Cheating Beautiful Bastards

DSC_8768Regal and beautiful birds, swans are admired by all. And how could it be otherwise? After all swan is symbol of  everlasting love, purity and fidelity. But it so?

Not according to the results of the recent study conducted by Australian ornithologists. Love and fidelity of swans, as it happens, is a myth now dispelled by scientists.DSC_8742“Swans have long been renowned as symbols of lifelong fidelity and devotion, but our recent work has shown that infidelity is rife among black swans,” said Raoul Mulder from the University of Melbourne’s zoology department.

He and colleagues tested the DNA of many cygnets and found that one in six (17%) is the product of an illicit encounter. (The Myth of Monogamous Swans.)DSC_8787Interesting that about a quarter of “married” black swan couples are formed by homosexual males. Often a couple of males temporarily teams up with a female and, after she lays eggs, they cruelly expel her from the nest.

In fairness it should be noted that while scientists have traced only for a type of black swans, so it is hoped that the white swans behaved more decently.

Amazing Shoebill

китоглавThis fabulous bird is a royal heron otherwise known as shoebill. The homeland of royal herons are marshy areas of sub-Saharan Africa. The birds’ habitat is quite large, but shoebill population is very small and fragmented. The largest group of them make its home in Southern Sudan.китоглав2 Shoebill can stand still for long hours in shallow water. китоглав1 Shoebills are well adapted to life in the marshes — their long legs with wide apart toes allow them to move easily through the mud.китоглав5The bird is most active at dawn, but sometimes it hunts during the day.китоглав4

Shoebill [C]

A Shoebill shot in Ueno Zoo, Tokyo.

It’s a boy! No, wait…

Babies born apparently female in Salinas, Dominican Republic, are turning into men at puberty due to a genetic deformity. Above, Catherine and his cousin Carla, who is currently undergoing the transition

Babies born apparently female in Salinas, Dominican Republic, are turning into men at puberty due to a genetic deformity. Above, Catherine and his cousin Carla, who is currently undergoing the transition

This condition of gender transition is so common that the children of Salinas afflicted with it are referred to as Guevedoces, or ‘penis at 12 years’.

Around two per cent - or one in 90 - babies from Salinas, marked above on the map, are thought to be born with the condition, which occurs due to a missing enzyme during pregnancy

Around two per cent – or one in 90 – babies from Salinas, marked above on the map, are thought to be born with the condition, which occurs due to a missing enzyme during pregnancy

This unusual condition was first discovered and described in the 1970s when a scientist from Cornell visited the island.

Babies usually form male sex organs after around eight weeks in the womb, with the change triggered by hormone dihydro-testosterone. A handful of babies, however, do not have the enzyme that triggers the hormone surge and consequently they will not form male genitalia until they reach puberty, when there is another surge of testosterone.

BBC Two’s Countdown to Life – The Extraordinary Making of You explores this remarkable example of human diversity and admits that sometimes even the most complex, crucial to our species processes can occasionally go wrong.

Visit the Place: Kamchatka

k7This is Kamchatka. 

The Kamchatka Peninsula is a 1,250-kilometre-long (780 mi) peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of about 270,000 km2 (100,000 sq mi). It lies between the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Okhotsk to the west. (Wikipedia.)

There are few places in the world that can simultaneously enthrall and disappoint quite like Kamchatka. A fickle temptress, it tends to hide its primal beauty behind a veil of thick clouds and fog.k2But when the skies finally clear and the powdered snouts of several dozen volcanoes appear through the clouds, all else melts away and you understand that you’re in a special place. k8No matter what you went through to get here, no matter how long you’ve spent grounded, it was all worth it. k3

Indeed, Kamchatka is stunning: vast ice covered areas, rearing fire-spitting volcanoes, lush plant life neighboring with desert cinder fields, crystal-clear waters of rivers and lakes.

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The source of the majority of images in this post is ПЕРВОЗДАННАЯ КАМЧАТКА: ТИХИЙ ОКЕАНThe article is in Russian, the narrative is sparse, but the photography is truly sunning. See more:


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Kamchatka Peninsula has the highest concentration of active volcanoes on Earth. Separated by only 180 kilometers (110 miles), Shiveluch, Bezymianny, Tolbachik, and Kizimen were all erupting simultaneously on January 11, 2013. (NASA report.)

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The activity of these four volcanoes was captured during a single orbit by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer on NASA’s Terra satellite. The four false-color (near infrared, red, and green) images above show Shiveluch, Bezymianny, Plotsky-Tolbachik, and Kizimen in detail. Read more here.



The growing risk of worldwide water shortages is worse than scientists previously thought, according to a new study.

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More than 70 percent, which is 4 billion people, of the world’s population lives without sufficient access to fresh water for at least one month of the year, according to a new paper published Friday in the journal Science Advances.

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Artist Joel Krebs envisions a disastrous drought that leaves world landmarks without water. Krebs imagines a complete climate shift, where an epic drought dries up the world’s great landscapes. 

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drought3Evgeny Kazantsev presents a surreal look at what our cities and surroundings might look like in catastrophic conditions. The series imagines a pattern of extreme weather changes, forcing the earth’s natural and urban landscapes into ruin and disrepair. Beloved landmarks, towns and touristic sites are afflicted by heat waves, ice storms and droughts, leaving each in a state of decay and degeneration. Mesmerizing images. Follow the link above to see them. I selected two images related to drought:

Venice’s world-celebrated canals are envisioned without water

Venice’s world-celebrated canals are envisioned without water

Barcelona’s landmark Sagrada Familia is in near ruins, as a result of an extreme dust storm.

Barcelona’s landmark Sagrada Familia is in near ruins, as a result of an extreme dust storm.

Articles — only a few of many — about water shortage and research on the subject:

Ocean As A Garbage Dump

PlasticOceanPromo11The study, released on Tuesday, found that a whopping 32 percent of all plastic packaging escapes collection systems and finds its way into natural ecosystems, including the oceans.oceanCurrently, 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean each year — the equivalent of a dump truck of plastic rubbish every minute.

At current rates, that will have grown to two trucks a minute by 2030, and four a minute by 2050 — by which time, by weight, there will be as much plastic in the oceans as fish.

“One of the biggest problems [to] focus on is single use and disposable plastic,” Dianna Cohen, CEO of the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

Based on interviews with more than 180 experts in the field, the report found that most plastic packaging is used only once before being discarded.ocean1

“There is no system in place that helps take these [plastic] materials back [after use]. It impacts the entire ecosystem in the ocean. If you come from a country that gets its primary livelihood or protein source from the ocean, then the fish you may count on to eat is ingesting plastic, getting entangled in it, and dying from having stomachs full of it.” ( Dianna Cohen)


Currently, only 14% of the plastic packaging material is recycled. For paper, the figure is 58%, while for iron and steel — from 70 to 90%.

NASA research put together into a video showing how the ocean’s garbage patches formed over the last 35 years.

So the next time you decide not to recycle plastic, or glass, or even a tin can, just remember those white dots. Some fish will wear your soda bottle as a hat. Forever.

Vanishing Tribe Awá

ava8Deep in the Amazon jungle lives the most vulnerable tribe in the world, whose members, trying to protect themselves from destruction, lead nomadic life, constantly moving with children, weapons and pets — Awá-Guajá people.ava77This small tribe found itself  on the verge of extinction because European colonists enslaved them and ranchers stole their land.  And yet they live in harmony with nature in the jungle, that shrinks and vanishes all around them.
Let’s take a look how Awá people live and survive…ava91Very few people have ever met Awá. Photographer Domenico Pugliese  was one of those lucky ones to have spent time with this remarkable tribe and even becoming a source of entertainment for them.

Pugliese first met the people of the tribe in 2009 after his friend, a journalist, offered him an a fellow anthropologist a journey to the jungle areas where Awá lived. “They heard the sound of the boat engine and came down the river bank,” Pugliese recals. “It felt like I suddenly was in another world.”

After they’ve got to know him, Awás even found a reason for ridiculing the photographer. They simply couldn’t understand how a grown man can be alone, without a family. Family is very important for Awá people. The concept of family is not limited only to relatives. Family also includes close friends and animals. After all, animals help them perform their everyday tasks, such as cracking nuts and collect fruit from tall trees. They are as much a part of their families as their children.ava1Most Awá families keep several tame wild animals, which are tenderly breast-fed by the women of the tribe until they grow up.

ava7Awá people keep wild pigs, squirrels, parrots and large rodent agouti, but their favorite pets are monkeys.
ava4Primates are an important food source for Awá, however, if the monkey has been breast-fed as a baby, they will never eat it. Even if such monkey returns to the jungle, they would recognize it as a hanima  — a member of the family.
ava3 Out of tens of thousands of Awá population, who lived in Maranhao 500 years ago before the Portuguese colonists arrived, only about 400 people survived. About 60 of them have never had contact with the outside world.
avaMany died of diseases brought from overseas — smallpox, measles, influenza and others. Surviving people were enslaved and forced to work on rubber and sugar cane plantations.ava9In 1835, after centuries of oppression, Maranhao tribes rebelled against the European invaders. During the 5-year-old uprising, about 100 thousand  indigenous people were killed.awa88After that,  Awás were forced to take up a nomadic way of life to avoid the genocide. Over the next 200 years, they have become skilled hunters and learned how to build home in a few hours, and a day later abandon them and hit the road again. As a result, to a large extent, people have lost  their agricultural skills and even the ability to start a fire.ava6In 1982, the Brazilian government received a loan of 900 million USD from the World Bank and the European Union. One condition of this loan was that the lands of certain indigenous peoples (including the Awá) would be demarcated and protected. This was particularly important for the Awá because their forests were increasingly being invaded by outsiders. There were many cases of tribespeople being killed by settlers, and the forest on which they depend was being destroyed by logging and land clearance for farming. Without government intervention it seemed very likely that the Awá and their ancient culture would become extinct. (Wiki)

The Brazilian Government has announced that all the “invaders” were expelled from the land of Awá in the past year, but today the people of the tribe face even greater danger — fires raging in the Amazon.

The fires that destroy huge areas of jungle on the eastern edge of the Amazon, often instigated by ranchers who want to turn the forest into plantations.

Interview With Maratus Volans

как соблазнитьQ: Maratus Volans? Why such a name? Can you fly?

Maratus Volans: (laughs) Only in my dreams! Volans, indeed, means flying in Latin, you’re right. My other names are Attus volans and Saitis volans.  Rebranding, I thinks. But I don’t complain. Personally, I like to be called  Peacock Spider..

Q: Where is your birthplace?

Maratus volans: All my closest relatives reside in Australia — New South Wales and Queensland. Some of us settled in Tasmania. I hope you do not mind my accent? (laughs)как соблазнить4Q: You aren’t all that huge either.

Maratus Volans: I’m about 4 millimeters long. Most of our species measure around an eighth of an inch. Size doesn’t mater, really, does it?

Q: What is your winning strategy? What do you have to do in order to reach your ultimate goal of getting the subject of your affection and mate with her?

Maratus Volans: I have to be in great shape. Bright and elegant, I have to stand out among the other males. She should have noticed and appreciated my appearance. I lead a healthy lifestyle, jog every day, climb trees and, believe me or not, on occasion, even raft down the river. Bungee jumping, Pilates, Capoeira and, of course, dancing — all of these activities are making me very competitive if not absolutely irresistible. I am also a professional weaver and an excellent cook.

как соблазнить2Q: You are irresistible!

Maratus Volans: I do not want to boast, but all members of my species have an enviable internal hydraulic system — the ability to expand  our limbs and, well, other extremities, as a result of blood pressure changes. A very valuable quality, especially in males, won’t you say? (smiles).

Q: How would you start your mating game?

Maratus Volans:  People often underestimate an eye contact. One meaningful look can say a whole lot — to convey your intentions, for once.    как соблазнить3Q: When you realize she noticed you, what do you do next?

Maratus Volans:  To captivate her, I behave confidently and assertively.  I move toward her with a graceful swag. I demonstrate that I’m in great physical and spiritual shape, an individual of impeccable morals. I suck up my tummy and raise up a pair of my legs. This makes me look taller and slimmer. Well, I need to impress her, don’t I? Then I spread my legs just so, to let her know I’m very interested and mean business.  It’s like saying, “Hello there, I really like you, babe!” Sometimes, to enhance the effect, I raise the third pair of legs. When she approaches close enough to observe me, I start dancing, vigorously and seductively. I imagine that she is the only one in the world for me, and to seduce her is a matter of life and death.

Q: Interesting — and quite unfair, too — that in the world of insects males are colorful, creative and adventurous, whereas females are quite the opposite. Among people, the roles are reversed — females are often colorful…

Maratus volans: There are pros and cons in this. In case of failure, male humans can back away and try again and again. We, insects, aren’t given second chances. If we fail — that’s effing it.

Q:  Anything else you want to say to our readers?

Maratus volans:  First of all, I want to address people affected by arachnophobia. Please watch my best dance moves below. The two clips are identical, except for the music. Am I not a good dancer? My hope is that you’d change your mind about us, spiders.  Jurgen Otto is the only man (as far as we, spiders, know) who has captured a footage of our courtship dance. He  documented, recorded and shared video of our  terrific breeding ritual — it has even won over people who previously hated spiders. Enjoy! Remember: Size isn’t important — dancing is!


Happy, happy, joy


Happiness and Long Life

  • Аn axiom: It is better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick.
  • To be rich and healthy —  this is happiness (it is an obvious consequence of the above axiom).
  • The happier are the people — the healthier they are. Is this an obvious assertion? According to recent data, it isn’t. Unhappiness won’t kill you.

A study published on Wednesday in The Lancet, following one million middle-aged women in Britain for 10 years, finds that the widely held view that happiness enhances health and longevity is unfounded.

“Good news for the grumpy” is one way to interpret the findings, said Sir Richard Peto, an author of the study and a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford. “Happiness and related measures of well-being do not appear to have any direct effect on mortality.” 

Does happiness itself directly affect mortality? The prospective UK Million Women Study


So much for that. Happiness does not hold promise of longevity. It just makes your life more joyful, if not longer.india-crop

Sex in the Rain.

It is believed that the sound of a falling raindrops is very romantic. Especially in India, when the first drops of spring rain nails the orange dust on the roads to the ground, and a dazed five feet python might appear right in front of your scooter. Every living creature enjoys a long-awaited rain. Many small animals try to produce an offspring right before the start of the rainy season.

However, Indian dogs  behave differently. Instead of bringing puppies to the world to coincide with the rainy season, they are doing just the opposite: when it starts to rain, they frantically copulate. Indeed, what could be better than sex when raindrops splash and splatter on  the window glass?  People might think like this, but dogs? Why do the Indian dogs do it when it rains? This phenomenon set Indian scientists think. Eventually they solved the puzzle.torrential-rain-india

It turns out that romantic mood in dogs, both male and female, depends a great deal on their sense of smell. Romance, literally, in the air and canines can smell it.

During the dry season in Calcutta, where the observations for the study were made, lots of unappetizing odors are in the air. This stench could hardly be called romantic, even by a dog. Particularly by a dog. In a word, stinking air kills all desire to copulate in Calcutta’s canine population. But then comes rain and purifies the air. The aroma of freshness rises to the skies and, at last, dogs can smell one another and fall in love. When Love Is in the Air: Understanding Why Dogs Tend to Mate when It Rains

Amur And Timur: Update

amur3_700In the Primorsky Safari Park, Amur, a Siberian tiger, and Timur, a goat destined to become his dinner, became inseparable friends in a most unusual and rare turn of events. This friendship is going strong and grows stronger with every passing day. Lately, Amur  started to give Timur hunting lessons. amur700“Sometimes the tiger displays hunting behavior while on the walks with his friend, the goat. Timur tries to mimic the moves of the predator,” the director of the safari park Dmitry Mezentsev told to the Interfax.amur4_700 Some days, when Amur and Timur walk in the park, the tiger allows the goat to drink from his water bowl.

According to the park’s staff, when Amur and Timur walk near the enclosures of tigresses Ussuri and Taiga, the tigresses growl menacingly at the goat. Timur, however, having his friend nearby to protect him, keeps his cool.amur1_700The other evening, one of the park’s employees tried to lead the goat away from the tiger for the night. Timur got scared and run back to Amur’s side. Mightily stressed, Timur calmed down only when Amur was in close proximity.

“Timur is afraid of people, he perceives people as his enemies, predators,” Mezentsev explained. “To relieve his stress, frightened goat runs from people to his friend, the tiger.”

Afterwards, Timur refused to leave Amur’s side and spent the night near the tiger. Very often Amur “yells” or roars during the night. That night, however, the tiger slept soundly, that is, without a sound.Timur700
The park employees say that after the tiger got a friend, he became generally more balanced and practically ceased to roar. Last week, when Amur and Timur had to spend the night in different enclosures and Amur was alone, he started bawling again.

The latest update from the park: For now, live goats will be excluded from Amur’s diet. (I suppose friendship, too, requires some sacrifices.)