WTF Fun Fact 13663 – Dog Longevity Drug

For dog lovers, the prospect of a dog longevity drug sounds fantastic. Who doesn’t want their furry friends to live longer, healthier lives?

Recent developments from a San Francisco-based biotech company, Loyal, bring this dream closer to reality. They’ve announced an anti-aging drug for dogs that has cleared its first hurdle for FDA approval. This marks a pivotal moment in veterinary medicine, as it’s the first time the FDA has shown openness to endorsing longevity drugs for pets.

Dog Longevity Drug Holds Promise of Longer Lives for Man’s Best Friend

Loyal’s groundbreaking drug, LOY-001, targets a growth and metabolism hormone called IGF-1. This hormone, linked with size, appears in higher levels in larger dogs and lower in smaller ones. Studies on other species suggest inhibiting IGF-1 can increase lifespans. LOY-001 is aimed at healthy dogs over seven years old and weighing more than 40 pounds. Administered every three to six months by a vet, it holds the potential to slow down the aging process in dogs.

Parallel to this, Loyal is developing LOY-003, a daily pill form of the treatment. CEO Celine Halioua emphasizes that they’re not creating immortal dogs. The goal is to slow their rate of aging, thus maintaining a healthier state for a longer period.

As promising as these developments are, they raise significant ethical questions, particularly concerning the quality of extended life for these animals. Veterinarian Kate Creevy, involved in a similar trial for an anti-aging drug called rapamycin, stresses the importance of ensuring that any extended lifespan is accompanied by good health and quality of life.

Moreover, the human manipulation of dogs through selective breeding, which may have contributed to accelerated aging in larger breeds, underlines the ethical complexities in altering canine aging processes.

Trials and the Future of Canine Health

Loyal plans to start a large clinical trial for LOY-001 with around 1,000 large and giant dogs by either 2024 or 2025. The ultimate aim is to have a market-ready product by 2026. This trial not only represents a major step in veterinary medicine but also opens doors to understanding aging in more complex organisms like humans.

The success of Loyal’s drug could potentially revolutionize how we approach canine health and aging. It offers a glimpse into a future where our canine companions can enjoy longer, healthier lives alongside us. However, it’s crucial to balance this scientific advancement with ethical considerations to ensure the well-being of these beloved animals.

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Source: “A New Drug That Could Extend Dogs’ Lives Inches Closer to Approval” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 13645 – Electric Eels & Electroporation

Researchers at Nagoya University in Japan have found that electric eels, known for their ability to generate powerful electric shocks, can influence the genetic makeup of nearby organisms. This study sheds new light on the process of electroporation – a technique typically associated with laboratory settings.

Electroporation involves using an electric field to create temporary openings in cell membranes. This process allows molecules like DNA or proteins to enter cells. The research team hypothesized that the electric eels’ discharge could naturally induce this process in the environment.

Electric Eels – From Laboratory to Riverbanks

The team’s experiment involved exposing young fish larvae to a DNA solution marked with a glowing indicator. They then introduced an electric eel, which discharged electricity as it bit a feeder. The results were remarkable: about 5% of the larvae showed evidence of successful gene transfer.

“I always believed that electroporation might occur in nature,” says Assistant Professor Iida. “The electric eels in the Amazon could be natural power sources, causing genetic modifications in other organisms through environmental DNA and electric discharge.”

This discovery challenges the conventional understanding of electroporation as solely a man-made process. It opens up exciting possibilities for further exploration of electric fields’ natural impacts on living organisms.

Other studies have noted similar natural phenomena, where environmental electric fields like lightning can affect organisms such as nematodes and soil bacteria. This insight into electric eels’ role in gene transfer adds a new dimension to our understanding of natural genetic processes.

Professor Iida is enthusiastic about the future of this research area. “The natural world holds complexities that our current knowledge may not fully grasp. Discovering new biological phenomena based on unconventional ideas can lead to groundbreaking advancements in science,” he asserts.

Nature’s Electrifying Influence on Genetics

The Nagoya University study not only expands our understanding of electroporation but also highlights nature’s ingenious methods of genetic transfer.

Electric eels now emerge as potential agents of natural gene editing. This research paves the way for a deeper understanding of how electric fields, both man-made and natural, can influence life on Earth.

The findings from Nagoya University provide a striking example of how nature can mirror processes usually confined to controlled laboratory settings. The ability of electric eels to induce genetic changes in their environment opens up new avenues for understanding and potentially harnessing natural processes for scientific and medical breakthroughs.

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Source: “‘Shocking’ discovery: Electricity from electric eels may transfer genetic material to nearby animals” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13544 – What Darwin Ate

You might assume that Charles Darwin, the famed naturalist, was a vegetarian since he was so enamored with living creatures, but he was just the opposite – in fact, Darwin ate some of his discoveries.

During his journey on The Beagle, he indulged in an array of exotic meats – from puma, which he found “remarkably like veal in taste,” to armadillos and iguanas.

His curiosity even led him to taste the bladder contents of a giant tortoise. Darwin’s palate wasn’t just adventurous; it was scientific. He was known for eating specimens he was studying and trying to describe scientifically.

Modern Biologists Follow Suit

This gastronomic curiosity didn’t end with Darwin. Many modern scientists continue to eat their study subjects, either out of convenience (as with those researching edible plants and animals like trout or blueberries) or driven by sheer curiosity. From bluegill and sea urchin to more peculiar choices like beetles and cicadas, the range of their dietary experiments is vast.

Notably, Richard Wassersug, while conducting a study on the palatability of tadpoles in the 1970s, had graduate students (bribed with beer) taste but not swallow various tadpole species. This experiment, now impossible to conduct due to ethical restrictions, showed that easy-to-catch tadpoles often tasted worse. Wassersug himself described the taste of toad tadpoles as “astonishingly bitter.”

The Drive Behind Why Darwin Ate an Unusual Diet

The motivation behind these gastronomic explorations varies. Sometimes it’s an academic pursuit, as in Wassersug’s study. Other times, it’s a quest to manage invasive species, turning them from pests into menu items. Sarah Treanor Bois, during her Ph.D. research on invasive plants, attended a cook-off featuring dishes made from invasive species like nutria and bullfrog legs. Eating invasives is not just about satiating curiosity but also about drawing attention to ecological problems.

However, the most common reason cited for these unusual diets is pure scientific curiosity. Robert Thorson, a geologist, once tasted 30,000-year-old meat from a giant steppe bison found in permafrost. His verdict? It was stringy and flavorless, with a “pungent rankness.”

Scientists’ Gastronomic Adventures

Why are scientists so inclined towards tasting their research subjects? Mark Siddall, a leech expert, believes it’s about familiarity. Just as an omnivore eats chicken, beef, or pork, scientists consume what they’re familiar with. To a biologist, an organism they’ve studied extensively may not seem so different from regular food. Richard Wassersug views it as a part of being a naturalist. To fully understand and connect with nature, one must engage all senses, including taste.

It’s not just about curiosity but also about a sense of community and perhaps a bit of competitiveness among scientists. The stories of Darwin and others set a precedent, and many modern scientists feel compelled to follow in their footsteps, driven by peer or ‘beer’ pressure.

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Source: “Dining Like Darwin: When Scientists Swallow Their Subjects” — NPR

WTF Fun Fact 13543 – Final Days of the Pony Express

In the 1860s, the Pony Express emerged as a revolutionary mail service, connecting the East and West coasts of the United States.

This legendary system, although short-lived, played a crucial role in American history, especially during its turbulent Civil War era. Its establishment was a response to the dire need for faster communication across the vast expanse of the country.

Challenges and Downfall

The demise of the Pony Express was a result of several factors, not just the advent of the transcontinental telegraph. Key among these was the deteriorating financial state of its parent company, Russell, Majors, and Waddell. This company had already been financially strained due to various misfortunes, including the loss of a large oxen herd and the impact of the Pyramid Lake War, which led to the destruction of many stations and the loss of essential resources.

The operating costs of the Pony Express were substantial. It needed about $1,000 daily to function, but its income fell short. Despite an initial charge of $5 per ounce for mail (later reduced to $1), the service was too expensive for the general public, limiting its use to newspapers and businesses. The company’s total expenses amounted to $700,000 against receipts of about $500,000.

Internal conflicts within the company and external pressures further aggravated the situation. The arrest of William Russell on charges related to stolen government bonds was a significant blow. Alexander Majors’ preparation for bankruptcy sent shockwaves through the business community, undermining confidence in the company.

Transition and Closure of the Pony Express

Despite these challenges, the Pony Express continued to operate, albeit at a loss. The government attempted to salvage the situation by merging the Pony Express with the Butterfield Overland Mail Company, but the effort was short-lived. The completion of the transcontinental telegraph line in October 1861 made the Pony Express obsolete, leading to its closure two days after the telegraph’s completion.

In its 18 months of operation, the Pony Express completed 308 runs, covering around 616,000 miles. This distance is equivalent to circling the Earth over 30 times. It successfully delivered 34,753 letters, losing only one mail bag throughout its operation. The primary issue, however, remained its financial non-viability.

Historical Significance

Despite its financial failure, the Pony Express is remembered for its significant impact. It was a testament to the courage, determination, and ingenuity of its founders and workers. The service played a vital role in keeping California and the West connected to the rest of the country, especially as the nation was on the brink of war. It filled an urgent need of its time and etched its name in the annals of American history.

The Pony Express’s closure marked the end of an adventurous and bold experiment in American communication history. It paved the way for more sustainable and technologically advanced means of communication, signifying the nation’s progress. Yet, the story of the Pony Express continues to captivate the imagination of many, symbolizing the relentless American spirit.

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Source: “Pony Express – Final Days” — Encyclopedia Britannica

WTF Fun Fact 13542 – The Rooster’s Soundproofing

Roosters are known for their loud crowing, but what contributes to a rooster’s soundproofing so it doesn’t go deaf from its own noise?

Researchers from the University of Antwerp and the University of Ghent dove into this mystery, revealing some surprising adaptations that protect these birds from self-induced hearing loss.

Crowing Loudness: More Than Just a Wake-Up Call

The research team embarked on a mission to determine the actual loudness of a rooster’s crow. They equipped sample roosters with tiny microphones near their ears to measure the intensity of the sound. Astonishingly, they discovered that the crowing averages over 100 decibels.

To put this in perspective, that’s comparable to the noise produced by a running chainsaw.

Continuous exposure to such noise levels typically leads to deafness in humans, caused by irreversible damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear. Since chickens, including roosters, possess similar hair cells, the team was curious about why these birds don’t suffer hearing damage.

A Built-In Ear-Plug Mechanism for the Rooster’s Soundproofing

The key to this avian riddle lies in the rooster’s unique anatomical structure. Through micro-computerized tomography scans of the birds’ skulls, the researchers uncovered two crucial adaptations.

First, they found that a portion of the rooster’s eardrum is covered by soft tissue, significantly dampening incoming noise. More impressively, when a rooster throws its head back to crow, another piece of material acts as a natural ear-plug, covering the ear canal completely.

This ingenious mechanism functions much like a person blocking their ears to muffle sound, providing the rooster with a form of self-protection against its own deafening calls.

Another intriguing aspect of avian biology plays a role here. Unlike humans, birds possess the ability to regenerate damaged hair cells in their ears. This regenerative capability provides an additional layer of defense against potential hearing damage.

But what about the hens and chicks that are within earshot of the male’s powerful crowing? While not explicitly covered in the research, it’s commonly observed that roosters often choose elevated and distant spots for crowing. This behavior ensures maximum sound reach while maintaining a safe distance from the hens and chicks, thereby reducing their exposure to harmful noise levels.

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Source: “Why roosters don’t go deaf from their own loud crowing” — Phys.org

WTF Fun Fact 13541 – NYC’s Rat Czar


New York City has taken a significant step forward in its war against rodents by appointing Kathleen Corradi as the city’s first-ever “rat czar.”

This initiative is a part of Mayor Eric Adams’ administration’s efforts to address a major quality-of-life and health challenge. Corradi’s role involves coordinating rat reduction efforts across city government agencies, community organizations, and the private sector.

Harlem Rat Mitigation Zone and Funding

As part of this initiative, Mayor Adams also announced the Harlem Rat Mitigation Zone, backed by a $3.5 million investment for Fiscal Year 2023. This investment aims to expand and accelerate rat reduction efforts across Harlem, encompassing Community Boards 9, 10, and 11. The funding will assist in employing new staff, purchasing equipment, and implementing innovative rat mitigation techniques.

Corradi’s strategic plan to combat the rat crisis includes cutting off rats’ food sources and deploying new technologies for detection and extermination. These efforts will harness the expertise of various city agencies like the Department of Health, Parks and Recreation, Housing Authority, Department of Education, Sanitation, and Small Business Services.

The rat mitigation strategy is more than just a quality-of-life issue. It symbolizes the fight against systemic challenges that have long affected New Yorkers, especially in low-income communities and communities of color. The plan aims to provide equitable quality of life experiences for all New Yorkers.

Collaborative Approach and Public Involvement

The strategy emphasizes the importance of each New Yorker playing their part in creating a rat-free city. This includes keeping homes clean, securing trash, destroying potential rat habitats, and adhering to common-sense tips. The city plans to offer Harlem-specific rat academies, teaching residents how to prevent rat infestations on their properties.

In support of the initiative, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City received a donation of over 1,000 Tomcat rodent control products. These will be used across various city locations, aiding the fight against rodent infestations.

Long-Term Vision for the Rat Czar

The appointment of a rat czar marks a new era in New York City’s approach to pest control. The long-term goal is to produce a cleaner, more livable city for future generations. This effort represents a bold and creative approach to tackle one of the city’s most persistent problems.

Kathleen Corradi brings a wealth of experience in community engagement, program development, and facility operations. Her background in science and expertise in rodent mitigation positions her to lead this challenging and crucial initiative effectively.

The Adams administration has shown its commitment to addressing quality-of-life issues through various initiatives, including the ‘Get Stuff Clean’ program. The rat czar appointment further emphasizes this commitment, aiming to make New York City a cleaner and healthier place for its residents.

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Source: “Mayor Adams Anoints Kathleen Corradi as NYC’s First-Ever ‘Rat Czar'” — NYC.gov

WTF Fun Fact 13540 – Humans and Giraffes

The anatomy of humans and giraffes shares a surprising similarity. Despite stark differences in appearance and habitat, both species possess exactly seven cervical vertebrae.

This fact offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of vertebrate evolution. It highlights how different species can evolve distinct traits while maintaining a fundamental structural blueprint.

The Seven Vertebrae Similarity

In humans, the seven cervical vertebrae are compact and support head movements like nodding and turning. Each human vertebra is relatively small, with the first two, the atlas and axis, specialized for head rotation. These vertebrae are critical for protecting the spinal cord and supporting the skull.

Giraffes, renowned for their long necks, also have seven cervical vertebrae, but each one is elongated, reaching lengths up to ten inches. This elongation facilitates their tall stature, which is essential for foraging in tall trees. Despite their length, giraffe neck vertebrae maintain flexibility, crucial for their survival in the wild.

The similarity in the number of cervical vertebrae across mammals, including humans and giraffes, suggests an evolutionary blueprint conserved over millions of years. This consistency indicates an optimal balance of neck flexibility and structural support vital across various habitats and lifestyles.

The adaptation in giraffes, where their cervical vertebrae are elongated, showcases evolution’s ability to modify certain traits to meet environmental demands while keeping the overall vertebral count unchanged.

Medical and Scientific Implications for Humans and Giraffes

Studying giraffes can offer insights into human spinal health. Understanding the mechanics of giraffe vertebrae under large physical stress could lead to better treatments and preventive measures for human spinal conditions.

Research into giraffe anatomy can contribute to veterinary sciences, offering better care and conservation strategies for these unique animals. It also adds to our understanding of vertebrate evolution and adaptation.

Ecological and Conservation Aspects

The anatomical similarities between humans and giraffes reflect the interconnectedness of the animal kingdom. This comparison underscores the importance of biodiversity and the need to understand and protect various species, each contributing uniquely to our understanding of life on Earth.

Recognizing these anatomical wonders highlights the importance of conservation efforts, especially for giraffes, which face habitat loss and declining populations in the wild.

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Source: “One Good Fact” — Encyclopedia Britannica

WTF Fun Fact 13628 – Horse on a Plane

Did you hear the one about a horse on a plane? It’s no joke – a horse really got loose on an airplane! (But be prepared for a sad ending here.)

No Horsing Around as Horse on a Plane Gets Loose

The skies can present unpredictable challenges, as evidenced by a recent incident involving a Boeing 747 flight from New York JFK to Liege, Belgium. Turbulence is an expected part of air travel. But rarely does it lead to such dramatic events as it did on November 9. That’s when a horse transported in the cargo hold broke loose, leading to an emergency turnaround and a tragic outcome.

A Flight Gone Astray

Mid-flight, passengers and crew expected a smooth journey. But the animal cargo on this particular Boeing 747 faced a terrifying ordeal. The flight, operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic, encountered unexpected turbulence that spooked one of the fifteen horses aboard.

The creature’s panic was so extreme it attempted to leap over its stall’s barrier. If you’re sensitive to animal stories that end badly, it’s best to stop reading here.

Flight Grooms and Equine Safety

Sadly, the horse’s desperate attempt to escape its confinement resulted in severe injuries. They were so bad that upon an emergency landing back at JFK, the decision was made to euthanize the animal.

Transporting horses by air is a delicate process, routinely executed with precision and care. Highly trained flight grooms are on board to manage the animals’ well-being. They ensure the animals are fed, watered, and comforted throughout the journey.

These animals are not just cargo; they are often prized performers or breeders, valued both emotionally and financially. Yet, despite the meticulous planning and precautions, nature’s unpredictability can overturn even the most thorough preparations.

However, when a horse, which can weigh as much as 1,000 pounds, becomes trapped in a position that prevents it from standing or lying down comfortably, the groom’s job transforms from caregiver to crisis manager. In this recent incident, the grooms faced an impossible task. There was no way to calm a terrified, trapped animal thousands of feet in the air.

Lessons Learned and Moving Forward

Each incident, as regrettable as it may be, provides valuable lessons for future animal transport. Airlines, charter companies, and animal handlers continually refine their protocols to ensure that such events are rare.

The incident is a stark reminder of the complexities of combining animal transportation with commercial flight.

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Source: “Plane turns back to JFK after horse escapes on board” — CNN

WTF Fun Fact 13627 – Cheetahs Meow

Cheetahs meow; the don’t roar. That’s right – one of the fastest land animals, the cheetah, breaks the roaring stereotype and communicates in a way that might seem more familiar to domestic cat owners.

Why Cheetahs Meow

The reason behind cheetahs’ unique vocal traits lies in their anatomy. The cheetah’s voicebox is structured differently than that of roaring big cats. It lacks the special two-piece hyoid bone that allows other big cats to roar. Instead, their vocal structure is more similar to that of smaller felines, which enables a wide range of high-pitched calls, including the meow.

Cheetahs use their voices to communicate with each other for various reasons. Mothers chirp to call their cubs, siblings purr during grooming as a sign of contentment, and meows or yowls can signal distress or announce presence. These vocal cues play a vital role in the social lives of these animals, particularly because they are often solitary creatures.

The Cheetah’s Conversation: Beyond the Meow

Cheetahs, known for their breathtaking speed, exhibit a range of vocal behaviors that align more closely with domesticated felines than their larger, more ferocious relatives in the wild. These vocalizations are not just limited to the meows and purrs commonly associated with smaller cats but encompass a spectrum of sounds, each serving a unique purpose in the cheetah’s life.

Maternal Melodies

The bond between a cheetah mother and her cubs is strengthened through sound. A mother’s chirp can often be heard when she’s calling her cubs. These high-pitched chirps can travel long distances, ensuring that even the most wayward cub can hear her call. It’s a sound that’s vital for survival, as cheetah cubs are vulnerable to predators and can easily stray.

Alarming Alerts

When danger looms or a threat is near, cheetahs let out a series of high-pitched barks. This alarm call is a stark contrast to their otherwise silent hunting approach. It’s a cheetah’s way of signaling other cheetahs—and sometimes even different species—to be on alert.

Contentment Cues

The cheetah’s purr, much like that of a house cat, indicates contentment. When cheetahs groom each other or rest together after a successful hunt, their purring fosters social bonds. This social grooming, or allogrooming, helps to establish and maintain alliances within groups.

The Silent Hunt

Cheetahs, while on the hunt, are virtually silent. Their stealth and speed negate the need for vocal coordination in chasing down prey. It’s after the chase, successful or not, that vocal communications resume, reaffirming social bonds or signaling a regrouping.

Post-Hunt Chatter

After a hunt, cheetahs may emit a series of moans, especially if the hunt was unsuccessful. These moans may serve as a form of stress relief or as a signal to other cheetahs that a hunt has concluded.

Survival Strategies

A roaring big cat can be heard for miles, which is useful for declaring territory but not for a predominantly solitary animal that relies on surprise and agility. Cheetahs, therefore, evolved a communication system that is efficient for short-distance social interactions without compromising their stealth.

Conservation Through Communication

Interpreting the nuances of cheetah vocalizations contributes to conservation strategies. For example, understanding the stress calls can indicate environmental or human disturbances affecting cheetah populations. Conservationists can use this knowledge to mitigate threats and create more effective management plans for protected areas.

The fact that cheetahs meow is a fascinating reminder of their uniqueness in the big cat family. It’s a feature that not only sets them apart but also aligns them closer to the domestic cats we share our homes with.

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Source: “Cheetahs Can’t Roar, They Meow Instead” — Tree Hugger