December 10th, 2019


Wild Pigs

Everyone is freaking out about wild pigs.  Okay, they're destructive.  But they don't need to be a problem.

For fucksake just declare them nongame animals that can be killed at will.  They're pigs.  People love eating pigs, and lots of people enjoy hunting them, which is often difficult and expensive when managed as game animals.  See a pig, kill a pig, eat a pig.  Plenty of poor people would love that.

Humans have hunted to extinction many species without even trying.  Never doubt their ability to destroy things.

In America, the problem is that states won't delist the damn things precisely because people like hunting them.  It's like the problem with bitching about foxes, but wanting to keep enough foxes to justify foxhunting.  If you don't want wild pigs, eat them all.  If you don't want to eat them all, STFU.

People are stupid.

Venom Variety

Snakes can show tremendous variety in venom composition across individuals.  Scientists are trying to figure out why.  They proposed one possibility: venom good at killing one type of prey (e.g. lizards) may be poor at another (e.g. frogs).  This is plausible as animals have different strengths and weaknesses.  Here are some other reasons:

* Venom is biologically expensive  to make.  The first thing I'd check for is whether more effective venom is harder to make, thus some animals would make the easier kinds.

* Individual variation among both predator and prey drives an unending evolutionary arms race.  If all the snakes had the same or very similar venom, it would be much easier for prey to develop resistance to it.

* Venom is not one thing, but a swarm of exotic and intricate compounds.  That means some snake's body has to figure out  how to make this stuff.  They won't all think of the same things.  A snake with cheap but effective venom would probably outcompete others, but if prey is plentiful, maybe not.  If strong venom is costlier than weak venom, likely both will persist due to counterbalanced pros and cons.  Similarly, some things may be easier to 'discover' than others.

* Check the genetic diversity, including the epigenetics.  It may be that these complex formulae are affected by flipper switches that effectively randomize the production mix.

Dickensonia: the Oldest Animal

Dickensonia has been identified as the oldest animal in the fossil record. 

In case you want to know what alien life may look like, examine the earliest part of Earth's fossil record.  The frobbing throws out a lot of the same shapes when evolution scribbles madly to find out what survives best in this particular environment.  It basically looks like the gods got wasted on really good shrooms and threw paint on canvas for a few million years.  It evens out later.  But that free-for-all is surprisingly consistent.  Most of what exists anywhere at the early stages will be represented in most early-stage samples.  Many planets have life, but a lot of them never get very complex because of harsh conditions.  You need pretty good odds to get a full-scale biosphere, and it's easy to knock back with a disaster, although also excellent at recovering.  Usually what you see when you go exploring are cute little inkblots like this.  So look at them, in order to be able to recognize them elsewhere.  That there was an animal, not a plant or something else.

Ice Age Park

Some scientists are hoping to clone mammoths and other Ice Age creatures.  I'm all for it. 

But for fucksake DO NOT mix that with a tourist attraction.  DID NONE OF THESE PEOPLE WATCH ANY OF THE MOVIES?!  Let me simplify it with a picture instead.  Mammoths are big enough to squash people.  Saberteeth are big enough to eat people.  Never make something that can kill people and then put people in proximity with it.  That is mad science.  It's the plot of countless spec fic movies and novels.  You want people to see your cool things?  Take pictures.

Also, anyone who willingly puts themselves within reach of things that see humans as food is choosing to engage personally with the forces of evolution.  If you lose, you die, and it's nobody's fault but your own.  You want to see saberteeth? Look at pictures.

The stupid, it burns like hydrogen.  >_<

Antidepressant Pollution

 ... damages mating behavior in birds.  This is unsurprising since sexual side effects are common in many psychotropic drugs.  Consider that falling rates of marriage and reproduction in humans coincides with lots of people taking those drugs in the first place.  While humans are nowhere near a survival threat from this, the social threat happens a lot sooner as China is so vigorously demonstrating with its 4-2-1 problem.

Birds and Cigarette Butts

 Birds use cigarette butts in nests to deter parasites.  This works.  Unfortunately, cigarettes are toxic and harm the genes of the chicks.  That's as far as scientists got.

The interesting part happens afterwards.  Can the birds evolve around the damage?  That is, can they learn to use cigarette butts as pesticide while developing immunity to the toxic effects?  This seems plausible given how many species have developed immunity so they could eat or live in other toxic plants.  Since the relevant birds are small with fast lifespans, and prolific, that gives them pretty good odds.  I'd love to repeat that study in 10 years and see if the numbers have shifted.

Human Voices Scare Mountain Lions

Mountain lions run from the sound of human voices, and subsequently tend to avoid the area.  This is not news, but it's nice to have hard data regarding the well-known tendency of mountain lions to avoid humans.

Unlike most studies, this produces immediately actionable information: 

1) If you are in an area with mountain lions, and your activity does not rely on silence, talking will notify the cats of your approach so you may avoid conflict.

2) If a mountain lion confronts you or yours, yell at it.  Waving your arms or spreading your coat to enlarge your appearance have also been recommended.  They are smallish for apex predators, and a ferocious display of dominance has been known to make them back down.

Poem: "The Annals of Human Vice"

This poem is spillover from the May 7, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] lone_cat. It also fills the "Two of Bows - Decision" square in my 4-30-19 card for the Tarot Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

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Poem: "Remember the Lost"

This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls. It fills the "9 Indigenous Peoples' Day - second Monday of Month" square in my 10-1-19 card for the Fall Festival Bingo fest. It is posted here as the free poem for the December 3, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl reaching the $150 goal.

WARNING: This poem is all about American colonial genocide.

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Injuries from Income Loss

People who suffer a loss of income also tend to suffer health injuries because of that.  Now consider that whereas America used to have a fairly stable job market in which many people kept the same job throughout their career, it is now routine for people to get fired or otherwise have to change jobs -- which causes a drop in income more often than not.  Furthermore, young adults now wind up saddled with massive college debt.  This correlates with the high rate of health problems today.