To keep crows away from the Kremlin in the 1960s, there was a special division in the regiment that guarded the building. Nicknamed “crow chasers” they would shoo the birds from attics, close open windows, and generally try to keep crows out of the building.
Moscow is home to large populations of pigeons, jackdaws, and especially crows. The birds can transmit disease and perhaps worse, poop all over the Kremlin’s intricate and famous roofs. To keep the building clean it is easier to keep the crows away. But a specially-dedicate division of soldiers was not having much success.
In the 1980s they tried replacing the soldiers with pre-recorded falcon shrieks and screams. Crows are too smart for that, though, and quickly learned to ignore the noises. So the Kremlin’s guardians switched to live falcons (then hawks). Now, the Kremlin is guarded by northern goshawks – for them, crows are natural prey, while falcons mainly hunt rodents, not crows. The birds keep the Kremlin clean and disease-free.
In 1849, part of a fossilized arm bone belonging to an extinct giant turtle was found in a New Jersey streambed. It belonged to an Atlantochelys mortoni, who lived during the upper Cretaceous period, about 75 million years ago. From tip to tail it would have been ten feet (3 m) long! That’s larger than any living turtle species.
And in 2012, the other half of the arm bone was found by an amateur paleontologist in New Jersey. Which is especially amazing since the 1849 specimen was the first example of the genus and the species, and the older bone was also without a match of any kind.
Archaeologists worked with primatologists to re-examine wall-paintings of monkeys in a Minoan building buried in volcanic ash around 1600 BCE. at the site of Akrotiri, which is located on the Greek island of Thera in the Aegean Sea. No monkeys are known to have lived in Greece at the time. Most of the monkeys in the painting have been identified as olive baboons, which are native to Egypt, but one monkey, with distinctive fur and an S-shaped tail, was identified as a grey langur, a species that lives in Nepal, Bhutan, and the Indus Valley of India.
It was already known that the Minoans had contact with Egypt. And this wall mosaic hints at contacts with the Indus River Valley civilization, as well. Or perhaps it demonstrates the far-reaching and interconnected nature of the trade networks even in the Bronze Age.
New genetic research now suggests that when the ancient Inuits migrated from Siberia to North America they brought their dogs with them. Considered one of the toughest and strongest breeds, this ancient Siberian canine was so indispensable, the genetic research shows the Inuits used them exclusively. They did not even interbreed with the new dogs they found in North America. The new study showed that over 4,500 years, Inuit new dogs were and remained genetically distinct and physically different from the dogs who arrived earlier in North America.
Where the humans went they brought their dogs, so Inuit dogs rapidly dominated and spread eastward in the North American Arctic alongside their humans’ migration. Because the Inuit remained faithful to their sled dogs, the pre-existing native dogs were almost completely replaced.
This genetic distinction has been maintained through today, too. The study compared 922 Arctic dogs and wolves who lived over 4,500 years. Modern sled dogs, according to their genomes, are some of the last direct descendants of the breed the Inuit brought with them from Siberia.
Quetzalcoatlus, the largest known flying animal ever, was as tall as a giraffe. It flew over North America during the Late Cretaceous, about 100.5–66 million years ago. The name comes from the Mesoamerican feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl.
More than 40,000 years ago, Australia used to be home to many species of giant kangaroos. One, the
short-faced kangaroo, had a single-toed clawed foot (modern-day kangaroos have three toes), and weighed more than 260 pounds (118 kilograms, modern-day kangaroos reach only 200 lbs). And the short-faced kangaroo had a box-shaped head. A recent study of the short-faced kangaroo’s odd skull shape found that it was specifically adapted to eat
tough foods like mature leaves, stems, and branches when other food sources were scarce.
That makes the short-faced kangaroo very similar to the modern-day giant panda. They both have thick jaws, and specialized skulls, evolved for eating the toughest plants that other animals can’t.
When times are hard, the short-faced kangaroo and the giant panda both have a competitive edge.
Animals who live in polar waters or deep-sea waters tend to evolve into bigger animals than related species who live in shallower waters, in a phenomenon known as “polar gigantism.” Exactly why this happens is unknown.