Oddly Unlikely Animals – WIF Oddities

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Living Things That

Shouldn’t Exist

(But Do)

Restricted or enabled only by the bounds of natural selection, nature has proven that a vacuum is hard to maintain. While some types of creatures might seem fit for science fiction or simply defy our imagination, the natural world holds a place for creatures that defy common sense or human expectation in existing. Discover poisonous birds, freshwater sharks, plant-eating spiders, and other animals that just don’t seem right, but are out there waiting to expand your concept of life.

10. Pitohuis, the Poison Birds of New Guinea

A bird is the last thing to come to mind when we think of poisonous animals, but the different species of Pitohui from New Guinea are toxic feathered beauties from the rain forest, to be approached with great care. A poisonous bird: What will they think of next? Native to the rain forest environments of New Guinea, the Hooded Pitohui is correctly termed as a poisonous species, rather than a venomous species as a highly dangerous batrachotoxin is present throughout the bird’s feathers, skin and flesh. The bird’s toxicity became apparent in 1989 when a California Academy of Sciences based researcher named Jack Dumbacher who had set out to study birds of paradise in Papua New Guinea noticed burning pain in his hands when scratched by the peculiar Pitohuis caught in nets originally intended to catch birds of paradise for closer inspection.

The toxins that make up the chemical arsenal of these birds are in fact the same lethal compounds found in poison dart frogs notorious for being capable of killing predators and humans alike. Exactly why the birds possess this toxicity remains a matter of scientific interest, with associated speculation that the bright colors of these birds warns potential predators of their chemical laden bodies. The process by which pitohui toxins concentrate also formed a subject of scientific curiosity that was solved by Dumbacher when he went back to the rainforest and in collaboration with locals was able to determine that the source of the toxins consisted of poison-bearing beetlesthat the birds consumed in quantity.

9. Ocean Lizards

Lizards represent the hot desert in the minds of most people to a great degree, or at least a sunny, perhaps dusty garden path or tree trunk in a warm tropical jungle. Yet, a member of this vast and diverse group of small dinosaur lookalikes has done the unimaginable and become marine, basking on wave splashed rocks and foraging under the surf. Native to the Galapagos Islands and surrounding waters, the large and colorful Marine Iguana is a lizard that has mastered the sea, hauling out on rocks like a sea lion in between dives below the waves, where they forage on marine algae and seaweeds chewed off the surface of submerged rocks.

 The plant-based diet is easily harvested with the help of the iguana’s razor like teeth. Efficiency is key to Marine Iguana survival, as meals must be gathered quickly to prevent chilling and loss of heat energy. Measuring over 3 feet in length and weighing up to 22 pounds, the Marine Iguana is the only ocean-going lizard on the planet. Large groups of breeding females jockey for space in the breeding season, while males fight fiercely for a chance to mate with the female of their choice. The dinosaur-like creatures are normally blackish or grey-ish in color, but the males stand out with its greenish and reddish hues that come into color during the breeding season, signalling dominance and urging females to select them as mates.

8. Freshwater Sharks

Freshwater might seem like a place to swim safely without fear of sharks, but a population of Bull Sharks, a species known to have caused human deaths lives in Lake Nicaragua, while several species of river shark patrol fast moving waters in parts of Asia and Oceania, including Australia. Bull Sharks are a primarily ocean going species, but a population oddly yet naturally established in Lake Nicaragua ensures that swimming in a lake is not a guarantee of safety from shark attacks. While normal marine bull sharks are known to travel temporarily up rivers, the true river sharks belonging to the genus Glyphis are rare, at risk species characteristic of rivers and in some species, estuarine waters.

The Ganges Shark is the most closely associated with river habitats, while the Northern River shark and Spear-toothed Shark inhabit rivers and estuaries but more frequently swim in marine coastal zones. While the degree to which they travel in saltwater varies, what these sharks have in common is complete mastery of freshwater environments, with the Ganges shark being especially comfortable far upstream from any source of saltwater. The Bull Sharks that inhabit Lake Nicaragua are not a separate species, but as a population have admirably adapted to the purely freshwater environment of the lake. In order to survive, they draw upon their ability to excrete urine at a higher rate than normal to allow proper osmosis in their lifelong freshwater environment.

7. Meat-Eating Parrots

The Kea of New Zealand is an endangered parrot that acts like a hawk or vulture, eating the young of shearwater chicks and scavenging mammal carcasses. Superficially cute and cartoonish with huge “gooey” eyes, the Kea is the only alpine species of parrot in the world, able to handle cold winds, snow and low temperatures for prolonged periods of time. Their physical adaptations include the ability to soar like a raptor, effectively insulating, thick feathers and exceptionally sharp, hooked beaks that make them adept opportunistic harvesters of meat. Attacks on live mammals are also known to have occurred, especially presenting a concern in the context of livestock management.

Because of the tendency for Kea to sometimes prey on vulnerable sheep, wounding them and removing fat and tissue with their sharp bills, a bounty was placed on the birds, which are now protected but still classed as vulnerable. When not feeding on meat from carrion or live prey or searching for plant material, Kea may use their scythe-like bills to extract juicy grubs from the soil, drawing upon their high quantities of nourish fat and proteins. Brown and green in color at rest, the Keas may seem disappointingly dull to first time observers searching for these parrots, but offer a surprise when viewed in flight from beneath with their bright red wing linings and graceful maneuvers as they search for their next meal.

6. Bipedal Antelopes

Humans might have a near monopoly on mammalian bipedalism and antelopes seem to be the very definition of a quadruped. Yet, the slender Gerenuk, with a name that originates from the Somali word for “Giraffe-necked” defies ungulate normality as an antelope species that feeds in bipedal mode.  The silhouette of the species is unique among all mammals, crossing a stretched version of the typical ungulate body with an almost primate like-vertical stance. While Gerenuk feeds, the front legs awkwardly extend forward into the air. Standing on its spindly hindlegs to reach heights of almost 8 feet,this near threatened ungulate presents a bizarre sight in the grasslands of East Africa, browsing on leaves, berries, buds and flowers that other species cannot reach, especially Acacia leaves.  

The ability to stand upright adds to the Gerenuk’s already long legs and almost ridiculous looking, lengthened, skinny neck in allowing them to reach edible plant material well beyond the reach of most other antelope species, from which they also derive most of their water. With the remarkable occurrence of bipedalism in a hoofed mammal species attracting scientific curiosity, investigation into Gerenuk physiology has revealed interesting adaptations that facilitate and indicate significant evolutionary commitment to bipedal capabilities in this species.  Specifically, Gerenuks have smaller lumbar spinal protrusions, known as processes, allowing increased inward curvature of the spine required to stand upright for prolonged periods of time.

5. Lake Seals

A freshwater seal species does exist and it defies the very definition of marine mammal by it’s entirely lake bound occurrence. Known locally as the Nerpa and possibly half a million years old as a species, the Baikal Seal is the only true entirely freshwater seal species on the planet, restricted to the deep and mysterious Lake Baikal, which is in fact the deepest lake on Earth. Relying on the strange looking Baikal Oilfish or Golomyankas for the majority of their diet as well as sculpins and amphipods, these aquatic carnivores are a species of uncertain origin, still presenting a mystery to biologists who have yet to precisely pin down the circumstances leading up to their establishment in the lake as an endemic species.

Lake Baikal is not only extraordinarily deep, it is also extremely cold, with ice that remains into the spring breeding season. Well adapted to their environment, female Baikal Seals have developed the ability to create ice dens,in which they take shelter and subsequently give birth, usually to one pup. A small seal, the Baikal Seal may reach just past 4.5 feet in length and weigh no more than 154 pounds in most cases. The gray colored, docile lake seals maintain breathing holes in the ice and haul out along rocky shorelines in warmer weather.

4. Plant-Eating Spiders

The concept of a plant-eating spider is something that is unlikely to have entered the minds of most people. The reality that a herbivorous spider exists is likely to surprise even many who are trained biologists or biologists in training. Residing in Southern Mexico and Central America, the recently discovered jumping spider species Bagheera kiplingi is a huge eyed, rather cute looking arachnid that lives a lifestyle running completely counter to what we generally would expect of spiders. The very epitome of a carnivorous invertebrate, spiders are notorious for trapping their prey in webs, ambushing animals from tunnels, injecting doses of venom that are sometimes strong enough to kill a human and running down small prey on foot.

In contrast, the primary component of the diet of the brown and white jumping spider Bagheera kiplingi consists of Beltian bodies, tiny, fibre-rich parcels of plant material that provide certain Acacia plants with the resources to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship with ants that feed on the Beltian bodies but defend the tree from plant eaters. The enterprising Bagheera kipling,however, feeds on the Beltian bodies “intended” for the ants, while avoiding attack by the ants through what might be termed mock predation, swiftly lunging for the Beltian bodies and then beats a hasty retreat from the advancing ants. The spiders are mostly herbivorous, but at times may feed on ant larvae.

3. Nocturnal Gulls

The owls might be the first and only category of birds recalled when nocturnal avian species are brought up. Yet, a little known and unlikely marine bird from the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and Malpeno Island, Colombia has fully mastered the night sky through an incredibly strange detour in evolutionary history.  Foraging above the moonlit waves, the Swallow-tailed Gull sees in the relative darkness well enough to navigate and capture their fish and squid prey by moonlight, resting and tending to the young by day.

With ghostly pale spots on its plumage, a dark head and fleshy red tissue circling the eye, the Swallow-tailed Gull is the only truly nocturnal seabird on the planet. The strange looking gulls are equipped with extra large, darkened eyes containing a layer of reflective tissue that bounces light back through the retina to the bird’s photoreceptor cells, aiding it in seeing well while hunting at night. Biochemical adaptations include reduced melatonin levels, a sleep inducing hormone found in higher quantities in all other gulls. Heading out at night in large flocks, the night gulls swoop down to seize squid, small fish and any other invertebrates in reach in their prominently hooked bill before returning to their nesting colonies.

2. Fishing Cats

It is a well established fact in the minds of most that cats detest water, yet there is a species of feline from Asia so committed to an aquatic lifestyle that dramatic physical adaptations have defined its evolutionary history. Instead of shying away from water, the appropriately named Fishing Cat from South Asia and Southeast Asia inhabits wetlands, mangrove swamps and the edges of rivers and streams where they hunt for fish, catching aquatic prey with their sharp claws or seizing prey in their teeth during opportunistic dives into watery feeding areas.

Not afraid of water, the cats have a variety of physical adaptations that give them mastery of the water as some of the most skilled swimmers among predatory mammals. Fish eating cats have short tails, powerful muscles and the ability to walk in mud without sinking and excellent paddling and diving ability, allowing them to plunge deep into the water to capture fish, which forms the major portion of their diet. A thick, short fur base layer of fur insulates the cats from wet and cold when in the water, while longer hairs provide camouflage. An underwater surprise attack approach to hunting waterfowl, where the cats grab swimming birds by the feet from below has also been reported and ranks among the eeriest ways that a mammal can hunt birds.

1. Vegetarian Vultures

Vultures are the quintessential carrion scavenger and often carry a distasteful association with death in human minds. Yet, a quirky vulture widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa stands out in total rebellion against vulture ways. Through yet another unlikely and incredibly specific jog in the evolutionary history of modern fauna, the appropriately monikered Palm-nut Vulture has adapted to a diet centered primarily upon plant material, focusing its foraging on the fruits of the Kosi Palm, Date Palm and Acacia. To feed, the Palm-nut Vulture opens the kernels before extracting the nutritious, fatty meal inside each palm kernel utilizes its massive bill to crack fearsome beak to break open its palm kernel “prey” and strip fruit flesh.

At just two feet long, with a wingspan under five feet wide, the black and white bird with bright fleshy facial patches is actually the smallest Old World vulture species in the world. The plant eating raptor’s small size and agility, coupled with talon bearing, powerful feet facilitate its impressive foraging gymnastics, where it hangs upside down like monkey from palm branches, accessing its food. The entirely vegetarian source of protein forms the bulk of the natural food supply for this bizarre bird of prey, up to 92 percent of the juvenile diet and 58-65 percent of the diet of adults. Fish, insects and occasionally, bats supplement the palm nut, fruit and seed diet of this bird.


Oddly Unlikely Animals

– WIF Oddities

Horrific Sea Creatures – Action Video!

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Terrifying

Sea Creatures

That Need

Their Own

Horror Movie

The surface of the Earth is 71% water, that water is home to some amazing and terrifying creatures. Some of these aquatic animals are rarely seen by humans and live in the murky depths of the ocean, while the others live near the surface and are quite dangerous to us. What they all have in common is that they are the stuff of nightmares.

 10. Gulper Eel

Eurypharynx pelecanoides, commonly known as Gulper Eels, are found in tropical and temperate waters around the earthat depths ranging from 165 feet to 1.8 miles. The eels have large mouths, which is where it gets its other name – Pelican Eels. Their large mouth allows the eels to swallow other animals, mostly crustaceans, even if the animal is bigger than the eel itself. The eels aren’t some small creature, either. They are usually about 30 inches long.

While they look pretty intimidating, they aren’t something you should ever worry about encountering because human sightings of them are pretty rare.

9. Dragonfish

Stomiidae is a family of fish that are better known as Dragonfish. There are 290 species, many of which look terrifying. For example, the Black Dragonfish has a striking resemblance to the Xenomorphs in the Alien franchise.

Dragonfish are found in oceans throughout the world, and one of their most notable features, which is found on most species, is its large mouth that’s lined with large fangs. The good news is that the Dragonfish have fairly weak jaws that close slowly. Their fangs are used to hold large prey in place while the jaw closes.

Some Dragonfish have bioluminescent photophores, which are organs that glow, so they are often found in extremely deep water where light doesn’t reach. So basically, don’t worry about encountering one if you’re taking a dip in the ocean. If you do, you have bigger problems to worry about, like the extreme cold and your lungs collapsing.

8. Anglerfish

National Geographic, who loves to show the beauty of the world, calls the Anglerfish “the ugliest animal in the world.” And we don’t disagree with their assessment, because Anglerfish are pretty hideous animals. There are over 200 species of them, and they generally live in the deep waters of the Atlantic and Antarctic oceans, sometimes at depths of up to a mile.

In some species, the males and females look and act drastically different from one another. The females have a dorsal spine that sticks out over their head like a fishing rod, which is where they get their name. At the tip of the spine is a luminous organ and this light lures prey close to their gigantic mouths. Their mouths are so big that they can swallow prey twice their size. Often, females are no bigger than a foot long, but some species are up to 3.3 feet long.

The males, on the other hand, are much smaller; they only grow to be a few inches long. You may be thinking that must make for some awkward mating, and you would be absolutely right. What happens is that the males bite the females. Over time, they fuse their faces to the female’s body and that is how he’ll live out the rest of his life. When the female releases her eggs, the male releases his sperm. So not only are Anglerfish ugly, but they’re also clingy. But we’re sure they have great personalities, just so funny, you guys. Give them a chance, you might like them.

7. Sarcastic Fringehead

Sarcastic Fringeheads live in a depth range from 10 to 240 feet off the coast of California. Usually, they live in rocky cervices and shells, and only their head is exposed. The Sarcastic Fringehead has two traits that would be horrifying in a neighbor or a roommate: they are very territorial, and can’t see very well. If an animal, or a human hand, gets too close to their home, the Fringehead will open its mouth really wide and expose it’s fangs, making it look a lot like the Predator. If this doesn’t scare away the potential predator, the Fringehead will attack. Since they don’t have good eyesight, they will attack anything they feel threatened by. This includes animals that are much bigger than them, including humans.

The Fringehead also has one of the most unusual ways in the animal kingdom to settle territorial disputes. If a Fringehead moves into an area where another Fringehead is living, they “mouth wrestle” for the area. This involves them pressing their open mouths against one another, and the fish with the bigger mouth wins the territory. So if you have had to go through some hassle while moving into a new home, you should just be thankful that real estate deals among humans aren’t done in the same way as the Fringeheads. Well, that is, unless you have a gigantic mouth and love kissing strangers aggressively. Man, no wonder Mick Jagger lives so luxuriously.

6. Stargazer

Do you know someone in your life who doesn’t like to wade into the water at a beach because they can’t see the bottom, and don’t want to touch any marine life? Well, do not tell them about the Stargazer fish.

There are 51 species of Stargazers, and their most recognizable feature is that they have eyes on the top of their head. Another unique feature is that they bury themselves in the sand of the ocean floor, and wait to ambush prey. Some species also have traits that trick prey into getting closer. This includes gills that discharge water, which stirs up the sand. The Stargazer’s prey will think that it’s a smaller creature that they eat Then, once it moves in, the Stargazer sucks in the prey.

If the prospect of finding a grotesque face on the floor of the ocean staring up at you wasn’t frightening enough, the Stargazer also has venomous spines near its gills that can generate electric shocks that are about 50 volts. That means if you come across one, do not try to pick it up or step on it. The good news is that you probably won’t come across one, because they usually live in deep parts of the ocean. However, some have been seen in ankle deep water in Virginia Beach.

5. Alligator Gar

There are seven known species of Gar in the world, and the biggest is the Alligator Gar. They are scaly fish that are six feet long and weigh up to 300 pounds. They have a long, flat mouth, similar to an alligator (hence the name), which is full of incredibly sharp teeth. They are found in lakes, bayous, and bays in North and Central America.

While they look vicious and are as big as a large man, there are no confirmed incidents of Alligator Gar attacking humans. However, they do pose another risk to humans besides biting. Their eggs are poisonous if they are ingested. So if someone offers some Alligator Gar caviar at a party, you may want to pass.

4. Great Barracuda

Great Barracudas are found in tropical waters throughout the world, and are large fish that can be over five feet long and weigh over 100 pounds. They have two rows of razor sharp teeth that they use to rip apart larger prey. Another notable trait that makes them frightening is that they move pretty fast: they can reach speeds over 35 miles per hour. For some perspective, the fastest human swimmer, Michael Phelps, only reaches speeds of about 4.4 miles per hour.

Humans being attacked by Great Barracudas are incredibly rare, but it has been known to happen. They are responsible for at least two deaths in the United States, one in 1947 and another in 1957. There was another attack in 1960, where a diver was bit twice and needed 31 stitches to close the wounds. However, beyond that, barracudas generally leave humans alone. We can only assume it’s because they really appreciate Heart recording a bitchin’ song about them.

3. Reef Stonefish

Reef Stonefish live in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, and they get their name because they have camouflage skin that makes them look like reefs or rocks. Often they are just over a foot long, but there are reports of monster ones, about 20 inches long, being found in the wild.

Why the Reef Stonefish appears so high on this list is because they are considered the most poisonous fish in the world. The venom is transmitted by 13 spines in the dorsal fin, so people are usually stung when they accidentally step on one. Before the arrival of Europeans in Australia, there were several deaths caused by the fish. An antivenom was developed in 1959, so no deaths have occurred since then. However, a dozen people are stung every year and the stings are quite painful. The venom has both cardiovascular and neuromuscular toxins, meaning it will affect your muscle and cardiovascular system. Supposedly, the pain is immediate and intense. Some people have asked for limbs to be amputated because the pain got to be so bad. One victim said:

“I got spiked on the finger by a Stonefish in Australia. Never mind a bee sting; Imagine having each knuckle, then the wrist, elbow and shoulder being hit in turn with a sledgehammer over the course of about an hour. Then about an hour later imagine taking a real kicking to both kidneys for about 45 minutes so that you couldn’t stand or straighten up. I was late 20s, pretty fit physically and this was the tiniest of nicks. Got sensation back in my finger after a few days but had recurrent kidney pains periodically for several years afterwards.”

In case that story didn’t make it clear, if you’re in the waters or reefs of Australia, watch where you step.

2. Goliath Tigerfish

With a name that contains the words “Goliath” and “Tiger” you have to know that theGoliath Tigerfish is a sea creature that you don’t want to mess with. The fish is found in several rivers in Africa, and according to locals, they are the only fish that aren’t afraid of crocodiles. Supposedly, they even take bites out of them.

The biggest one ever found was 5 feet long and 154 pounds, but it’s believed that there are larger ones out in the wild. They have 32 jagged, razor-sharp teeth that are up to an inch long and when they bite, they can cut cleanly through prey. They also move quickly and are one of the fastest fish in the rivers.

Besides their speed, they have other senses that help make them fierce hunters. They can sense vibrations in the water, and they have excellent eye sight. They find prey in turbulent waters and since they are strong swimmers, they simply eat the weaker fish that are struggling with the current. Encountering one Goliath Tigerfish sounds terrifyingenough, but it’s even worse because they travel in packs (yeah, we know fish travel in schools, but that’s not as intimidating, OK?).

There are several stories of people being attacked by Goliath Tigerfish, leaving peoplewithout fingers, and in one case, a woman’s Achilles was cut. Another story involves people disappearing after falling off a riverboat. However, none of the attacks have ever been confirmed.

1. Geographic Cone Snail

Geographic Cone Snails are probably the least intimidating looking sea creature on this list, but they are probably the most dangerous. They are found in the reefs of the Indo-Pacific and sport six inch shells that have an intricate brown-and-white pattern.

The snails have teeth, which they fire off like harpoons and are full of a powerful venom called Conotoxin. Once a fish is hit, it becomes instantly paralyzed. The venom is also quite harmful to humans and there is no antivenom. What happens is that the venom spreads, paralyzing the body, including the diaphragm, which stops the person’s breathing. The only treatment for someone stung by a Geographic Cone Snail is to keep them alive and wait for the venom to leave their body. Sometimes this can take several hours… or it can take several weeks. Unfortunately, not everyone lasts that long. In fact, Geographic Cone Snails are responsible for dozens of deaths over the past century.

What’s interesting about the venom is that it’s a unique combination of compounds, and there are proteins in it that may be incredibly effective in pain-killing drugs. Studies have shown that it can be 10,000 times more potent than morphine and doesn’t have any of morphine’s side-effects.


Horrific Sea Creatures

– Action Video!

Desert Oddities – WIF Geography

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Strange Things

Found

in the Desert

Deserts are nature’s perfect hiding places for strange things. The climate can be so hostile to traverse that few people will risk dying after a few hours exposure in the hopes of finding something worthwhile. The lack of even basic of life forms, like bacteria in some deserts, mean that bizarre and mysterious objects can be preserved much longer and more often than normal.

 The extreme environment is also good for creating all sorts of novel flora and fauna. For unsavory types, the desert is perfect for doing nefarious deeds, where they imagine there wouldn’t be prying eyes to worry about. So let’s search the sands, seeking something strange.

10. Chinese Desert Patterns

In 2011, Google Earth users found objects in Gobi Desert areas of China’s Xinjiang and Gansu provinces that made the supposedly paranormal crop circles look downright quaint. While a few large buildings were quickly identified, the more intriguing and seemingly haphazardly designed collections of white lines carved into the ground defied any immediate explanation and came off as especially suspicious for having been made in remote areas. These were not small objects, either.

The Guardian reported that some stretched out for as much as roughly half a mile to 1.15 miles.

The answer turned out to be a little ingenious but relatively benign. They’re used by the Chinese government to orient their spy satellites and calibrate their lenses. Knowing the relative distances and angles for different portions of the pattern allows the satellite operators to know if they’re reading certain distances properly or how well the focus is working. These, it should be noted, are not secret satellites, and it’s not a practice that’s unique to China, either. There’s one in Casa Grande, Arizona that serves the same purpose and which dates back to the 1960s.

9. Ancient Egyptian Burial Boat

For ancient Egyptians, it was fairly common practice to include a vehicle of some kind in the tomb. The famous tomb of King Tut had six chariots in it. Others favored putting boats in theirs, and this was hardly restricted to the elites. Even the peasant class would put cheap but affordable reed boats in their graves with them. But one that was discovered in the Saharan desert after 4,500 years in the sands of the Abusir Necropolis was quite baffling.

This vessel, unearthed in 2016, was sixty feet in length, only about six feet shorter than a warship of the time. It was made of especially high-quality wood, hence it still being relatively intact when it was excavated. What was odd was that it wasn’t buried in the grave of a noble, or a general, or anyone like that. Instead, the person entombed with it was a commoner. How could a peasant have afforded such a boat? How could the family have possibly afforded to pay to have the equivalent of a destroyer buried with him, or even have it transported inland? The answer for people curious about the true nature of the past is frustratingly lost to the sand swirls history.

8. Desert Graveyard for Sea Mammals

Speaking of graveyards, the mystery boat is hardly alone in terms of finding surprising burial sites in the sands. In the Atacama Desert in Chile, there’s a hill called Cerro Ballena (“Whale Hill”) forty meters above sea level that, during roadwork in 2010, was found to contain fossils of forty whales along with a collection of other marine mammals such as dolphins and seals, not to mention some fish related to swordfish. It initially seemed like an amazing case of mass fossilization: How could dozens of animals of various species have all died at once, and in so many cases have been preserved?

The most accepted explanation is that the numerous mammals and fish were deposited over time, and that the hill in question happened to be a place where the bodies were washed up, only to have nature preserved them for six to nine million years. The rather worrying suspect of the deaths that left them to washed up on land was a spontaneous algae infection. True or not, it certainly left an unusual resting place for quite a menagerie.

7. Sudden Tunisian Desert Lake


Desert Oddities

– WIF Geography

Prehistoric Man and His Petrifying Pets – WIF World

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Terrifying Animals

That Lived Alongside

Prehistoric Man

hunting-the-cave-bear

Hunting the Cave Bear by Zdenek Burian

Our species, Homo sapiens, have only been around for about as long as a blink of an eye in terms of Earth’s history. It’s believed that the Earth formed over 4.6 billion years ago, and the first humans evolved about 200,000 years ago in Africa.

 In order to survive so that modern humans could flourish, our prehistoric ancestors had to fight off and hunt animals that were much bigger and far stronger than them. These are 10 horrifying animals that they may have encountered as humans migrated all over the world.

10. The Columbian Mammoth

Columbian mammoths were one of the biggest mammals to ever walk on Earth, and they were cousin to the more famous woolly mammoths. Columbian mammoths were found all the way from modern-day Canada to Mexico, while woolly mammoths, who were smaller, were found in northern Asia, Russia, and Canada. Another major difference is that Columbian mammoths had much less hair, so they looked closer to modern day elephants, but bigger with much longer tusks.

Columbian mammoths were 12 to 14 feet tall and weighed anywhere between 5.5 and 11 tons. The Columbian mammoth also had the biggest tusks out of the elephant family. They were, on average, 12 feet long, spiraled, and very strong. They would have been used to fight off predators, including humans.

9. The Ground Sloth

We know that this list is about terrifying animals, and sloths are anything but terrifying. However, their ancient ancestors, ground sloths, were a bit more intimidating than their modern day counterpart because they were some of the biggest mammals to ever live.

There were several different subspecies of ground sloths and the ones that lived in North America were the size of rhinos and humans most likely dined on them. However, the biggest ground sloths, the Megatherium, which lived in South America up until about 10,000 years ago, were as big as an elephant. From head to tail, they were 20 feet long and weighed up to four tons. Also, because they had sharp teeth and long claws, there is some speculation that they may have been carnivores.

Ultimately, the last species of ground sloths lived until about 4,200 years ago on theCaribbean islands. When humans arrived on the islands, it was the final death blow to the ground sloths.

8. Gigantopithecus

The biggest known primate to ever walk the earth was the Gigantopithecus, which is a relative of orangutans. They were 10 feet tall, and they weighed around 1,100 pounds.

One thing you may notice is that the Gigantopithecus looks a lot like the mythical Sasquatch. However, before anyone begins to speculate, the Gigantopithecus died out 100,000 years ago. So unless a group of 10-foot, half ton apes actively hid themselves from humans for one thousand centuries, it doesn’t seem likely that people have seen Gigantopithecus and thought it was Bigfoot.

The reason they died out after living on Earth for six to nine million years is because they needed a lot of food, like fruits, to sustain their giant bodies, which wasn’t a problem when their home in Southeast Asia was tropical forests. But then, because of weather changes their forests started to disappear and they became dry savannas, meaning there was less food and the giant primate just died out.

Of course, Gigantopithecus may be familiar to those people who saw the very excellent live adaptation of The Jungle Book, because King Louie is a Gigantopithecus.

7. The Cave Hyena

Cave Hyenas, also known as spotted coyotes, were about double the size of their relatives, the laughing coyote. They weighed up to 285 pounds, they were about three feet tall, and were nearly five feet long. According to calculations based on fossils, one cave hyena was strong enough to take down a 5-year-old mastodon that weighed a ton.

However, they lived in packs, sometimes consisting of 30 coyotes. These made them much more effective hunters, and they could take down a nine-year-old mastodon that weighed nine tons. Needless to say, a small family of humans would not want to come across a pack of hungry hyenas.

Their population started to dwindle about 20,000 years ago, before going extinct somewhere between 11,000 and 13,000 years ago. One reason may have been humans, because we competed with hyenas for cave space during the last ice age.

6. Smilodon

Saber-toothed cats are often given the very misleading title of saber-tooth tigers. It’s misleading because while they are part of the Felidae family, they weren’t closelyrelated to tigers.

Saber-toothed cats first appeared 42 million years ago. There were many species of them and most of them had died before humans first appeared. However, it’s believed that humans living in the Americas could have come across two different species of saber-toothed cats, Smilodon fatalis and Smilodon populator. They ranged in size and they could be as big as an African lion, which is the biggest wild lion living today. They also could weigh as much as the biggest subspecies of tiger, the Siberian tiger.

With their size came great strength. The smilodons could take down much bigger animals than themselves, like mammoths. Often, they would wait for prey to get close and then launch a surprise attack.

Out of the feline family, the smilodon didn’t have the strongest bite. According to calculations, it only had about one-third of the bite strength of modern lions. However, it had a really flexible jaw and could open its mouth 120 degrees, compared to a lion, which maxes out at 60 degrees.

The smilodon also had fairly weak teeth, but researchers think to compensate for that, they developed the strongest forearms of all cats. It’s believed that they used this strength to hold down their prey and then stabbed their fangs through the prey’s neck. Another theory is that the Smilodon repeatedly stabbed the prey with their fangs after it was held down. No matter how they killed their prey, a human did not want to find itself under the forearms of a smilodon.

5. The Dire Wolf

Fans of Game of Thrones may recognize Dire Wolves, but unlike many other animals on the show, Dire Wolves were real.

They first appeared about a quarter of a million years ago. They were similar tomodern-day gray wolves but sturdier. The gray wolf, which is the largest living wolf, is about 4 feet to 6.6 feet long and weighs 40 to 170 pounds, while Dire Wolves were about 5 feet long and weighed up to 200 pounds.

Dire Wolves, which were found all over North and South America, had a bite force that was 29 percent stronger than gray wolves. Their diet consisted of mostly horses.

They became extinct like so a lot other carnivores, at the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago.

4. The American Lion

Like a lot of other animals on this list, the American Lion is horribly named because it’s not a lion at all. Its scientific name is Panthera atrox, and as it suggests, the American Lion is more closely related to panthers than lions. One part about their name that is correct is that they lived in modern-day America starting about 330,000 years ago.

One notable aspect that our ancient ancestors would have noticed right away if they encountered an American Lion is that it was huge. In fact, it is the biggest known wild cat in history. On average, they weighed 772 pounds, which is 25 percent larger thanan African Lion. The American Lion was also incredibly strong. They were powerful enough to bring down a bison, meaning a small group of humans would have been in trouble had they encountered one of these lions.

They died around 11,000 years ago around the end of the last ice age.

3. The Megalania

Megalania was a monitor lizard, which is the same lizard family as the Komodo dragon, and it lived in Australia until about 50,000 years ago; around the same time that humans migrated there.

The size of Megalania is a highly debated topic. Originally, it was thought to be 23 feet long, while other estimates put its size more in the range of 11 feet long.

Regardless, they were bigger than Komodo dragons, but like the Komodo dragon, the Megalania also had poisonous glands. It would simply bite its prey and if it didn’t die of blood loss, then it would be slowly poisoned to death and the Meaglania would feast on its carcass.

Today, Komodo dragons are considered a very dangerous animal. They are fast, strong, and poisonous. They are also on average 6.5 feet long. The Megalania could have been four times that size; not exactly something a human, either prehistoric or modern, would want to bump into.

2. The Short-Faced Bear

Bears first appeared about 40 million years ago, and several subspecies have evolved over the years. One that our prehistoric ancestors would have encountered is the short-faced bear.

Short-faced bears (Arctodus pristinus) were five feet tall at shoulder height, but when they stood up, they were 12 feet tall and with its arms raised it was 14 feet tall. It also had the ability to run on two legs. If that wasn’t terrifying enough, the short-faced bear also had long limbs, and could run faster than a grizzly, possibly reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour. That means even Usain Bolt, who was clocked in at 28 miles per hour, would be dinner for this beast.

The Giant Short-Faced Bear was one of the biggest carnivores in North America. They first appeared about 800,000 years ago and they became extinct about 11,600 years ago.

1. The Quinkana

According to fossils, the Quinkana first evolved about 1.6 million years ago and they lived in modern day Australia. They were huge members of the crocodile family and they could grow to be 23 feet long. Just for some perspective, the longest crocodile in captivity was Lolong and he was 20 feet long.

A major difference between the Quinkana and many other crocodiles is that they were land dwellers. Since they lived on land, there was two major physical traits that the Quinkana developed. The first was that it had long, powerful legs. It would hunt its prey by chasing after them for long distances. The second difference is that crocodiles use their teeth to latch on and drag their prey into the water and drown it. The Quinkanas’ teeth, on the other hand, were much sharper and they were used for cutting.

They died out about 50,000 years ago, about 10,000 years after humans first arrived in Australia.


Prehistoric Man and His Petrifying Pets

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– WIF World

Bad Food Trends – WIF Science

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Food Trends

That Have Negative

Consequences on the World

What’s popular in the grocery stores, fast food restaurants and other dining establishments changes throughout the years. In more recent days we have seen fast food establishments at least make an effort to look healthy, especially with children’s food products, and people are more concerned with health than ever before. However, not all of the trends regarding food are necessarily good. While people are more concerned with their health, consumer ignorance and misinformation is widespread, and many popular food trends have hidden consequences that the average person is completely unaware of.

10. Reliance on Cows is a Huge Contributor to Global Warming

cow

Aside from those in the world population who find cows sacred, and the world’s vegetarians, we all love our cow meat. Tucking into a delicious burger or steak is a part of life many of us would be loathe to give up, and for many you would have to pry the steak out of their cold, dead hands. However, it is this love of beef that is helping raise worldwide greenhouse gas levels by alarming amounts. Cows both fart, and burp a lot, and they also leave a lot of cow pies lying around as well. All the methane that is belched into the environment or broken down in their waste is easily the majority worldwide contributor to methane being released in large quantities.

Of course, while methane is incredibly bad for the environment, it is only one greenhouse gas. Cows alone are far from the only, or biggest, major contributor, but they are enough to be causing a serious impact. Scientists are now trying to solve the problem, or at least find ways to mitigate it. Some have suggested changing the cows’ diets to something that has more alfalfa and supplements instead of the usual diets, so they will be less gassy. And they have also emphasized that proper breakdown or reuse of dung can prevent extra methane leaking into the atmosphere. Either way, scientists believe that with the reliance on beef for food by many developing countries, that the issue is going to be here to stay for a long time to come.

9. Fat Free Foods Have Increased Our Reliance on Sugar to be Satisfied

sugar

Perhaps one of the worst food fads that still affects us today is the “fat free” fad. This fad is do pervasive that even though it began in the 1970s due to a hearing started by Senator George Mcgovern, you will meet many weight watching people today who, despite religiously watching their calorie count, still balk at “fat content” in foods. The fact is that if you understand calorie count, you’ll know that calories plus exercise — and to some extent genetics — will decide your weight loss rate. And studies have not shown any health benefit to a low fat diet, but this still persists in the national consciousness and it’s still doing damage.

Today stores are full of “fat free” or “low-fat” products, and many products today that would have had more fat in the past have none or very little. However, what they have instead, and started having in the late ’70s when the trend began, was a whole lot more sugar. And coincidentally, it wasn’t long after this that incidences of diabetes and obesity really took off. Now, it’s hard to say for certain if this was the main or only cause of the rise of diabetes, but there is no question that a brief time ago we started consuming way more sugar than we once did, and it is most definitely bad for us. It shows that in our rush to make fat the villain, we forgot that all food groups are an essential part of a good diet, and that moderation is the most important thing of all.

8. “GMO-Free” Foods Are Helping Produce Ignorant American Consumers

gmo

Recently there has been a strong movement for “GMO-free” foods. On the one hand this sounds reasonable if you don’t understand what a GMO is, but when you do, it sounds utterly inane. GMOs are genetically modified organisms. The problem is that by the actual definition of genetic modification, we have been practicing this on plants and animals for thousands of years — at least. However, even if you feel that there should be more transparency as to today’s biotech practices, the fact is that current labeling and “GMO-free” foods are only helping to increase consumer ignorance and take advantage of people who think they are “avoiding something”.

The truth is that many of the companies who look like they are bowing to the will of the consumer are making changes just to please people, because it’s easier to do that than to argue and cause a viral issue on social media. Companies like Kraft will gladly switch to natural dyes while still selling you a box of processed macaroni and cheese product. And Subway may remove a perfectly harmless ingredient like azodicarbonamide because people get up in arms about it, but they continue to sell many processed foods and use the slogan “eat fresh”. What is really bad for people’s health is the increasing reliance on heavily sugared products and heavily processed foods. Companies jumping on the “GMO-free” bandwagon allows them to make meaningless, cheap changes that make it look like they are doing something while actually continuing business as usual.

7. Soy Food Could Be Decreasing Testosterone Levels

soy

In recent years soy milk, which was once considered more of a niche drink you’d see in a health food store, has become a full blown fad. Women and men alike are drinking it not only as a substitute for milk — as a growing number of people in America have decided it is trendy to claim lactose intolerance without being tested for it — but also just because they enjoy the taste. Milk substitutes like soy tend to come in exciting flavors already full of sugar and other artificial flavor boosters, making it look way more enticing than plain old milk. Unfortunately, soy milk has also been linked with the ability to increase estrogen levels.

While for most people, it would be unlikely to cause anything truly noticeable, there is the case of one man who was dealing with a really strange medical issue. His body seemed to be increasingly feminizing and he could not figure out why. He had swollen mammary glands, hair loss, decreased facial hair growth, etc. After going to four doctors and starting to become frustrated he would never find the answer, his fourth doctor decided to ask him to give him all the details of his diet. It was then that he discovered the man was drinking three quarts of soy milk per day. Now, this is a lot more than most people would consume in a day, so most people would be unlikely to ever show such drastic effects, but it shows that soy can have serious effects on the body’s hormone levels.

6. The Low Carb Diet Fad Has Caused Widespread Nutritional Deficiency

low carb

Back in the 1990s the Atkins Diet really started to become a full blown fad, and before long, people were telling you that eating carbohydrates was bad. It’s easy to see in hindsight that this particular fad was not good — anything that tells you to almost entirely cut a large type of food group out of your diet is likely an unbalanced way to eat. However, at the time it was easy to get on board with the hype, if nothing else to see if it would provide any benefit. And while many people may have lost some weight with it, it is also important to note that lost weight does not necessarily equal good health.

The low carb fad very likely helped contribute to the rise of obesity along with the decrease in fat intake and rise of sugar intake. While there was some reason to be bothered by some carbohydrates — certain processed carbohydrates like refined sugar — the fad did not discriminate, and many people now had diets lacking in proper complex carbohydrates such as grains, fruits and vegetables. The fact is that good carbohydrates are an important part of a balanced diet and will help keep your body in good working order — just like all diets you should eat them in moderation, but not to the point of almost not eating them.

5. The Recent Quinoa Fad Has Been Causing Extreme Hunger in Bolivia

quinoa

If you haven’t heard of it, Quinoa is one of those products that you will hear people tout as a “secret superfood”. It is an Andean plant often confused as a grain, although it is actually closer related to foods like spinach. It looks like an incredibly tiny grain-like object, although it is spherical (where rice is oval). While it was touted by NASA and has been in health food stores for years, it exploded in popularity only recently. Vegans and hipsters everywhere have flocked to this product as the next big thing, and it has created an entirely new export product in thecountry of Bolivia where it is grown.

However, this is not without issues. Our increased trade with Bolivia is having unintended consequences. While the farmers are actually making more money now because of the export market, the price of Quinoa itself is going up so much globally, that many Bolivians who once relied on it as a food staple can no longer afford it as anything but a treat. To make matters worse, now that they are trading with us they are discovering products like Coca-Cola and processed white bread, and the younger generation is becoming attached to it while the older generation watches on in horror. The processed products we import there and our unnecessary overuse of their food staple is helping contribute to obesity and malnutrition in Bolivia.

4. Deceptive Marketing for Cage Free and Free Range Hides the Problem From View

cage free

Another point where consumers are often mislead is when cartons of eggs are labeled “cage free” or “free range”. The truth is that the United States government has no legal standard for those terms on egg cartons and as such companies can pretty much just say it as a marketing gimmick if they wish to. Many companies that claim “cage free” may actually let their chickensout of cages, but never let them see the light of day. Others may consider “free range” to be giving them a small amount of sunlight and fresh air from their cage everyday. There is simply no real standard to go by, so you really don’t know what you are getting.

However, it gets a little weird in terms of poultry. The rules for chickens raised for poultry instead of egg laying is fairly well laid out by the USDA, and has fairly comprehensive guidelines, but these rules don’t count at all when it comes to eggs. What this means is that when a company slaps a label on non-poultry products stating things like “free range” it is essentially meaningless since there isn’t even a loose industry guideline on what that means for that product. The company is likely being deceptive with you, and trying to use your ignorance of the issue to temporarily override your common sense.

3. The Multivitamin Fad Could Be Causing Serious Health Damage

vitamins

Multivitamins are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, there is no doubt about it. Where once you saw them mostly in health food stores and infomercials, you will now find dozens of different bottles of multivitamins in every grocery store. They are colorful and often have some kind of sugary flavor and cute shape in order to be more enticing. Plenty of people have come under the impression that everyone would be better off if they had their daily vitamin, and many now take them religiously. Now, for some people this is a good thing, but for many people it could actually be quite harmful. The matter lies in how healthy the person taking the vitamin is to begin with, and it all ties into how vitamins work.

Multivitamins have a lot of nutrients in them — enough to easily replace anything missing in a deficient diet. And if you think you are struggling to keep a diet that has all the nutrients you need, then a multivitamin might be a really good idea for you. However, the issue is that the people most likely to take multivitamins like clockwork also happen to be the people who already have well balanced and conscientious diets and thus have no need for one. In fact, it could actually be harming them because taking large concentrations of a nutrient you already have enough or more than enough of, especially on a long term, steady basis, can damage the body. Many nutrients found in large quantities in vitamins can be toxic — and even carcinogenic — if allowed to build up in the body too much.

2. Disposable Water Bottles are Devastating to the Environment

plastic bottles

Back when bottled water first hit the scene many people were skeptical and scoffed at the very notion. Well, as strange as it seemed, bottled water has skyrocketed in popularity and now buying disposable bottles of water has become a normal way of life for many people. For some people in the United States, they buy bottled water because they consider it safer and some people just really like the convenience, but it is causing a great deal of harm. The amount offossil fuels used to make the plastic for our bottled water would be enough to fuel a million cars for a whole year, not to mention that it takes roughly triple the amount of water to produce the average bottle of water that the bottle actually contains.

While these may sound bad, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Water bottles are also one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution in the world, and due to the poorly organized recycling system in America, a large quantity of plastic water bottles simply end up in the landfill or ocean and are never reused. This is also a problem because the plastics used for water bottles tend to break down poorly, and leach toxins when they do.

As for whether they are safer to drink, this is not the case either, so there is really no advantage to bottled water. Studies have shown that the toxins present in the plastics can affect the water, and for those who think it has less bacteria than tap, this is not necessarily true either. Some bottled water has been tested and found to be similarly unsafe. This may be due to the fact that some major bottled water companies have been caught using simple tap water for their operations and then reselling it to people. Experts recommend getting a good filter and using it to clean your own tap water.

1. Going “Gluten-Free” If You Don’t Have Celiac Can Be Really Bad For You

gluten free

These days, a lot of people are trying as hard as they can to “go gluten free” as part of the latest, most popular fad diet. While this might sound reasonable at first, the fact of the matter is that there is a reason that food companies are now catering to a large amount of gluten free customers, even though only 1% of Americans have celiac disease. The reason is because, since it’s the “in thing” to do, 21% of people are now trying to cut gluten from their diet. This means that 20% of those people are improperly giving themselves serious dietary deficiencies, and also allowing food companies to all too happily take advantage of their ignorance.

For example, food companies will happily label products like french fries “gluten free” even though people who understand what gluten is would know they are naturally gluten free anyway, and it’s the same with many other treats that are given the same label, such as Rice Krispies treats. The truth is that all the people cutting out gluten may be right to cut out processed and/or refined foods containing gluten, but the wheat and whole grain products that contain gluten are an extremely important part of a normal, balanced diet. Those with celiac have to follow special dietary guidelines from a doctor in order to avoid gluten and still get the required nutrients, so medical professionals strongly recommend getting tested and then getting proper dietary advice before cutting entire food groups from your diet.

Bad Food Trends

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Explore with me

– WIF Science

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #71

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #71

Willy and Herbert exchange sideward glances, neither having seen so much as a smudge of soot on him.

just two adult visitors and their host retire to Hillside Estate, just as the setting sun dips below the tree line, glowing dimly all the way.

"Wooly"

“Wooly”

Martha is faithfully waiting outside her San Luis Lake castle with Agnes at her side, along with Wooly the sheepdog who is sleeping at their feet. And though they are accustomed to the prolonged absence of the head of the house, they do not rest until he is safely home. They have anticipated guests for the night by, so they need to prepare the spare bedrooms. Ever since the unexpected loss of the irreplaceable Olla, mother and daughter take up the care for the house, no one therein is having the will to find another upstairs maid.

“We were wondering if the doctor kidnapped you, perhaps to harvest your organs,” Martha says, with a hint of sarcasm with a pinch of resentment.

“They are old, Martha dear. I help them whenever I can. Today I cleaned the front room chimney. I can feel a chill coming soon and I don’t want their house to burn down. It would be ashes in a blink of an eye.”

    ChimneySweeping   Willy and Herbert exchange sideward glances, neither having seen so much as a smudge of soot on him.

“Should we make you men some supper? You must be famished,” she offers dutifully.

There have been giant strides in the area of cooking, but it remains the single most missed chore of Laura Bell’s former jobs; the menu.

White_Lies  White_Lies  “As a matter of fact, Frieda made her famous wiener schnitzel and insisted we stay, right my friends?” he prompts.

“Oh my, yes, a true European delicacy it was,” agrees and adds Love. He is mildly suspicious of John’s liberty with small details.

“Let’s go inside and enjoy some Indian spiced tea. John, would you start a fire in the den… or is our chimney not fit for a autumn fire?”

“Certainly dear” he ignores the snide addendum to the request. “Say, where is James?” he wonders.

  “I will give you three guesses and the first two do not count.”


 

Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #71


 

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #68

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #68

…If Matthew Brady had snapped a picture, the photograph would capture the very essence of the South…

Mathew Brady’s New York Studio

When the Love Dairy & Ice wagon finally pulls up in the yard of the Bavarian castle, they see John Ferrell on the front porch swing, cradling a child who is fast asleep, or was fast asleep before the resident dachshund propels it little legs out from under the front porch, yapping all the way to greet the Quincy contingent. Ziggy and Frieda, clothed in gardening garb, come out from the back. From inside the house, Laura Bell appears, covered in the flour used for the Wiener schnitzel dinner she is preparing. It is a house favorite, honoring Maggie’s father presence. If Matthew Brady had snapped a picture, the photograph would capture the very essence of the South; five people that you would not normally associate with each other.

But as different as they appear to strangers, they have an easygoing look about them.

Pleased to see that Herb Love had found his way here, forgetting all about being seen with his baby, Ferrell hands her over to Frieda. After he introduces the Endlichoffer menagerie, the menagerie withdraws to the house, leaving the veranda for transactions and negotiating.

“Gentlemen, I was afraid you were not going to make it.”

          “You were afraid? We may still be at your house, if it were not for a polite exit,” states Love with man to man frankness.

          “She does have a way of commanding one’s attention,” a reticently beleaguered husband admits. “Tell me, what do you have for me that have piqued my curiosity so?”

Loyal Campbells-001

Herbert Love defers to Willy Campbell, who has a canister of Loyal Campbells in hand.

“Well, Mr. Ferrell, we was hopin’ you’d find these to your likin’.”

John Ferrell plucks a single Loyal from the container, drawing its five inch length across his nose, reaching its base and moistening it. He knows what to do with a cigar. Willy strikes a wooden match to begin a smoldering fire that will eventually consume it. After several critical puffs, he concludes, “Fine, fine blend I must say. Not expected from a cigar of this size.”


 

Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #68



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