A list of curious facts: Animal edition
One: It is widely-known that there are some animals—like birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish—that glow under ultraviolet light. This is because of a phenomenon called fluorescence—“when the energy from UV light, which is a form of electromagnetic radiation invisible to humans, is absorbed by certain chemicals.” Think of when you go to a nightclub and white clothes or your gin and tonic glow blue under the UV light. In gin, it’s the presence of quinine that makes the drink glow while in animals it could be a particular protein or pigment.
But, fluorescence was rarely seen in mammals and was considered a quirk limited to a few—until now. A recent study revealed that there are a lot more glowy mammals than we originally thought. Researchers from the Western Australian Museum found fluorescence in 150 mammal species that they studied, which included lions, polar bears, scaly-tailed possums, American pikas and even cats! It was more common in nocturnal species. Even humans have fluorescent teeth and many also have fluorescent nails. What this proves: Fluorescence is actually a default trait of mammals—but their exact function remains a mystery. It has stunning results though—like the flying squirrel in the lead image and the glowy springhare below. (New York Times, paywall, The Conversation)
Two: Move over elephants, recent research indicates that great apes and chimpanzees can remember their purane dost and family after years of separation. For a study, scientists showed 26 captive chimpanzees and bonobos photographs of former family members and groupmates. They found that the apes lingered on the photos of those they knew. This particular instance just made our heart melt:
In the most impressive case, a 46-year-old bonobo named Louise at the Kumamoto Sanctuary in Japan repeatedly demonstrated "robust" attention upon seeing photographs of her sister Loretta and nephew Erin, whom she hadn't seen in more than 26 years. The team said Louise's results represent the longest-lasting social memory documented in any non-human animal to date.
Also: They paid more attention to the photographs of apes they had a positive interaction with. According to study researchers, this study shows that humans are not as unique as we think: “We like to see ourselves, as humans, as unique special creatures with incredible intellectual capacities that are very different from every other animal on earth. This study is showing us how similar we are to chimpanzees and bonobos.” (NPR)
A must-watch: We were reminded of this sweet video from 2017 where a dying chimp named Mama—recognised her old human friend Jan van Hooff, a professor of behavioural biology. We cried a little!
Three: All mayors from the town Divide in US’ Colorado are our favourite politicians. We’re just slightly more inclined towards the last mayor—Clyde the Donkey—who had the best campaign slogans: “Elect a burro for a greater tomorrow,” “Vote for Clyde or you can kiss my backside” and “Clyde is all ears for a better Divide!”
For the past 12 years, the small town has been electing animals as its mayor—as part of an excellent fundraising campaign hosted by a local shelter called the Teller County Regional Animal Shelter:
"It brings awareness to our small rural shelter and it also allows us to raise money for all of the animals that come through our shelter," said Kathleen Ruyak, the shelter's marketing coordinator. "There's about a thousand animals we help a year, even though we have about 1500 square feet of shelter."
With Clyde the Donkey’s term coming to an end—the town is gearing up to elect its next furry leader. Aspiring mayoral candidates have to file their nominations by January 31—and the vote will be cast online, which costs $2 per vote. A must watch: Mayor Clyde’s television interview below. (WBAL-TV)