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Giant Meddlers, a painting by Jessie Makinson, whose work will be on view in September at the Armory Show,
in New York City © The artist. Courtesy Lyles & King, New York City

Chilean flamingo chicks are no less friendly if fostered by old, infertile Andean flamingo parents; ewes prefer mating with low-ranking rams; and dominant baboons age faster, though they resume aging more slowly if their dominance wanes. The pitch of male gorillas’ chest-beating accurately conveys their body size. Hurricane Maria reset the social habits of Cayo Santiago’s macaques, deaths among the Zanzibar red colobuses of Unguja can be reduced with speed bumps, and vervet monkeys with high loads of gastrointestinal parasites curb their grooming of other monkeys. Congolese pangolin-scale traffickers tend to be multilingual. Parrots were carried by llama caravans across the Atacama Desert. A dusky rattlesnake was found to have died 15,000 years ago inside the jawbone of a mastodon. The ancestors of Amazonian freshwater stingrays were left stranded by the Caribbean during the Oligocene and Miocene epochs. Great white shark populations in the Gulf of California have been underestimated. California bear cubs were suffering from a mystery virus that makes them too friendly, Hawadax Island has recovered from its domination by rats, and Darius, the world’s longest rabbit, was reported missing. The cow wheat shieldbug was observed for the first time since 1989 in the Cairngorms. An iguana spotted in a tree in Krakow was determined to be a croissant.

Humans were apex predators and primarily carnivorous for 2 million years until megafauna extinctions led to a diet richer in vegetables, and the modern human brain was found to be 1.7 million years old. The fetus secreted in Bishop Winstrup’s coffin was presumed to be his grandson, and the latrines of medieval Jewish houses in Oxford revealed the presence of goose bones and an absence of pig bones. The first ancient genomic testing of soil was performed on a sample of Stone Age black bear feces. Bat guano in Home Away from Home Cave revealed thousands of years of Jamaican climate history. The fossils of giant cloud rats were discovered in the Philippines, and traces of a giant ambush-predator worm were discovered in Taiwan. The total number of Tyrannosaurus rex ever to have lived was 2.5 billion.

The melting of glaciers has shifted Earth’s axis, the asteroid that struck Botswana in 2018 came from Vesta, and the supernova Cassiopeia A produced titanium. The deep-sea mining robot Patania II became stranded in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone. Land-based Florida salmon farming was expanding, a Wisconsin company continued to develop cultured lobster-meat prototypes, and MIT researchers created a hydrogel that mimics a lobster’s underbelly and measured its resistance to steel projectiles. The firing of neurons in mouse brains correlates at a level much higher than chance to fluctuations in bitcoin and ethereum prices; neuroscientists designed a computer game that induces auditory hallucinations in both humans and mice; and certain intellectual disabilities in mice can be treated with lithium. Without context, screams of excited happiness sound like screams of fear. AI manipulation of human political decision-making is effective when overt; of romantic decision-making, when covert. The sentence “If one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere,” from Mansfield Park, was encoded into a series of self-immolative urethanes. Physicists expected to discover a fifth fundamental force of nature.

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August 2023

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