, or unable to stop the line in time to intervene.

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‘ Pigs are already slaughtered at an astonishing rate of approximately 1,100 per hour. Those speeds could reach up to 1,300 or even 1,500 animals per hour .’ Photograph: Gary Calton for the Observer

Reducing the number of inspectors at pig carnage plants will make an already precarious animal welfare situation worse. More federal oversight , not less, is needed to ensure adequate animal handle, welfare, and compliance with federal statute and regulations.

Finally, the proposal will not even lead to safer food. A review of five plants that served as a pilot for this proposal reveals there were more food security violations in these plants than in others. Additionally, a recent review by the USDA’s own office of inspector general found that relevant agencies failed to provide adequate oversight of those plants, and the pilot plants may have a higher potential for food security risks.

Adding insult to injury, the USDA issued this proposal without any final review of the impact on public health. The bureau has not released all the data that supposedly supports the proposal, yet the public is merely being given a few months make a few comments on this new system. How can stakeholders be expected to comment on a proposal without find the final scientific analysis on which it is based?

Clearly, the real goal of this proposal is to allow the meat-packing industry to increase its profits. It’s all about lining the pockets of a few corporate executives- at the expense of customer health, worker safety and animal welfare.

We urge the USDA to consider the millions of lives- customers, workers and trade animals- they are placing at incredible peril. They should reject any increase in line speeds and withdraw the so-called modernisation of swine slaughter inspection rule.

  • Deborah Berkowitz is a senior fellow for worker safety and health at the National Employment Law Project and the former chief of staff at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; Suzanne McMillan is the content director for ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare Campaign .

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‘Mega-colonies’ of 1.5 million penguins discovered in Antarctica

The discovery shows the remote area is a vital refuge for wildlife from climate change and overfishing and should be protected by a new reserve, say scientists

Huge ” mega-colonies” of penguins have been discovered near the Antarctic peninsula, hosting more than 1.5 million birds. Researchers say it shows the area is a vital refuge from climate change and human activities and should be protected by a vast new marine wildlife reserve currently under consideration.

The huge numbers of Adelie penguins were found on the Danger Islands in the Weddell Sea, on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula. It is a tough place to reach and has seldom been visited. But scientists, prompted by spacecraft images, mounted an expedition and used on-the-ground counts and aerial photography from dronings to reveal 751,527 pairs of penguins.

Aerial
Aerial footage disclosed an enormous breeding colony of Adelie penguins in the Danger Islands. Photo: Thomas Sayre-McCord/ WHOI/ MIT

The researchers then analyzed satellite images going back to 1959 and believe the colony has been stable over that time. In contrast, Adelie colonies to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula, where the impact of climate change and human activity are much greater, are in decline.

” This was an incredible experience, discovering and counting so many penguins ,” said Tom Hart, at the University of Oxford and part of the international research team. Its report, Survey of Adelie Penguin Mega-colonies Reveals the Danger Islands as a Seabird Hotspot, is published in the publication Scientific Reports.

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The researchers employs drone footage to calculate the number of penguins. Photo: Rachael Herman/ Stony Brook University/ Louisiana State University

Michael Polito, at Louisiana State University and also part of the team, said:” I was astonished by the sheer number of Adelie penguins I saw. The water around the island boiled with penguins .”

Hart said:” The sizing of these colonies attains them regionally important and stimulates the lawsuit for expanding the proposed Weddell Sea Marine Protected Area( MPA) to include the Danger Islands. More than that, I think it highlights the need for better protection of the west Antarctic Peninsula, where we are seeing deteriorations .”

Rod Downie, at WWF, said:” This exciting discovery shows us just how much more there still is to learn about this amazing and iconic species of the ice. But it also strengthens the urgency to protect Antarctic waters from the dual menaces of overfishing and climate change .”

The proposed MPA is huge– 1.8 m sq km or five times the size of Germany. It would ban all angling in a vast area of the Weddell Sea and around the Antarctic Peninsula, safeguarding killer whales, leopard seals and blue whales, as well as penguins that rely on the krill targeted by fishing ships. The MPA already has the support of several countries, including the UK, and will go before a seminar of the Antarctic nations in October.

The discovery of the mega-colonies is a major development for polar scientists- and greet good news. In October, they reported that simply two chicks had survived from a colony of 40, 000 at Petrel Island, a few thousand kilometres west of the Antarctic peninsula.

Other penguins are also facing an uncertain future. On Monday, researchers warned that king penguins could nearly vanish from Antarctica by the end of the century unless climate change is curbed.

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Fear of meat scandal as data shows hygiene breaches at over half UK plants

Almost two-thirds of meat plants in breach of safety regulations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

The scale of food safety and hygiene problems in meat plants around much of the UK is revealed by new analysis showing more than half of all audited plants have had at least one “major” breach in the last three years.

Inspection figures from the Food Standards Agency( FSA) expose there were on average 16 major plant safety infractions every week between 2014 -2 017, according to a data analysis conducted this week by the Guardian and Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Almost two one-thirds of audited meat cutting factories( 540 out of 890) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had at least one instance of major non-compliance with hygiene or food security regulations. Several plants had multiple failures, with 25 violates occurring at plants belonging to Russell Hume, the meat supplier at the centre of recent concerns about UK food hygiene. Scotland has a separate regulator.

A major non-compliance is, by the FSA’s definition,” likely to compromise public health, including food security … or may lead to the production and handling of unsafe or unsuitable food if no remedial action is taken “.

Among the overall number of fails identified by FSA auditors in the period analysed, there were 221 major non-compliances relating to maintaining legal temperature controls, and in excess of 300 relating to minimising health risks of cross-contamination. In addition, more than 50 major violates were discovered relating to ensuring that animal byproducts are correctly identified, and 26 connected to traceability.

Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria or other contaminants are spread between food, surfaces and equipment, and is one of the more common causes of food poisoning, according to the FSA. Traceability is a legal requirement for food business operators to keep records of food and food-producing animals supplied to their business, and those enterprises that they have, in turn, furnished.

Breaches found at the Russell Hume meat plants related to multiple aspects of production, including maintaining legal temperature controls, preventing cross-contamination, ensuring environmental hygiene and management of food security systems.

The findings” raise serious questions as to how robust the FSA’s system for monitoring food hygiene really is”, said Kerry McCarthy MP, who served as shadow secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs until 2016.

” These figures are truly shocking ,” Kath Dalmeny, CEO of campaign group Sustain, told the Guardian.” That is why I find it so dismaying that over the last decade our government has slashed the budgets for the bodies who police our food system- our local authority meat hygiene services, independent public analyst laboratories and trading criteria inspectors. They doggedly insist on seeking the flawed notion that light-touch regulation is good enough for the meat industry .”

Ron Spellman, a meat inspector with 30 years’ experience and deputy secretary general of the European Association of Food and Meat Inspectors( EWFC ), said:” What I also find worrying is the attitude of the company I’ve read today, in which they blame the FSA’s handling of the issue for the collapse of the company. There seems to be no willingness to accept responsibility .”

But Prof Hugh Pennington, a renowned expert in bacteriology, pointed out that” Widespread breaches[ are] patently a bad thing, but their detecting shows that the rules and regulations seems to be working. In the past, outbreaks resulted because the regulators were missing the breaches .”

And an FSA spokesperson said:” We carry out thousands of audits and unannounced inspections of meat plants each year to verify that food hygiene criteria are being met. Issues that may pose imminent or serious danger to public health will result in immediate and robust enforcement action being taken.

” Only 2% of plants were found to have more than two major non-compliances. Each audit assesses almost 50 different hygiene criteria and a single issue can result in multiple major and minor non compliances being recorded. Issues of major and minor non-compliance saw through our audits do not inevitably mean that a food business will receive an overall negative outcome. However, it does mean the frequency of audits and unannounced inspections at sites will increase to ensure the issues raised are being addressed .”

When asked what action the FSA had taken in relation to these earlier Russell Hume non-compliances, the spokesman said:” Our published audit data shows that we procured hygiene issues at Russell Hume sites not related to those which we are currently investigating. As a outcome, the FSA carried out increased audits at the affected sites .”

In a statement, the former directors of Russell Hume Ltd said:” Between 2014 -2 017 the FSA carried out a number of routine inspections and audits of Russell Hume’s six branches. The audit system is specifically designed to highlight regions for improvement, and inevitably there were a small number of recommendations over this period that required action. But these averaged around one a year per branch, and taken together and in the context of industry practice as a whole, the audit outcomes were positive for Russell Hume. The company has never been prosecuted for food safety or hygiene offences, and insured no FSA enforcement action taken against it over this period .”

There is growing anxiety that the problems in the industry may be wider than initially supposed. Four different companies have now withdrawn meat, and the FSA has also set up a national its consideration of meat processing plants. This week the agency met with meat industry heads to discuss the situation, for a discussion that was apparently” constructive and engaging “.

In the House of Commons yesterday shadow secretary of state Barry Gardiner asked Liam Fox, secretary of state for international trade, whether he was aware that the FSA had recently imprisoned large quantities of out of date meat in a cold store company. Gardiner said the meat was believed to come from Ireland and South America and that one of the companies he named had been implicated in the Irish horsemeat scandal of 2013 and had previously been is guilty of meat labelling fraud. He asked that the secretary of state” urgently liaises with pastors in the Republic, with the FSA here and with the Irish Food Safety Authority” to look at the furnish chain.

” Failure on this scale can’t be attributed to only a few rogue business falling through the cracks ,” said McCarthy.” Consumers need to have confidence in the system and need to know that action is being taken against companies with incidents of major non-compliance .”

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Should we give up half of the Earth to wildlife?

Populations of all kinds of wildlife are declining at alarming velocity. One radical solution is to stimulate 50% of countries around the world a nature reserve

Should we give up half of the Earth to wildlife?

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 .”

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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 .”

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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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