Treats on the Internets

A fascinating piece on how we know animals perceive death, even if only at a basic level, using “playing possum” as an example:

This does not mean that opossums themselves necessarily have a concept of death, or that they behave this way with the intention of being mistaken for a corpse. On the contrary, it appears to be a genetically inherited behaviour that does not require any learning and that is triggered automatically upon the detection of certain stimuli. What this does mean, however, is that the predators’ concept of death was the likely selection pressure that shaped these displays. Maybe opossums lack a concept of death, but we can be pretty sure that the animals who intended to feed on them throughout their evolutionary history did tend to have one.

https://aeon.co/essays/animals-wrestle-with-the-concept-of-death-and-mortality

The recent news of the creation of a company working with $15 million in initial funding to “bring back the woolly mammoth” has raised numerous issues. For starters, we can’t actually bring back the woolly mammoth. What the company aims to do is to modify genes of a living ancestor, the Asian elephant, to produce an animal, in a lab – not using a surrogate mother elephant, that looks similar to the woolly mammoth.

Would the genetically modified elephant behave like a woolly mammoth? Is it ethical to produce motherless babies who would probably normally form deep maternal bonds and live in a matriarchal society? Will we know how to provide veterinary care for them? What effect will they have on the environment and if that effect is negative, what then?


It is estimated there are less than 300 British wildcats left and they live in the Scottish Highlands. Conservationists in England are building ten enclosures in wildlife parks in an effort to bring the wildcats back to the country and hopefully save them from extinction.

Each enclosure will house a pair of cats, whose kittens will later be released into the wild.

Wildwood Trust claims a healthy population of reintroduced wildcats will help to restore balance in the ecosystem by controlling numbers of prey animals such as rabbits and rodents, and of predators such as foxes through competition for food.

https://news.sky.com/story/wildcats-could-roam-free-in-england-as-work-begins-in-kent-and-devon-on-new-breeding-enclosures-12408084
British wildcat from the book General and Particular Descriptions of the Vertebrated Animals: Order Carnivora by Edward Griffith, William Wood & Thomas Davison, 1821

Photo of the week, via Twitter:

An albino Rousettus aegyptiacus caught and photographed by bat researcher Lee Harten

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