WTF Fun Fact 13104 – Pandemic Influences on Animals

While the pandemic was a catastrophe for humans, many wild animal populations flourished without us around. Of course, this wasn’t always ideal for their ecosystems, but scientists are still trying to understand that. Nearly all researchers who were in the middle of field research on animal populations (or even those displayed in zoos and aquariums) are in the process of studying the precise nature of pandemic influences on animals.

The “anthropause”

Scientists have suggested that the period at the height of the pandemic be called the “anthropause.” That’s because at the height of the pandemic, humans weren’t around in many places to disturb animal populations.

Researchers are interested in studying this moment in time to see how wildlife adapted to our absence. The COVID pandemic provided a unique opportunity to see how the absence of things like noise, pollution from traffic, and tourism affect animal populations.

What were some pandemic influences on animals?

We don’t yet know the full effects of the pandemic and its “anthropause” on animals, since the world is only recently revving up again. But researchers can look at data from tracking devices, cameras, and sensors to see how things were different in 2020 and 2021.

Accoring to Science Magazing (cited below): “The International Bio-Logging Society, for example, is coordinating a large effort to assess how reduced vehicle, ship, and aircraft traffic is affecting animal behavior. More than 300 researchers have indicated they have relevant animal tracking data from 180 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, and sharks across almost 300 study populations from all continents and oceans.”

It’s data that one researcher called “a gold mine.”

But other scientists that had to halt their research during the pandemic need to completely rethink their approaches. The pandemic pause needs to be factored into any historical data that included the pandemic years.

What did wildlife do during the pandemic?

As for the data collected during the pandemic, scientists are seeing some interesting things. More animals wandered around in the daytime. Some are now less active than they were before the pandemic. Cities saw some rare animals wander into their limits.

It all leaves more questions than answers.

But some new studies have popped up in response to the lack of humans around wildlife. For example, animal experts are looking at the effects of a lack of tourism on the diet and health of animals that were once fed by human visitors.

In the end, it may help us figure out how to regulate tourism in order to best help vulnerable species.  WTF fun facts

Source: “The pandemic stilled human activity. What did this ‘anthropause’ mean for wildlife?” — Science

WTF Fun Fact 12757 – The Bahamas’ Underwater Statue

Have you ever wanted to see a famous statue but didn’t want to wait in line?

Well, how do you feel about going to the Bahamas to see it?

Ok, NOW, how do you feel about diving into the crystal clear ocean about 16 feet down to see it?

If you’re still thinking “this sounds great!” it might be time to book a trip to Nassau, Bahamas.

What, exactly, is the underwater statue “Ocean Atlas”?

According to Culture Trip (cited below): “You’ll find Ocean Atlas, a spectacular underwater sculpture by Jason deCaires Taylor, off the western coastline of New Providence, which has the largest population of any island in the Bahamas. It’s also where you’ll find the Bahamian capital, Nassau. Ocean Atlas is the world’s largest single underwater sculpture, and it doubles as a navigational aid, with a flag attached to the top poking above the water.”

The sculpture isn’t of the Greek god himself, but of a little girl carrying the weight of the ocean on her shoulders.

No mercy from Zeus

If you remember being taught about ancient Greek gods and goddesses, Atlas was a Titan – one of the deities who came before the ancient Greek gods. When the Titans tried to fight the gods, Atlas’ punishment from Zeus (who was, let’s face it, a real jerk) was being forced to hold up the heavens for eternity.

The statue is just a nod to the myth, and the subject is a local Bahamian girl. She can be viewed from just 16 feet beneath the clear water, so snorkeling or scuba diving will give you a great view of the piece which weighs 66 tons.

A sustainable underwater sculpture

The coolest thing about the “Ocean Atlas” is that it’s made from pH-neutral materials and does not damage the surrounding ocean environment (other than draw tourists). it was actually designed to draw divers away from more popular spots so the reefs and aquatic life could start to recover.

According to the artist’s website, the materials are stainless steel, pH-neutral cement, basalt and aggregates.

It’s just not an option to close some of those other sites since many tourists go to the Bahamas just to dive and see the reefs.

A whole new world

The VERY coolest thing about “Ocean Atlas” is that it is now breeding its own ecosystem as wildlife is attracted to it and it serves as an artificial reef that houses some coral (which is what gives reefs their color).

It’s also not super easy to get to, so you have to rent a charter boat and follow directions pretty closely in order to see her. In other words, humans have to behave responsibly around the statue so it’ll be there for the oceans and the people who live above them to enjoy.  WTF fun facts

Source: “How to See Ocean Atlas – the World’s Largest Underwater Statue” — Culture Trip

WTF Fun Fact 12548 – The Biltmore McDonald’s

The Vanderbilt family became the wealthiest people in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But by the third generation, they were doing more spending than saving (or working), and their fortunes soon vanished. One of their weaknesses came in the form of building wildly expensive real estate, including the Biltmore Estate.

The Biltmore is a French Renaissance-style chateau and the largest private home in America. George Vanderbilt commissioned it after he visited Asheville, North Carolina in 1888 and fell in love with the Blue Ridge Mountains. Construction began in 1889 and hosted Vanderbilt’s first guests on Christmas Eve, 1895.

Biltmore spans a stunning 175,000 square feet and was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt. It has The 250-rooms, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. Across the way, you’ll find 75 acres of gardens designed by the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

And just down the street, you can get a Big Mac.

That’s right. The Biltmore is now a bit of a tourist trap, and what was once a village housing the staff is now basically a strip mall for anyone who is less-than-impressed by the glamorous home itself (or, you know, can’t go a day without fast food).

When McDonald’s bought the space, the Biltmore Village Historic Resources Commission was less than pleased to see something so unglamorous taint the home and its surroundings. But what can you do?

Well, for starters, you can pretty much force McDonald’s to renovate their McBuildings into something more fitting of the atmosphere. After it was built in 2000, it was almost immediately renovated to become…a fancy McDonald’s.

According to Atlas Obscura,

“The Biltmore McDonald’s octagonal dining room features tables of red oak, wrought iron railings, and luminous chandeliers under a sweeping pressed-tin ceiling, with every wood feature boasting a handsome finish. A baby grand player piano sits in the corner, churning out disembodied tunes you might hear at a fanciful gala, while a gold-leaf mantled fireplace forms the base of a giant stone chimney. And while the food is sourced and prepared as it would be at any McDonald’s, the staff who makes it maintain a strict dress code of slacks and a bow-tie. It’s fast-food meets forced-fanciful.”

So if you like to slurp your milkshake in style, now you know where to go. –  WTF fun fact

Source: “Biltmore McDonald’s” — Atlas Obscura