The Bengal Tiger of Asia.

Photograph by Steve Winter
Scientists estimate only about 3,000 wild tigers are left in the entire world.
Tiger territory once stretched from Turkey to the Russian Far East and just a century ago, before the terrible toll of hunting and habitat destruction, 100,000 tigers inhabited the wilds of Asia.
Now their descendants hang on in a tiny fraction of their former range, prowling fragmented pockets of habitat where keeping enough tigers alive to breed is increasingly difficult.
Three of the nine tiger subspecies (Bali, Javan, and Caspian tigers) became extinct during the 20th century, leaving only the half dozen living species featured in this gallery.
Recent studies show in just three tiger generations (21 to 27 years) the big cats’ population has shrunk by 50 percent and their range has also been halved.
Shrinking space and rampant poaching for traditional Chinese medicine present a formidable challenge to the future of wild tigers.
About half of all living tigers are Bengal tigers (pictured here), sometimes called Indian tigers because most live in that nation.
Others are in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China, and Myanmar. Given space and prey Panthera tigris tigris can thrive in many types of forests or grasslands, and the Bengal is the only subspecies that also inhabits mangrove forests, in the Sundarbans island group in the Bay of Bengal.
via Tiger Subspecies Pictures — National Geographic Animals.

Psilocybin the Magic Ingredient in Mushrooms.

psilocybin-mushroom-110929The “magic” ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms is psilocybin, a compound that breaks down into psilocin in the body.
Psilocin bonds to serotonin receptors all over the brain, and can cause hallucinations as well as synesthesia, or the mixture of two senses.
Under the influence, for example, a person might feel that they can smell colors.
In keeping with the human tradition of eating anything that might alter your mind, people have been ingesting psilocybin-continuing mushrooms for thousands of years.
Synthetic psilocybin is now under study as a potential treatment for anxiety, depression and addiction.
via Trippy Tales: The History of 8 Hallucinogens 

How much Dye is in Your Food?


Everyone knows the old tale, eat too many carrots and your skin will turn orange. But what happens if you eat too much Kraft Mac & Cheese?
A dorm-room delicacy, and the unofficial national dish of Canada (where it’s better known as Kraft Dinner), this cheesy meal-in-a-box is infamous for its unnaturally orange appearance.
Like many of the foods and candies found in supermarkets across North America, Kraft Mac & Cheese is loaded with artificial food dye in quantities that, until recently, have been unknown to the general public.
Many foods found in supermarkets across North America are loaded with artificial food dye in quantities that, until now, have been unknown to the general public.
Researchers at Purdue University’s Nutrition Science department in Lafayette, Indiana took a rainbow of common foods and put them under the microscope to determine just how much dye manufacturers put in some of their most popular products.
Their findings were published in the Medical Journal Clinical Pediatrics.
Laura Stevens, lead researcher of the study, says that as expected many bright red and orange foods contain high amounts of dye, however there were a few items that surprised her.
“Finding red dye in cherry pie filling was pretty odd, you’d would think the cherries would make it red enough.”
Tests have been conducted in the past looking for links between consumption of food dye and behavioral issues in children. Stevens says the tests, conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, used a baseline of 27 milligrams of mixed dyes – around half the amount of dye found in an 8 oz. serving of Burst Cherry Kool-Aid.
Stevens says tests were also done to observe the effects of children on higher doses of dye — around 50 to 100 milligrams. “They found conclusive links between consuming these high levels and behavioral problems.
However at the time they didn’t think children would ever be able to consume that much dye,” says Stevens.
That was then. In today’s world of orange sodas, green cupcakes and technicolored candies Stevens says a child can easily consume a 100 milligrams of dye in a single meal.
Recently some manufacturers have taken proactive steps toward addressing the issue. Whether as a marketing ploy, or out of general concern, more and more foods are being marketed with claims like “contains 100% natural dyes” and other similar slogans.
Pepperidge Farms, makers of the immensely popular snack, Goldfish, made the switch to natural dyes for the popular kid’s snack a few years ago.
Last November Kraft announced they were reducing the amount of red and orange dyes in their cheese powders, dimming the hue from Day-Glo to merely neon.
Stevens hopes the new research will help future studies into the effects food dyes have on the body. Until then it looks like we’re stuck with artificially green pickles and unnaturally red cherry pie.
via Just How Much Dye Is in Your Food? – Modern Farmer.

‘Sperry’s Chicken Dinner’ Choc Bar, 1923.

This bar, which debuted in 1923, was the first chocolate bar to be marketed as nutritious; advertisements touted the nut-packed treats as “candy made good.”
Though Sperry’s Chicken Dinner was discontinued in the 1960s, its success helped spawn the power bar industry, paving the way for brands like Clif and Luna, whose bars offer vitamins alongside hearty doses of chocolate, caramel and more.
via The 13 Most Influential Candy Bars of All Time |

Zebras Have Stripes to Shoo Away Flies.

by Ed Yong
Joren Brugginkof and Jai Lake with a horse that’s pretending to be a zebra.
Are you sure this is a zebra?
it was surprisingly easy to dress horses like zebras.
Several vendors were already selling coats with black-and-white stripes, often as fun gimmicks.
But, as Tim Caro learned, such coverings have an unexpectedly serious effect. “There are enormous benefits to having a striped coat for a horse,” he told me.
Caro, a biologist at the University of California at Davis, has spent years thinking about why zebras are striped, and has even written a book about this mystery.
In his latest bid to get clear answers, he and his colleagues traveled to Hill Livery, a stable in southwest England that keeps several captive zebras alongside domestic horses.
By comparing these two species, as well as horses that were comically cloaked in zebra-striped coats, the team found fresh evidence for what Caro thinks is the only plausible explanation for the striking stripes:
They evolved to deter bloodsucking flies.
Source: Why Do Zebras Have Stripes? To Shoo Away Flies. – The Atlantic

Tasmanian Devils listed as ‘vulnerable.’

tasmanian-devil_736_600x450Tasmanian Devils are solitary and nocturnal, spending their days alone in hollow logs, caves, or burrows, and emerging at night to feed.
They use their long whiskers and excellent sense of smell and sight to avoid predators and locate prey and carrion.
They’ll eat pretty much anything they can get their teeth on, and when they do find food, they are voracious, consuming everything—including hair, organs, and bones.
Mothers give birth after about three weeks of pregnancy to 20 or 30 very tiny young. These raisin-size babies crawl up the mother’s fur and into her pouch. However, the mother has only four nipples, so only a handful of babies survive. Infants emerge after about four months and are generally weaned by the sixth month and on their own by the eighth.
Once abundant throughout Australia Tasmanian devils are now indigenous only to the island state of Tasmania.
Their Tasmanian range encompasses the entire island, although they are partial to coastal scrublands and forests. Biologists speculate that their extinction on the mainland is attributable to the introduction of Asian dogs, or dingoes.
Efforts in the late 1800s to eradicate Tasmanian devils, which farmers erroneously believed were killing livestock (although they were known to take poultry), were nearly successful.
In 1941, the government made devils a protected species, and their numbers have grown steadily since.
Survival Threatened
Tragically, though, a catastrophic illness discovered in the mid-1990s has killed tens of thousands of Tasmanian devils.
Called devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), this rapidly spreading condition is a rare contagious cancer that causes large lumps to form around the animal’s mouth and head, making it hard for it to eat.
The animal eventually starves to death. Animal health experts are sequestering populations where the disease has not yet appeared and are focusing on captive breeding programs to save the species from extinction.
Because of the outbreak, the Australian government has listed Tasmanian devils as vulnerable.
via  National Geographic.