My love-hate relationship with sensationalism

In my job as a wildlife educator I like to use myths and stories to highlight previous beliefs about the animals I am presenting. Stories like why the bear lack a long tail, or how the Egyptians actually used crocodiles in their temples. To be able to do my job properly I have to read and investigate these old stories and myths.
In my latest endeavour I have been trying to read up on myths, stories and historical descriptions about crocodiles, and while I was doing that I came across a book that set me ablaze.
So now I need to vent my frustration about my love-hate relationship with sensationalism.

I have scoured a few books and papers now to look for anecdotes, stories and myths about crocodiles, and there are quite a few good ones out there. Right now I am reading a paper by Dr. Simon Pooley which is called “The entangled relations between humans and Nile crocodiles c.1840-1992“. The paper is a short introduction to the relationship between humans and crocs in Africa, and the stories that follow that relationship. It is un-biased and not very exciting. Unless you have read the jaw dropping horror stories that surrounds crocs before you read Dr. Pooley’s paper. Now a question may appear, who is right? Are one side lying? Is someone hiding something, or trying to gain something? WHO should you believe?

Reading a frustrating book

The last thing I read before I read Dr.Pooleys paper was a book, actually this book;

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A book that takes aim to EXPOSE the human-wildlife conflict (HWC) in Africa. As if HWC is somehow hidden from the public eye. Okay, so I am not a fan of the title, the book may still be good.
Well, James Clarke is an english writer born in London. He has been living in Africa for more than fifty years and he has written both books and articles on african wildlife since the 1950’s. This man should be a heavyweight in this field. Nonetheless I cannot find myself to trust his writings. Throughout his book he references well-known journals, reports and scientists, but from time to time he makes bold claims without referencing to actual science other that what he believes to be true.
One example is “Lindi is a coastal town where slaves were taken in the 17th, 18th and 19th century, which suggests a genetic predisposition for man-eating that goes back to the slave trade.“. This is a paragraph that immediately follows an account from Lindi of 24 people being killed – and some eaten – by lions between 1999 and 2000. This is a claim he makes without any reference to any science on the topic. A quick search online shows that genetic studies of known man-eaters, such as the Tsavo lions, show little to none genetic difference that could explain this behaviour when compared to other lions (Panthera leo) in africa. Claiming that these lions kill humans because it is embedded in their genes is pure sensationalism and a strong contributor to further demonizing the large predators.
The author himself is not trained in natural science, but when he sometimes does feel the need to back up his claims he refers to his daughter who is a trained biologist. This makes me doubt the legality of his claims even more.

Done trashing

Now, I am not writing this to trash James Clarke. His book is actually a good read if you know that you cannot read it as if you were reading a scientific compilement of actual proven data. You have to take it for what it is. A gathering of gory events with a pinch of imagination. Read it like a novel, for fun, and you most likely find yourself enjoying the book (like I did after I figured out how to read it).
I have to admit that I am just as big of a fan of sensationalism, and I click on every link that starts with”World largest…” or “You won’t believe…”. I love the thrill of a sensational story, but I try to reflect on the contents of what I just read as well so that I do not accept lies as the truth. Good stories are an amazing way to pass time and let your imagination run wild, that is why I also love reading a good fictional book. Hence my love-hate relationship with sensationalism.
I am also not trying to say that you need to have studied natural sciences to write decent books on the subject. But as soon as you venture away from proper facts and start referring to things you believe as factual, then we have a problem.

The horrors of sensationalism

Sensationalizing an animal – especially in the case of exaggerating attacks by predators – may rob the animal of its actual identity. What do I mean by that? Well, if you constantly refer to crocodiles – as an example – as brutes and killers, the mind of the public may be swayed in the direction of believing this for a fact. If an animal is only seen for its killing power and not for its particular place in an ecosystem, we might be faced with challenges when we raise the issue of conserving the species.
A great example is Discovery Channels “Shark week” which aims to spread knowledge about this great pelagic predator, according to the network. Myrick and Evans showed in their 2014 paper “Do PSAs Take a Bite Out of Shark Week? The Effects of Juxtaposing Environmental Messages With Violent Images of Shark Attacks” that the public became more fearful of sharks after watching clips of sharks attacking prey during the shark week programming. The audience also overestimated the chance of being attacked after watching shark attacks caught on film.
The problem of creating fear is that few – if any – want to conserve what they fear. If you have a fear of spiders you will most likely not be first in line to donate money to save a species of redback spider. It is hard to see the value of a species you despise.

Fighting a losing battle

My main goal as an educator is to patch up the holes missing in peoples knowledge about predators. It is only when you understand the creature you are faced with that you can react with awe and curiosity instead of scepticism or fear.
But I am constantly walking up hill, fighting a losing battle with authors, TV-networks and social media who are constantly carpet bombing the public with sensational stories and videos of people being mauled by predators. I have seldom seen a headline where the story is how cows kill hundreds of people every year, but insert a large carnivore and people start demanding cullings.
I hope that I one day may come in a position to tell a larger crowd about the role and the history of our apex predators. Until that day I WILL be fighting my battle against the negative sensationalism of predators. And if I am able to change one persons opinion about the ecological necessity of predators a day, then I have at least won one round.

To finish this off I will add a little smile to this post:

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Looking at that beautiful smile, how can anyone not love these magnificent beings (Crocodylus niloticus)

Cheers

 

Joe

Teeth and Scales

A hiss to my left!
A long slender body slithers across the wood chips and comes to rest on top of a pile of bones by the base of the totem pole.
A deep murmur to my right!
Five sets of jaws filled with glistening razor sharp teeth clasp together in excitement. Strong scaly bodies pile up around the feeding arena. An arena finished only a few days ago. 
Come Monday, this will be my everyday life.
Some new tenants are moving in to the park.

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The time is upon us!

The past few months our park have been a construction site. Sawing, hammering, and cursing throughout the days and even in to the small hours.
Only two more days and our new residents will arrive. Their home needs to be ready by then. No day is rest day anymore. Sundays and Tuesdays are treated the same. The housing needs to be ready, no matter the cost.
This Monday – the fourteenth of March 2016 – more than thirty scaly guests are moving in to their custom made apartments.
It needs to be perfect. The new tenants are a picky bunch. The right floors, the right colors, and the right materials. All to satisfy their needs.
It is hot and humid on site. It needs to be. The heat has been cranked up to please the tenants. By Monday it should be close to 30 degrees celsius and a whopping 90% humidity.
Tropical plants are being planted, walls are being painted, glass is being installed, and safety routines are being established.
Not only are the new guys a picky bunch, they are potentially quite dangerous as well.

Who is moving in?

The Bear Park – where I work – is a seasonal zoo. This means that we are open to the public during summer and closed during winter. Our main attraction has been our amazing bears for the last twenty-one years. When they go in for their winter sleep, our park falls in to winter sleep as well. When the bears emerge from their dens after months of well-deserved sleep, we open our park to the public again.
This year we will open our park with the unveiling of our latest attraction – Krokodilleland/ Crocodile land.
Crocodile land will be the largest crocodile exhibit in Norway upon opening. With more than thirty crocodiles from four different species.

Cuban crocodile – Crocodylus rhombifer
New Guinea crocodile – Crocodylus novaeguinea
American alligator – Alligator mississippiensis
Broad snouted caiman – Caiman latirostris

In addition to the crocs we are also welcoming a female anaconda (Eunectes murinus) and four Aldabra tortoises (Geochelones gigantea). Some handling snakes are also moving in, but they are not arriving until Wednesday.

Crocodiles in Norway

I have gotten a lot of questions in regards to our new exhibit. Mostly positive, some negative. Almost all of them boiling down to “Why crocodiles?” or something similar.
I have answered all of these inquiries with the same responses.
Crocodiles are an apex predator who are an important part of an ecosystem in balance. If the apex predator disappear, major shifts in the ecosystem may occur. We need the biggest and baddest to keep nature at bay.

“Ok, so we need the big predators. But why in the Bear Park? Why in Norway? We do not have any crocodiles, and barely any reptiles.”
Because as Norwegians grow up with no knowledge of reptiles, the fear of them increase. We have no understanding of them and very few places to seek out knowledge of these fascinating animals. This is why it is so important to display theme at our park. To help bridge the gap and create an understanding that these are animals worth conserving. Give People a positive experience with reptiles. Create love, not hate, for these magnificent animals. After all, crocodiles outlived dinosaurs! They surely deserve some cred for that.
We need to get Norwegians on board as well if we are going to have a chance of saving the remaining populations of crocodilians.

We could not have done it without some help

Building a crocodile exhibit of this size from scratch is not something one do very often. Therefor we needed some help from some experts. We have had a close Collaboration with Krokodille Zoo in Denmark and the IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group.
Krokodille Zoo is the only zoo in the world who have all 23 species of crocodilians on display, and one of the leading centers for crocodile husbandry and breeding.
The Crocodile Specialist Group is a collection of specialists from different fields, working together to ensure the survival of crocodilians. There are biologists, wildlife managers, farmers, goverment officials, and heaps of other representatives who have dedicated their lives to fighting for those who have no voice.

Having two hard hitting institutions like these backing us is alpha and omega to ensure that we deliver a high quality Product to our visitors and our animals.

Soooooo.. Only Two more days, and I will be able to put my hands on some of the oldes living relics on the planet. A Group of animals who have preceeded humans on Earth with more than 200million years.

Excited? You bet I am!

Cheers
Joe

 

 

 

The Price of Extinction

What are the going rates on the destruction of our planet? When you look in to it you realize that it is quite affordable.

 

There is no secret that I love my jobs. I am one of the lucky ones that have gotten a chance in life to make a living out of my passion(s).
I have no intention to leave this world a rich man. No matter where you end up, you cannot bring monetary wealth with you anyway.
My goal is therefor to make an impact on the world around me. I want to contribute to the conservation of nature by sharing my passion for the living world around us to everyone I meet. I hope that I can convince a few people to make more eco-friendly choices in their life through my blog, my teaching and my public speaking.
This blog was inspired by a lot of articles I have read lately about the costs and prices of natural goods and recourses used by the developed countries.
I hope that this post manages to shine a light on some of the issues that I care about, and that someone out there gets inspired to take a stand against the systematic destruction of our planet.

 

Swimming towards the edge

Ranging from 50$ to well over 100$ per bowl. Shark fin sup is a pricey dish made out of one part fins of a threatened shark and two parts pure evil.
“I get the shark fin part of the soup. But what do you mean when you clain that it contains pure evil?”
Imagine this – A species figures out that eating your arms and legs is delicious. In addition, by boiling your extremities they gain magical powers, like the ability to withstand cancer and other diseases. When they are finished slicing your arms and legs off they will just leave you where they found you. Leave you alive. Alone. With no means to move or eat. Leave you alive, only to die. Slowly.
This is exactly what happens to the sharks. Fishermen with sharp knives haul sharks on board and slice their fins off. When the fins are off they dump the animals over board to die. Sharks need to move through the water to provide their gills with enough water to breathe. That is the only inefficiency of sharks. They cannot pump water effectively enough to breath, unless they move. To move they need fins. Which is on board a South Asian fishing trawler as you read this.
A conservative estimate made by the journal Marine Policy claims that a hundred million sharks are killed by humans, every year. Even if you are a low level hitman you will be able to make a decent living of your chosen career with a demand like that. If your customers were demanding human extremities that is.

You should watch the video below if you have a strong stomach.

Shark fin soup is not the only threat to the global shark population. Cullings, other types of foods, and accidents are also major killers of sharks. If we take a wild guess and say that a tenth of dead/tortured sharks are used for soup, we still murder ten million top predators every year!
I do not know what others think, but I recon that 100$ for about 20 grams of cartilage, is a low price for the destruction of our oceans ecosystems. Remove the sharks, and you will kill life in the oceans.

 

Sucking mother nature dry

The price of oil is on the rise again. After a huge drop in price, due to an over-production since 2014, the oil producing countries are once again leveling off. Oh no, the gas prices might increase again. But why are we over producing? Why do we not keep the production down and prices high? Every person with half a brain know that if we cut carbon emissions (and other greenhouse gasses and particles) it will have a positive impact on our climate, and ultimately, our planet. Also, if we up the prices, most people would rethink their usage. So, here is a thought. If we keep the price up on oil, maybe, just maybe, we would rethink the use of fossil fuel. Less driving would be good for the environment and our bodies. If we put on a thicker pair of socks when we are indoors, we might be able to cut the use of fossile fuel for heating.
I understand very wel that my countrys economy is depended on oil and gas, and that the sector has had some huge cut backs the last few years, but I cannot help but think that it is all for the greater good.
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I think that a gas price of twice the current price (right around 2$ in Norway at the moment) would be the sweet spot. Pricey enough for people to think twice before driving, but cheap enough for people to sort to their car in an emergency.
Four dollars is nothing really, when we talk about destroying the planet.

 

Big bucks for bullshit

According to an article in The Atlantic and their sources, one (uno, en, ein, un) kilogram of rhino horn has an estimated price of 100.000 US dollars! Which makes it clock in at 100 dollars per gram.
This makes it allmost three times more costly than the current price of gold (29th of January 2016, 39$ per gram)!
It might seem like this is a lot of cash for something that also grows on you and me. Because Rhino horn is actually made out of keratin. A structural fiberous protein that also makes of hair and nails in humans. But concidering the 55million years long evolutionary history of these structures, it suddenly seems like quite the bargain.
Compare it with something else that increase in value upon aging, like wine, and we get a surprising price difference.

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As of this moment a 750ml bottle of 1959 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits from France retails at about 9000$. This gives us a ml price of 12$.
That gives us a price of about 12cents per ml per year.
NOW, the rhino horn on the other hand will only cost us 0.0000018cents per year if you divide the price of a gram with the 55million years of development.
If we pretend for a moment that one ml of wine is equal to one gram of rhino horn (Since we are alreay dabbing with a bit of artistic freedom), the rhino horn suddenly seems like quite the bargain!

 

The examples mentioned in this post is far from the only way you can get planetary destruction for a bargain price. You have tigers, pollution, oceanic plastic, acidification of our oceans, orangutans, turtles, pangolins, and the list goes on.
If you have a craving and some (surprisingly little) cash, you can also get in on the mutual destructive fun!

There has been a murder at the park!

There has been a murder at the park. Actually, there are indications of several murders. Every day for years. And for years to come! There is no way to stop these murders. The strange thing about these murders is that the victims are animals from every group of the animal kingdom, but there are very few casualties, if there are any at all.

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A victimless murder

I might never become a crime writer, but I have to say that I am satisfied with my Stephen King-ish intro. If you were not intrigued by that one, you have no sense of curiosity and should just stop reading right now.
If you chose to keep reading you might be thinking “Get to the point, who is getting murdered in the park?”. Actually, no one is dying. I came across an article the other day that mentioned that a group of crows are actually called a murder. I had heard about this a few times before, but this time I figured I needed to figure out WHY they are hanging around in murders.
Crows are very social birds, as well as scavengers and omnivores (they will eat anything). This means that where there is a lot of free food, there will be a lot of crows. During warfare, the battlegrounds are sometimes littered with dead bodies. Or as crows saw it, free lunch. Soldiers have reported battlefields that were covered in black from all the crows and ravens feasting on the dead peers of the soldiers. This has helped maintain the crow as a symbol of death.
Another possible explanation for the name comes from old folklore where people believed that a group of crows would form a crow parliament to decide the faith of one of the members of their murder. People have stated that they have been observing a group of crows gathering in a circle on the ground. Shortly after the chattering resided the crows would gang up on an individual and peck him to death.
I have not been able to figure out exactly where the word originated, but the crows black coloration and weirdly macabre behavior surely explains why the name sticks.

Whenever I walk with food for the animals I am followed by a few murders of crows. And It is quite interesting to see how they stick to their own groups. If there is food left on the ground, members of the different murders will defend their loot as best as they can. There are two distinct murders. I have chosen to cal them… The T-Birds and The Pink Ladies. The T-Birds have the biggest following, and usually wins the food fights. But The Pink Ladies are ballsier, and steal their food from even the largest predators like the bears and lynx (Which might explain why The T-Birds are a larger group).

I know that I will keep a close eye on both murders when I walk through the park. And if I walk in to a parliament, I will gett my ass inside befor they can pass judgement on me.

The things you discover while doing research.

<> at London Zoo on January 8, 2009 in London, England.

Picture source

When I did the research for this post I came across a list of names for groups of animals. Some of them like a crash of rhinos, a pride of lions or a destruction of wild cats, are fairly self-explanatory. But others stem from a time when a group could not simply be named a group, it needed something more poetic. Like a jury of ravens, a sleuth of bears, or my personal favorite, a romp of otters.

There are heaps of these beautifully poetic names out there if you found this post interesting. A good place to start might be this list of animals and their group names.

Cheers

Joe

Sorry for my absence… but… look.. Genes

Hey guys,

It has been a while since I last wrote, and I apologize. My life has been preoccupied with exams through May and in June I started my new job as a zookeeper at the Bear park in Flå, Norway.

As I started working at the park, I began thinking about all the options you have for making a living after educating yourself in the fields of science. I feel I have been very lucky to get the opportunity to work with animals directly, which were my dream. Pondering about how lucky I am, I realize that not everyone want to work closely with animals, yet they study the same as I do. Why is that?
Well, with a degree within science you open a world of possibilities. From working on the macro level of handling animals, to the micro level of genetic studies. From direct work in patient care, to the theoretical world of mathematics and theoretical physics. The choices are plentiful.

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Looking in to this I have begun wondering about what I want to do later in life. As of now, a career within the genetics seems very interesting. Studying how these small pieces of the DNA can control and produce the huge variation of beings on our planet is quite frankly astonishing. The combination of four little letters, A, C, T and G, in triplets gives us a reading frame much like a barcode. The barcodes can be read by our cells apparatus and produce millions of genes and hence proteins, depended on the combination. The right combination of these determine whether you’ll end up as a pine tree, a cat or a human. How amazing is that?

This is of course put very simply, but it never the less makes my point. Genes are in control, whether you like it or not. Genes have amazing powers. Powers to create an array of organisms. That’s pretty cool in my eyes. Transposons

Ps: These color variations are actually produced by transposons, a kind of genetic hop scotch.

Birdie bit my finger!

It’s been a while since my last post, but I am about to make it up to whoever reads my writings!

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Although most people would nod in agreement at the phrase “birds have beaks or bills, not teeth”, their nod would actually be wrong…. in some cases… or are they?

Okay, I know that you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this, but please bear with me.

Modern birds closest living relative is the Crocodile genus. Crocodiles are famous for their huge teeth, so why don’t birds have teeth?

Some time during evolutionary time birds lost their ability to produce enamel. Enamel is critical to the production of strong teeth, hence the lack thereof. Birds are just not evolutionary equipped to produce strong teeth. Case closed… or is it?

The observant reader may have noticed the teeth like structures of the goose bill at the start of this text. Those look an awful lot like teeth, don’t they? They actually also have some of the same functions as teeth. BUT, they’re not actual teeth.
They still lack the enamel that would make them strong like a crocodiles teeth.

The structures on the picture is called Pecten. Pecten is found in several species of water fowl and have been modified for several usages. From grazing to effectivly grabbing fish.

So the next time someone says that birds just have beaks you can tell them they’re wrong…. kinda… sort of…

How women are going to save the world!

Most men have some time during their life heard the phrase “women are always right”. Well, you may or may not agree with this, but the fact is that a large part of the solution to global warming and other environmental issues lies with the XX gender.

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The biggest threat to our environment is the exponential growth of the human population. An increase in populations obviously leads to an increase in pollution and resource usage. This is especially an issue in Western countries as an average American use about four times more resources than an average person from a developed asian countryaccording to pretty modest calculations. This is mostly due to the Western countries consumption of meat. In less developed or “poor” countries most of the calories consumed consist of grains. In the west on the other hand we get our calories from large amounts of meat, and meat is expensive to produce if we measure by calories. By using grain to feed animals for consumption we effectively use between 2.3kg and 13kg of grain to produce one kilo of broiler chicken and beef respectively according to a study by David and Marcia Pimentel of Cornell university.

But what the heck does this have to do with women Joe?

Taking into account the information above we can assume that a high population growth in the western countries might have a more negative effect on the environment than it would in less developed regions. What we see is that the last twenty years the population growth of the western countries has stopped, and some places, like The Netherlands, it has even gone down and the population is in decline! What that means is that in  a lot of developed countries, the population growth is slowing. Edward O. Wilson explains in his book The Future of Life that access to birth control and education is directly linked to this trend. If we look to other less developed countries we see the same trend. As soon as women get access to education and the means for safe sex the child births decline. Wilson argues that women in this position have two options. When they are empowered and have access to more resources they can either chose to devote their resources toward their family and increase the family size. Or they may chose to devote their time and resources towards education and career, thus starting a family later and having fewer babies. They usually chose the latter.

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Eritrea as a prime example
Eritrea is a small state in the north eastern horn of Africa. In the 1940s Eritrea had a population numbering about 700.000. Today they have almost reached 6 million which is a clear witness of an expansive population growth with almost a tenfold more people in just 70 years.
BUT, the population is in steep decline. Between 2005 and 2012 the average childbirth per woman has gone down from 5.5 to 4.8 children. This is still a long way from any stabilizing number, but it is a clear indicator that something is happening
Birth control and education correlates clearly with the decline in childbirth. When the use of birth control and education of women becomes more frequent, fewer babies are born.
Even with the decline, the population growth of 4.8 babies per woman is still exponential and detrimental to our environment.
It’s like a limbo. We need to go lower!

To continue the limbo metaphor, how low must we go?

The experts say 2.1 children per couple. That is called the “replacement level” and it describes the number of children needed to replace the two parents plus a 0.1 to account for deaths. With every person being replaced by just one person we would have a stable population. Increasing the number would lead to exponential growth and lowering the number would lead to population decline.
How can we reach the magic limit of 2.1? Well, the pattern is clear. With more women going into education and seeking a career as well as an increase in the availability of  birth control, the average family size declines.
In addition to softening the pressure on our planets resources, a drop in childbirth would also lead to higher investment in the children being born. That might lead to more highly educated people and more big brains who can work on the other challenges facing humans and the environment.

So basically we need to work towards closing the wage gap and giving women in less developed countries equal opportunity for education.
If all come together and pull this off, women may one day save the world for us.

Poison ivys’ evil cousin – Dendrocnide moroides

“While walking through the jungle of this newly discovered land we were constantly on the lookout.  We had heard rumors of dangerous wildlife and inhospitable natives, but I did not even see or hear anything when it struck me. A searing pain that felt like someone were pouring boiling hot acid on my skin. Turning around, I cannot see anything but my comrades and the bush, but still the pain is real and it is excruciating.
   Half a year later the pain is still  present and I carry the scars left behind from this invisible enemy.”


The scenario introducing this post could very well have been an outtake from a travelers description during the “discovery” of Australia. And if you ever decide stroll through the rainforests of the wet tropics in Northern Queensland you may come across signs warning you about this nearly invisible pain-provider, the famous Gympie Gympie, the stinging tree.
One of the first to ever report the effects of the plant was road surveyor A.C. MacMillan whose’ horse were struck in 1866 and allegedly died just a few hours after, turning mad with pain and dying of shock.

What you talkin’ bout’ Joe?
A plant ofcourse, with the scientific name, Dendrocnide moroides, that loosely translates to “tree with stingers that stay behind”, reflecting the long-lasting pain caused by it. The plant is a part of a genus of plants that is collectively known as stinging trees, Dendrocnide ssp.. The genus ranges from small shrubs to large trees, but luckily only a few, including D. moroides, is potentially dangerous to humans.

The –cnide part of the genus name relates to the cnidarians, the jellyfishes, who carry the nematocyst poison-delivery system. Thousands of fine spikes with toxin glands that by themselves are harmless, but collectively deliver some of the deadliest venom attacks in the animal kingdom. Pretty similar to the stinging trees line of defence.

I came across these plants while studying in Australia. Luckily for me, I never touched the heart-shaped leaves as I had already been warned about the potency of this plants. Luckily? Yes! There have been reports of every kind of painful resulting from interactions with this discrete torturist. Ranging from a day of burning sensation, to six months of feeling like boiling acid has been poured on you, and even reports of people committing suicide to escape the pain.

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Pffft….. Dangerous plant…
So how can a plant get such a fearsome reputation? The entire plant is covered with small, delicate looking hairs which gives it a rather furry look. Even though the small pink, rasberry-looking fruits it carries may look yummy, they may also be covered in the little furry hairs.

What’s up with the hair Joe? It just make it sound like a cute little plant, right? Well, each of these little hairs are made of silica, they are hollow, and they are the secret to the plants powerful punch. These are, regardless of their small size, hard and stiff enough to penetrate the skin and embed them selves close to nerve cells. Once embedded in the skin, the hollow silica tubes transfer a toxin that they carry from the leaves. The toxin called moroidin has been isolated from the plant and is responsible for the long-lasting effects of the sting.
Whenever the body is affected by changes in temperature, hot or cold, the hollow silica tubes from the plant leads the air from the surroundings down to the nerve cells which in turn are irritated and lead to more irritation or down right agony. The pain caused by the stinging tree will keep returning until all the hairs embedded in the victims skin has been removed.
Another scary thing… You don’t even have to touch it to be affected. If the plant is disturbed it may release the hairs which can end up in your nasal passages or even your lunges when you pass by, leading to severe sneezing, nose bleeds, coughing and pain.

Ray Mears has a look at the giant stinging tree, and has an expert explain briefly in this video.

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So what to do if this devil plant spreads its’ demon spawn to you?
You wait in agony for years in complete darkness and constant temperature until you can move your muscles again….!
….Nah, Just kidding. Recommended treatments are to get rid of the hairs by using hair removal wax strips, shaving the area and using wax based cremes that block  the silica tubes to prevent air entering the nerve cells.

All together, the best tip is to read the warning signs and try to stay clear of any idiot who might want to mess with this pain heavyweight. If you DO want to test your luck, be warned, because you WILL lose.

Stork? Bunny? Or something WAY cooler?

Jonah turns away from his video games and asks his dad: “ Dad, how do you make babies?“. Jonahs’ dad turns silent for a while before he shyly looks away and answers …….


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But did Jonahs’ dad really know the whole answer, or did he fake some story about the stork, a rabbit or some other obscurity?

Maybe if Jonahs’ dad had taken his time to read this, he might have given Jonah an edge in science class later in life. I’m not gonna explain the whole “when mommy loves daddy thing” as I’m sure you’ve already found some interesting sites with vivid explanations if you typed “making babies” in to your search engine.
After the initial act of copulation has occurred (when mommy and daddy have hugged really hard and close for a while), some really interesting things starts to happen inside moms body.

The kinda technical stuff
The first thing that happens is that the gametes meet up and “melt together” to form a zygote, this will develop in to a bundle of cells that will make up the developing baby(blastocyst). Gametes is the scientific name for the sex cells of organisms, usually we refer to these as sperm in males and eggs i females. These are the cells that contain half the genetic makeup of the each parents and will carry the traits of your parents. How you will actually look is up to how the chromosomes (the structures carrying the DNA) were assembled during the making of the gametes (meiosis). If you want to know what more is going on in meiosis, you can find it here.

Technical stuff becomes even more technical (cooler)
After the  fertilization of the egg, the blastocyst travels through moms body and will end up in the uterus where further development will continue.
The blastocyst will start grouping the cells and assigning them different functions and developmental paths. The inner part of the blastocyst will become the baby, while the outer part will become the amniotic sac and the placenta which will protect and nourish the developing baby.
Over the following months the cells will keep dividing through mitosis so that the baby can grow. How the cells know what to do or what they’ll become is controlled through a series of very complex processes like gene regulation, cell differentiation and fetal development. 

Working while not…?
After about nine months of continuous development the human baby is ready for birth and years of bringing the parents bliss…. and headaches.
The cool thing is that this goes on without mom having to do anything! Well, that’s not really true if you ask anyone who’s ever been pregnant. Carrying another life for nine months is apparently quite the job. But The genetics tho…Woah! From a single egg and a an single sperm cell to a living, breathing human being, is an insanely complex process. And that this process has been completely automated is pretty darn cool if you ask me.


Jonah turns to his dad and says: ” Jeez! You couldn’t just fake something with a stork or something?” before he returns to his video games.