A new, scary species, an old, scary species, and the demise of a famous cat take their tolls on the adorable side of the animal kingdom on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the cuteness factor of the day's non-human interest stories.
It just so happen that a round of less-than-adorable (though still kind of adorable) animal news hit the Internet over the last few days. Scary as it is, we can't help but be enthralled.
- New species: Coyote-wolf hybrids. Coyotes, which historically inhabit the Midwest and western side of North America, have started moving east in greater numbers. Which is scary enough. But now they are mating with wolves along the Eastern Seaboard, scientists have discovered, making for larger-than-normal coyotes that surpass their high-plains ancestors. Christine Bozarth, a research fellow at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, told National Geographic that the hybrids "should be able to do things like take down deer, which a little, scrappy Great Plains wily coyote would not be able to do on its own." This probably doesn't portend another Taylor Mitchell-like death anytime soon, but still, scary!
- Old species: Saber-toothed squirrels. Coyote-wolves seem pretty run-of-the-mill compared with the saber-toothed squirrels scientists have recently discovered. The creatures may have lived alongside the dinosaurs, so it's unlikely they're what's chewing through your cable connection. But imagine if they lived in Central Park! The odd ancient mammals also happen to be fairly important to the whole tracing-back-the-development-of-species game, too. "The new fossils provide a sort of Rosetta Stone for understanding the genealogy of early South American mammals, and how they fit in with those known from northern landmasses," University of Oklahoma zoology professor Rich Cifelli told Discovery News.
- The sad story of JFK Airport's folk-hero feline: While we were all fawning over Willow, the miraculous shelter case, another cat was having an adventure of his own, with what turned out to be a less-than-happy ending. Jack fell through the roof of a baggage terminal on Oct. 25, reappearing after 60 days lost in JFK to much fanfare. His ordeal proved too much for him, however, and he died on Sunday. "Jack suffered extensive wounds that his vet compared with burns over 50%-to-60% of his body," the New York Daily News reported. "His wounds became infected and never healed despite heavy doses of antibiotics." It's a sad reminder that not all these lost-cat stories have happy endings.