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Friday, August 1, 2008

Animal Truths: Far Stranger than Fiction

I don't know what's going on this week, but there are an awful lot of news items floating around about animals that just ... well, really, they leave me speechless to categorize.

First, there is the piglet born in a hitherto internationally unknown Chinese village, Fengzhang, in Xiping township. You haven't heard about this poor piggy? I don't have the heart to post its picture here. But I will tell you: it looks quite a lot like a monkey in the face. Except with eyes so close together that they are nearly a single eye. And its back legs are longer than its front ones. Its four littermates were apparently all normal piglets. If you want to read the brief version, check out this story on England's daily Telegraph webpage. (Be prepared for the photo.) For more detail, including some discussion of the very rare genetic disorder that has produced a pig with a monkey's face, check out this post on Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff) (also with photo).

There are plenty of stories floating around the blogosphere alleging some kind of genetic experimentation masterminded by the Chinese government and perpetrated on hapless villagers' pigs. That, to me, is the only funny part of the story: the notion that there might somehow be some fabulous advantage to the Communist powers that be to produce a monkey-pig hybrid. As far as I can imagine, the only useful effect it might have is to horrify onlookers into stunned silence and thereby cut off whatever critique they were about to offer before the diplomat pulled the monkig out of his bag and flashed it in front of those hapless representatives of other governments.

Maybe I'm just not imaginative enough to conjure up other motives. But I'm thinking that a far better conspiracy theory would be to ask: what toxic substance in the village water supply, offshoot of some kind of weapons experimentation, let's say, would cause such an awful birth defect in just one piglet in a litter? At least the poor piglet is apparently being cared for well by the son of the family, who insists on feeding it and tending to it. Though it might be a bit much to refer to the thing as the family's "cash cow," curious villagers (and apparently morbid foreign journalists) are flocking to the small farm to get a glimpse, which might do something to improve their farm's prospects, I suppose.

On a less morbid note, there's this fun little creature. What is it? Why, it's a sweet little beer-drinking shrew that lives in the Malaysian rain forests, of course. It sips nectar from a flower that apparently also plays host to a unique strain of yeast, so that the nectar naturally brews into a beer-like drink of up to 3.8% alcohol. Scientists say that the little shrew drinks the equivalent of you consuming nine glasses of wine each night. (Photo: Annette Zitzman, NPR article)

No one is saying whether that's an equivalence in sheer volume or simply in alcohol content, but honestly, I don't think that matters much. It's a four-inch long shrew pounding flower beers all night long without any apparent sign of intoxication. I'm thinking even cool, Newcastle-loving BusyDad couldn't keep up with this little guy, ounce for ounce. (No offense, BusyDad.)

Not to be outdone by NPR, National Geographic explains to us that apparently Beluga whales can be taught party tricks.

The only drawback is that they aren't quite as easy to show off to your friends as the tricks you teach Rover, since you need giant aquarium tanks and SCUBA certification to teach these whales to blow bubbles.

As if these weren't enough, there are apparently scientists studying extensively what squid hear. (By the way, squid don't actually have ears, from what I can tell.) And these are just the items I stumbled across in the last few days.

It's an amazing amazing world out there. One full of animals that may thrill you with their wondrous grace, terrify you with their fangs and claws, or stun you with their anthropomorphic traits. Go, check it out. And, please, report back. What animal bizarrities have riveted you lately?

* * * * *

P.S. I almost mentioned the "monster" that washed up on the beach in New York, which is the story that came on the 11pm news as I was writing this post last night. (Seriously, I'm not even kidding about that timing. Or exaggerating. Or anything. There was a whole montage of "crazy weird animal monsters" on my local news as I was typing.) But then I didn't mention that "monster" because I figured it must be some unfortunate real thing. Well, actually, I figured it was probably some cool prehistoric thing and not a monster at all, but the thought did cross my mind that as I didn't know what it was, I probably couldn't include it in this post. And then I went to check my reader before I went to bed, and lo and behold! there was The Bloggess's post about that very monster. So. Phew! Dodged a bullet there. I still have time to add a disclaimer that I am not some lame-o trying to copy The Bloggess's serious funny. (If anyone can appreciate the tricky grammar of oxymoron-as-compliment, it's The Bloggess.)

So this is me, groveling a little.

Dear Bloggess,

Since I am nowhere near as funny as you (though, weirdly, I did try to figure out a way to work in some kind of "ninja shrew" comment with a link back to you when I was first writing this post, but just couldn't swing it), and since I can't help it that animal inanities are all over the airwaves these days, and as it's my bedtime, so I can't write another post for Friday morning without being even more sleep-deprived than usual when facing the Early Birds that are my preschooler and toddler, I hope you'll just laugh with me at the oddities of the animal kingdom. And think of me the next time you see sasquatch--since I'll be reading your mind at that very moment, and composing my own post about strange animal sightings as you are editing your photos.

Your Giant Fan, MommyTime
(a.k.a. she of the mad Vulcan mind-meld skills)

And the rest of you? Please increase the collective pleasure of our weekends by adding links if you've got 'em to the animal items in YOUR local news these days. I know for a fact that Foolery has snakes on the brain, for example. Anyone else? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?


KD @ A Bit Squirrelly said...

Those are werid, vreepy, funny and cute. Respectively. I want to hang with the drunk shrew. Good times.

Aimeepalooza said...

I will be adding an animal post soon... It didn't make the news but it has to do with my vacation. uggg it's kind of gross!

Tracey said...

I am totally off to click on those links. Can't wait to see some freaks.

BusyDad said...

I partied with the little guy at BlogShrew. The little guy got so drunk he lost his camera. I was of course passed out. That bugger CAN drink. I give props where props are due.

Ok, Where Was I? said...

I thought, sure, I'll look at the little pig fella. I teared up. Seriously, I did. I felt so bad for the little guy with all those people gazing at him.

drowningindoghair said...

This article was in my local newspaper yesterday: www.adn.com/news/alaska/wildlife/bears/story/480162.html If you want to see the video of the bear dragging off a moose, click on the link under Related Links called "Eagle Rive Bear Attacks Moose." The video was taken by a woman who had moved to the area only two months ago- this video took place in her FRONT YARD.

OHmommy said...

OK. I am so off to click on those links. And I am making my husband sit next to me for them.

Good times.

Scribbit said...

Okay I'll take the bait--I'll click :)

Veggie Mom said...

This must be a Critter Comment week. I posted about my Old Lady Cat, Patch, yesterday. She can't do party tricks, but she's mighty cute!

Jaina said...

That is SO bizarre! I like the Beluga whale though, that's really cool.

foolery said...

That's so WEIRD! I was just called a beer-swilling shrew yesterday!*

But if that same husband had called me a monkey-faced pig I would have scratched his eyes out. Yeah, karma is a bitch.

*this is another lie



p.s. Thanks for the link, MT! Just found it!


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