THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- APRIL 2, 2022
Because a lot has been going on in the human world, it's been easy to overlook things happening in the realm of animals. Now might be a good time to take a deep breath and consider some of the other inhabitants of our planet.
Many of us have canine pets, so it's always fun to find out what are the most popular types. “Labrador retrievers are still tugging hardest on U.S. dog lovers’ heartstrings, but poodles just strutted back into the American Kennel Club’s top five most popular dog breeds for the first time in nearly a quarter-century.”
Labs are on a pretty impressive streak being number one for thirty-one straight years. “After Labs, the top ten are: French bulldogs, golden retrievers, German shepherds, poodles, bulldogs, beagles, Rottweilers, German shorthaired pointers and dachshunds.” (https://apnews.com/article/most-popular-dog-breeds-fa33e1765dcd15e64afcb003870c157)
Dogs are popular pets and many live a long time. The average Fido keeps us company for around thirteen years. That span is much better than the common mouse which lives just a year. Those numbers, however, pale in comparison with some other animals.
A recent study compared the life expectancy of fifty different animals “...ranging from amphibians to arthropods, and even includes one species that’s immortal (well, in theory).” A horse lives about twenty-five years. A Greenland shark swims around for 272 years. A giant barrel sponge survives for twenty-three hundred years.
The winner in the longevity sweepstakes is the immortal jellyfish. Theoretically, they can live forever. “These creatures revert and transition backwards from sexual maturity towards sexual immaturity in a process called transdifferentiation—where adult cells are converted into other types of tissue. Not surprisingly, processes like these are getting plenty of human attention in scientific research.” (https://www.visualcapitalist.com/ranked-the-life-expectancy-of-humans-and-49-other-animals/)
Back to those long-living sharks, there's one swimming right now off the Florida coast. Scientists have named him Scot. “He's an adult male, measures just over twelve feet long and weighs sixteen hundred pounds.”
There's a tracker on this guy. The tracker shows Scot likes to travel. “He was first tagged in Nova Scotia. He has since meandered a total of tree thousand miles down the East Coast. He has been relaxing around the Florida Keys and Gulf Coast since at least Valentine’s Day.” It looks like Scot is on spring break. (https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/27/us/great-white-shark-florida-scn-trnd/index.html)
While these specimens have been around for a while, perhaps nothing is so resilient than the common cockroach. The question has always been: “How did cockroaches survive the asteroid that led to the extinction of dinosaurs?”
Scientists have some answers. “It turns out that they were nicely equipped to live through a meteoric catastrophe. They have flat bodies, so they could take shelter in tiny soil crevices. Cockroaches are omnivorous scavengers. This means they will eat most foods that come from animals or plants. And cockroaches lay their eggs in little protective cases.”
Scientists estimate that there over four thousand cockroach species. Good luck trying to exterminate them. (https://theconversation.com/how-did-cockroaches-survive-the-asteroid-that-led-to-the-extinction-of-dinosaurs-177118)
On a more practical front, it's now possible for you to understand what pigs are talking about. “There's a lot of communication happening through pig sounds, if you know what to listen for. A team of researchers has come up with a translator of sorts for pigs. It's a computer algorithm that interprets all those different pig grunts as emotions.”
See, they've recorded around seventy-five hundred sounds from pigs, tracing their life experiences from birth through death. The team correlated the different calls with the pigs' activities and body language.” They now have what amounts to a pig dictionary.
“The animals had positive emotions when nursing, reuniting with family, cuddling with litter mates and running freely. Negative emotions came from situations involving social isolation, fights, castration and waiting in a slaughterhouse.” Scientists claim they can translate ninety-two percent of the calls to the correct emotion. (https://www.cnet.com/science/biology/researchers-figure-out-how-to-interpret-pig-grunts-as-pig-emotions/)
Finally, sometimes animals can be found where you least expect them. “A New Hampshire woman said her family was faced with an unusual problem when a black bear ended up trapped on their enclosed porch, eating the porch, as a matter of fact.” The woman's husband climbed out a window and opened the door to the mud room from the outside so the bear could escape. Now that's a husband's ultimate “yes dear.” (https://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2022/03/28/bear-mud-room-Grafton-New-Hampshire/3071648490193/)
A mother duck showed some obvious good sense when she wanted to hatch her eggs. She went to a hospital maternity ward. “A Florida hospital's labor and delivery center welcomed an unusual delivery when a mother duck hatched her eggs in the facility's courtyard.”
Doctors and nurses said: “"We're still 'quacking' up over this sweet story. We'll see you in six weeks for your follow-up." (https://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2022/03/25/ducklings-harched-maternity-ward-Baptist-Medical-Center-Beaches-Jacksonville-Beach-Florida/4851648238798/)
Meanwhile, in the Michigan town of Lapeer (between Flint and Port Huron), a woman found a kangaroo in her driveway. Her call to 911 was odd, to say the least. "I say I'm located in southern Lapeer County and there is a pause and she responds 'Ma'am, are you sure it's a kangaroo?' and I said, 'Yes, I'm sure.'" (https://www.arcamax.com/entertainment/weirdnews/s-2653940)
The happy ending is that the owner of the kangaroo came over and retrieved his pet. The animal's name is Douglas. The woman noted: “Even my own husband found the story hard to believe. Now I'm trying to convince him not to get another dog but a kangaroo.”
Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.