Make Way for Teddy: A new study from the University of Copenhagen shows that veterinary schools are finally catching on to something Four-Year-Olds everywhere have known for generations. Practicing basic medical techniques on stuffed animals can reduce stress, increase confidence, and improve learning for our future veterinarians. As a nice side benefit, it reduces the number of lab animals required for training. Sadly, this advance in medical training does not mean you can donate your child’s extensive collection of cats, dogs, zebras, wallabies, and dragons to science. The animals used at the university level are stuffed with organs, veins, and arteries, not cotton batting.
Make Way for Teddy! continues below the fold with:
- NASA finds water on one of Jupiter’s moons
- Could there really have been a saber-toothed squirrel?
- Are the days of chimps in labs almost over?
- Philadelphia Added to The Four-Year-Old’s Travel Bucket List
NASA finds water on Europa: Last week, the Four-Year-Old discovered the Discovery Channel’s Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking (via Netflix, of course). In it we learned that cosmologists think there may be a huge ocean lurking under the thick ice shell of Europa, one of the moons orbiting Jupiter. In the program, Stephen Hawking speculated that this ocean may harbor some form of extraterrestrial life. Apparently at the time the program was made, this was still mostly speculation (if the ice shield was too thick, something impossible to judge through our terrestrial telescopes, then life in Europa’s oceans would be highly unlikely). This week, NASA announced that data sent back by the Galileo spacecraft confirms that the ocean under Europa’s ice shield might in fact be habitable. It’s not exactly proof of extraterrestrial life, but it’s a step in that direction.
Could There Really Have Been a Saber-Toothed Squirrel?: Scientists recently discovered skulls and other bones from a tiny, but fierce mammal they are calling Cronopio dentiacutus (the name refers to the creature’s saber teeth). The creatures lived 100 million years ago, alongside dinosaurs like the Argentinosaurus and the Giganotosaurus in Argentina. Even though the animal looks an awful lot like the saber-toothed squirrel from the movie Ice Age, the animal was not a squirrel (nor did it live in an Ice Age). Still, we like to think of it as a Saber-Toothed Squirrel-Cousin.
Are the Days of Chimps in Labs Almost Over?: On a more serious note, from the New York Times comes word of three efforts that could end the practice of doing invasive medical research on chimps. At the urging of the Humane Society and several other groups, the National Institutes of Health is preparing a report on the usefulness of chimps in research. The report is due later this year. Meanwhile, the Humane Society, the Jane Goodall Institute, the Wildlife Conservation Society and an undefined set of “others” are lobbying the Fish & Wildlife Service to declare captive chimps an endangered species. This decision is due in September. And naturally, there’s a bill pending in Congress, the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act. Sponsored by Representative Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, the bill would ban invasive research on bonobos, gorillas, orangutans and other great apes. The bill’s sponsors say that shutting down the government-funded testing on chimps alone would save taxpayers some $30 million a year. The U.S. is one of only two countries in the world which still uses chimps in its medical research. The other is Gabon, in central Africa.
Philadelphia Added to The Four-Year-Old’s Bucket List: Finally, although it feels slightly heretical to say it out loud, the Four-Year-Old and I kind of wish we were going to spend Thanksgiving in Philadelphia this year. Dinosaur Days at the Academy of Natural Sciences sounds awesome.
So, what about you? What caught your eye this week?
- Project R&R: Release & Restitution for Chimpanzees in U.S. Laboratories
- Chimps’ Days in Labs May Be Dwindling – New York Times (nytimes.com)
- A Second Life for Retired Lab Chimps (wired.com)
- Chimps may be out as lab animals, pets (seattletimes.nwsource.com)