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Centre for Fortean Zoology newsfile section: cryptozoology, fortean news: subsection: weird science 2 (25-7-98)........

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NEWSFILE: WEIRD SCIENCE 2


TEARS OF A CLONE (4)

WASHINGTON (May 21, 1998 3:50 p. m. EDT http://www. nando. net) - U. S. researchers who succeeded in cloning three identical calves wrote in Friday's issue of Science that their technique is simpler and more effective than the one used by Scottish scientists to create Dolly the lamb. James Robl, from the University of Amherst in Massachusetts and Steve Stice, from the firm Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), wrote that theirt echnique consisted of inserting a genetic marker into the nuclei of a cow foetus, then fusing the cells to mature eggs from which the nuclei have been removed. Out of 28 engineered embryos, three calves were created - a much higher success rate than typically is achieved with other cloning methods. Dolly was created after 227 attempts.

The birth of the calves last January at a research farm in Texas was hailed as a major achievement which would help scientists create herds of identical cows which would produce medicine in their milk. "This system would be useful for inducing complex modifications in cattle, " researchers wrote, saying the new method is a breakthrough" greatly reducing the time and costs involved" in cloning. ACT has said it hopes eventually to use similar techniques to grow engineered animals containing cells and organs suitable for transplantation into humans. Dolly, the world's first cloned sheep, was born at Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute in July 1996, after being created from the cells of a six-year old adult. News last year of Dolly's birth sent shock waves through the scientific community and prompted much debate on the ethics of cloning. The newborn calves were cloned from cells taken from foetuses, while Dolly is still the only clone made from a cell taken from an adult mammal.

....AND ALL THOSE BLOODY NEW AGE RECORDS

Harpooned by hunters and poisoned by pollution, whales now face another deadly enemy - noise. Scientists say a huge increase in noise from ships, pleasure boats, off-shore industry and military technology threatens whales, dolphins and porpoises. The confusion caused by modern noises, such as military sonar, could be responsible for 'mass beachings', according to a paper presented to the international whaling commission last week. Whales rely on their own wide range of sounds for communication, navigation, finding food and courting a mate. Man-made noises can interfere with these signals or damage whales' hearing, threatening their survival. `A deaf whale is almost certainly a dead whale' said steve trent, campaign director of the environmental investigation agency, which produced the paper. Toothed whales, such as dolphins, beluga and killer whales, send out ultrasonic sounds which `bounce back' off shoals of fish or other prey. Sperm whales use `echo-location' to avoid fishing nets. Beluga use it to find openings in ice to come up for air. The biggest threat is a huge increase in low-frequency noises, which travel great distances under water and to which whales are particularly sensitive. The most dangerous sources are cargo vessels, including oil tankers, and oil and gas exploration. In the Canadian High Arctic, ice-breaking ships, the loudest ocean-going vessels producing more than 200 decibels, have frightened belugas 35 miles away. Offshore research vessels bounce low-frequency pulses - of more than 240 decibels - off the seabed to map areas likely to contain gas and oil. These seismic tests are thought to have caused the stranding of 24 north sea sperm whales three years ago.

The stress of escaping from noise is also likely to shorten their lifespan. Whales usually swim away from noise, diving suddenly. The effort required can affect their carefully balanced energy levels, weakening their capacity to reproduce. Whales that dive from the surface may not have had time to replenish their oxygen supplies. Advances in military sonar and oceanographic research have added to the problems. The Environmental Investigation Agency wants a comprehensive research programme into the long-term effects that noise has on the physiology and behaviour of whales. The Electronic Telegraph - 5 June 1998

HORNY RHINO

VIAGRA, the new potency pill, could help save the African rhino, a South African conservationist said yesterday. David Newton said he hoped that the pill would mean fewer of the endangered animals would be killed by poachers for the alleged aphrodisiac qualities of their horn.

I OWE GIRAFFE A QUID

EDITORS NOTE AND DISCLAIMER: (THAT WAS RICHARD`S HEADLINE AND HAS DAMN ALL TO DO WITH THE REST OF US)

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) — How many people does it take to do neck surgery on a giraffe? At a Czech zoo, 13: Three to operate and 10 to hold-up the patient's head. The giraffe, 9-year-old Brindisi, scratched open her throat while poking her head through the bars of her run to try to reach for leaves on the other side, said Pavel Moucha, chief zoologist at the animal park in the eastern city of Dvur Kralove. The accident damaged the animal's salivary gland. A dentist volunteered his services to help fix it, assisted by two other doctors. Another 10 people pitched in to hold the giraffe's 18-foot-long neck upright. Because a giraffe's heart exerts such force to pump blood all the way up to the head, its neck must be held vertical during the operation, doctors explained. ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH - NEWS - FRIDAY, JUNE 19,1998

ON TOP OF OLD SMOKEY (OR SHOULD THAT BE CROAKEY)

Tennessee Knoxville - A massive inventory of creatures in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will begin with toads, frog; and salamanders. Geological Survey scientists say. The amphibians are. a key link in the forest food chain and "an important indicator of ecological health," a zoologist said. The inventory could take decades. TUESDAY, JUNE 2, 1998 - USA TODAY

PAVLOVIAN PILCHARDS (WHAT A LOAD OF POLLOCKS)

IN AN experiment that might have defeated even Pavlov, scientists are setting out to prove that fish can be trained to associate noise with food. They will work with shoals of smart fish, such as plaice, Dover sole and flounders, to test their responses to a low-frequency bleeper that will go off in the sea at feeding time. The theory is that the fish will swim towards the bleeper and be rewarded with a large meal. The researchers at Stirling University have already ousted dumber fish, including cod and haddock, from the training programme after they demonstrated alarmingly short memories that made it unlikely they would remember hearing the bleeper minutes after it had gone off. It is the first time fish have been experimented on in this way in Europe.

Most scientists consider fish ill-equipped to grasp the connection between sound and nourishment. John Bostock, the project's co-ordinator, believes that if the research proves that fish can learn to respond, it could help to reverse the decline in fish stocks. Farmed fish would be released into the sea in a particular area and conditioned through acoustic stimuli to collect at feeding points. It would also make fish a great deal easier to catch. Fishermen would pinpoint a feeding station, throw their nets over the side and wait for the fish to be called for dinner. This proposed combination of traditional fishing and fish farming will be watched with interest around the world. Similar experiments have been suggested in Japan but no work has begun. In Scotland, scientists are dreaming of marine parks thick with obedient fish. "There are a lot of questions that need to be explored," Dr Bostock said. "The next step would be to fund research on specific aspects, including sea trials involving the release and recapture of fish using acoustic equipment. But we're still quite a long way from anyone setting up a commercial operation."

SWEETS FOR MY SWEET

May 19, 1998 At least one racehorse trainer has, and science has now demonstrated that while the horse might like it, it is not a good idea. Researchers at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University have shown that when horses are fed 20 peanut M&M's a day as part of their diet, detectable amounts of caffeine and a related compound from the chocolate appear in their urine. The amounts of the two substances, both stimulants, can be enough to get a racehorse disqualified. That is what happened to a horse in Florida that was the impetus for the Ohio study. The horse's trainer said that any caffeine detected by a state racing commission laboratory was a result of the peanut M&M's he had fed the horse as treats. Using three horses, the Ohio State researchers, led by Professor Richard A. Sams, a pharmacologist, found the same levels of caffeine as had been detected in the Florida horse. The amounts were quite small -- 20 M&M's have as much caffeine as a cup of decaffeinated coffee -- and unlikely to improve race performance, Sams said. The Florida horse and trainer were exonerated. Sams advised horse lovers to watch what they feed their animals. "People are very conscious about not giving drugs to horses, but they are not aware that some foods can contain banned substances," he said. Chocolate is often a culprit, he added. Some performance-enhancing herbal products contain caffeine, Sams noted. These are intended for athletes, he said, "but people figure if it's good for human athletes, it must be good for a racehorse." Ohio Journal Sentinel

NO SHIT SHERLOCK

"We are in the midst of a mass extinction, an event not seen since the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, " says John Tuxill, a Research Fellow at the Worldwatch Institute, Washington, D. C. , and author of Worldwatch Paper 141, entitled, "Losing Strands in the Web of Life Vertebrate Declines and the Conservation of Biological Diversity. "But unlike the dinosaurs, we are not just contemporaries of a mass extinction-we are the reason for it. " In 1996, the World Conservation Union (IUCN), in collaboration with over 600 scientists, published ground breaking survey of the status of animal life on Earth. According to their estimates, 25 percent of mammal and amphibian species, 11 percent of birds, 20 percent of reptiles, and 34 percent of fish species surveyed so far are threatened with extinction. In addition, another 5 to 14 percent of species in these groups are "nearing threatened status. "

Scientists estimate that extinction rates are now 100 to 1, 000 times greater than normal-and rising sharply. Since most species are unknown and unmonitored, the relatively well-studied vertebrates offer one of the best windows on why and how species are declining. They found that the leading cause of vertebrate declines was human destruction of old growth forests, wetlands, chaparral, and other rich habitats. The Worldwatch Institute also reports on over-hunting and over-fishing, the main dangers facing about one-fifth of all threatened species surveyed-propelled largely by commercial markets for wildlife meat, hides, and other products. Of particular concern are the unregulated "bushmeat" trade in Central and West Africa, and East Asian demand for medicinal products derived from animals. Some 36 seahorse species are threatened by the trade of an estimated 20 million seahorses each year-for use in traditional Chinese medicines. Nando Times on June 30, 1998

16 FOOT BURMESE PYTHON EATS HEAT PAD

WATERTOWN, N. Y. (AP). A 16-foot nearsighted snake's snack attack resulted in emergency surgery to remove a heating pad it mistook for a chicken snack. Aireus, a Burmese python, was whisked away to the nearby North Country Veterinary Clinic last month with the electric heating pad's white cord dangling from her mouth, the Watertown Daily Times reported. Veterinarian Dr. David Plante's opinion on first seeing the ailing python was: ``Not good. '' Years ago, snakes like Aireus could not have been saved. Instead, Plante and a colleague performed an unusual three-hour surgical operation May 8 that will give 10-year-old Aireus a chance to slither into her golden years. The black and brown snake, who has poor eyesight, smelled her chicken treat and proceeded to chow down. Unfortunately for Aireus, the tasty snack was sitting too close to a heating pad. Her owner and the vet's mother, Katherine Plante, said she walked in only to see a plug sticking out of the snake's mouth. "She wasn't ill or in shock."

Last summer, a boa constrictor in Klamath Falls, Ore., also gobbled up a heating pad. The 8-foot pet also underwent surgery to have it removed. X-rays _ which clearly showed the heating pad inside the snake _ guided the doctors in taping the snake's skin to mark the location. Two incisions were needed to remove the heating pad. For about a week following the surgery at the clinic about 66 miles north of Syracuse, Aireus required close supervision that included a series of antibiotic shots and a meat-based slurry diet. ``We will try anything here, '' Plante said. On Wednesday, Aireus had her first post-operation visit and is showing a successful recovery.

FREEZE DRIED SPERM

WASHINGTON (June 30, 1998 6:45 p. m. EDT http://www. nandotimes. com) -The process was not quite as easy as making a cup of instant coffee, but the basic idea was the same - making mice from freeze-dried sperm. . Ryuzo Yanagimachi and colleagues at the University of Hawaii School of Medicine said they had, for the first time, grown live mice from sperm that were freeze-dried, which means the sperm were technically dead. Their feat, reported in the July issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology, shows that some DNA can survive death, and experts say the findings have great potential for animal conservation.

"It's a very clever piece of research," said Robin Lovell-Badge, an embryologist at the Division of Developmental Genetics at Britain’s Medical Research Council in London. "I think it should be very useful for research and conservation, " he said. But he doubted it would mean a breakthrough in human fertility research. "I don't think the uses for human reproductive biology are obvious. " Frozen sperm are used frequently to create babies, including humans. Frozen sperm can last for years, if not for decades. But the technique does not work well in mice. Yanagimachi's team set out to find a way to preserve mouse sperm yet still keep it viable. They knew other teams had tried freeze-drying in rabbits and cows, but had failed. Still, they tried it. They found the freeze-drying process killed the sperm cells. But the DNA -- the genetic information that sperm carries-- remained intact. They used a fertilization technique known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), in which the heads of the sperm, which contain the DNA, are injected directly into an egg. They got live baby mice. ICSI is also used to help infertile human males.

But Yanagimachi's team was interested in finding ways to make laboratory mice, especially valuable genetically engineered mice. "This simple freeze-drying procedure, which reduces storage costs and problems inherent in shipping live animals or frozen cells, will ultimately allow more and more researchers access to mouse models of cancer, heart disease, etc, " Nature Biotechnology said in a statement. Lovell-Badge, whose lab produces more than 120 different kinds of mutant and genetically engineered mice, sees many possibilities. "It's thought that this will be a very useful technique for people like myself who work with mice to both store particularly important lines of mice as well as send them around the world, " he said in a telephone interview. "We are frequently asked for particular transgenic (genetically engineered animals that contain the genes from other species, such as humans) or mutant mice. It's very awkward and cumbersome to ship either frozen embryos of live mice. " Lovell-Badge also sees potential for conservation work. "You could imagine coming across a dead tiger or panda or some other species, male, and taking some of the sperm and freeze-drying it, " he said. Later, when the egg of a female is found, "you could get your animal back. " Genetic diversity could also be guarded in this way, he said. "It would be like the idea of having a seed bank for sperm. You could just keep frozen sperm on the shelf for use whenever you want. "

THE FROGGY DEW

WASHINGTON (July 6, 1998) - A fungus normally found in soil is killing off frogs and toads all over the world, several teams of researchers reported on Monday. One team said the fungus was found in all dead frogs and toads collected for their study in Australia and Panama, while U. S. researchers found that the fungus had killed frogs in the United States. They do not know why the chytridiomycete fungus, which has never affected animals such as frogs before, is killing the creatures. "We're taking it very seriously, " Philip Rosen of the University of Arizona told Science News magazine. Rosen, a herpetologist, said the fungus had been seen in U. S. zoos before, but did not make frogs sick. But a leopard frog he found in Arizona seemed to have died of the infection. Donald Nichols, a pathologist at the National Zoo in Washington, confirmed the diagnosis. He has also found the fungus in the skin of cricket frogs from Illinois, while other experts have found the fungus on toads.

A second report, in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirms the fungus is killing off frogs all around the world. Lee Berger of James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland, Australia and colleagues said they found the fungus in sick and dead frogs found in rain forests in Australia and Panama. "We have also found this new disease associated with morbidity (illness) and mortality in wild and captive anurans (toads and frogs) from additional locations in Australia and Central America, " they wrote. They said frogs living along rivers and streams in the mountain rain forests of Australia had started to rapidly disappear. It looks like some sort of epidemic has struck, with mass die-offs noted, they wrote. "These were the last sightings of many of the affected species at these locations, " they wrote. The species included rain forest frogs known as Mixophyes fasciolatus and the giant cane toads, known scientifically as Bufo marinus, introduced to Australia from Hawaii in 1935. The fungi, they said, are usually found in the soil, where they help break down rotting matter. They may be killing the frogs by stopping air and water from passing through their permeable skin, or the fungus could be releasing some sort of poison. The fungi only does serious harm to adult frogs. Tadpoles were only infected on the insides of their mouths, which have thicker skin. Scientists are worried by the disappearance of frogs around the world.

People have also been finding strangely deformed frogs. Frogs are considered a "sentinel" species, which reacts swiftly to environmental changes because they live both on land and in the water and have a thin, permeable skin. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in November that ultraviolet radiation, entering the environment in increased doses because of ozone layer depletion, may be causing the deformities. But the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIESH) said the deformities, which can include missing or extra limbs, are traceable to something in the waters they inhabit.

FROGGY FUNGUS

In a paper appearing in the July Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists report a new fungus that they believe is responsible for the epidemic among frogs and toads of a wide variety of declining species in rain forests in Australia, and Central and South America. Dr. Joyce Longcore, University of Maine at Orono, and colleagues at the U. S. National Zoo have grown a pure culture of the suspect fungus and are conducting a final experiment to see if it is the prime factor in the die-offs. The researchers believe that the fungus, which grows in the skin of the frogs, produces multiple layers of skin, thereby preventing absorption of oxygen, kills by suffocation. However, they are also investigating the probability that other factors, such as chemical contamination, may have made the amphibians more susceptible. And they do not believe the fungus is behind the deformities in Minnesota frogs. New York Times, 28 Jun 1998

EDITOR`S NOTE: More on the subject was posted on the l-Venom news list.

Date: Tue, 07 Jul 1998 14:08:51 -0400 From: Dorothy Preslar "Now, for the first time, they've found a culprit - a newly discovered fungus they believe is causing the deaths in Panama..."

PETER DOSCHEK, PARASITOLOGIST, KINGSTON UNIVERSITY, ENGLAND: It's a new species, probably a new genus, and it's a completely strange specimen. These fungi normally live on the bottom of ponds or lakes, where they act as degraders of vegetable matter. And sometimes -- some species infect insects and other groups as parasites. But this is the first time this group of fungus has ever been found to be a parasite of vertebrates. So, it's completely novel.

LOSURE (interviewer): Doschek says scientists have found the fungus not only in dead frogs from Panama, but also from Australia, indicating the same disease has arisen at the same time on two different continents. The Australian findings, along with the research of Litz and other American scientists, will be published jointly next month in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Doschek, one of the paper's authors, says it’s not clear why what appears to be a frog epidemic has surfaced now.

DOSCHEK: The thing to remember is that these amphibians are in pristine habitat. These are very remote, mountainous tropical rain forests where there’s very little human contact. So something's happened to cause this organism, this pathogen, to become an epidemic disease.

LOSURE: Many researchers suspect frogs are succumbing now because they are being physically stressed by worldwide environmental problems, like pollution, global warming, or higher-than-normal levels of ultra violet light from the Earth's thinning ozone layer.

This summer, Litz and other researchers have returned to Panama. They'll be studying the site where the dead frogs were first found, and also another site where the disease has not yet hit and the streams are still full of frogs. The researchers will be taking air and water samples and testing for pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants that could be carried in by the winds and rain. They'll study frog populations to see which species are the most susceptible to the disease wave that appears to be sweeping through the mountains of Panama.

PINNEPED POX (2)

DEAD SEA LIONS: The deaths of 50 California sea lions last month were blamed on a naturally occurring toxic algae, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. Biologists said an algae bloom created a biotoxin called domoic acid that affects the nervous system of animals. It causes seizures, vomiting and sometimes death. USA TODAY - TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 1998

KILLER BEES

STING SOMETHING SIMPLE

MEXICO CITY (AP). A 39-year-old man was killed by a swarm of bees in northern Mexico after authorities failed to respond to emergency calls, the government news agency Notimex reported. Juan Manuel Alaniz Gomez died of a heart attack on his way to a hospital Tuesday in Cuidad Obregon, 420 miles south of Phoenix, Notimex quoted local police official Edgar Jacobi Noris as saying. Jacobi Noris said the heart attack was caused by the bee stings, and that the swarm may have been Africanized killer bees, descendants of aggressive bees from Africa that escaped from breeding experiments in Brazil in 1956. Notimex quoted fire-fighter Sergio Martinez Silva as saying fire-fighters eceived an emergency call about an aggressive swarm of bees, and passed the alert onto the Secretariat of Agriculture, Ranching and Rural Development because fire-fighters didn't have the necessary equipment. People at the secretariat never responded because it was nearing the end of their work day, Martinez Silva said. When fire-fighters responded to another call - this time about Alaniz Gomez - the man was covered in bees, and fire-fighters needed to turn their hoses on him to get the bees off. Africanized bees, which tend to attack in swarms, have been blamed for the deaths of more than 1, 000 people since 1956, including six from Arizona and Texas.

I GOT A BUZZ OUT OF THAT

California El Centro - Africanized "killer bees" may have claimed their first fatality in the state. A DNA analysis by the state confirmed that a pitbull chained in a back yard died last week when he was stung by a swarm of the honey bees. USA TODAY - WEDNESDAY, MAY 20, 1998

VIVA LAS VEGAS

Nevada Las Vegas - Two more swarms of Africanized "killer bees" have been found in southern Clark County, officials said. The bees were collected from trap sites near Davis Dam and Searchlight. Two swarms were discovered in May in the Laughlin area. Agriculture officials are setting more traps. THURSDAY, JUNE 11, I 998 - USA TODAY

RICHARD`S COMMENT: Such a stomach churning cavalcade of perversion and horror must surely mean that Great Cthullu has left the place where the angles are "wrong" to gorge himself on human souls as the faithful sing hosannas of despair.

EDITOR`S NOTE: Any more of this crap Richard and not only are you sacked as Associate Editor but I`ll start charging you rent!


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