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Aquarium Throws Birthday Party for Depressed Fish

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  • We knew zoo animals could get depressed, but who would’ve thought that also applies to fish.

It’s normal to start feeling a bit down when you suddenly find yourself isolated from your friends and loved ones. A lot of people have become regretfully aware of that as the coronavirus quarantine keeps on going.

But who would’ve thought that a fish could also show symptoms of loneliness. We didn’t even know fish were that aware of their surroundings.

But that’s the case with Mikko, a three-feet-long, 35-pound grouper. The 16-year-old fish resides in an aquarium at Sea Life Helsinki, located in the capital of Finland.

We recently covered a story about dogs sniffing out COVID-19 infections at a Finnish airport as well. Seems like there’s something about the ‘Rona and Nordic animals.

Anyway, as the coronavirus hit Finland, Sea Life Helsinki was forced to close its doors to the public. This affected Mikko in a way no one could’ve foreseen – he became depressed.

Yes, science says fish depression is a real thing.

A representative of the aquarium told LiveScience that Mikko lives alone in a large tank without other fish to keep him company. When people stopped visiting him as well, he became “more still and distant than usual”.

So, in an attempt to cheer him up, the staff at the aquarium decided to throw him a birthday party. Whether it was his actual birthday, the story doesn’t tell, but really – it’s an excuse to have a party, who cares?

The birthday boy naturally needed a cake, but frosting and sugar aren’t really in a grouper’s natural diet. So instead, he got a plateful of salmon fillets, which he devoured with great gusto.

Having Friends for Dinner

It’s pretty sad that Mikko has been so lonely lately. But he kind of has himself to blame for that.

As we said, he ate his birthday present with enthusiasm. The problem with Mikko is that he likes eating his friends equally enthusiastically.

The grouper was moved to Sea Life Helsinki in 2007. Before that, he lived in a pet store, but they had to give him up when he got too big for their fish tanks.

Another reason was his ravenous appetite, Sea Life Helsinki’s aquarium curator Markus Dernjatin told the Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat. He said that Mikko was purchased by a private aquarium owner, but they returned him to the store when he ate all their other fish.

At Sea Life Helsinki, Mikko gets a meal of small fish and squid three to four times a week. The staff thought that’d be enough to keep him sated, and so he was originally housed in a tank with other fish.

They were wrong.

“We tried keeping Mikko in a couple of different tanks, but there were continuous problems,” said Dernjatin.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came when Mikko ate an incredibly venomous lionfish. Mikko was just fine, though the lionfish was… Less so.

After the incident, the aquarium staff moved Mikko into his own

Just Like Any Other Fish

However, losing his fishy friends didn’t sit well with Mikko. While he was waiting to be put into his exhibition tank, he started showing signs of depression for the first time.

“Even though he keeps eating his buddies, he still likes having them around and seeing movement in his tank,” explained Dernjatin.

Things got better in early 2019, though. Mikko got his own, large tank with things to keep him stimulated. He’s even been slowly introduced to other fish again. So far, he hasn’t eaten the four-inch cleaner fish that swim around in the same tank.

The aquarium visitors also helped. But, as said, Mikko started feeling down again when Sea Life Helsinki closed its doors.

“To cheer him up during the time that we were closed, the caretakers and other staff had lunch and coffee breaks by his tank,” the museum representative told LiveScience.

“They brushed him with a soft brush to activate him a bit, and he also had a TV to keep him company.”

According to Dernjatin, Mikko liked the brushings. He would lay down on his side on the bottom of his tank and change colors.

“You have to remember, though, that Mikko isn’t any more human than any other fish. They all need activity around them all the same,” Dernjatin said.

The Brush Incident

Eventually, in December 2019, the staff had an idea to try whether Mikko would like being pet with a slightly firmer brush. His reaction to that, however, was a bit hard to interpret.

That’s because he decided to eat the brush. This prompted yet another case of drama centered around Mikko.

“There was a huge gulp and the brush was gone,” said Dernjatin. “We thought he’d spit the brush out, but he just kept swallowing it deeper.”

Having a brush lodged in his throat wasn’t too comfortable for the grouper. He would swim up to the staff and open his mouth, displaying the handle of the brush sticking out of his esophagus.

“It really was our screw-up,” admitted Dernjatin. “No one guessed that he’d grab the brush like that.”

So, the aquarium staged an impressive rescue operation. Mikko was too big and strong for anyone to just pull the brush out, so the aquarium had to bring out the big guns.

They emptied Mikko’s tank partially and dumped a whole bunch of anesthetic into the water. Some 15 minutes later, Mikko was floating in the water on his side, knocked out.

After some wrangling, the staff managed to pull the brush out of his mouth. They were concerned that operation might’ve still hurt the fish, but he seemed to bounce back just fine.

His appetite was soon back, and Mikko became as active as ever. Ever since, the staff has had to be twice as cautious around him though.

That’s a lot of hubbub about a fish.

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Odd

Mom Died and was Found a Year After

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  • The story only gets weirder, and sadder, from here.

The mom was found under a pile of clothes and an autopsy determined that she had been decomposing there for at least a year.

An officer showed up to the residence and while talking to the residents, the following conversation was overheard over the call to the dispatcher:

“Who is this upstairs?” the deputy questioned. “That’s your mother?”

“How long has she been deceased?”

“Years?”

“You don’t know how long she’s been deceased?”

This is when they found her, 56-year-old Laronda Jolly. Her four adult children were living with her at the time, and all of them are intellectually disabled.

None of them told anyone that she had died.

“She was on a bed, they piled clothes on top of her body and they stayed in the apartment with their decaying mother,” said Laronda’s brother, Anthony Jolly. “They knew better, but they were going by what their mother said, they were obeying their mother’s wishes – just let her lay there, no matter what. Don’t call anybody, and that’s what they done.”

“For them to stay in that apartment with your own mother’s decaying body, I can’t understand it — and I guess I never will understand it.”

The last time Jolly had talked to her was “well over two years ago.”

“I started going down there, and my nieces and nephews would say, ‘Well she’s asleep. You can’t see her right now.’ I would say, ‘Well all I want to do is see my sister. If I can just see her face I’ll be fine and I’ll leave you alone,’” he said.

He knows now that he was intentionally misled by his nieces and nephews — a 30-year-old woman, two 27-year-old twin boys and a 27-year-old sister–and while on the phone he wasn’t speaking to his sister, but instead one off the kids that was impersonating her.

“They lied every time,” he said. “They would not tell me the truth.”

Jolly attempted to have a welfare check done but police reported that she was not home at the time. One of the nieces told him that they were “obeying their mother’s wishes to let (her) lay there,” he said. “That’s what they told me, but everything else they told me is a lie. So, you know, I’m not sure if I believe that, either.”

There were no signs of trauma or foul play but because of the year long decomposition, the exact manner of death may never be known. No charges have been filed against the siblings, whose housing and needs are now being assisted by a local ministry.

Jolly still wants to know what happened to his sister.

“She was a person that once you met her, most people would just fall in love with my sister because she was just that kind of person,” he said, according to WSMV. “She could talk to anybody and talk about anything to anybody.”

“If she had a health condition,” he told WKRN, “I didn’t know about it.”

 

 



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Go Eat Yourself: Steak Grown from Human Cells Borders on Cannibalism

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  • Our culinary future is looking like it might as well have been designed by Hannibal Lecter.

Meat has become a bit of a controversial food in the past couple of decades, at least in some circles. Packed as it is with protein, there are some actual concerns surrounding our hunger for flesh.

Without even mentioning any ethical and animal welfare issues, meat production presents some serious issues. Producing the amounts of meat that we eat has a significant impact on the climate, for one thing.

Living standards around the world are also rising, and with that usually comes an increase in meat consumption. Experts say that we might be facing a tipping point in the planet’s capacity to produce enough food.

Wouldn’t it then be great if we could grow our meat in a lab with little resources? Vat-grown meat is one serious suggestion for feeding the world in the future, and the technology to do so has advanced in strides.

Most of the methods to produce artificial meat concentrate on using animal cells. But now, one group of American scientists has taken the concept to a rather macabre direction.

Introducing, the Ouroboros Steak. The saying goes that you are what you eat, and in this case that is literally true.

That’s because the meat in question is grown from human cells. So how about a nice roasted piece of Edward, or maybe a medium-rare fillet of Katie?

“Guess who’s for dinner today.”

The Devil in the Technicalities

The Ouroboros Steak was recently nominated for the Beazly Design of the Year award by the Design Museum in London. But what is this whole thing actually all about?

Named after the mythical snake figure that eternally swallows its own tail, is a DIY meal kits that allows diners to grow their own meat. As the catalyst for the process, you can use your own cells.

The creators told Dezeen Magazine that eating a stake made out of yourself is “technically” not cannibalism.

We don’t know about you, but we don’t necessarily like that “technically” part.

The vision of the team behind the Ouroboros Steak is that consumers would use a cotton swab to harvest some stray cells from the inside of their cheeks. These cells would be deposited into a pre-grown “scaffolding” made out of fungal mycelium.

Store the growing dish in a warm place for three months, feed it with human growth serum, and voila! A delicious, meaty human steak is ready for cooking.

Industrial designer Grace Knight, who worked on the Ouroboros project, told Dezeen that the growth material for the steak wouldn’t necessarily have to come from the diners. Instead, it could be substituted with medical waste – such as expired blood.

“Expired human blood is a waste material in the medical system and is cheaper and more sustainable than fetal bovine serum, but culturally less-accepted,” said Knight.

“People think that eating oneself is cannibalism, which technically this is not,” she added.

Ugh, there’s that word again. “Technically.”

Part of a Bigger Problem

But in all seriousness, the scientists aren’t pushing eating human-sourced meat all that seriously. Sure, the process is valid, but they actually wanted to raise questions about the sustainability of our meat-heavy diets.

“Our design is scientifically and economically feasible but also ironic in many ways,” said designer and researcher Orkan Telhan, also part of the Ouroboros team.

“We are not promoting ‘eating ourselves’ as a realistic solution that will fix humans’ protein needs. We rather ask a question: what would be the sacrifices we need to make to be able to keep consuming meat at the pace that we are?”

The team wants to draw attention to the rising lab-grown meat industry. While growing artificial meat is supposedly cruelty-free, it is actually not completely true.

More specifically, producers of lab-grown meat use the aforementioned fetal bovine serum (FBS) as a growth supplement in the growing process. FBS ranges in price from $400 to $900 per liter, and is harvested from the blood of cow fetuses after their mothers are slaughtered.

So, a cow – or two, actually – still have to die to make lab-grown meat.

“Although some lab-grown meat companies are claiming to have solved this problem, to our knowledge no independent, peer-reviewed, scientific studies have validated these claims,” said Ouroboros team scientist Andrew Pelling.

“As the lab-grown meat industry is developing rapidly, it is important to develop designs that expose some of its underlying constraints in order to see beyond the hype.”

Add in the high cost of FBS, and a laboratory steak starts looking less attractive.

“In the future, who will be able to afford animal meat and who may have no other option than culturing meat from themselves?” asked Telhan.

Big Money in Sight

Pelling says the lab-grown meat industry is growing quickly, and that it surely is. According to Market Data Forecast, the cultured meat market was worth $206 million in 2020.

By 2025, the company projects that market to grow to a whopping $572 million. That’s some serious growth.

The first lab-grown steaks have already been produced, served, and eaten. The products are marketed as more sustainable both environmentally and ethically, but in light of the Ouroboros team’s claims, those marketing spiels seem a bit dubious.

Still, there are benefits to laboratory meat. Israel-baled Aleph Farms, which produced the first lab-grown beef steak, said the artificial steak is much cheaper than the “real” thing.

Lab-grown meat doesn’t necessarily have to come from animals, though. Spanish Novameat, for example, produced 3D-printed steaks made from vegetable proteins.

In light of the possible environmental and cost benefits, vat-grown meat might be the future. Let’s just hope we don’t actually have to resort to devouring our own flesh.



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People Can’t Stop Messing With Big Cats

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  • Dwight Turner paid $150 to rub a black leopard’s belly and instead it mauled his face.
  • The owner of the animal faces fines and jail time.

If you’ve ever had a close encounter with a goose, you know how unpredictable and violent wild animals can be. Despite Disney’s best efforts, no one will ever convince me that woodland creatures would rather humans didn’t exist, and they wouldn’t mind being the ones to do us in. You can watch YouTube videos of everything from raccoons to deer finally saying, “enough is enough” and going for the jugular. 

Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

In August, Dwight Turner of Florida paid a guy $150 to get mauled by a black leopard. That’s probably not what Turner thought he was paying for, but when you walk into a cage with a 200-pound predator, you kind of just roll the dice on what’s going to happen. 

Leopards Love Ambushes

Photo by Latrach Med Jamil on Unsplash

Myself, I try to avoid wild animals. I no more want to get bit by a goose than a mountain lion or bear. Other people? They seem ambivalent about the very real consequences of messing with Mother Nature. As seen in the Tiger King documentary, large swaths of middle America give a little shrug about how overcrowded private zoos treat their exotic animals. They’re happy to hand over a stack of bills to just anyone if it means petting an exotic cat. 

Turner thought he’d be rubbing the cat’s belly and taking some pictures, but as soon as he walked into the cage, the leopard went for his head. The same as any of us do when someone hands us a plate of food. Florida is a no-man’s-land of exotic animal ownership laws. It’s led to an abundance of private zoos and “animal sanctuaries” chock-full of wildlife that should be, you know, wild. 

Photo by Maurits Bausenhart on Unsplash

Michael Poggi, the black leopard’s owner, is licensed as an exotic animal dealer and wasn’t breaking any laws by owning the animal. However, Florida prohibits close-contact encounters between people and any cat over 12 weeks and 25 pounds. To prevent stuff like this from happening, probably. Even a 25-pound cat strikes me as dangerous, having lived with an 8-pound house cat for ten years. Those hunter instincts are still razor-sharp after 4,000 years of domestication. 

Big Cats Aren’t Safe

Photo by Martin Brechtl on Unsplash

Turner’s wife had to hold his scalp in place on the way to the hospital after his close encounter. National Geographic reported that he’s had two surgeries and 22 staples and may still lose one of his ears. He’s suing Poggi, who is already facing fines and jail time for allowing the encounter to happen. 

“There’s no scenario in which entering a space with a big cat is going to be 100 percent safe, even if it’s been hand raised,” said conservationist biologist and Nat Geo Explorer Imogene Cancellare, “These are animals whose brains are literally designed to be ambush predators.”

 



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