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The Time 250,000-Year-Old Mammoth Was Served For Dinner

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Christian Science Monitor

"The grand ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel won't serve food like that again this year," wrote Herbert B. Nichols in the Christian Science Monitor on January 17, 1951. In fact, it probably hasn't served food like that ever since.

The occasion for the noteworthy fare was the Explorers Club 47th Annual Dinner, and the menu went something like this: Pacific spider crabs, with legs large enough to feed 10 people apiece; green turtle soup; bison steaks; cheese straws (which seem out of place but not unappreciated); and a morsel of 250,000-year-old woolly mammoth meat.

Courtesy of the Explorers Club

The task of hydraulically mining the Yukon Valley for permafrost mammoths to serve up proved too pricey to make the meat the main course—in such an event, each plate would have cost $475.94, which corresponds to $4520.23 in today's money. In fact, a lack of any edible mammoth whatsoever was set to nix the plans until Reverend Bernard Hubbard, also known as the Glacier Priest, "told the committee about his own private stock at a place called Woolly Cove on Akutan Island."

There's no mention of how the ultimate frozen food tasted, but that the mammoth was even edible is incredible. A 2007 Baltimore City Paper article cites a 1961 piece in Science magazine, which reported that of 39 mammoth carcasses found in the world to that point (10 years after the Explorers Club dinner), "just four were reasonably complete"—as I suppose it must have been to feed a gala—and even then the meat was often rotten.

Hopefully, for Mr. Nichols and the rest of the attendees' sakes, this was not the case with Reverend Hubbard's mammoth. But even if it was, it didn't deter the Club from their quest to serve only the most exotic foods at the annual dinner. The 2012 feast included bull "rods and testicles," python patties, martinis garnished with cow eyeballs, and a dessert topped with "pupae sprinkles" (a.k.a. maggots).

As for the remains of the centuries-old mammoth, the tusk can still be seen at the Club headquarters in New York City.

Hannah Keyser
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Animals
Australian Charity Releases Album of Cat-Themed Ballads to Promote Feline Welfare
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iStock

An Australian animal charity is helping save the nation’s kitties one torch song at a time, releasing a feline-focused musical album that educates pet owners about how to properly care for their cats.

Around 35,000 cats end up in pounds, shelters, and rescue programs every year in the Australian state of New South Wales, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Microchipping and fixing cats, along with keeping closer tabs on them, could help reduce this number. To get this message out, the RSPCA’s New South Wales chapter created Cat Ballads: Music To Improve The Lives Of Cats.

The five-track recording is campy and fur-filled, with titles like "Desex Me Before I Do Something Crazy" and "Meow Meow." But songs like “I Need You” might tug the heartstrings of ailurophiles with lyrics like “I guess that’s goodbye then/but you’ve done this before/the window's wide open/and so’s the back door/you might think I’m independent/but you’d be wrong.” There's also a special version of the song that's specifically designed for cats’ ears, featuring purring, bird tweets, and other feline-friendly noises.

Together, the tunes remind us how vulnerable our kitties really are, and provide a timely reminder for cat owners to be responsible parents to their furry friends.

“The Cat Ballads campaign coincides with kitten season, which is when our shelters receive a significantly higher number of unwanted kittens as the seasons change,” Dr. Jade Norris, a veterinary scientist with the RSPCA, tells Mental Floss. “Desexing cats is a critical strategy to reduce unwanted kittens.”

Listen to a song from Cat Ballads below, and visit the project’s website for the full rundown.

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Animals
Scientists Discover 'Octlantis,' a Bustling Octopus City
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Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Octopuses are insanely talented: They’ve been observed building forts, playing games, and even walking on dry land. But one area where the cephalopods come up short is in the social department. At least that’s what marine biologists used to believe. Now a newly discovered underwater community, dubbed Octlantis, is prompting scientists to call their characterization of octopuses as loners into question.

As Quartz reports, the so-called octopus city is located in Jervis Bay off Australia’s east coast. The patch of seafloor is populated by as many as 15 gloomy octopuses, a.k.a. common Sydney octopuses (octopus tetricus). Previous observations of the creatures led scientists to think they were strictly solitary, not counting their yearly mating rituals. But in Octlantis, octopuses communicate by changing colors, evict each other from dens, and live side by side. In addition to interacting with their neighbors, the gloomy octopuses have helped build the infrastructure of the city itself. On top of the rock formation they call home, they’ve stored mounds of clam and scallop shells and shaped them into shelters.

There is one other known gloomy octopus community similar to this one, and it may help scientists understand how and why they form. The original site, called Octopolis, was discovered in the same bay in 2009. Unlike Octlantis, Octopolis was centered around a manmade object that had sunk to the seabed and provided dens for up to 16 octopuses at a time. The researchers studying it had assumed it was a freak occurrence. But this new city, built around a natural habitat, shows that gloomy octopuses in the area may be evolving to be more social.

If that's the case, it's unclear why such octo-cities are so uncommon. "Relative to the more typical solitary life, the costs and benefits of living in aggregations and investing in interactions remain to be documented," the researchers who discovered the group wrote in a paper published in Marine and Freshwater Behavior and Physiology [PDF].

It’s also possible that for the first time in history humans have the resources to see octopus villages that perhaps have always been bustling beneath the sea surface.

[h/t Quartz]

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