This week, we will examine a wild and dangerous world, where scary creatures battle each other ferociously for survival using tooth and claw. No, no, I do not mean the British political scene.
I mean the actual animal kingdom where scientists are finding out all sorts of interesting things about our fellow critters. For example, a recent study on dinosaurs suggests that some of the largest dinosaurs ever known may have been able to float.
Apparently, palaeontologists have wondered for years as to why the brachiosaurus didn’t collapse under its own weight, somewhat like Donald Trump’s ego. They have also been curious about the fact that they have found plenty of preserved brachiosaurus footprints, but only from the front feet. Canadian studies of skeletons reveal they may have had an inflatable sac inside their bodies which allowed them to float and punt along in shallow water. This means two things:
1. I was severely short changed by the public education system. Nobody ever told me that we’ve only found the front footprints of these dinosaurs. Not only is that one heck of a cool mystery, just think of all the pictures I could have drawn in primary school showing brachiosaurs doing handstands.
2. Some dinosaurs came equipped with driver’s side air bags.
If true, this study has profound implications on our theories of how the dinosaurs died. Clearly, the air bag was the beginning of the end. After that came cup holders, encouraging the consumption of fatty, over-caffeinated drinks. Then came the DVD players which were highly distracting. This means the dinosaurs might have died in one big multi-species pile up, which would be ironic, given how we use “fossil fuels” today.
Meanwhile, researchers in England have discovered how pigeons find their way home. Do they have tiny natural sensors in their brains, attuned to the magnetic forces of the Earth? No. (Actually, it has yet to be proven that pigeons have brains.) Do they use tiny pigeon maps, carefully preserved over the generations and neatly folded into those little tubes we keep strapping to their legs? Nope.
They follow the roads.
Using satellite tracking, scientists were absolutely stunned to find that pigeons use our highways as guides. In one release, they followed the road to the first junction where they all turned right, and then a couple of junctions on, they all turned left. At least one pigeon, obviously British born, even flew in a circle over a roundabout before making his turn.
Scientists have yet to determine how pigeons decide which road to follow, although there’s some speculation that it might have to do with the number of clean cars on it at any given time. Researchers also aren’t sure why pigeons have adapted so readily to following cars either; it may be they’ve overheard us saying they’ve flown the coupe.
Finally, US biologists now think that rattlesnakes may be caring, social animals with rich family lives. Granted, the family atmosphere might be like that in the British parliament, but the point is, snakes are more interesting than we thought.
The US study has shown that snakes tend to hang out with their relatives more so than with strange snakes. In scientific terms, this means they exhibit kin recognition. In layman’s terms, it means they know their family hisstory.
As yet there is no connection between rattlesnakes and driving or highways, except that snakes make particularly long and squishy bits of road kill. Also, pigeons try to avoid rattlesnakes, as they don’t want to be the Sunday dinner around which the happy, social snakes gather.
Next week our feature topic will be: Strange, Irrational Animal Dominance Behaviours — The American Electoral Process Explained.