Eat Like an Animal…and Lose Weight?

Wolves_KillEat like a pig for five days. Then eat like a bird for two. London’s latest diet craze is the “The Fast Diet” and it counsels a rotating regimen of eating whatever you want and eating nothing (or next to nothing).

As outlined in this New York Times article, The Fast Diet, by physician Michael Mosley and food/fashion writer Mimi Spencer,  is flying off bookshelves in the UK. It promises to have a similar popularity in the United States, where it has just launched.

Fecal Therapy: The “New” Cure that’s Old News to Veterinarians

The noses of New York Times readers were collectively wrinkling this week over a piece in the paper’s health section. According to research by a Dutch scientist published in the New England Journal of Medicine, something called fecal therapy cures patients of devastating—sometimes life-threatening—diarrhea, vomiting and fever. The intestinal upset is caused by rampaging bacterial infections.

Alas, fecal therapy is exactly what you’re thinking it is. The patients in question have usually taken a course of antibiotics, which along with killing some “bad” bacteria has also depleted much of the “good” bacteria in their guts. This has left them susceptible to another bacterial infection known as C. difficile, which can prove hard or impossible to treat with standard antibiotics. That’s where the feces come in.

To Save Wildlife, Call an Economist (and maybe Hillary Clinton)

Today I learned something disturbing: the United States is the second-largest destination market for smuggled wildlife products. That means that I live in a country with a high demand for poached rhino horns and elephant tusks. Bear organs and big cat skins. Animal bones, wild meat, monkeys, and rare birds.

Killing and transporting animals and their parts to consumers around the world is a criminal activity worth billions of dollars every year. According to the State Department, only the black markets for weapons and drugs are larger than the illegal wildlife trade. Ivory, they report, fetches nearly $1,000 per pound. At $30,000 per pound, rhinoceros horns are “literally worth their weight in gold.”

Boys Will Be Boys…Unless a Man’s Around?

Plano High School Football Team, 1900

It’s a story custom-made to scorch parental nerves: a teenage sex contest at an upscale high school that went on in secret for five years under the unsuspecting noses of the adults. The teens involved called it the “Fantasy Slut League.”

In this post, the Last Word on Nothing‘s Thomas Hayden tells the disturbing story of the adolescents’ competition and provides an intriguing (dare we say “zoobiquitous”?) approach to thinking about it.

The human side of the story took place at Piedmont High School in northern California. Hayden explains:

A Rainbow Diet That Sticks

If you’re a human being and eat too many carrots, your skin may turn a lovely shade of yellow-orange, from a build-up of pigments called carotenoids. Physicians call the condition “carotenemia.”





If you’re a sea otter who eats a steady diet of purple sea urchins, your teeth and even your bones may turn lavender, mauve, lilac, amethyst….stained that color by plum-crimson pigments in your preferred food. Veterinarians call it “echinochrome staining.” (This link has very cool pictures of what it looks like on otter teeth and skulls.)

Leave only footprints…or maybe dozens of them

Starfish have many tiny feet on their undersides that allow them to move across surfaces. Marine biologists have long assumed they worked like suction cups.

But this recent post on Echinoblog, written by a Washington, DC-based invertebrate zoologist, says that assumption is about to change. With wonderful pictures and diagrams, it shows how starfish locomotion requires a complex system of secretions and substances that stick and unstick the feet from surfaces.

Besides being really cool, there’s a bioinspired takeaway. The starfish foot-substances are essentially adhesives that work underwater. Underwater adhesives could have many useful applications for human medicine.

Treat a Baby, Save a Kitten

Source: Griffibo1 Public domain, from Wikimedia Commons

A Philadelphia veterinarian is helping save the eyes and lives of kittens by partnering with human health care providers from the Labor and Delivery department at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.

As reported by Ronnie Polaneczky in the Philadelphia Daily News, Dr. Rachael Kreisler, who teaches at University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, sees many kittens at shelters whose eyes have become infected by viruses. The infections can cause irreparable harm to the cats’ eyes, including clouding and rupture. Sometimes the damage is so severe the whole eye needs to be removed. These eye injuries make the kittens much less likely to be adopted.

Let Them Eat Candy Corn

Source: USDA

Source: By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

According to this Fox News story, some farmers in the midwest are feeding their cows candy and dried fruit, instead of corn. The reason: a drastic shortage of corn after the region’s worst drought in a half-century.


We admire the resourcefulness, and understand the impact of the drought. But is food–whether you’re a human or non-human animal–really that interchangeable?

Shared Environments, Shared Risks

Everywhere we go, we share the environment with other animals–whether that means the built boundaries of our homes, the wild habitats of our planet’s jungles, oceans, and skies, or the terra incognitas of our own bodies (think: microbiome).

And we also share toxins in those environments–toxins like second-hand smoke, pesticides, and the flame retardants on couches and in pajamas.

This piece by Lindsey Konkel in Environmental Health News is a useful roundup of some cases where veterinarians and physicians have worked together to learn about shared environmental concerns. Especially interesting is some research looking at relationships between canine lymphoma and lawn pesticides.

Species-Spanning Furniture

We love this sofa built with multi-species users in mind! Does any other furniture combine human needs with those of other animals?