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(C) The Field Museum
(C) The Field Museum

Tooth Decay May Have Turned Tsavo Lions into Man-Eaters

(C) The Field Museum
(C) The Field Museum

Looking for good motivation to brush and floss? Mammal experts say the infamous lions that killed dozens of rail workers in Kenya in 1898 may have been driven by dental disease. They published a report on the unfortunate beasts in the journal Scientific Reports.

There were only two of them, but the damage they did was both extensive and terrifying. “I could plainly hear them crunching the bones,” Lieutenant Colonel John Patterson wrote in his diary, “and the sound of their dreadful purring filled the air and rang in my ears afterwards.”

Patterson with one of the Tsavo lions. Image Credit: The Field Museum

Patterson eventually killed the lions, and their remains were preserved for scientific study. Today, the two skulls are kept in the collection of Chicago’s Field Museum so scientists can study them.

The Field Museum

Historians have long believed that the lions turned to human prey out of desperation when a famine eliminated their usual sources of food. If this was the case, the lions would have relished every last bite of every animal they killed, including the bones.

But when Field Museum researchers examined the Tsavo skulls, they began to suspect that the lieutenant’s “very vivid recollection” may have been at least slightly exaggerated, as the lions had clearly not been crunching anything. The microscopic signs of wear and tear that accompany regular hard use were nowhere to be found in the lions’ jaws.

They did, however, find evidence of dental problems. One lion had broken a canine tooth several years earlier, was missing three incisors, and had a periapical abscess, or pus pooled around the root of a tooth. The other had a fractured upper left carnassial (the equivalent of a molar) and exposed pulp (tissue at the center of a tooth).

Bruce Patterson (no relation) is the museum’s curator of mammals. He and his colleagues think the Kenyan lions’ suspiciously smooth teeth and dental injuries could have played a role in their attacks on humans. These types of injuries aren't uncommon, and they can be painful.

“Lions normally use their jaws to grab prey like zebras and wildebeests and suffocate them,” he said in a statement. If you’ve got a mouthful of hurt, you’re not going to leap face-first at a kicking wildebeest. “Humans are so much easier to catch,” Patterson said.

“We humans like to think we’re at the top of the food chain, but the moment we step off our paved streets, these other animals are really on top.”

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John Phillips, Getty Images
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Pop Culture
How The Crown Saved the Corgis
John Phillips, Getty Images
John Phillips, Getty Images

Corgis may be both Queen Elizabeth II and the internet’s favorite dog breed, but their longtime association with the former has actually proven detrimental to their popularity in England. So much so that, in 2009, the stout little furballs were added to the UK Kennel Club’s list of native breeds that were “at risk of extinction.” Now, The Telegraph reports, their numbers are rising—thanks in part to the popularity of Netflix’s The Crown.

According to The Telegraph, the Queen’s love of the corgi is partly what caused its dip in popularity, as they “have long been regarded as a breed for the elderly and the genteel upper middle class.” But The Crown’s revisiting of the royal family in the early days of Elizabeth II’s reign (and the years leading up to it) have shown the Queen in a new, and much more stylish, light—and her beloved breed has reaped the rewards. In just the past two months, since The Crown’s second season dropped on Netflix in December, the Kennel Club has seen enough interest in the breed to take them off the endangered list entirely.

The Crown has certainly been important in the resurgence of the corgi breed,” Kennel Club public relations manager David Robson said. “It has increased interest in the breed. Following the transmission of the second series, searches for the breed puppies on our website went up by 22 percent.”

The dogs have proven to be a hit with viewers, as well as their costars. Claire Foy and Matt Smith, who portrayed Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the show’s first two seasons, admitted that when they’re filming with the series' dogs, it’s the corgis who steal the show.

“When we’re with the corgis, then all the shots are about the corgis and you have to fit your acting around what the corgis are doing,” Foy explained in an interview with Off Set. “Which is absolutely … fine. And is the way it should be quite frankly.”

But even before Netflix unleashed its pricey royal drama on the world, the Queen’s dogs were finding their way back into the spotlight. In 2011, shortly after Prince William married Kate Middleton, BBC reported that the Cardigan Welsh corgi (a sort of cousin to the Pembroke Welsh corgi that the Queen prefers, though the Kennel Club lumps them into one category) saw a registration increase of 134 percent, which the group chalked up to the “royal wedding effect.”

Interest in the breed surged again in 2015, when the Queen—who has owned 30 of the dogs during her life, beginning with her childhood pooch Dookie—announced that she would no longer breed the pups, as she did not want to leave any young dogs behind in the event of her death. Adding to their pop culture cachet: During their first official interview after announcing their engagement, Prince Harry admitted that part of the reason he knew wife-to-be Meghan Markle was “the one” was because “the corgis took to [her] straight away.”

[h/t: The Telegraph]

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BBC
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Animals
Watch a Cheetah Hunt Its Prey—From the Cheetah's Point of View
BBC
BBC

Even if you're a huge fan of wildlife documentaries, you've never seen a cheetah hunt quite like this. For PBS's latest Nature miniseries, Animals With Cameras, animal behaviorists strapped custom-made cameras on meerkats, seals, cheetahs, and more to capture never-before-seen footage.

"There's absolutely no way we could see this any other way," wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan says in the clip below, which follows a hunting cheetah as she and her siblings try to take down an eland, a type of antelope native to east and southern Africa.

A holster used to attach a camera to a cheetah's head
Isabel Rogers

The custom-made camera was strapped to the top of the cheetah's head, allowing it to record footage from the animal's point of view. The cameras were designed by Chris Watts of British Technical Films, a UK-based company that specializes in developing custom camera kits to capture wildlife and nature footage.

The cheetah-mounted cameras had to be extra-light, since the fast-moving predators were extremely sensitive to the device's weight. (As you, too, might be if you had a camera on your head while sprinting.) The straps that secured the camera had to allow enough airflow to keep the cat's head cool and be flexible enough that the animal could get the device off if it became too bothersome. And since running across the savannah at 70 mph can get a bit bumpy, the camera had to have stabilizing sensors to make the footage smooth, so it wouldn't make viewers queasy.

The result is a pretty spectacular scene following a cheetah from the moment it picks up the scent of its prey to the end of its hunt. Watch the full video below. We won't spoil how it ends.

The final episode of Animals With Cameras airs on February 14 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

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