Mysterious German Zoo Flamingo Deaths Solved
Kay-africa, Wikimedia Commons
Animals and insects see the world in unique ways. From fish, to dogs, to birds to shrimp, super-eyesight allows them to thrive in places others can't.
Dung beetles, for example, have internal compasses that are sensitive to the sun, Marie Dacke of Lund University and her colleagues have determined. In a paper published in the latest Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, she and her team explain that solar cues and skylight help guide where the beetles roll their coveted balls of poop.Video: 5 Incredible Insect Superpowers
shmoomeema, Wikimedia Commons
Siberian huskies evolved colorful, almond-shaped eyes to see in low light, desolate northern regions. A quirk of genetics is that an individual dog may have two differently colored eyes. A single eye may also feature two colors. It's known as a "parti" or "split" eye.Photos: Ugliest Dog Contenders
Chameleons can rotate and focus their eyes separately to look at two different objects at the same time, according to the San Diego Zoo. This gives chameleons a full 360-degree view around their body.Photos: Chameleon Colors Act Like a Mood Ring
Ants have vision "superpowers," interactive media designers and artists Chris Woebken and Kenichi Okada believe. Using their ant apparatus, humans can see as ants do by placing microscope antennas on their hands (ants have these on their heads) that transmit a 50-fold magnified view of wherever the person's hand is resting.33 Bizarre New Ant Species Discovered
Imagine if you spent most of the day looking up from below. That is what escolar, a large and mysterious deep-sea fish, do, according to a new study by Eric Warrant of the University of Lund and colleagues. Escolar use this technique to "sit and wait" for prey, hoping something tasty will swim over them.
Tomasz Sienicki, Wikimedia Commons
Shrimps have some of the most complex visual systems in the animal kingdom. Justin Marshall of the University of Queensland and his team found that some shrimp stare down prey before attacking with a movement that is so swift that it actually boils water in front of the shrimp. (The other temperate water surrounding the shrimp prevents it from cooking itself to death!)
Stewart Butterfield, Flickr
Most animals, including humans, have round pupils, but the eyes of goats (toads, octopi and a few others too) tend to be horizontal and rectangular with rounded corners. This broadens the horizon that they see, enabling them to better spot predators.
Pen Waggener, Flickr
Bird eyes, such as those of the eagle seen here, feature oil droplets located in the front, Doekele Stavenga of the University of Groningen and colleagues have discovered. The droplets serve as "microlenses" that help to filter and direct light.On the Hunt for Bald Eagles
The eyes of certain animals, such as raccoons and cats, glow in the dark. Their eyes have a light-reflecting surface, known as the tapetum lucidum, which makes this possible. Depending on the animal, the glow takes on certain colors. Cats tend to have eyes that glow green. Miniature schnauzer eyes will sometimes glow turquoise, according to Colorado State University ophthalmologist Cynthia Powell.
Alexander Vasenin, Wikimedia Commons
Cuttlefish, a type of mollusk, are the transformer visionaries of the animal kingdom. They reshape their entire eyes to adjust to what they see. Humans and many other species, in contrast, usually just reshape their eye lenses to get a better look at something.
Giant squid have the largest eyes in the world, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. At up to 10 inches in diameter, the human head-sized eyes help giant squid to see in deep water. It's believed that they can detect a moving sperm whale from 394 feet away.Giant Squid Photos
Fernando Mafra, Fotopedia
We create a mental map of our surroundings in our brain. As Michael Land of the University of Sussex explains, "To interact with objects in the world we need to know where they are, whether they are in our field of view or outside it. Objects in memory have to move in the brain as we move through the world, otherwise they would be not be in the right place."
Fifteen flamingos in a German zoo were found mysteriously beheaded last week, and investigators believe they have finally found the culprit.
According to a BBC News story, “The birds were killed over two consecutive nights, with their bodies found on Friday and then Saturday. Some had their heads cut off or torn off, while others were stabbed to death, reports Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Zoo director Manfred Niekisch calls this a ‘shocking incident’ and staff are ‘speechless.’ It is not clear who or what killed the birds, but stab wounds suggest it was done by humans.”
Guards were posted to protect the flamingos, but the attacker struck again, somehow without being seen. The story caused a sensation in the German news media, with wild speculation about the culprit’s identity, ranging from deranged psychopaths to a gruesome youthful dare to Satan worshipers. Mysteriously, some of the animals seem to have been drained of blood, suggesting a vampire or even the mythical chupacabra.
Mysterious Mass Animal Deaths
When a group of animals die suddenly and mysteriously, it often makes news and sparks speculation. In 2011 an estimated one million small fish died in Redondo Beach, Calif. The massive die-off at a marina was blamed on algae blooms that robbed the water of oxygen. On New Year’s Eve of that year an estimated 5,000 blackbirds dropped from the air over Beebe, Arkansas. The birds had been spooked and disoriented by fireworks, sending many of them plunging into trees and buildings and killing them on impact.
In 2012 a horse and a heifer in rural Colorado were found apparently stabbed with some unknown object and seemingly mutilated. As with the German flamingos, some people immediately suspected that the grisly work was done by Satanists or a deranged animal sadist. Tests later revealed that the animals died of natural causes.
A year later, in August 2013, the remains of more than 100 dead elk were found near Las Vegas, New Mexico. Even more mysteriously, the elk showed no obvious cause of death. Officials with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish investigated, and ruled out several possible causes including poachers, anthrax, lightning strikes, botulism, malicious poisoning and an industrial or agricultural accident. About a month later, following testing of elk tissue samples and water samples, the real killer was found: pond scum. Or, more specifically anatoxin-A, a neurotoxin produced by a blue-green algae that develops in warm, standing water like that in livestock water tanks. The elk had all drunk from the same contaminated water source and died en masse.
In the case of the Frankfurt flamingos, after a week of investigation the zoo released a statement saying that tests on the bird carcasses showed that the culprit was a fox. Many people incorrectly assume that predators eat what they kill, but that is not the case; many canids (including dogs, coyotes, wolves, and foxes) bite their prey to death—usually with puncture wounds to the neck— and leave the rest. The “stab wounds” turned out to be deep teeth marks, and “The zoo now plans to lock the birds up at night, erect an electric fence and set live fox traps to prevent future flamingo massacres.”
Sadly, cases of deranged people and sick pranksters shooting, torturing and sometimes even mutilating pets and livestock are not unheard of. But often what at first is interpreted as the work of sadistic humans is in fact a natural animal death.