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Farmer Sets Out to Grow a Pretty Plant—Creates World’s Hottest Pepper Instead

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Some peppers are perfect for adding a subtle, spicy kick to your favorite dish. Others are so hot they’re eaten as a test of strength. Then there are hot peppers that present a health hazard to anyone who attempts to consume one. The Dragon’s Breath chili belongs in latter group. As The Telegraph reports, the puny fruit packs a heart-pounding 2.48 million Scoville heat units—that's 1.5 times hotter than the current hottest pepper record-holder, the Carolina Reaper.

Competitive gardener Mike Smith didn’t intend to grow a pepper with taste bud-incinerating spice levels. His goal was to cultivate a chili plant on his Welsh farm that was good-looking enough to win Plant of the Year at the Chelsea Flower Show. With help from Nottingham Trent University scientists, who were interested in the chili’s medicinal potential as an anesthetic, he produced a pepper that’s attracting attention for reasons other than its beauty.

The chili’s heat content is so high that scientists warn that any daredevil who eats one might go into anaphylactic shock and die from asphyxiation. This led many outlets to describe the Dragon’s Breath chili as a pepper so hot it can kill you, but Gizmodo explains that eating a lethal dose of the stuff would be harder than headlines make it out to be. According to the article, you’d need to eat over half a pound, or 25 to 30 Dragon’s Breath chilis, to die from capsaicin poisoning. Based on Smith’s description of the taste, just getting past the first pepper sounds like a challenge.

“I’ve tried it on the tip of my tongue and it just burned and burned," he told The Telegraph. "I spat it out in about 10 seconds.”

Smith’s creation failed to win Plant of the Year at the Chelsea Flower Show, but if the scientists’ Scoville Heat Unit calculations are correct, the Dragon’s Breath chili will be crowned the world’s hottest pepper when it’s assessed by Guinness World Records.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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There May Be an Ancient Reason Why Your Dog Eats Poop
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Dogs aren't known for their picky taste in food, but some pups go beyond the normal trash hunting and start rooting around in poop, whether it be their own or a friend's. Just why dogs exhibit this behavior is a scientific mystery. Only some dogs do it, and researchers aren't quite sure where the impulse comes from. But if your dog is a poop eater, it's nearly impossible to steer them away from their favorite feces.

A new study in the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science, spotted by The Washington Post, presents a new theory for what scientists call "canine conspecific coprophagy," or dogs eating dog poop.

In online surveys about domestic dogs' poop-eating habits completed by thousands of pet owners, the researchers found no link between eating poop and a dog's sex, house training, compulsive behavior, or the style of mothering they received as puppies. However, they did find one common link between the poop eaters. Most tended to eat only poop that was less than two days old. According to their data, 85 percent of poop-eaters only go for the fresh stuff.

That timeline is important because it tracks with the lifespan of parasites. And this led the researchers to the following hypothesis: that eating poop is a holdover behavior from domestic dogs' ancestors, who may have had a decent reason to tuck into their friends' poop.

Since their poop has a high chance of containing intestinal parasites, wolves poop far from their dens. But if a sick wolf doesn't quite make it out of the den in time, they might do their business too close to home. A healthier wolf might eat this poop, but the parasite eggs wouldn't have hatched within the first day or two of the feces being dropped. Thus, the healthy wolf would carry the risk of infection away from the den, depositing the eggs they had consumed away in their own, subsequent bowel movements at an appropriate distance before the eggs had the chance to hatch into larvae and transmit the parasite to the pack.

Domestic dogs may just be enacting this behavior instinctively—only for them, there isn't as much danger of them picking up a parasite at home. However, the theory isn't foolproof. The surveys also found that so-called "greedy eaters" were more likely to eat feces than dogs who aren't quite so intense about food. So yes, it could still be about a poop-loving palate.

But really, it's much more pleasant to think about the behavior as a parasite-protection measure than our best pals foraging for a delicious fecal snack. 

[h/t The Washington Post]

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The Prehistoric Bacteria That Helped Create Our Cells Billions of Years Ago
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We owe the existence of our cells—the very building blocks of life—to a chance relationship between bacteria that occurred more than 2 billion years ago. Flash back to Bio 101, and you might remember that humans, plants, and animals have complex eukaryotic cells, with nucleus-bound DNA, instead of single-celled prokaryotic cells. These contain specialized organelles such as the mitochondria—the cell’s powerhouse—and the chloroplast, which converts sunlight into sugar in plants.

Mitochondria and chloroplasts both look and behave a lot like bacteria, and they also share similar genes. This isn’t a coincidence: Scientists believe these specialized cell subunits are descendants of free-living prehistoric bacteria that somehow merged together to form one. Over time, they became part of our basic biological units—and you can learn how by watching PBS Eons’s latest video below.

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