Thursday, September 24, 2015

What Animals Think and Feel

Do animals experience joy, grief, jealousy, anger, love? Or are those purely human emotions that we have super-imposed on animal behaviour? Well, in his controversial new book, Beyond Words, noted American biologist and science writer Carl Safina says it's obvious that wolves, elephants, whales and apes do share those emotions with us. And it's time to re-evaluate our relationship with the animal world, and look at the similarities between our sense of consciousness and self-awareness - and theirs.

Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, by Carl Safina (Henry Holt and Co.)

Water, water, everywhere - but maybe not for long. A new Canadian study says that the Athabasca River in Alberta. which supplies much of the water for the province's oilsands development, is susceptible to drought, and the industry use of the river may not be sustainable.

And - good news and bad news about climate change. Good news is that some creatures might actually benefit from global warming, Bad news? It's the dreaded mosquito. And that's really bad news for Arctic Caribou, whose young can actually die from a mosquito swarm.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Which Animals Have the Longest Claws?

We really dug our claws into this Saturday’s Weird Animal Question of the Week, asked by Judy Eastwood: "What animal has the longest and shortest toenails?”

There isn’t much data on the subject, especially for shorter toenails, but we took a closer look at a few long-clawed animals that would not get a good night’s sleep in a waterbed.

That means their claws are about 22 percent of their body length—probably the longest claw to body ratio of any living animal, Mariella Superina, chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Anteater, Sloth, and Armadillo Specialist Group, says via email. (See "Diggers in the Dark: Discovering Giant Armadillos in Brazil’s Pantanal.")

Native to South America, giant armadillos use their huge claws to dig up prey. They're “definitely not aggressive," but if threatened, they “could probably try to defend themselves with their foreclaws,” Superina says.

Digging It

Picture of a giant armadillo

Armadillos, like anteaters and sloths, belong to the superorder Xenarthra, which includes insect-eating, big-clawed animals from the American tropics, says Don Moore, associate director of Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

America's Got Talons 

Picture of a harpy eagle

When it comes to birds, the American harpy eagle, which ranges from Central to South America, is a major contender for longest talons—it has four-inch (ten-centimeter) long talons, says Bryan Bedrosian of the Teton Raptor Center.