Rat Boners And Drunk Birds: 5 Hilarious Animal Experiments
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 ...
Getting Birds Drunk To See If They Slur Their Songs
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.
Spying On Penguins With Robot Penguins
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.
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.
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.
Strapping Giant Fart Backpacks to Cows
Cows are responsible for 25 percent of the global emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more damaging than the perennially villainized carbon dioxide. Obviously, this leaves us with two options: Either we stop eating cheeseburgers, or we stop the cows from slowly gassing us into extinction. Thankfully, Argentinean mad scientists decided to go with the second option by inventing special devices that suck up bovine farts and burps.
"I mean, you already raise us specifically to be slaughtered, but no, really, we can take one more for the team."
It's still a prototype that probably won't ever be adopted globally, but researchers from Argentina's National Institute of Agricultural Technology have come up with a sort of fart backpack (fartpack) that inserts a tube into the cow's digestive tract. The procedure is reportedly painless, and once it's completed, it allows us to funnel the cows' lethal flatulence and burps into a separate collecting chamber strapped to their backs. Then we poke a hole in the backpack, light the gas, and WHAM: rocket cows.
Ooorrrrr we can take the boring route, do what the scientists proposed, and use the methane as an energy source. And what an energy source: A good farting day can produce 80 gallons of methane. That's enough to power your refrigerator for 24 hours, or get you through a full day's commute. It should definitely be enough to create cow jetpacks.
Think about it, science. That's all we ask.
Related: The Matrix Is Real, If You Are A Cow
Shooting Remote-Control Cork Guns At Squirrels To Make Them Flip
Scientists at San Diego State University were trying to observe the effects of severe dehydration on California ground squirrels when they noticed something interesting. They discovered that the non-threatening squirrels started going HAM on rattlesnakes -- the dead-eyed, clinically-cool assassins of the animal kingdom.
"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides ..."
The squirrels would taunt the serpents by moving their tails back and forth to goad them into attacking -- hell, some would even kick sand in the snake's face like a comic book bully -- then dodge the attack and run away. The scientists figured that this was an attempt to warn other, more oblivious squirrels of the presence of a snake. But first, they had to test their hypothesis. To find out whether squirrels were being bravely altruistic or just insane, the researchers devised a hilariously dickish experiment.
They set up cork-launching guns across squirrel habitats, placing some in snake-heavy areas and others in safe zones with no snake sightings. It turned out that the squirrels in snake-free areas simply scurried away without much fanfare when they were shot at. But the squirrels dining in serpent territory were far more amped, pulling off acrobatic, Ninja Gaiden-esque evasive maneuvers when the corks came flying their way.
The squirrels also make an unusual noise when performing the leap.
So the scientists were probably right, and the squirrel acrobatics were like a snake early warning system. Either that, or being a squirrel is really boring, and this is their version of the X Games.
Giving Rats Boners With Blue Light
Optogenetics is a fairly new branch of science that uses light to stimulate and control certain body processes in living organisms. However, the most interesting thing about Optogenetics is the fact that we've skipped all the typical bullshit of pretending that this exciting technology will cure cancer or whatever, and instead went straight to the part where we use light to generate instant erections. So far it's only happened in rats, but we don't think science will have any problems acquiring volunteers for human testing.
As if puberty didn't already cause enough boner anxiety.
In order to create a Viagra Flashlight, the scientists first injected modified, light-responsive bacterial DNA into the rodents' corpus cavernosum, an expansive cavity within mammal dongs that fills up with blood whenever they see some fine lady rat tail. Then, when the researchers shot pulses of blue light at the rats, it stimulated the bacteria within their dicks, causing them to become erect ... and ejaculate within 55 seconds. So this isn't so much an erection ray as it is a premature ejaculation laser. At least the scientists were bros about it, and performed their tests when there were no female rats in the lab.