11 Spunky Facts About the Maltese

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Everyone loves to pamper these little white dogs—one look at their expressive eyes and button noses and it's easy to see why. Learn more about one of the world's oldest lap dogs. 

1. ITS NAME (PROBABLY) REFLECTS ITS PROVENANCE. 

Vicki Terry

Unlike some breeds (looking at you, Labradors), the Maltese probably does come from its namesake, Malta. They were bred down from a spitz-like dog that was native to the area and was used for hunting rodents. Some suggest the little dogs actually have a pawhold in Asia, but evidence is murky. The history of the Maltese has been difficult to tease out, as the term was often used as a catchall for several breeds of toy dogs; many historical references to "Maltese" dogs, it turns out, were actually descriptions of Pomeranians.

The most compelling theory so far is that the dogs were bred in Malta, but were quickly snatched up by the Romans. In 1804, a knight of Malta wrote that, "There was formerly a breed of dogs in Malta with long silky hair, which were in great request in the time of the Romans; but have for some years past greatly dwindled, and indeed are become almost extinct." 

2. MALTESE ISN’T THE ONLY NAME THEY’VE HAD. 

Over the course of its existence, the breed has had a number of different monikers. Some include comforter dog, Maltese lion dog, Maltese terrier, Melitaie dog, Roman ladies' dog, shock dog, and the Spaniel gentle. 

3. THEY’VE BEEN AROUND A WHILE.   

The Maltese is one of the oldest-known breeds of dogs, and is said to be over 2800 years old. The small dogs happily sat on the laps of the Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. 

4. ROYALTY LOVED THEM.

These lap dogs were a hit among royalty; queens especially would cherish these pooches, feeding them out of gold dishes. The dog's likeness has been found on ceramics and other pieces of artwork in Egypt and in Greece, where owners would construct elaborate tombs for their deceased canines. Publius, the governor of Rome in the first century, had a little Maltese named Issa that was endlessly spoiled. Her likeness was captured in a painting and the poet Martial wrote a poem praising her beauty. Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots both had and adored their little Maltese pups. 

More recently, the dogs have become a favorite with Hollywood royalty (famous fans include Halle Berry and Elizabeth Taylor).

5. THE WHITE FUR IS NO ACCIDENT.

Vicki Terry

The dogs were specially bred by Roman emperors to have that white coat we know today. The color white was sacred to the Romans, who wanted their pets to exhibit an air of divinity. 

6. THEY DON’T SHED …

Sporting a thick coat of hair instead of fur, these little dogs don’t shed. Instead, they need occasional haircuts to keep their mops in check. Their white tufts are hypoallergenic, making them great for families with allergies. 

7. … BUT THERE IS SOME MAINTENANCE REQUIRED. 

Maltese have profuse coats, meaning they need a lot of attention. To keep their fur silky and white, they need to be brushed daily. Most non-show owners prefer to keep their dogs in a puppy cut to avoid having to constantly groom them. 

8. IT'S BEST TO KEEP YOUR FAVORITE THINGS UP HIGH. 

Though they be but little, they can jump. They also seem to have no fear of gravity and have no problem leaping out of your arms or off high ledges. 

9. THEY MAKE GREAT THERAPY DOGS. 

At Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center in Florida, Riley the Maltese is helping people every day. He has been working as a therapy dog since 2009, participating in more than 400 therapy sessions. Dogs like Riley are a wonderful help at nursing homes, hospitals, disaster areas, and underprivileged schools. Petting an animal can reduce stress, encourage empathy, and decrease bullying (just to name a few of the many ways dogs can make our days brighter). Maltese make great therapy dogs because they’re loving and small, which means they can cuddle right up to whomever they're trying to help. 

10. THEY’VE GOT YOUR BACK. 

The Maltese standards describe these dogs as loving and gentle, but also fearless and loyal. You can count on yours to come to your aid no matter what. 

11. ONE WAS A MILLIONAIRE. 

Meet Take Trouble, the Maltese worth $2 million. When real estate developer Leona Helmsley died in 2007, she left $12 million to her pooch in her will. The government eventually trimmed the inheritance down to a measly two million, but that didn’t stop the dog from living it up until her death in 2011.

Chimpanzees Bond by Watching Movies Together, Too

Windzepher/iStock via Getty Images
Windzepher/iStock via Getty Images

Scientists at the Wolfgang Kohler Primate Research Center in Germany recently discovered that, like humans, chimpanzees bond when they watch movies together, the BBC reports.

In the study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers stationed pairs of chimpanzees in front of screens that showed a video of a family of chimps playing with a young chimp. They found that afterward, the chimps would spend more time grooming and interacting with each other—or simply being in the same part of the room—than they would without having watched the video.

They gave the chimps fruit juice to keep them calm and occupied while they viewed the video, and they chose a subject that chimps have previously proven to be most interested in: other chimps. They also used eye trackers to ensure the chimps were actually watching the video. If you’ve ever watched a movie with friends, you might notice similarities between the chimps’ experience and your own. Drinks (and snacks) also keep us calm and occupied while we watch, and we like to watch movies about other humans. Since this study only showed that chimps bond over programs about their own species, we don’t know if it would work the same way if they watched something completely unrelated to them, like humans do—say, The Lion King.

Bonding through shared experiences was thought to be one of the traits that make us uniquely human, and some researchers have argued that other species don’t have the psychological mechanisms to realize that they’re even sharing an experience with another. This study suggests that social activities for apes don’t just serve utilitarian purposes like traveling together for safety, and that they’re capable of a more human-like social closeness.

The part that is uniquely human about this study is the fact that they were studying the effect of a screen, as opposed to something less man-made. The chimps in question have participated in other studies, so they may be more accustomed to that technology than wild apes. But the study demonstrates that we’re not the only species capable of social interaction for the sake of social interaction.

[h/t BBC]

10 Facts You Should Know About Mosquitoes

tskstock/iStock via Getty Images
tskstock/iStock via Getty Images

Between the itching and the welts and the fears of mosquito-borne viruses, it's easy to forget that mosquitoes are a wonder of evolution, and that maybe they don't get a fair shake from us. Of more than 3000 known species, only 80 actually bite people, and at least one eats other mosquitoes for us. They grow from egg to adult in just five days, begin mating within minutes of hatching, and possess, by way of their stinging mouthparts, some of the coolest appendages in the animal kingdom.

1. Mosquitoes are excellent flyers in bad weather.

The average raindrop is 50 times heavier than the average mosquito, yet they buzz around in the rain with no problems. If a Boeing 747 got whacked with a similarly scaled-up raindrop, there would be 2375 tons of water coming down on it, and things probably wouldn’t turn out as well as they do for the mosquito. How do the insects do it?

A common urban legend said that the bugs were nimble enough to dodge the drops. A few years ago, a team of engineers from the Georgia Institute of Technology watched real mosquitoes and Styrofoam dummy mosquitoes with a high-speed camera during a rainy flight to see if that’s what was really happening. They found that the bugs don’t fly fast enough to dodge the drops, but their slowness is what keeps them from getting knocked out of the sky. A mosquito’s low mass even at slow speed doesn’t provide enough of a target for a raindrop to splash on collision. Instead, the drop just deforms, and doesn’t transfer enough momentum to the mosquito to disrupt its flight.

2. Texas is the mosquito capital of America.

Of the 3000 species of mosquitoes around the world, at least 150 are found in the United States, and 85 of those call Texas home. When people say everything's bigger in Texas, you can also include the biodiversity of the state's biting, disease-carrying insects.

3. Some mosquitoes are truly dangerous to humans ...

The female mosquito, which is the one that stings and sucks blood, is an incredible transmitter of disease and, because of that, the deadliest animal in the world. Each year, the malaria parasites they transmit kill 2 million to 3 million people and infect another 200 million or more. They also spread pathogens that cause yellow fever, dengue fever, Rift Valley fever, Chikungunya and West Nile disease.

4. ... and some mosquitoes are harmless.

Not every species of mosquito sucks blood from people, and among those that do, not every one transmits disease. The blood suckers don’t even need to bite you for every meal. Males live entirely on nectar and other plant fluids, and the females’ diet is primarily plant-based, too. Most of the time, they only go after people when they’re ready to reproduce, because blood contains lipids, proteins, and other nutrients needed for the production of eggs.

5. MosquitoEs actually help the environment.

When you’re rubbing calamine lotion all over yourself, mosquitoes might not seem to serve any purpose but to annoy you, but many species play important ecological roles. The mosquitoes Aedes impiger and Aedes nigripes, which gather in thick clouds in Arctic Russia and Canada, are an important food source for migrating birds. Farther south, birds, insects, spiders, salamanders, lizards, frogs, and fish also eat different mosquito species regularly. Plants need them, too, and some, like the blunt-leaved orchid and endangered monkeyface orchid, rely on mosquitoes as their primary pollinator.

Some mosquito species are also excellent at mosquito control. Species of the genus Toxorhynchites feed on the larvae and immature stages of other mosquitoes and will sometimes even cannibalize members of their own species.

6. Mosquitoes are amazing hunters (as if we needed to tell you that).

Mosquitoes are adept at picking up on the chemicals given off by their human hosts. They can detect the carbon dioxide in our breath, the 1-octen-3-ol in our breath and sweat, and other organic substances we produce with the 70-plus types of odor and chemical receptors in their antennae. These receptors can pick up traces of chemicals from hundreds of feet away, and once the mosquito closes in, it tracks its meal chemically and also visually—and they’re fond of people wearing dark colors.

7. Mosquitoes can be picky.

If it seems like you’re always covered head to toe by bites while people who were sitting right next to you only have one or two, it’s not just paranoia; the skeeters actually are out to get you. Some people happen to give off more of the odors and compounds that mosquitoes find simply irresistible, while others emit less of those and more of the compounds that make them unattractive to mosquitoes—either by acting as repellents or by masking the compounds that mosquitoes would find attractive.

8. A female mosquito's mouth is primed for sucking blood.

A mosquito doesn’t simply sink its proboscis into your skin and start sucking. What you see sticking out of a mosquito’s face is the labium, which sheaths the mouthparts that really do all the work. The labium bends back when a mosquito bites, allowing these other parts to pass through its tip and do their thing. The sharp, pointed mandibles and maxillae, which both come in pairs, are used to pierce the skin, and the hollow hypopharynx and the labrum are used to deliver saliva and draw blood, respectively.

9. Mosquito saliva prevents blood clotting.

The saliva that gets pumped out from the hypopharynx during a bite is necessary to get around our blood’s tendency to clot. It contains a grab bag of chemicals that suppress vascular constriction, blood clotting and platelet aggregation, keeping our blood from clogging up the mosquitoes' labrum and ruining their meal.

10. Mosquitoes can explode.

Blood pressure makes a mosquito's meal easier by helping to fill its stomach faster, but urban legend says it can also lead to their doom. Story goes, you can flex a muscle close to the bite site or stretch your skin taut so the mosquito can’t pull out its proboscis and your blood pressure will fill the bug until it bursts. The consensus among entomologists seems to be that this is bunk, but there is a more complicated way of blowing the bugs up. To make a blood bomb, you’ve got to sever the mosquito’s ventral nerve cord, which transmits information about satiety. When it's cut, the cord can’t tell the mosquito’s brain that its stomach is full, so it’ll keep feeding until it reaches critical mass. At least one researcher found that mosquitoes clueless about how full they were would keep sucking even after their guts had exploded, sending showers of blood spilling out of their blown-out back end.

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