Every five years, scientists take a survey of the axolotl in ancient Lake Xochimilco, in southern Mexico City, the only place in the world where the amphibian still lives. In 1998 there were 6,000. In 2003 there were 1,000. In 2008 there were 100. And in 2013 there were 0. RIP axolotl, you delightful primitive weirdo.
More sad tortoise news as Lonesome George, the world's last remaining chelonoidis nigra abingdoni (Pinta Island giant tortoise) died over the weekend at the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador. He was 100, which is kind of young for a giant tortoise to die, since they can live to be 200. He will be embalmed, so future generations of humans can know what his subspecies looked like. But that doesn't seem like quite enough. Here are ten songs in his honor.
A horrible-looking lizard that died out 65 million years ago has been named Obamadon gracilis for President Barack Obama. Paleontologist Nicholas Longrich told the Boston Globe that scientists from Harvard and Yale decided on the name just before November's election. Longrich notes that "if the election had gone the other way, I would have yanked it."
We Have Been Hunting Animals To Extinction For Forty Thousand Years, And We Will Keep Hunting Them To Extinction Until The Machines We Build Hunt Us To Extinction
"The findings seem to close the case against modern human hunters, although they remain to be confirmed at other sites throughout the continent. And, on every continent except Africa, human arrival and large animal extinctions seem to coincide, so the case may also extend globally. (The reason large animals did not vanish in Africa is perhaps because they co-evolved with us and learned to be wary of this stalking, hairless, upright ape.)" —There had been some question as to whether hunting or climate change killed off the megafauna that used to roam the earth before human beings showed up around 40,000 years ago. But a study of the fossilized [...]
Robots: friendly helpers or heartless monsters that will destroy humanity? This is no longer just a question for the movies that play all the time on "Spike" or TNT. As you may or may not have noticed, aggressor nations such as the United States are getting out of the people business when it comes to fighting wars. Drones and robots are where the action is today, because drones don't urinate on the corpses of innocent people in Afghanistan, and drones don't burn the Koran, and drones don't come home missing a couple of limbs or a chunk of brain and end up standing alongside a freeway ramp with a [...]
Perhaps the greatest appetizer I have ever eaten is Oysters en Brochette at Galatoire's in New Orleans. The oysters are wrapped in bacon, dredged in flour, deep fried and then drizzled in butter sauce. It is exactly as amazing and unhealthy as it sounds. So I am sad to learn that "oyster reefs around the world are disappearing so fast that more than 85 per cent have been lost to disease and over-harvesting." I had better get back to New Orleans but quick; this heart isn't going to attack itself.