Posted by Richard Conniff on July 16, 2016
by Richard Conniff/Wall Street Journal
Given that tyrannosaurs are the most studied of all dinosaurs, and familiar to almost everyone above the age of 5 (or maybe make that 3), it’s extraordinary how little we really know about them: huge bodies, big spiky teeth, tiny arms, scary as hell. That’s about it for most of us.
Go a little deeper and we mostly go wrong, according to David Hone, a paleontologist at the University of London. “Tyrannosaurs,” he writes, in “The Tyrannosaur Chronicles,” “were not pure scavengers; they didn’t spend their lives battling adult Triceratops, they did not have poor eyesight, they could not run at 50 km/h, females were not bigger than males,” and they weren’t all Tyrannosaurus rex, that flesh-rending, scenery-chomping, lunkheaded box-office giant of our nightmares.
Mr. Hone’s unsensational and resolutely middle-of-the-road account lists 29 tyrannosaur species. He adds that Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Biodiversity, Kill or Be Killed | Tagged: carnivores, fossils, paleontology, tyrannosaurus | 1 Comment »
Posted by Richard Conniff on June 20, 2016
I mostly recall this carnivore’s delight from the Burl Ives version of 1956. But my father also used to sing it to us when we were small. One of my sisters remembers: “Dad once picked my up and threw me over his shoulder while that song was on, imitating the fox who flings the grey goose over his back. I was probably five years old and was wearing a skirt, which flew over my head, and was not amused. Other than that, it’s a fine song, an old folk song.” She played it for her kids in turn.
The idea of a freshly killed duck or goose “greasing” anybody’s chin has an earthiness that probably would not get past the modern sensitivity police. (But what do I know about sensitivity? I used to sing my kids “Weile Weile Waila,” an Irish song about a woman who sticks a knife in a baby’s head.) Versions of “The Fox” date back to 1500, and it has no doubt been sung around the barnyard by every generation since.
I love the calamitous mouthful Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Kill or Be Killed | Tagged: Animal Music Monday, Burl Ives, Fox | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Richard Conniff on May 9, 2016
George Harrison wrote the original “Piggies” for The Beatles White Album, released on November 22, 1968. But I ran across this interesting instrumental cover from 2015 on YouTube. If the tune were not so familiar, you might mistake it for a pretty bit of folk music from the early baroque era:
I asked a musician friend to comment. He performs baroque and Renaissance music and, as it happened, had never heard the original Beatles tune. So he listened with an unbiased ear:
“This track started (and concluded, as well) as a completely convincing piece of Italian or Iberian music from the 17th century, in the spirit of Ucellini or Merula or dozens of others. Other than a few goofy chords in the bridge, there is little to give away that it is anything else. Unfortunately, it devolves in the middle section to a more diffuse “pan-Baroque” feel; just kind of a tacky pastiche. But aside from that, a pretty convincing articulation that “popular” music is kind of timeless and has been built on the same idioms and practices for centuries.”
Harrison intended the song as a harmless satire on the grubby, self-serving ways of the rich. According to Song Facts, he originally wrote one verse that was dropped from the final recording but resonates in a post-2008 world:
Everywhere there’s lots of piggies playing piggie pranks
You can see them on their trotters
At the piggy banks
Paying piggy thanks
To thee pig brother.”
The song produced one appalling response: Though it’s better known that Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Funny Business, Kill or Be Killed | Tagged: Beatles, Charles Manson, music, piggies, Sharon Tate | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Richard Conniff on November 19, 2015
Turn off the sound on this one. Too much microphone wind. Or just don’t watch if you are a Friend of Bambi.
Posted in Food & Drink, Kill or Be Killed, Uncategorized | Tagged: leopards | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Richard Conniff on September 6, 2015
I’ve only done it with fish and lobster, but according to today’s New York Times, killing your own dinner is now a foodist movement. Here’s the lead of the story by Kate Murphy:
COULD you look through a rifle’s scope into the long-lashed eyes of an elk and pull the trigger if it would be the only meat you ate for the year? Would your conscience be more or less troubled if instead you slit the necks of animals you planned to eat after they were nurtured like adored pets on an idyllic farm?
Does the thought of doing either send you to the grocery store or farmers’ market, where neat packages conceal the violence committed on your behalf? Or do you forswear meat altogether?
While the morality of our meals is not a new debate, the polemics have reached a shrill intensity lately as a growing number of people, in an effort to raise their culinary consciousness, have committed to eating only meat they kill themselves. They are unapologetic, although not necessarily unflinching, about the blood on their hands. And they are the latest dietary tribe in our increasingly Balkanized food culture where people align with those who consume as they do and question the emotional, spiritual and intellectual capacities of those who don’t.
Read the whole article here. But I particularly like this bit. It is so gratifying to have deep thinkers to sort out the moral implications of what we eat:
Nor can you treat all meat eaters as savages, said Mr. Sarnecki, who writes and teaches on food ethics. “It might not be morally problematic to eat lobsters because they likely don’t conceptualize the world at all, whereas you might feel differently if the animal were a mammal that probably has a higher level of consciousness,” he said, duly noting, “I draw the line at lobsters because they are delicious.”
Posted in Kill or Be Killed | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Richard Conniff on August 14, 2015
One of Australia’s 15 million feral cats at work on a native marsupial, the phascogale
Domestic cats have become notorious in recent years as one of the most destructive invasive species on the planet, now threatening dozens of bird and mammal species with extinction. (That’s on top of the 30 or so species they have already eradicated.) When conservationists are trying to restore a threatened species to its old habitats, a single murderous cat can be enough to destroy the entire project.
Now frustrated scientists in Australia are proposing to apply criminal forensics and even a poison pill to identify and eliminate problem cats—and possibly spare other cats that are innocent of the killing. In a new study in the journal Biological Conservation, they call these experimental techniques “predator profiling.”
A team of researchers led by ecologist Katherine Moseby at the University of Adelaide looked at restoration attempts for what they call “challenging species.” That generally means mammals that are big enough, toothy enough, or just plain mean enough that you might not think the average outdoor cat Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Conservation and Extinction, Cool Tools, Kill or Be Killed | Tagged: Australia, cats, native species | 5 Comments »
Posted by Richard Conniff on August 12, 2015
The hero here is an Australian wedge-tailed eagle, reclaiming the skies for All Birdom (and especially for the ones that are edible)
Posted in Cool Tools, Kill or Be Killed | Tagged: drone, eagle | 1 Comment »
Posted by Richard Conniff on February 28, 2015
My latest for Takepart:
Stare deeply into a cat’s eyes, and you’ll see the unavoidable truth: It is a sleek, stealthy, killing machine. In the United States, outdoor cats kill billions of birds, amphibians, and small mammals every year. Despite a widespread campaign by environmentalists to persuade people to keep their little killers indoors, many cat owners refuse to do so. A new product from a company called Birdsbesafe won’t entirely fix that problem, but it will help, and two scientific studies suggest that it works. It’s the sort of collar a clown would wear, with a brightly colored frill sticking out all around, making the wearer much easier to see and avoid.
Susan Willson, a Birdsbesafe customer, was hunting around on the Internet when she found the collar. She knew how deadly cats can be. It’s not just that she’s a conservation biologist specializing in birds at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. She’s also the owner of two outdoor cats, and one of them, “the Gorilla,” is especially adept at killing birds. “Obviously, the best thing to do is to keep your cat inside,” Willson said. But when she tried bringing the Gorilla inside, it touched off what she describes as “a peeing war” with her three indoor cats.
“At that point, we couldn’t keep him in,” she said, but euthanizing him Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Cool Tools, Environmental Issues, Kill or Be Killed | 4 Comments »
Posted by Richard Conniff on September 27, 2014
(Photo: Haibo Chi)
This photo is from the Epson International Pano Awards, a photo contest, and a selection of winners is appearing in the Mail Online. I think a number of the winners could have competed in the Best Photoshopping category, or maybe The Best Manipulation of a Photograph Beyond Any Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Food & Drink, Kill or Be Killed | Tagged: kingisher, predation | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Richard Conniff on September 26, 2014
Yesterday the leopard seemed to have the world by the ass. But today a leopard meets a honey badger, a quarter of its size and ten times as mean. World now has leopard by ass. Circle of Life and all that.
This sequence also comes from Botswana, by way of Dutch photograher Vincent Grafhorst. The text is from The Mail Online (Caveat: I am doubtful about the attribution of that quote to Mark Twain):
An unlucky leopard got more than it bargained for after trying to catch and eat a honey badger.
These pictures show the leopard lamenting its overconfidence when the smaller beast lived up to Mark Twain’s old adage: ‘It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.’
After spotting the badger from a distance, the leopard managed to rush down inside its burrow and drag it outside for what it thought was going to be an easy meal.
But despite catching its prey by the neck, the tough mammal managed to wriggle free thanks to its loose skin.
Posted in Fear & Courage, Kill or Be Killed | Tagged: honey badger, leopard | 1 Comment »