Stories tagged Texas

Sep
12
2008

A mighty duke: and very powerful, although not a favorite at parties.
A mighty duke: and very powerful, although not a favorite at parties.Courtesy Albedo-ukr
San Antonio has made a deal with the duke. A particularly mighty duke, too, and one that has often been overlooked, despite this duke’s ability to deliver great power.

Jun
15
2008

Return of the native: For the first time since the 1930s, a leatherback sea turtle has nested on Padre Island, Texas.
Return of the native: For the first time since the 1930s, a leatherback sea turtle has nested on Padre Island, Texas.Courtesy NOAA

For the first time in 70 years, biologists have confirmed that a leatherback sea turtle has nested in Texas. Though they did not see the animal itself, the researchers found its unmistakable tracks and a freshly-dug nest.

The leatherback, the largest reptile in the world, is endangered worldwide. Many drown when caught in fishermen’s nets. Poachers steal their eggs. Development encroaches on the sandy beaches the turtles need for their nests. The return of at least one turtle to Padre Island, Texas is hopeful sign that the species may be making a slow comeback.

You can learn more about leatherbacks turtles here and here.

Any budding entrepreneurs looking to get in the alcohol sales field might not want to the follow the path that this Texan has taken.

They say things are always bigger in Texas, which must include the large numbers of people reporting seeing UFOs over the Texas skies recently. Go ahead, you have my permission to create your own joke.

Nov
04
2007

Sure, it's cute now: But wait until all its hair falls out, and it's draining chickens of their blood.  (photo courtesy of Harold Jarche on flickr.com)
Sure, it's cute now: But wait until all its hair falls out, and it's draining chickens of their blood. (photo courtesy of Harold Jarche on flickr.com)
Science! Oh no you didn’t! You had to go and ruin the latest chupacabra.

That’s right, crypto-enthusiasts, you heard it here first (unless you heard it from an actual news source): The Cuero chupacabra is, in fact, a coyote with hair loss problems.

Click on “Cuero chupacabra” above for some background, but the story, in a nutshell, is this: a rash of suspicious chicken murders in Cuero, Texas, were followed up by the discovery several suspicious-looking animal corpses. Some of the locals believed that these animals were examples of the legendary chupacabra, and a rancher saved one of the creatures’ heads in her freezer, and sent tissue in to Texas State University to be DNA tested.

Well, the “chupacabra’s” DNA sequence turned out to be a “virtually identical match to DNA from the coyote.”

I’m curious as to what was meant by “virtually,” but, yeah, the Cuero chupacabra is a hairless, 40-pound coyote. The wonders of science have single handedly destroyed by post-Halloween euphoria.

Learn more about stupid, boring, tricky coyotes here.

Sep
04
2007

Web work: Two men look over a portion of the huge web a group of spiders have spun in a Texas state park east of Dallas. The white web is turning brown from all the mosquitoes the web has caught.
Web work: Two men look over a portion of the huge web a group of spiders have spun in a Texas state park east of Dallas. The white web is turning brown from all the mosquitoes the web has caught.
I’m a bit late on getting this on the web (pardon the pun), but have you seen what a posse of Texas spiders created last week?

There were numerous reports on this huge web that they spun along about 200 yards of trail in a state park located about 45 miles east of Dallas. Everyone thinks it’s pretty cool except mosquitoes, which get caught up in this tangled web.

"At first, it was so white it looked like fairyland," said Donna Garde, superintendent of the park to the Associated Press. "Now it's filled with so many mosquitoes that it's turned a little brown. There are times you can literally hear the screech of millions of mosquitoes caught in those webs."

Experts say that it’s a classic example of spiders working together as a team to accomplish a huge task. We tend to think of spiders as solitary creatures, but they can work together, as this huge web shows. Exactly how they communicate and organize their activities is still to be determined.

Entomologists from around the country were anxious to get samples of the web to determine what types of spiders created this huge network. Unfortunately, winds and rain are taking a toll on the web and it’s already starting to deteriorate.

So whenever Spider-Man starts getting too high on himself, just tell him to checkout the work of these Texas spiders to bring him back down to Earth.

Sep
03
2007

Don't worry, little fella: You'll probably be killed by a person, not a chupacabra. But I shouldn't say for sure.  (photo by ImageLink on flickr.com)
Don't worry, little fella: You'll probably be killed by a person, not a chupacabra. But I shouldn't say for sure. (photo by ImageLink on flickr.com)
The chupacabra… the chupacabra… where to begin? The obvious answer is “the beginning,” but that would take so much time, and it’s already 2:00 AM (the chupacabra hour, as some call it).

I would like to assume that most of you are already well versed in the lore of the Chupacabra, although even considering the slim chance that there may be a few of you out there who are as of yet unfamiliar with the American goat-sucker gives me the willies, so I will at least provide a brief summary of the legendary cryptid.

The chupacabrafirst surfaced (anecdotally, at least) in 1987. Ah, 1987… the Twins win the World Series of Baseball, Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke is reelected for a third term, and Puerto Rico is plagued by a spate of animal mutilations. Domesticated animals across the island were found drained of blood through a series of small circular incisions on their bodies. The initial suspicion of satanic cults gave way to the theory of the “chupacabra” (or, literally, “goat-sucker”) an unconfirmed animal that would rise in infamy near to the level of some of our favorite cryptids, like Nessie, or Bigfoot.
Bob Hawke, Prime Minister: You seriously don't remember Prime Minster Bob "el Chupacabra" Hawke? (photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

While originally confined to Latin America, sightings of the chupacabra have spread well into North America, and as far as Russia. Descriptions range from a green and scaly kangaroo-like creature to an animal with wings and a forked tongue. However, most reported sightings share the context of animal mutilations of some kind, especially the whole blood drinking thing. Recently, North American sightings (often with photographs) show something like… well, like a really sick and weird looking dog. Several similar looking creatures have been found dead by roads or trapped and killed, but their physical remains have generally been disposed of before they could be studied. Just this summer, though, a Texan woman has claimed to have kept the head of a supposed chupacabra in her freezer, with the hope that DNA testing might reveal the animal’s true identity.

Over the past couple years, Phylis Canion of Cuero, Texas, has found as nearly thirty of her chickens killed in her yard. The birds were not eaten or carried off, however, instead they were drained of their blood and left where they died. The perpetrator of these fowl deeds has remained a mystery, until this July when Ms. Canion and her neighbors found the bodies of three strange 40-pound, nearly hairless creatures outside of her ranch. Phylis has been a life-long hunter, but insists that she has never come across an animal like these. She believes that they may have been the cause behind her exsanguiated chickens, and, what’s more, could be specimens of the famed chupacabra. While the bodies were disposed of, Canion had the unique presence of mind to keep the head of one in her freezer, with the intention of mounting it, and having a DNA test done.

So, is this the infamous chupacabra? Some experts say that it, and other specimens like it, are much more likely to be a new type of mutt, seriously infected with mange, or some mutated species of canid. The condition of the prey, if these creatures are truly responsible for the mutilations, might be explained by a bizarre preference for blood; that the animals lap up drained blood instead of eating their prey outright.

As a devoted worshipper of the great god Science, as well as a secret acolyte of the church of cryptozoology, I must consider the facts at hand:
1. A Texan found a weird animal on her ranch,
2. The animal was dead.
3. The Texan kept the animal’s head in her freezer.
4. The Texan claims to have had a bunch of chickens drained of blood.
5. The animal in question looks super weird, but so does a lot of stuff.
6. A real chupacabra would be cool, as long as it stayed away from me

I’m not sure that this evidence is a lot to go on just yet, but it’s a start. Hopefully some zoologists will ignore how much they like boring stuff for just a little while, and take a look at this weird frozen animal head. Until then, I strongly recommend that each of you spend several hours googling “chupacabra.” Know thy enemy, and everything.

May
11
2007

Buzzard brohaha: The potential of buzzards being a danger to air traffic stopped a planned body farm from being developed near the San Marcos airport this week. (Photo from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Buzzard brohaha: The potential of buzzards being a danger to air traffic stopped a planned body farm from being developed near the San Marcos airport this week. (Photo from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
This is a story that only Dr. Hannibal Lecter could love.

Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, has had to scuttle its plans to develop a “body farm” near the San Marcos Airport.

What’s a body farm, you ask? It’s a place where scientists bury cadavers as a way to do forensic research on how bodies decompose. And the plans for the body farm had to be scrapped out of fears that it might attract buzzards that could be a danger to planes landing at the airport.

Two other universities in the United States currently have body farms: the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and also Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C.

The idea behind the farms is to find out specific information on how bodies decompose which would give better data to law enforcement and coroners in being able to determine who and when bodies died.

Texas State is starting the search for another site for the body farm after meeting with airport officials who raised concerns about buzzards raiding the farm. The fear was that the vultures would hover around the farm, creating a hazard to planes approaching the airport.

Where do you think a good spot would be a for a body farm? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Gov. Rick Perry ordered Friday that schoolgirls in Texas must be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, making Texas the first state to require the shots. Breitbart.com