From the September 2014 issue
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Polish biologists described a long-term pattern of recurrent fellatio between two castrated brown bears. During six years of observation at a Croatian zoo, the recipient-bear and provider-bear never switched roles. The act would last between 66 and 223 seconds, would be accompanied by the provider’s audible humming, would typically result in ejaculation, and would conclude when the recipient pushed the provider away. The researchers speculated that the two bears may engage in this bonding, “milk”-producing activity because both were orphaned, and pointed to reports from India of autofellatio in ex-dancing sloth bears who had been cubnapped. A zookeeper in La Teste-de-Buch was convicted of having bludgeoned with a shovel an ostrich whose death he had blamed on a thirty-eight-year-old pony. Visitors in Nantes queued to observe the noisome decennial blooming of Titan’s Penis. Young Frenchwomen walking alone on a sunny Saturday afternoon in early summer are much likelier to give their phone number to an attractive man if he carries a guitar case. Tweens sent sexts are six times more likely to say they’ve had sex. Public-health researchers pointed to the usefulness of uninformed fear in facilitating popular compliance. Switzerland’s annual wintertime rise in campylobacter infections was blamed on chicken fondue. Food scientists were pleased with the texture of an olive-oil-based hot dog.
Off Coronation Beach, a great white shark choked to death on an Australian sea lion. In Wales, fifty-five dead smoothhounds and catsharks washed up on Pwll Du and male bottlenose dolphins were attacking porpoises, possibly mistaking them for dolphin calves whose mothers could be mated with once their offspring were out of the way. Most macaroni penguin chicks get eaten, and devil rays dive deep enough to need their brains warmed by the rete mirabile. A graduate student explained the glittering lips of the disco clam. Fishing boats were found to exert a seven-mile halo of influence over northern gannets. Granadin scientists who dosed volunteers with a prize-winning young red wine made from Syrah and tempranillo grapes determined that the consumption of alcohol causes ethanol to enter the eye’s tear film, which then evaporates more quickly, increasing the perception of halos. The scattering of sunlight by the Jovian haze illuminates Jupiter’s Galilean satellites even in eclipse. Two of the most Earthlike planets catalogued to date were discovered not to exist.
A study of tanagers disproved the theory that there is a tradeoff for birds between the virtuosity of their song and the splendor of their plumage. The relative intensity of cuckoo mimicry was directly correlated with the uniqueness of individual great reed warblers’ eggshell markings; great spotted cuckoos were found to prefer laying eggs in the presence of incubating magpie mothers. Mouse-ear cress plants take defensive measures when they hear themselves being eaten by caterpillars. Higher mortality rates were observed in red-ant colonies that did not dispose of nestmates who were frozen to death by entomologists. Tibetans acquired their tolerance for high altitudes by interbreeding with Denisovans. Anthropologists mapped the eight centuries of high birth rates that preceded the collapse of societies in the American Southwest in 1300 a.d. “It was a trap,” said the study’s lead author. “A Malthusian trap but also a violence trap.” Hopi war veterans tend to favor the Wiping Away the Tears ceremony as a treatment for ghost sickness over conventional psychotherapy as a treatment for PTSD. Turkey was funding a search for Suleiman the Magnificent’s heart.
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