Whenever you put science and animals together, it rarely ends well for the animals. At least we can take comfort in the fact that all of their suffering has resulted in a slew of important scientific breakthroughs. And if that doesn't cheer you up, just remember that for every guy in a lab coat torturing red pandas, there are plenty of hilariously lighthearted experiments involving stuff like ...
5 Getting Birds Drunk To See If They Slur Their Songs
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Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University wanted to study the effects of alcohol on speech, but they couldn't do it with an intern and a bottle of Captain Morgan. So instead they took a bunch of zebra finches (tiny, cute birds from Australia) and gave them booze to see what would happen.
"I'm not racist, but *hic* let me tell you something about the crows, man ..."
Researchers fed the birds a mixture of six percent alcohol and juice until their BAC reached .05-.08. Once the birds were comfortably buzzed, the scientists recorded their singing. And that's when we discovered the most important scientific fact in history: When you get a bird drunk, it slurs its songs. Compared to the sober songbirds, the shitfaced serenades were quiet, garbled, and harmonically disorganized; almost exactly as with humans, minus the "quiet" part. The scientists chose finches for their experiment because it turns out that birdsong and human speech rely on the same genes. Plus, according to the head researcher, the finches were "somewhat willing to consume [alcohol]."
"Siiing us a sooooong yurrrrrr the pianaaaa maaaaaaan ..."
The research might one day help us understand how birds learn new songs -- and, consequently, how humans learn to talk. But we don't think that's why the OHSU researchers are doing these experiments. We think finches simply make for bitchin' drinking bros, and scientists aren't very good at making friends.
4 Spying On Penguins With Robot Penguins
Yvon Le Maho via ibtimes.co.uk
Penguins are one of the most notoriously camera-shy animals out there, which has always made it difficult to observe them up close in their natural habitat. So to get unadulterated penguin behavior in real time, scientists have been using mobile cameras hidden inside penguin robots of ... varying sophistication.
"Dammit, Timmy. Didn't I warn you about playing with your Power Wheels near the teleporter?"
Of all the penguin spy bots, BBC's RockhopperCam is arguably the most technologically well-equipped. It features an authentic waddling gait and the ability to right itself should it ever topple over. The Rockhopper robot was so lifelike that it landed one momentarily lonely male penguin in hot water. While the penguin's lady was out of town, the randy male made the robot's acquaintance and, well, basically fell in love with it. But when the dashing cad's wife returned from penguin errands, she was so enraged that she laid fisticuffs to the robotic hussy and pushed it to the ground.
John Downer Productions
The last thing researchers heard was "hold my weave" before the cameras went to static.
Then we have the EmperorCam, which is a remote-controlled toboggan that's actually managed to film Emperor Penguin chicks being birthed for the first time in history.
Discovery/BBC/John Downer via ABC News
We're sure none of these will have any impact on the penguins' paranoia once they discover the truth.
These varied surveillance media took almost a year's worth of footage for an extensive BBC special called Penguins: Spy In The Huddle, probably because there were some copyright issues with naming it The Truman Show, But With Penguins.