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Nazi Cows Loose in the English Countryside?

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The Nazis had a number of nefarious plots for world domination and genocide, from occultism to the infamous Sun Cannon (a giant reflector that was designed to melt enemies in midair using the power of the sun) to animal husbandry.


That's right. Animal husbandry. And now, 70 years after the fall of the Nazi regime, there are Aryan cows roaming the bucolic English countryside.

It was the dream of two German zoologists, brothers who wanted to bring back to life the mythic wild auroch, a great beast of Teutonic folklore that was hunted to extinction in 1627. The plan, with its roots in the glorious Aryan past invented by the Nazis, won support from Adolph Hitler himself, who saw the resurrected auroch as the first step towards cleansing the German countryside of "racially degenerate" wildlife.

The two brothers, Heinz and Lutz Heck, crossbred several species of big cattle believed to be descendants of the bovines Julius Caesar described as larger than an elephant; the resultant Heck cows, shorter than the aurochs were believed to be, but sharing the same muscular stature and brown shag, were displayed in German zoos, installed in game parks outside Berlin, and even brought to the shooting estate of Hermann Goering, Hitler's second in command and head of the Luftwaffe.

But the fall of the Nazis was not good to the Aryan Heck cows "“ the cattle, an unpleasant reminder of the Fuhrer's "master race" ambitions, were all slaughtered after the war.

Almost all. Saved from (re)extinction by a Belgium conservation park, the breed now has a new lease on life, 70 years later, here in England. In July of last year, a herd of nine Heck cows and four bulls moved into their new digs at the Upcott Grange Farm on the Devon-Cornwall border, a farm that works to conserve rare and endangered species of animals. Said Derek Gow, owner of the farm and the Heck cows, explained, "The Nazis wanted to recreate the aurochs to evoke the power of the folklores and legends of the Germanic peoples. Between the two wars there was thinking that you could selectively breed animals "“ and indeed people "“ for Aryan characteristics that were rooted in runes and folklore."

Gow says there's nothing wrong with owning Aryan cows and that their Nazi past isn't their fault: "I don't think there is anything more sinister in owning Heck cattle than there is driving a Volkswagen," he told the Independent, adding too that because of the cows' hardiness, they could some day roam England free.

Not quite the Nazi invasion of England that Hitler was perhaps imagining.

Moreover, despite the shaggy evidence of the existing herd, the Aryan cow plan was in actual fact unsuccessful: While the engineered cows resemble the auroch in shape, genetic testing has shown that the Heck cows are pretty far removed from their supposed ancestors. Just another kooky, half-baked and horrifying plan of the Nazis.

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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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