[May 10–May 16, 2021] Grumpy pups, a mystical mooer, and the spirit of Chernobyl—all round-up in this week’s weird news from Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Grumpy Dogs Better at Learning New Tricks
When labeling pet personalities, old stereotypes die hard with cranky cats vs. happy-go-lucky dogs, but all pets have their own unique personalities. If your dog is more grumpy than gleeful, we’ve got some great news—what they lack in spirit, they may make up for in smarts!
According to a new study out of Hungary, grumpy dogs are better learners than their cheery counterparts.
After noticing a difference in learning styles between submissive and dominant dogs, researcher Peter Pongracz, of Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, decided to do a deep dive into learning how dogs with different personalities interact with their owners.
Pongracz had dog owners fill out a questionnaire about their pet’s general mannerisms, ultimately categorizing the animals who were big on barking as stubborn about coming when called, protective of food, possessive, or snippy when disturbed as “grumpy.” In shelters, these pooches usually come with the label “needs a very special owner.”
After making this distinction, Prongracz observed how the dogs reacted when their favorite treat was placed behind a V-shaped fence where they could see it clearly. Naturally, the pups charged directly toward their tasty treat, only to find themselves frazzled when they discovered they’d need to go farther away and around the fence to get closer.
The key to this experiment was examining how the dogs reacted to this adjustment. While both types performed at the same level when figuring out how to get the treat on their own or with their owner’s guidance, the grumpy pups did significantly better when a stranger showed them the way.
The exact reasoning for this increased performance level remains to be discovered. Still, the study has received some criticism for not detailing any background information on the dog’s life or training history that contributes to their overall personalities and behaviors.
Maybe it’s like they say, dogs can’t have it all!
Three-Eyed Cow Looks Towards Future
A Welsh veterinarian doing routine TB-testing on cows at a farm in Pwllhei, Gwynedd, had a “holy cow” moment she noticed a third eye on a four-month-old calf.
Malan Hughes, 28, has worked on over 3,000 cows in her career thus far but has never seen anything quite as eye-opening as looking at the calf’s forehead only to find herself gazing directly into an extra eyeball.
“Vets tend to see all sorts of things—cyclops lambs and animals born with two heads—but I have never seen anything like this before,” said Hughes.
The eye-nomally is complete with lids and lashes, and even some sort of lubricant keeping it moist, but it is unclear if it does anything more than look cool. The extra peeper doesn’t seem to be bothering the calf, but there is no way to tell if it’s causing triple vision—or looking into the future.
As for what the future holds for the mooing mystic, Hughes says the calf will live a normal life and be treated with routine veterinary care.
— Malan Hughes 👩🏼⚕️ (@MalanHughes) May 10, 2021
Spirit of Chernobyl Seized by Ukraine
A group of adventurous alcohol purveyors’ spirits were squashed this week when the Ukrainian government seized 1,500 bottles of liquor produced in Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone.
The Chernobyl Spirit Company has been working tirelessly to release an 80-proof spirit distilled from apple crops grown in the 1,000 square mile area around the infamous nuclear power plant. It seems the Ukrainian Security Services had other plans, launching an investigation into the brand that resulted in their first batch being seized by Kyiv City Prosecutors.
The company was set to start selling ATOMIK Apple Spirit this spring after the pandemic delayed its original launch date, marking the first consumer product ever produced in the Exclusion Zone since the nuclear plant’s 1986 explosion.
With commercial agricultural activity banned in the Exclusion Zone, the scientists at the Chernobyl Spirit Company spent over three years researching the effects of radioactivity on the area’s crops and eventually created a raw grain vodka. After testing with slightly elevated radiation levels, the vodka was scrapped and transitioned into a distilled spirit similar to moonshine—the ATOMIK Apple Spirit, a drink no more radioactive than any other spirit.
The government’s reasoning for seizing the spirits doesn’t appear to stem from the radiation that has plagued the area since the disaster, but rather to do with taxes, with the government accusing the company of using counterfeit Ukrainian excise stamps, proving that the correct taxes were paid on the goods.
According to Jim Smith, a founding member of the Chernobyl Spirit Company and professor at the University of Portsmouth, the allegations don’t add up since the bottles seized were meant “for the UK market and are clearly labeled with valid UK excise stamps.”
Smith says he and his colleagues have “worked hard to set up a business to help bring jobs and investment to the Chernobyl-affected areas of Ukraine and to further support the community with 75 [percent] of any profits we make.”
The company’s attorney says this setback is a violation of Ukrainian law, but they believe “that the truth will win.”
Michigan State Botanists In It for the Slow Grow
A group of Michigan State University botany professors has gardened its way into history after successfully growing 142-year-old seeds discovered buried on campus grounds.
In 1879, Michigan State University botanist William James Beal snatched up over a thousand seeds from various local weed species, dispersing them into 20 bottles and burying them in secrecy. What began as an effort to give local farmers intel on how long local weed seeds could lay dormant ended up marking the beginning of one of the longest science experiments ever to take place.
Beal planned to unearth and plant the seeds from one bottle every five years to see if they would germinate, but after his passing in 1910, the new caretakers cut it down to every 10, then every 20, until eventually Frank Telewski took over in 2000.
The latest bottle was due to be dug up in 2020 but was postponed when the pandemic shut down the university. On April 15, Telewski finally set out on an early morning hunt for Beal’s buried bottles, bringing colleagues Marjorie Weber, David Lowry, Lars Brudvig, and Richard Lenski along for the search. Two hours into digging, the team realized they were about two feet east of where the map was leading them, but what’s two hours when it comes to 142 years of research?
Once they course-corrected and procured the goods, the real work began, and the seeds were planted and placed in a grow chamber.
On April 24, Lowry, an associate professor at the university, took a peek at the progress and saw two tiny leaves making their way out of the dirt. Only a few days later, 10 plants were sprouting up! Thus far, the star of the experiment has been Verbascum blattaria, a yellow-flowered herb that has successfully grown in each iteration since the ninth bottle was retrieved.
The team will continue changing environments to encourage the rest of the seeds to grow and plan on more burying more bottles in ecological research sites for long-term study.
While this new experiment is underway, Beal’s will be going strong until its planned end in 2100.
— Professor Jennifer T Edwards (@drjtedwards) May 13, 2021
Deep-Sea Angler Makes Way To California Coast
Beach-goers stumbled upon an unexpected find last Friday when a Pacific Football Fish mysteriously made its way from the deep-sea onto the shores of Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach, California.
Found washed up on Crystal Cove’s Marine Protected Area, the black-colored, sharp-toothed anglerfish was noticeably out of place in the sunny SoCal sand.
While Pacific Football Fish are not necessarily rare creatures, they are typically found 3,000 feet below sea level begging the question—how did this fish remain perfectly preserved all the way from the ocean floors to Orange County coastline?
According to a Facebook post from the Crystal Cove State Park, “to see an actual angler fish intact is very rare, and it is unknown how or why the fish ended up on the shore.”
We may not know the fish’s journey to the coast, but we do know that this 18-inch creature from the deep blue is a female, as male Football Fish only grow to be about an inch long! She also has a bioluminescent stalk coming out of her head, which is only found on females.
The body of this miraculous discovery is currently being held at the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, where it will be studied for research and education.
“Seeing this strange and fascinating fish is a testament to the diversity of marine life lurking below the water’s surface,” continued the Park’s post. “As scientists continue to learn more about these deep-sea creatures, it’s important to reflect on how much is still to be learned from our wonderful ocean.”
By Meghan Yani, contributor for Ripleys.com