Death by Hantavirus in Saskatchewan

One person has died in Saskatchewan from a Hantavirus infection. It’s a severe, flu-like illness that is spread by rodents. In Saskatchewan, deer mice are the usual culprits. People can breathe it in if they disturb, i.e. sweep up, mouse droppings.

I would read this right after I cleaned out the dustiest corner of my basement.

Hantavirus was first noticed around the arid “four corners” area of the U.S. It’s one of those emerging diseases that we really don’t want to allow to get going.

Short-tailed, tubular grey rodent (small)

LotStreetWiz saw a small rodent running across his path while out on one of his runs. It had a short tail and looked greyish. It seemed to have a tubular body rather than a mouse-like hump. We’re not sure what it was. Perhaps one of these:

rodents of New York

rodents of New York


One day I shall burst forth…

more funny pictures

Albino squirrel is seen in Toronto

squirrel, albino squirrelAlbino animals have a genetic inability to produce pigment molecules such as melanin and carotene. As a result, they are wholly or partially white. And they are generally at a disadvantage when it comes to camouflage. Nevertheless, the can survive. (The image at left is an albino squirrel, photographed in the U.S. by Ian Vargas.)

Glendon Mellow at The Flying Trilobite tells us that there’s a white squirrel living in Trinity-Bellwoods Park in Toronto. It’s an albino. Visit his blog for pictures that he took.
white, non-albino squirrel
According to the Urban Decoder, albino squirrels have been seen around the park since about 1985. Someone else has reported an albino squirrel at Woodbine & Danforth in Toronto. The image at right is a white, non-albino squirrel.

Please look at the Wikipedia entry for “squirrel” for information about colonies of albino squirrels.

Plague of voles in Spain

Mild winter and a fruitful spring seem to have brought a plague of voles to Spain. Hundreds of millions of moles are munching their way through the crops. There are so many that you can smell them. The government of Castille-Leon has started to burn harvested fields in hopes of roasting some of the mouse-like rodents. Several methods are being tried to kill them, including driving them with ultrasonic sound. Maybe they should get more cats, too.

Here’s some vole info.

Experiments in the biochemical basis of monogamy were conducted on voles.

This just in: house mice cause breast cancer

And I’m not kidding. It seems that a mouse mamillary tumor virus can jump from mice to humans and is found in 40% – 60% of human breast tumour cases in continental populations where mice are prevalent. Furthermore, genetic fragments of the mouse virus are found in as many as 15% of the U.S. population, presumably putting those people at greater risk for breast cancer.

This ecological and evolutionary perspective gives us a chance to fight, detect, and even prevent breast cancer. Deep thanks to The Examining Room of Dr. Charles for this one.

Mighty huntress

Chimpanzees in Fongoli, Senegal, make and use weapons. On 22 occasions, they were seen making or using spears.

The chimps used the spears to hunt other primates that were hiding out of reach in hollows of trees or branches. They were stabbing, not probing, possibly with the intent to injure prey so that it could not flee. They often smelled or licked the points, and then stabbed again. One chimpanzee was seen drawing a bushbaby out of a hollow with a spear.

In most cases, the Fongoli chimpanzees carried out four or more steps to manufacture spears for hunting.

In all but one of the cases, chimps broke off a living branch to make their tool. They would then trim the side branches and leaves.

In a number of cases, chimps also trimmed the ends of the branch and stripped it of bark. Some chimps also sharpened the tip of the tool with their teeth.

Young or female chimps were seen to fashion spears more often than adult males. Dr. Preuetz said,

“It’s classic in primates that when there is a new innovation, particularly in terms of tool use, the younger generations pick it up very quickly. The last ones to pick up are adults, mainly the males.”

Jill Pruetz and Paco Bertolani are publishing their findings in the Feb. 22 issue of Current Biology. You can read a Eureka alert here.

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