Mealworms and stomachs: a story with a scary headline

My partner has a hedgehog, and we feed her mealworms.  So I was terrified when, scrolling through Boing Boing, I saw the headline "Dinner's Revenge: mealworms that survive in the stomach, then eat their way out of predators." The author, Mary Roach, takes a long time getting to whether or not it happens, as explored by some scientists doing some casual experimenting.  But I'm not worried about Violet -- she chews her food.

As so often is the case with apocryphal tales like this, finding someone who knows someone who’s seen it is easy. Less easy is tracking down an actual eyewitness. One who claims to have seen is John Gray, the animal care technician at the Tracy Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno. His boss, Richard Tracy, is a physiological ecologist. [...] Eighteen lizards, forty toads, and fifty frogs are under John Gray’s care, but he has not seen it happen to any of them. It happened to a fence lizard he caught in his backyard as a twelve-year-old. He recalls feeding a superworm to his new pet in the evening, and finding the lizard dead the next morning with the superworm “hanging out of its side.”

Tracy is skeptical. He has a theory that the story took root in the public’s consciousness with the 1979 release of Alien, a film in which the title character hatches inside one of the crew and breaks through the skin of the man’s abdomen during a meeting.

Read the article here.

Christmas Puppies

My aunt and uncle and cousins have a new puppy.  It looks oldish, like they've had it for a while, which is good.  I'm glad.  Because it reminded me of Christmas Puppies, which are a terrible idea. It's a little late for this warning, but if you're going to get a kid a pet for Christmas, don't.  It's irresponsible and cruel to the pet.  Owning a living thing is something you need to prepare for as a family.  It's not like other Christmas gifts -- you can't put a puppy in the closet and leave it there if you decide you don't like it as much as you thought you would.

The same goes for cats, and mice, and chinchillas, and -- especially -- exotic pets.  The woman who sold my partner her hedgehog, for example, won't sell someone a hedgehog if they plan on surprising their kid with it.

If you really want to get someone a pet for Christmas, buy the dog bed or the water bowl and some food in advance, and wrap those.  Then, when you've had the surprise, go and pick out the pet together, in a responsible manner, from someone capable of educating you on the needs of your new pet.

We try really, absurdly hard as a culture to make Christmas he nicest, most pleasant part of our year.  There's no good reason to perpetuate the cycle of pets abandoned a month after Christmas every year.  (It's not worth making a holiday happier by creating a bunch of new, delayed release sad.)