By Doug Norrie
I’M not exactly an expert at writing tour guide brochures or coming up with catchphrases to invite local travelers to visit a certain place. That being said, I think I know what *not* to write to attract folks to your town and that would be something like “giant snakes are on the loose all over this place”. That, I think, would be a clear stay away in the local tourism and travel department. But it’s the case with a small town in England where it appears a group of snakes was in fact, on the loose. Greenock, Scotland was practically overrun with these things.
The pictures of these giant snakes started appearing on Twitter last month with local residents showing just the massive nature of what appears to be Burmese python roaming free down city streets. These snakes were massive, with one of them measuring over 14 feet long.
It’s not totally clear how these snakes got loose or how they got out but the owner was later identified. No criminal charges were pressed so I guess it isn’t exactly illegal to allow your horror-movie, carnivorous reptiles to roam freely throughout the town. They are massive and if this were the middle of the jungle or something I think we could formulate some kind of story about their appearance. As it is, someone did fess up to having them released. Check out some of the pics that cropped up on Twitter.
Residents of the town were clearly more than a little thrown off by the appearance of these snakes just casually slithering down the city street like they belonged there. It was also reported to the Daily Mail that one of the snakes had died though no one has yet to confirm how that happened.
Burmese pythons are known to grow to be about the biggest versions of snakes we know about. on average they can group up to 16 feet long so some of these might have even been on the smaller side all things considered. And in certain situations, they can even become an invasive species which is just another reason not to be pumped about seeing them hanging around the neighborhood. If you’ve got a Burmese python in captivity, they are probably just going to feast on the standard big-rat diet. No biggie. But out in the wild, it’s a different story with these snakes sometimes just going after full-sized pigs for snacks. They’ve become a particular problem in South Florida where they are being treated hostility as an invasive species because of the damage they are doing to local wildlife.
So no, seeing these snakes on the street as a one-off isn’t the end of the world. But if they were allowed to their own devices, it could definitely become a bigger problem. It’s a good thing the owner was found and they were eventually rounded up.
Humans May Evolve Into a Venomous Species
By Jocelyne LeBlanc
ACCORDING to a new study, humans have the tools to eventually evolve into a venomous species, although the chances are very low. The study revealed that mammals and reptiles have the tools to produce venom in their salivary glands and that’s how over 100 non-venomous animals turned into venomous creatures.
Interestingly, mammals use their venom in different ways. Vampire bats use their toxic saliva to prevent blood clots and easily feed from wounds. Venomous shrews and shrew-like solenodons use their venom to overcome larger creatures and occasionally even paralyze their prey so they can come back at a later time to feed on them. While platypuses don’t have venom in their saliva, they do have venomous spurs on their back legs that they use as a defense mechanism.
Slow lorises are the only known venomous primate species. Their bite is so powerful that it can cause flesh to rot, but they only use their venom on each other instead of other animals.
Will humans develop venom like snakes?
So, will humans become like slow lorises or even venomous snakes and spiders? Agneesh Barua, who is a doctoral student in evolutionary genetics at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Japan as well as a co-author of the study, answered this by saying, “Essentially, we have all the building blocks in place,” adding, “Now it’s up to evolution to take us there.”
Barua and Alexander Mikheyev, who is an evolutionary biologist at Australian National University and a co-author of the study, focused on “housekeeping” genes related to the venom instead of looking just at the toxins. By studying a brown pit viper called Taiwan habu (or Trimeresurus mucrosquamatus), they found that numerous genes are common in amniotes (animals that fertilize their eggs internally or lay them on land) and that many of the genes have folding proteins – venomous creatures create toxins that contain protein.
There are large amounts of protein in human saliva as well. Specifically, kallikreins (stable proteins that digest other proteins) are found in saliva and are present in several venoms. Bryan Fry, who is a biochemist and venom expert at The University of Queensland in Australia but was not involved with the study, stated, “It’s not coincidental that kallikrein is the most broadly secreted type of component in venoms across the animal kingdom, because in any form, it’s a very active enzyme and it’s going to start doing some messed-up stuff.”
Will we evolve into venomous creatures?
With that being said, the researchers did note that it is unlikely that we’ll turn into venomous creatures unless something drastic happens where we have to evolve such a feature. Ronald Jenner, who is a venom researcher at the Natural History Museum in London but wasn’t involved with the study, reiterated this by telling Live Science that venom usually only evolves as a defense mechanism or for capturing prey.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences where it can be read in full.
Ancient Magical Amulet Offered Protection Against Blood-Drinking Spirits
By Jocelyne LeBlanc
AN ancient magical amulet that belonged to the Mandaeans (who live in the southern parts of Iraq and Iran) has been deciphered. The lead amulet had writing carved into it in the Mandaic language and once deciphered, it was revealed that it was used to prevent evil spirits “who eat flesh and drink blood”.
Magical amulet decoded. It protected owner from blood-sucking spirits.
A newly deciphered magical amulet claims to stop evil spirits “who eat flesh and drink blood,” archaeologists ha…
Tom McCollough, who is an emeritus professor of religion at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, explained the amulet in a virtual presentation of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and the Society for Classical Studies (SCS), stating that it is approximately 8 inches in length by 1.7 inches in width with 62 lines of text. It dates back to 750 AD.
The deciphering of the text revealed that the amulet was used to protect a man named Abbiya against blood-drinking spirits as well as a demon. The translation read in part, “In the name of life, may there be health to the spirit and soul of Abbiya, the son of Mahua.” It went on to ask Gabriel, the “angel of the gods”, to “throw down, bind, strike, kill and fetter the demon.” “From the sons and daughters, may a great voice, healing, victory, sealing, protection, and sealing be to the body and spirit and soul of Abbiya…” (Unfortunately, there are no pictures of the amulet.)
The inscription referenced Archangel Gabriel.
In other amulet news, an 11-year-old boy found a rare figurine from about 2,500 years ago that was used to either protect children or to help with fertility. In fact, the amulet is so rare that the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) only have one other like it.
Zvi Ben-David discovered the figurine at Nahal HaBesor in southern Israel. IAA archaeologist Oren Shmueli and curator Debbie Ben Ami described the amulet, “The figurine, 7 centimeters high and 6 centimeters wide, was made in a mold. It shows a woman with a scarf covering her head and neck, schematic facial features and a prominent nose. The woman is bare-breasted and her hands are folded under her chest.” “It was probably used in the sixth–fifth centuries BCE, at the end of the Iron Age or in the Persian period — the late First Temple period, or the return to Zion.”
They went on to explain its significance, “We must bear in mind that in antiquity, medical understanding was rudimentary. Infant mortality was very high and about a third of those born did not survive. There was little understanding of hygiene, and fertility treatment was naturally non-existent. In the absence of advanced medicine, amulets provided hope and an important way of appealing for aid.”
The amulet was brought to the National Treasures collection where it will be analyzed and researched in further detail. A picture of it can be seen. MU