Monthly Archives: December 2013

Siberian Tiger Root Canal

Veterinarians and other experts gathered at Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park to examine and treat a 412-pound Siberian tiger named Marty whose chipped lower right canine tooth was affecting his ability to eat. An exam revealed the pulp layer below the tooth was decaying, so clinicians cleaned it and filled it with a cement-like substance in the hope of avoiding a future extraction. Marty’s size made the root canal a complicated procedure, and six workers were needed to carry the big cat’s stretcher to the recovery area. (12/20)

Parasite threatens small marsupial

The survival of woylies, tiny Australian marsupials also called brush-tailed bettongs, is threatened by Trypanosoma protozoa, similar to the parasite that causes Chagas disease in humans, according to recent research. Scientists previously thought wildlife were not affected by Trypanosoma, but researchers found that 96% of tested woylies were infected with the parasite and had evidence of tissue inflammation and heart damage.

Biodegradable cat litter

The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service has developed a biodegradable cat litter from spent corn. The clumping, odor-absorbing compound is made with dried distiller’s grain, a byproduct of ethanol production, along with glycerol, guar gum and copper sulfate. Current clay-based litters are not biodegradable and are disposed of in landfills, but this new formulation could be more environmentally friendly. The Des Moines Register (Iowa) (tiered subscription model)

Pilot Whale Strandings

Florida biologists have been monitoring pilot whales in the shallow waters off Everglades National Park, where 11 whales have died and the remaining animals were dangerously close to shore. Attempts to herd the whales to open, deeper water initially failed, but 35 have moved into relatively deeper waters. Biologist Blair Mase said the scenario remains “very fluid” and experts are closely watching the situation. Four of the animals found in poor condition were euthanized. CNN (12/5), NBC News (12/5)

Orcas have different hunting styles

Researchers have described two distinct groups of orcas — those that hunt mammals and those that hunt fish — and they have found the groups have different hunting styles. Killer whales that hunt fish use echolocation to find prey, while mammal-hunting orcas are silent, apparently using auditory clues to zero in on prey and only communicating vocally after making the kill. “The two types don’t interact, they don’t interbreed, they’re almost different species in the making,” said researcher Volker Deecke. (12/4)

Sharks can get cancer

A recently documented 1-by-1-foot oral tumor in a great white shark and a lesion on the head of a bronze whaler shark reinforce the fact that cancer strikes sharks, too. For 150 years, scientists have known the animals are susceptible to cancer, but a myth suggesting they aren’t persists and contributes to the slaughter of millions of sharks annually. Some people falsely believe ingesting the cartilage of sharks helps protect them against cancer. With the new findings, tumors have now been documented in 23 shark species. (12/3)