This little kitty is a rare African black-footed cat conceived through IVF in an attempt to keep the species alive.
About 40 of these cats live in zoos worldwide, while a few wild cats live in South Africa where they are protected, but sometimes poisoned and killed by farmers.
How could you poison these little kittens, they’re so CUTE!!! Ahem. So, I have been visiting Zooborns again, it’s a serious habit.
Let’s pretend this post is about something more than just cute pictures of cats, and talk about the science that conceived them.
Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species aim to protect seriously endangered species by creating a “frozen zoo”, banking genetic material such as eggs, sperm, embryos and tissue samples. Frozen, thawed sperm and IVF technology sparked the life of these kittens, which were really conceived six years ago and frozen as embryos.
The embryos were thawed and implanted into the surrogate mother Bijou in December last year.
Man, what did I DO last night?
It must be a bizarre experience for the mother, although I’ve heard tomcats have a barbed penis so perhaps she’s lucky to have skipped the usual event.
The frozen zoo contains frozen semen from the gorilla, Sumatran tiger, jaguar, Jabiru stork, and caracal. Other cell samples cover the African and Asian elephants, Baird’s tapir, colobus monkey, roan antelope, and black bear.
“The next step for us will be to clone the black-footed cat and transfer the embryo to a domestic cat surrogate,” said Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species Senior Scientist Dr. C. Earle Pope in the media release.
Cloning endangered species, is that a good idea or not? I can’t tell.
First up, apologies on the lateness of my post. A whole week has gone past! Oh me! I humbly do beseech you to forgive this old salt and do throw myself upon the deck in penance. Me only defense is that I have just moved from Canberra to Adelaide, and me Schooner does need an awful lot of bubble wrap. To distract you from me own slackness, I have scoured the nets for the cutest science story evah. I ply you with kittens thusly:
Cats are a more delicate and refined animal than messy, smelly and drooly dogs. I’ve always been a cat person. I think they have higher standards. Turns out they also drink better than dogs.
Both dogs and cats lack the complete cheeks that humans have, which means they can’t drink water by suction like we can. Dogs get around this by using their tongues as a ladle, cupping the water from bowl to throat.
Cat’s do it differently. They lap water briskly, but not like a ladle. Instead, they DEFY GRAVITY and make the water lift up into the air like a glorious floating blob of refreshment.
Sounds crazy, but it’s true. When they dip into the dish, water adheres to the dorsal (top) side of their tongue. The surface tension (sweet, sweet hydrogen bondage) of the water drags a column of water into the air. The cat can thus pull water into its mouth using inertia.
The competition between inertia moving water up and gravity pulling it down sets the lapping frequency of the cat. Smaller cats with smaller tongues lap faster to drink, large cats lap slower. Observation of lapping frequency in big cats like lions shows the same kind of trend, suggesting they use the same physics as the household feline.
Cats might do this because it’s a neater, cleaner way to drink and it keeps their whiskers nice and dry. Whiskers have an important sensory function, so it’s worth the effort to keep them tidy.
The research was published in Science, and began when a researcher was watching his own cat drink. A video of the researcher and cat is below, and shows in super slow mo exactly how water defies gravity when a cat enters the equation.
Did you hear that? Did you? Not only is it physics, hydrogen bonding and gravity defying, plus, PLUS, the tongue could have implications for robotics of the future. Yeah. Robot cat tongues. It’s going to happen.
Actually tongues are very interesting. They obviously have no bones for support, so instead they have a muscular hydrostat system where support comes from muscles. The same thing happens in octopus tentacles, where muscles stretch in one of three directions: Along the tentacle (longitudinal), across the tentacle (transverse) or wrapping around the tentacle (helical.) When an octopus moves, one muscle contracts to become shorter which forces the muscles around to stretch, supporting the movement like a skeleton.
Cats and octopus. You know this post was worth the wait.
Reis, P., Jung, S., Aristoff, J., & Stocker, R. (2010). How Cats Lap: Water Uptake by Felis catus Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1195421
I’ve been doing some science tricks lately that show the difference between both eyes. Simple one, close your left eye and line your two pointer fingers up with one 10cm behind the other. Get them so they are exactly in line and you can only see one finger. Now open your left eye and close your right eye. Not so in line anymore.
So we have two eyes on the front of our face, and they both see slightly different images of our world. Our smarty pants brain puts the images together, but it also notices the difference between the pictures and uses it for depth perception.
The same thing is used in 3D cinema, which you can see when you take off the glasses. There’s two pictures, and when an object is supposed to look closer the two pictures are further apart from each other (winces and waits for SexyMan to correct me.)
That’s why most predators have eyes on the front of their heads, so they can gauge the depth from prey. Prey animals usually have eyes on the sides, so they have a bigger range of vision and can see danger coming.
But when I was doing the hole-in-the-hand trick, it just didn’t work for me. I get a hole on the side, like a someone has taken a nibble out of my hand, but not through the middle like everyone else. Is their something wrong with my depth perception? Am I missing out on a 3D world that everyone else in enjoying in full spectroscopic vision?
My saving grace is those stereogram books, where a 3D picture is hidden inside a pattern and you have to go semi-crosseyed to see it. I rock at those books. Oh yeah. I can see the rabbit, or at least a 3D blob that could be a rabbit.
So I’m hoping I have 3D vision. But I wiki’d depth perception anyway, and it turns out there are lots of ways you can check depth besides having two forward facing eyes. Pigeons bob their heads to do it. By moving their heads a little they can see how objects around them move. Objects which are close to them move a lot, and objects that are far away stay stationary. Try it at home!