Humanity's track record with animals has never been stellar. After centuries of ocean dumping, worldwide deforestation, domestication and overhunting, it's safe to say we've got a greasy, opposable thumb in every one of Mother Nature's pies.
That's not to say that humanity's only effect on the animal kingdom is pure destruction; in fact, sometimes our ecological footprint looks more like a clown shoe.
#6. Talking Birds Are Teaching Each Other to Swear
Probably the only thing you know about parrots and cockatoos is that they can talk. Or, more specifically, that they can mimic human speech. Now, unless they're shockingly gifted, they don't understand a word they're saying. But a 4-year-old doesn't know what the word "poontang" means, either, and that doesn't stop him from repeating it and getting all of the other preschoolers saying it. We're finding out that birds kind of do the same thing.
After all, the pets that are raised among humans and learn (or learn to imitate) dozens of words sometimes either escape or are released into the wild. Now, because birds in the wild have no need for human language, you'd think they'd stop using it once they managed to get loose. But you would be wrong. They keep using what they learned and, more importantly, teach it to other birds.
That's why people around Sydney, Melbourne and other big cities in Australia have found wild cockatoos using English phrases. Now ask yourself: If you had a bird that repeated whatever you said, what's the first thing you'd do? You'd start teaching it some goddamned swear words, that's what. Well, they do that in Australia, too. So, sometimes the birds have been heard cursing at people.
Now imagine how crazy you'd think you were going if one day you were walking through the woods and you suddenly heard a disembodied bird voice tell you to eat a dick.
The weirdest part is, if the domesticated birds stay with a wild flock long enough, the words become part of the flock's calls. Scientists say that the way the birds learn their own chirps and calls is similar to how babies learn to speak, so these new calls (i.e., "Hey, asshole!") are just added to their repertoire. We're literally corrupting the birds' own language.
"Y'all bitches ain't shit AWWWK! Y'all bitches ain't shit!"
#5. Fish Are Taking Antidepressants
Sewage treatment plants around the world are designed to treat water for the obvious threats: biological contaminants, microorganisms and the general remnants of a Taco Bell fourth meal. This process ensures that we aren't pumping out gallons of pure feces and unraveled condoms into our oceans and streams.
But while waste management systems never underestimated the gross oddities humans could expel from their bodies, they didn't anticipate the medicated bliss everyone would be feeling while doing it. What we're trying to say is that millions of people are taking antidepressants, and some of those leftover chemicals pass out of your body when you urinate. When you flush, the water eventually makes its way to a river.
Prozac. Harvested from only the purest mountain streams.
So, as a consequence, we are inadvertently prescribing fish every medication we ingest.
Water treatment plants aren't designed to account for the massive amounts of antidepressants humanity is literally pissing away each day (the number of people in the U.S. alone taking antidepressants is well over 27 million), since we don't have a reasonable method to treat water for pharmaceuticals. That means that ultimately fish are being exposed to considerable amounts of antidepressants, by fish standards. As of yet the results of this haven't been fully researched, but some researchers bothering to test the effects have noted that young fish exposed to the drugs become more "laid back" (seriously).
"Aw, hell. Sharks ain't nothin' but a thing."
Early research shows that the drugged fish are less likely to respond to immediate dangers, and even when they do, their reactions are delayed. That may be no big deal if you're a species at the top of the food chain with depression issues, but it's bad news if you have hundreds of natural predators looking for every opportunity to eviscerate you.
What's more troubling is that the fish are also unlikely to pursue the daily tasks that perpetuate the species, like eating and reproducing. Ultimately we're dealing with fish that have become so drugged up and complacent that they have lost the will to do normal fish stuff.
Though we have to admit that they appear much happier.
No one knows yet what the long-term effects will be, but the prospects are depressing, which naturally will have you reaching for that prescription bottle and then ... well, it's a vicious cycle.
#4. We're Making Chimps Smarter
When the Planet of the Apes scenario finally plays out for real (as all ape experts know it eventually will), we can't say we didn't see it coming.
After all, we know how natural selection works: The slow/stupid/weak animals don't live long enough to breed, so over time the species gets faster/smarter/stronger. So what happens if you take a fairly intelligent species (like chimpanzees) and artificially accelerate that process? Not with brain-enhancing drugs, but by simply rigging the system so that only the smartest of the smartest chimps survive?
"I know algebra. Just sayin'."
With that, let's go to Guinea, Africa, where hunters rely on snare traps for bush meat. Essentially, anything that is unfortunate enough to happen through the snares springs the traps and is forced to either wait for humans to wander along or else gnaw its own leg off. That is, until recently, when chimps learned to not only avoid the traps, but intentionally disarm them so nothing else can be caught.
It turns out that after long-time exposure to trapping techniques, chimps have isolated the most dangerous piece of any snare and figured out exactly how to dismantle it. How they figured it out is a mystery, because any chimp who "found" the trigger mechanism should have gotten trapped and killed as a result. One of the leading researchers studying the phenomenon noted, "The observations indicate that chimpanzees can learn some manners without trial and error."
"Look at that dumbass. As soon as he leaves, I'm going to make that thing trap my shit."
That's a cognitive ability no one knew chimpanzees were capable of, which is a valuable new discovery about their brain functions. In addition, they have even been spotted teaching younger chimps exactly how to sabotage the things. Just think about that for a moment: These chimps not only are actively looking after one another and other species, but they're also training special chimp bomb squads.