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Following up on my post three months ago about "Brazilian Invisible Fish" (also see the hoaxipedia article), it looks like scientists have engineered a real transparent fish. It's not quite an invisible fish, because the internal organs are visible, but it's close. The Telegraph reports:

[Dr. White] created the transparent fish by mating two existing breeds. Zebrafish have three pigments in their skin-reflective, black, and yellow. Dr White mated a breed that lacks reflective pigment, called "roy orbison", with one that lacks black pigment, called "nacre". The offspring had only yellow pigment in their skin, essentially looking clear. White named the new breed "casper", after the ghost.

If displayed in a store window, these transparent fish could probably draw as large a crowd as Reichenbach's invisible fish.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 11, 2008
Comments (4)
Nate Hill describes himself as a rogue taxidermist. He rummages through trash looking for dead animals: fish, dogs, cats, etc. Whatever he finds, he stitches together to form a bizarre new creature. From a recent AP article about him:

"I'm totally self-taught," he said. "To put it simply, what I do is cut up the animals, I sew them together in a different way, and then I submerge them in rubbing alcohol to preserve them."
He considers himself a member of a loosely defined group of "rogue taxidermists" who sidestep the traditional craft of taxidermy that aims to make lifelike replicas by preserving and stuffing animal skins. Along with the garbage cans of Chinatown, he said gets most of his animals from hunters, roadkill and taxidermists...
Hill said he felt more like a "folk" artist, given his lack of formal training in the arts. His intent, he said, is similar to "the guy who sits in his basement and has his train set, and he has all the people and he makes mountains ... that's the kind of thing that I want, but I want to make it with real flesh."

Nate is a star member of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists, which describes itself as: "a veritable rout dedicated to a shared mandate to advocate the showmanship of oddities; espouse the belief in natural adaptation and mutation; and encourage the desire to create displays of curiosity."

They have some interesting items for sale in their gift shop, such as a 2-headed chick, a skinned squirrel head fridge magnet, and a frog eating human toes.
Categories: Animals, Art
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 07, 2008
Comments (8)
A poster created by the German Green Party in Saxony and Hesse shows a cat that looks like Hitler with the tagline "you can't always recognize Nazis at first glance." The poster is meant to be a swipe at their extreme-right opponents.

But the poster has provoked criticism from an unlikely source. has given it a paws down, complaining that it shows a photoshopped Hitler-resembling cat, instead of a real one. They write:

the German Green Party have elected to use Kitlers in their latest electoral literature... It's a shame they had to use a Photoshopped Kitler - there are lots of resident furry Furhers on here who would have loved, I'm sure, to be a model for the Greens!

(via third party watch)
Categories: Animals, Politics
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 29, 2008
Comments (3)
About 100 sheep in Kington, Herefordshire spontaneously formed a ring in a field. Apparently they did this entirely on their own. A photographer was on hand who captured the strange scene.

The Daily Mail interviewed Dan Seaborne, farm manager at Herefordshire College of Technology, who speculated:

"I just think they've been fed with dry feed in that shape - you can get snacker feeders now and you tow behind a quad and it drops pellets on the ground. I would imagine that's what's happened... I think there was a chap in Yorkshire who spelled out 'will you marry me' to his girlfriend in sheep by putting feed down."

Or it could be a signal from extraterrestrials. wink
Categories: Animals, Crop Circles
Posted by Alex on Sat Jan 26, 2008
Comments (4)
The latest hoax website doing the rounds is I posted a page about it in the hoaxipedia.

The site purports to be a business that buys people's unwanted pets and resells them to research labs. Animal lovers, of course, are up in arms about this.

It's pretty obvious the site is a fake. Its over-the-top tone, if nothing else, gives it away:

You can enjoy their wonderful puppy / kitten stage and then reap a cash reward for having grown such a fine specimen. Start over with a new kitten every six months! Win, Win, and Win!

The business the site describes is perfectly legal, and there are companies that do it... for now, at least. Legislation has been proposed to make this kind of practice illegal, because the companies involved in this business seem to be a pretty shady bunch who do things like acquire pets from "free-to-good-home" ads, or even steal them out of people's backyards, and then resell them to labs. Kind of like the nineteenth-century "resurrection men" who used to steal corpses from graves to supply medical labs.

Apparently the larger goal of the site is to raise awareness of the stray-animal trade and to encourage people to contact their congressmen and encourage them to pass the Pet Safety and Protection Act. For which reason, the site falls into the genre of Modest-Proposal-style hoaxes (i.e. hoaxes that, like Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal, seek to shock people by seeming to advocate outrageous ideas).

Or whoever created the site could just be hoping to make a quick buck from the ads he's running on it.
Categories: Animals, Gross, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 08, 2008
Comments (1)
Stewart Bright lived with Marjorie Hervey, founder of the Hervey Foundation for Cats, a charity for injured cats. But when Bright and Hervey had a falling out, "Bright accused Ms Hervey of needlessly killing kittens and emailed about 600 supporters of the charity with an attached picture showing a hand with a gun pointing at a kitten with its front paws up as if surrendering."

That's pretty damning evidence, though not in the way Bright hoped. The picture was recently entered into evidence in court to prove that Bright was guilty of sending phoney emails, and also needed a psychiatric assessment.
Categories: Animals, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 05, 2007
Comments (6)
Here's a story I missed last month, even though it occurred right here in my backyard (figuratively speaking). took the lead in disseminating it, but versions of it, such as the one below (from the Seattle Times) appeared in many papers:

The San Diego Chargers moved their practice operations to Arizona during last week's devastating fires in Southern California, depriving special-teams coach Steve Crosby of a genuine Kodak moment back home.
As Jay Glazer reported at "Crosby received a call from his wife informing him that she walked outside to assess the damage and get this she found a hippopotamus in their swimming pool! A hippo!
"She called the authorities, who came and tranquilized the animal and removed it."
The Crosbys live near the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

Turns out there was no escaped hippo lounging in Steve Crosby's swimming pool. The San Diego Wild Animal Park doesn't even have hippos (though the San Diego Zoo does). Crosby claims that it was a locker-room joke that somehow got mistaken as real news.

He should have said there was a hippo in his pool eating a dwarf.
Categories: Animals, Journalism
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 29, 2007
Comments (1)
Ocean's 11 Conman
"It was one of the most audacious jewel thefts in history. In the middle of a crowded room, the famed Star of the Empress Sisi was stolen from its high-security case and replaced with a replica." (Thanks, Joe)

Turkey Mystery
Turkeys mysteriously show up in a town, and then wander away. "After entertaining residents of Harborview Drive on Thanksgiving morning, 15 turkeys departed - in single file - about 1 p.m. Thursday and have not been seen since, residents said Friday."

FEMA not the only agency to hold fake press conferences
Apparently Immigration and Customs Enforcement does it too. (Thanks, Gary)

The EPFX Quack Medicine Machine
Its inventor, William Nelson, claims it can diagnose and destroy disease. The FDA says it's a fraud. And it's just one example from the growing field of "energy medicine." (Thanks, Joe)
Categories: Animals, Health/Medicine, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 27, 2007
Comments (4)
The students of Ohio State are in mourning after a hawk killed Whitey, an albino squirrel that was widely known around the campus. A facebook page has been created to honor Whitey's memory. It currently has over 2100 members. The Lantern, Ohio State's student newspaper, reports:
Whitey's life was cut short at around 2 p.m. Friday when a hawk spotted his white fur coat from above and flew in for the kill. Several students walking through the South Oval witnessed the aftermath of the attack, the proud hawk looming over its prey...
After about five minutes, the hawk flew away with its talons fastened to the squirrel's lifeless body. The hawk made it as far as the other side of the South Oval when Whitey's weight forced the predator to land. In some nearby shrubbery the hawk sampled his prey before flying away.

This reminded me of the Killer Hawk of Chicago, which got Chicagoans upset back in 1927 because it was killing pigeons outside the Art Institute. A lot of people had doubts about whether the Killer Hawk of Chicago was actually real, or whether it was the invention of a paper trying to drum up sales. But it sounds like Ohio State's Whitey-killing Hawk is real.
Categories: Animals, Death
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 19, 2007
Comments (7)
A few days ago word got out that heiress Paris Hilton was trying to call attention to the problem of drunken elephants going on rampages in northeast India. Soon this story got picked up by the press. For instance, here's part of a report that appeared in India's The Hindu:

GUWAHATI: Conservationists on Tuesday hailed socialite Paris Hilton, who has been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, for trying to highlight the cause of binge-drinking elephants in the northeast.
Activists said a celebrity endorsement was sure to raise awareness of the plight of the pachyderms that get drunk on farmers’ homemade rice beer then go on a rampage. Last month, six wild elephants that broke into a farm in Meghalaya were electrocuted after discovering and drinking the potent brew then uprooting an electricity pole.
“There would have been more casualties if the villagers hadn’t chased them away. And four elephants died in a similar way three years ago. It is just so sad,” Ms. Hilton was quoted as saying in Tokyo.
“The elephants get drunk all the time. It is becoming really dangerous. We need to stop making alcohol available to them,” she said in a report posted on the World Entertainment News Network website. Her comments were picked up by websites and newspapers around the globe.
“I am indeed happy Hilton has taken note of recent incidents of wild elephants in northeast India going berserk after drinking homemade rice beer and getting killed,” Sangeeta Goswami, who heads animal rights group People for Animals, said.
“As part of her global elephant campaign, Hilton should, in fact, think of visiting this region literally infested with elephants.”

Much to everyone's disappointment, it turned out that Paris Hilton never made these comments about drunken elephants. The AP posted a brief retraction:

GAUHATI, India (AP) — In a Nov. 13 story, The Associated Press incorrectly reported that Paris Hilton was praised by conservationists for highlighting the problem of binge-drinking elephants in northeastern India. Lori Berk, a publicist for Hilton, said she never made any comments about helping drunken elephants in India.

It's not clear to me what the original source of the Hilton-elephant news was. One theory is that it originated from an article on, which would make it a case of satire mistaken as news. But the article seems to be dated after the story had already widely circulated.

Whoever dreamed it up should be commended, because I can think of no one better qualified to be the patron saint of drunken elephants than Paris Hilton.

But while on the subject of drunken elephants, I should note that the widely circulated notion that elephants like to get drunk by eating marula fruit rotting on the ground is not true. Recent scientific studies have shown that a) elephants don't actually like to eat the marula fruit when it is on the ground. They prefer the fruit still in the tree. And b) the fruit does not spend enough time in their gut to ferment there and make them drunk. But it is true that elephants will happily drink alcohol if it is offered to them. (There have been studies about that too.)

[Credit goes to Tah for posting this first in the forum.]
Categories: Animals, Celebrities
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 14, 2007
Comments (3)
Neil Steinberg, author of the definitive work on school pranks, advises would-be pranksters in the title of his book that they should, If At All Possible, Involve a Cow But I don't think Steinberg would approve of this prank at Wichita Falls High School. From the AP:
A dead cow was found hanging by a hoof from a Wichita Falls High School fence post, but police say the incident had nothing to do with the school's upcoming football game against local rival Rider High...
The Wichita Falls Independent School District initially believed the incident was connected to the rivalry between Old High and Rider, which are to play Friday.
"This is the very type of activity and behavior that antagonizes more behavior," spokeswoman Renae Murphy said. "We are disgusted with that whole behavior and that action with the cruelty to the animal."

Dead cows aren't funny. They're just disturbing and cruel.
Categories: Animals, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 08, 2007
Comments (7)
One of the things that's interested me with the recent flurry of articles about Elephants On Acid, is how the artists who illustrated the articles chose to depict an elephant on acid. So here's a small collection I've put together of artistic depictions of elephants on acid. The two popular options are either to show an angry-looking elephant, or a psychedelic one.

(left) from the cover of my book; (right) from an album by Tusko Fatale, a Virginia-based band.

(left) from the Daily Mail; (right) from the Daily Telegraph.

(left) from the New Scientist; (right) from the London Times

A sad-looking elephant from the Guardian:

This looks like it should be a picture of an elephant on acid, but it's actually the logo of the 2008 Republican National Convention to be help in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota.

And finally, here's the one published picture of an actual elephant on acid, that appeared on the front page of the Daily Oklahoman on August 4, 1962. There are other pictures of elephants on acid from the two elephant-lsd experiments that have been conducted, but they're all hidden away in an archive at UCLA, having been deemed too controversial for the public to see.

Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 01, 2007
Comments (4)
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