4We'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.
3Toxic Waste Is Turning Birds Gay
The ibis bird lives in marshes, which as you can guess are areas characterized by massive amounts of freestanding water. Unfortunately, a lot of that water is polluted with toxic runoff from mines and burning coal, which includes chemicals like mercury. We've known for a long time the dangers for the development of wildlife when they are exposed to large amounts of mercury, but then came a twist no one saw coming.
While scientists were concerning themselves with the effect of mercury on local fish populations, they noticed a startling number of male birds in the same habitat boning each other.
Seeing as the latter was far more interesting, they did an experiment. They subjected a group of ibis birds to the same amount of mercury they would ordinarily get from their diet in the wetlands, and they found that the more mercury a male bird ingested, the more likely he was to pair with another male. This turned out to be because mercury caused testosterone levels to plummet.
"Pfft. The only mercury we're concerned with is of the Freddie variety."
This naturally affects the birds' reproduction rates, and the newly gay males have all but given up on any of the usual courtship rituals, which is exactly one of the luxuries men joke about when they say how easy it would be to just date their guy friends. The difference is, these birds actually have the courage to go through with it. The courage, and also massive amounts of mercury.
"Suddenly I care that it's after Labor Day."