Friday, October 20, 2006

Carnival Of The Animals No 2 - October 20th, 2006

Welcome to the second, weekly Carnival Of The Animals.

I have a confession to make. Until this week, I'd never heard of the binturong.
Now, having been introduced to the creature by a fascinating post from JBruno at the voltagegate I feel like I know all there is to know about the animal otherwise known Arctictis binturong, the Malay Civet Cat, the Asian Bearcat, the Palawan Bearcat, and just simply the Bearcat. The first thing is it isn't even a bear or a cat, it's civet. And as JBruno explains, it's got an interesting evolutionary history.
The binturong has lots of rather endearing traits too. It can make a chuckling sound when happy, it sleeps suspended above the ground on branches and secretes a musky smell that is very much like popcorn. Its most impressive assets, however, are a false penis and a prehensile bushy tail, which can be used like an extra, fifth hand. Apparently it's unique among mammals in being able to use its tail like this.

Bio-luminescence, the ability to generate light independently, is a gift limited to few species. Perhaps the best-known is the Brazilian "railroad worm" which glows with a red light on its head and a green one down its side. As Sandra Porter at Discovering Biology in a Digital World reports in an interesting post, scientists have developed a new strain of zebrafish that are fluorescent. "Normally zebrafish are white with black stripes, but these zebrafish have been genetically engineered to produce a fluorescent protein that makes the fish glow," she explains. The fish are being sold as pets under the name GloFish but, Sandra explains, are intended eventually to be used as pollution detectors too. "The idea is that you could put detector fish into water, and if the water contained pollutants, the fish would glow". Illuminating stuff. (Sorry)

Lastly, if you'd like to know the answer to questions like 'Why don't dogs make good dancers?" or "Why is a dog's nose in the middle of its face?" then visit Surfer Sam who will reveal all.

Other things that caught our eye this week:

As the old north of England saying goes, there's 'nowt (nothing) as queer as folk'. Well, actually, there is. In fact there are about 500 species in which homosexuality is perfectly common. An eye-popping exhibition currently being staged in Oslo is dedicated to the animals who practice the love that dare not tweat, bark or roar its name. The exhibition website is here. Take a look at what the two male dolphins are doing to each other.

I Am The (Hungry) Walrus: The winner of this year's wildlife photograph of the year is a truly astonishing image of a walrus dining on an underwater feast of clams. The BBC has the story and a link to the picture here.

And finally, the news everyone has been waiting for. (Well everyone within a 400 yard radius of the world's noisiest sleeping equine.) Rocky the horse isn't snoring any more.

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