January 23, 2014

A large male bison in Yellowstone     Photo: BradWolfe/Thinkstock

Biobullets Not Allowed on Bison

Yellowstone ranchers lose bid to shoot bison with vaccination

The herds of some 4,500 bison that roam Yellowstone National Park are the only remaining purebred bison in the country, but they are infected. Local ranchers were hoping to remotely vaccinate the bison, which are carrying a disease that can be transferred to cattle, using biobullets.

On Tuesday, the federal government turned down the ranchers’ nearly $9 million proposal, emphasizing that the project would cost too much and could ultimately affect the wild nature of the bison.

Environmental and wildlife advocacy groups are applauding Yellowstone’s decision in favor of letting the bison remain wild. "It was a mismanagement scheme based on a livestock model. We don't vaccinate skunks against rabies or mosquitoes against West Nile virus," says Stephany Seay of the Buffalo Field Campaign.

On the other side of the argument, ranchers are ultimately concerned that the bison will pass on brucellosis, a disease that can cause miscarriages in cattle and bison, to their livestock.

Neighboring states, such as Montana, have already approved the use of biobullets to protect their herds. Montana was quick to use these small absorbable projectiles to maintain its brucellous-free certification, which in turn protects the market value of cattle.

The use of biobullets and vaccinating the bison could cut the disease rate by 35 percent during the next 30 years.

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How do scientists explain this guy's pooping habits?     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sloth Mysteries Revealed

Relationship with moths plays a role in bathroom habits

Sloths hold a special place in our hearts. They’re adorably lazy, always remember to eat their greens, and are Kristen Bell’s spirit animal. And now, research is revealing some interesting facts about this slow species.

The first discovery has to do with why three-toed sloths descend from their homes high in the tree-tops to go to the bathroom on the forest floor. Once every three weeks, the animals risk their lives to complete the journey, expending so much energy getting to ground level that they had researchers perplexed.

It seems a relationship with pyralid moths plays a role. The moths deposit their eggs in the fresh sloth dung, simultaneously (and somewhat mysteriously) adding nitrogen to the sloth’s fur, according to National Geographic.

The nitrogen plays a role in a second finding: three-toed sloths host a variety of fungi in their fur. Chemicals isolated from the fungi have been found to actively fight parasites that cause malaria, Chagas disease, and can even ward off breast cancer cells in humans, says Popular Science

No more baths for these baby sloths:

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The new Araguaian river dolphin bears close relation to the Amazon river dolphin, pictured above.     Photo: Kevin Schafer/Getty Images

New River Dolphin Species Discovered

First such discovery since World War I

Researchers working in Brazil have discovered a new species of river dolphin in the Araguaia river basin, according to the journal PLOS ONE.

Why does this matter? Because last time scientists identified a new species of river dolphin, World War I raged and American women still couldn't vote.

Only five known species of river dolphins exist in the world, and they represent some of the world's rarest creatures. Scientists estimate that about 1,000 of the Araguaia dolphins live in the river basin, making them critically endangered.

According to the study, the Araguaia dolphins diverged from the more well-known Amazon river dolphin more than two million years ago, when researchers believe the Araguaia-Tocantins basin separated from the Amazon basin.

The scientists designate the new dolphins as having "high taxonomic distinctness and conservation value" but having "little protection." For starters, the species' low population affords little genetic diversity to combat disease and other environmental risks.

But humans also harm the creatures, with agricultural activities and hydroelectric dams damaging their already-limited environment. Plus, the Araguaian dolphins enjoy fish and often rob the nets of fishermen, who respond by shooting them.

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Most treadmill runners are trying to escape cold weather, not set world records.     Photo: Brandon Wiggins/Wikimedia

Treadmill World Record Broken

35-year-old runs 77.07 miles in 12 Hours

Most of us leave the gym with just a sweaty towel, but a 35-year-old hedge fund analyst left a gym in Edgewater, New Jersey, this month with a world record.

Guinness World Records recently verified that Chris Solarz set a new world record for the farthest distance run on a treadmill in 12 hours. Solarz started at 7 a.m. on January 18, and at 7 p.m., he was exactly where he started—but had run 77.07 miles. By averaging nine minutes and 20 seconds per mile, Solarz eclipsed the previous record, 76.68 miles, with seven minutes to spare.

To prepare for this feat, Solarz logged 150-mile weeks for two months. During the race, he ingested bananas, hummus wraps, granola bars, and sports drinks—more than 5,000 calories total.

"This was the most physically demanding of all my six Guinness records," Solarz told CNBC. "I knew that the record was just within my reach, but I would need to get in the best shape of my life."

In addition to the treadmill record, Solarz holds two records for marathon running, one for climbing 33,000 feet in fewer than 12 hours, one for hitting all 468 stops on the New York City subway in less than 23 hours, and another for drinking at 250 bars in in day.

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Injera, the spongy flatbread used scoop up stew at Ethiopian restaurants is made from ground teff seeds.     Photo: Getty Images

Ethiopia's Super Food

Is teff the new quinoa?

Ethiopia is not exactly known for it's abundance of food—it’s one of the world's poorest countries. But each year, 6.3 million farmers cultivate teff, an ancient, nutrient-rich grain that might give quinoa a run for its money.

Teff's tiny seeds are packed with iron, calcium, protein, and amino acids—and they're naturally gluten-free.

And as western consumers begin to notice teff's super-food properties, the Ethiopian government hopes to double teff production by 2015, according to the Guardian. Ethiopia's farmers also hope to benefit from its newfound popularity.

"Teff is second nature to an Ethiopian; so who better to supply it?" says Sophie Kebede, a London-based business owner specializing in teff. "We have this sought after grain being grown in the country, so why can't an Ethiopian farmer benefit from this?"

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The Today Show's Matt Lauer introduces the world to the new uniforms.     Photo: Via NBC/Twitter

Olympic Uniforms Are Ugly

Designed by Ralph Lauren for the opening ceremony

The U.S. Olympic team's uniforms for the opening ceremonies at Sochi were unveiled Thursday on the Today Show with Matt Lauer and the reactions have been, ah, not so terrific.

The uniforms, designed by Ralph Lauren, were modeled on the show by figure skater Evan Lysacek, hockey player Julie Chu, ice dancers Charlie White and Meryl Davis, and freestyle skiers Hannah Kearney and Alex Schlopy.

The Outside staff had this to say about them.

"It looks like the Oompa-lympics. Don't eat the candy." — Whitney James, Assistant Editor 

"They look like a cross between Christmas ornaments and elves." — Nick Kelley, Online Editorial Assistant

"Betsy Ross meets Goodwill sweaters." – Eric Brown, Online Intern

"Is this the Winter Olympics or an international ugly sweater party?" — Stephen Kasica, Online Editorial Assistant

"Oh dear. Those sweater-blazers (?) are a little busy." — Whitney Dreier, Associate Online Editor

"They're an embarrassment." — Scott Rosenfield, Associate Online Managing Editor 

Fellow Olypmpic athlete Lolo Jones even weighed in on the outfits.

Oof. At least they're made in America this year, right?

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