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Hot Mosquito Love

Science says you’re right: mosquitoes really do prefer some people more than others. Dr. Leslie Vosshall is trying to figure out why.

“It’s like stepping out of the airport in Florida,” says Dr. Leslie Vosshall, as we move from her air-conditioned laboratory at New York City’s Rockefeller University into the mosquito chamber. The air is hot and damp, and lining the walls are clear-plastic-labeled “bug dorms.” Each box contains a swarm of buzzing mosquitoes. They cling to the walls, hang off the ceiling, bounce persistently against the mesh opening, trying to get at us. “I should have asked if you have a phobia,” says Vosshall.

Mosquitoes

Feeding the mosquitoes. (Vosshall Lab)

I don’t have a phobia, exactly, but like a lot of people I feel uniquely hunted by mosquitoes. At barbecues and on hikes, mosquitoes always seem to seek me out. I’ve tried DEET spray, citronella torches, permethrin butane repellers of the sort used by hunters in the South. I once bought a mosquito net on Amazon at 3 a.m., after accidentally swatting myself in the ear while half asleep. But nothing seemed to change the fact that the best repellent, for everyone else, was to have me around. I’m at Vosshall’s lab because she’s just begun a six-month study of this phenomenon. I’ve come here for answers.

And I am not alone. Lately there are a lot of people trying to learn more about how mosquitoes choose their prey, people funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, or, as Vosshall is, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Mosquitoes, some researchers say, are the deadliest creatures in the world, killing over a million people a year through diseases like malaria, dengue, and West Nile. They’ve proven remarkably good at adapting to new regions, traveling the world in water inside used tires, ornamental bamboo plants, or shipping containers, and quickly making themselves at home. Yet until recently many of our strategies for fighting them have remained ad hoc, limited by how little we know about how mosquitoes hunt.

Gear up for Shark Week: The Animal Planet reality-show host (and professional wrestler) picks his five most insane expeditions, even that one involving pantyhose.

“There’s a thin line between stupidity and bravery, and I walk that right in-between.”

So says “Showtime” Eric Young, who can be seen Thursday evenings wrangling both full-grown men and 14-foot-long sharks—unfortunately, not in the same place.

Eric Young

Eric Young (Chris Marchand/Discovery )

The dynamic professional wrestler became a pseudo-scientist of the sea when Animal Planet contacted him about doing a show that would combine his love of adrenaline with his favorite pastime: fishing. “When I got into pro wrestling, it took all my time and all my money—I was busy buying spandex pants and tall boots with all my money, rather than fishing rods. I love the outdoors, fishing, doing crazy stuff, and the show is a perfect match for me,” Young told The Daily Beast.

Insta-cute!

The 9 Hottest Power Cats of Instagram

Instagram is a world built for cats, but some are better than the rest. From Princess Monster Truck to Colonel Meow, see The Daily Beast’s 9 Hottest Power Cats of Instagram!

With great power comes great responsibility, something these felines know all too well.

Here, The Daily Beast selects nine of the hottest power cat Instagram accounts, for your personal entertainment. This was hard—really hard. There are many cats on the Facebook-owned photo app. But only few are the cat's meow. Moral of this story: contrary to popular belief, cats aren’t always cuddling, eating, sleeping, running from baths, and/or coughing up hairballs. But they’re always being cute. Follow them, and watch as they only get cuter with power.

1. Princess Monster Truck (Handle: @princessmonstertruck)

Princess Diana meets the mean guy from Monsters Inc., Randall. Princess Monster Truck has appeared on BuzzFeed, DoSomething.org, and now on The Daily Beast! She always seems to be showing her teeth to the paparazzi, though she doesn’t seem to be smiling! (Followers: 23,827 and counting)

2. Grumpy Cat (Handle: @GrumpyCat)

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Ligers and Leonpons and Grolar Bears, Oh My!

SQUEE

Rare Zonkey Born in Italy

Rare Zonkey Born in Italy

Half zebra, half donkey.

Everyone on the Internet stopped what they were doing today to look and squeal with delight over a baby Zonkey, who looks sort of like a donkey wearing striped knee-highs that was born several days ago at an animal reserve in Florence, Italy. The rare zebra donkey hybrid, named Ippo, wasn't intentionally bred, but came into the world thanks to the determined efforts of his beefy zebra dad, who scaled a protective fence in order to mate with an endangered donkey. Zonkeys, also called zedonks or zebroids, are special products of parents with two different types of DNA so they often aren't able to have babies of their own.

Read it at ABC News

Serengeti

Walking With Wildebeests

There’s nothing like a safari to disconnect from human life and get back to nature. But get out of the 4x4 and walk instead, insists Joanna Eede.

“The plane might duck and weave a bit from here to Kogatende,” said the pilot as she prepared to take off from a Serengeti airstrip. “There are lots of birds around, so I’ll have to maneuver to avoid them.”

“Why so many?” I asked, watching buzzards, white-backed vultures, and tawny eagles corkscrew skyward on thermals.

“The migration, it’s everywhere. And where there are wildebeest, there are birds.”

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The camp on the banks of the Mara River in Kogatende, north-west Serengeti, Tanzania. (Joanna Eede)

No Dumbo

How to Capture an Elephant

The shocking story of how America’s most famous elephant was caught in 1875. An excerpt from Michael Daly’s new book, 'Topsy,' about the life and horrific death of Topsy the show elephant.

In an Asian forest, circa 1875, the capture of the baby Topsy the elephant, destined to be electrocuted by Thomas Edison in Coney Island:

Kenya Africa Religion vs Poachers

Elephants gather during the night to drink at a watering hole in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya, March 25, 2012. (Ben Curtis/AP)

When the forest up ahead suddenly erupted with shouts and gunshots, the baby would have ducked between her mother’s legs. The clamor would have ceased as the matriarch led a retreat and the danger would have seemed to pass.

Tranquility would have appeared to return to the forest, but the elephants would not have been able to travel more than six miles in any direction without again encountering the shockingly sudden noise and fire. They likely kept trying, particularly at night, when there would have seemed a better chance of slipping past. Each time it would have been the same.

CHIMP ART

Monkey Business

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Mikki stands next to a an antique camera. (Guzelian)

How much would you pay for a blurry photograph of Moscow? What if it was taken by a chimpanzee?

Get ready for Instagram feeds to be filled with photos taken from an animal point-of-view. On Wednesday, the collection of pictures by Mikki (pictured above), a chimpanzee, reeled in roughly $75,000 at Sotheby's. Mikki was discovered by contemporary Russian artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid at the Moscow Circus, and they taught him how to take photos. According to Guzelian, his works like the one below of St. Basil's Cathedral, are similar to experimental photography and are an animal's version of the endless number of tourist photos taken daily around the world.

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The colorful roofs of Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square through the eyes of Mikki, a 15-year-old chimpanzee (Guzelian)

Lost & Found

The Twister Stole My Pet

Dogs, cats, horses—even a donkey. They’ve all been lost and found in the days after a tornado hit Moore. Christine Pelisek on the animal rescues—and one woman’s quest for her parrot.

When the twister tore through Moore, Mona Thomas lost everything. "My house is leveled," the 52-year-old grandmother said on Wednesday. “I don’t have a home anymore.”

Severe Weather

Maeghan Hadley, of One Day Ranch pet rescue, checks over a kitten pulled from under the rubble of a mobile home destroyed by a tornado that struck the Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park, near Shawnee, Okla. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Even so, all she cared about was her parrot.

“He’s been an important part of my life,” she said of Leroy, a 9-year-old African gray. “I’m single, so it’s just me and him. I talk about him all the time. He’s like my kid.”

All Creatures Great and Small

Animal Planet

We pay little attention to the plain-looking Helotes mold beetle, but we use enormous resources to save the Lange’s metalmark butterfly. Melissa Holbrook Pierson on a new book that chronicles the strange ways we try to atone for the havoc humans wreak.

There are currently over 1,200 species of animals listed as endangered or threatened, and those are only the ones we know about. Some as yet undiscovered may well have disappeared between the time we lit the birthday candles and, appropriately, blew them out.

BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA MALAYAN TIGER CUB

One of three endangered Malayan tiger cubs born at Busch Gardens Tampa on March 31 is weighed at the park. The births help preserve the species. Scientists estimate that only 500 remain in the wild. (Busch Gardens Tampa, via AP)

To make a small difference, the Endangered Species Coalition suggests you visit a wildlife refuge, help prevent the millions of deaths each year of birds colliding with windows by affixing decals to yours, slow down while driving to avoid turning the berm into any more of a wildlife cemetery than it already is, or stop dousing your lawn with chemicals. You could also depress the heck out of yourself by watching the 2010 documentary Call of Life, in which eminent scientists predict that a mass extinction of over half of all plant and animal species is likely before the end of the century. My recommendation, though, is to read Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America, Jon Mooallem’s stupefying account of our historic inability to stop meddling with everything under the sun. We bring masses of creatures to the brink of extinction, then expend perverse amounts of energy and ingenuity to haul them back, one by one. “Dismaying” is right, and “reassuring” sounds like it came from the marketing department, while "brilliant in conception and execution" would belong with these if only the subtitle weren't stuffed enough already.

The author, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, gives only a brief history of the act signed into law 40 years ago (“Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed,” opined President Nixon, pen poised), because his main subject is instead the bizarre gymnastics we have sometimes performed to uphold it. He uses three examples—the polar bear, Lange’s metalmark butterfly, and whooping cranes—to explore our confounding and contradictory relationship to the brethren species with whom we share the planet, though apparently we share the way toddlers do with sandbox toys. All three of these endangered species are charismatic, awing us with the kind of aesthetic endowments lacking in, say, the plain-looking Helotes mold beetle, or the atyid shrimp (“off-brand animals,” in the author’s sly term). They call forth our most conflicted response, the better for Mooallem to display and dissect.

DOG ON BOARD

A Road Trip with Man’s Best Friend

What’s better than a spring break road trip across America? A spring break road trip with your Rhodesian Ridgeback riding shotgun, as David Jefferson recently learned. From Dollywood to the Wigwam Village Motel, the country never looked so sweet as through the eyes of a pooch.

Road trip! Few phrases in the English language excite me more than those two four-letter words, linked together with the promise of discovery, freedom, and a hint of peril. Most people’s if-I-won-the-lottery fantasy involves a yacht and a private Caribbean island. Mine is to pimp-out an RV and live a peripatetic existence on America’s interstates (though as my spouse likes to remind me, that would mean our neighbors live in trailer parks).

My obsession began in 1976, riding in the backseat of my parents’ green Chevy Impala to the sounds of John Denver on the 8-track, on a cross-country trek from L.A. to Washington D.C. for the bicentennial. My father wanted this to be an educational experience, which meant we spent most of the trip checking out presidential real estate: Jackson’s Hermitage, Jefferson’s Monticello, Washington’s Mt. Vernon, Gerald Ford’s White House. It was all very edifying and patriotic, but I came away feeling as if I’d missed some of the best sights our nation has to offer. What about Disney World?! I vowed that once I had my own license, I would hit the highway in a Trans Am and see all the cool stuff I’d missed.

spring-break-tease

It took me 36 years to get around to it, but this year for spring break I decided to live the dream. Taking my cue from John Steinbeck, who in his old age fashioned himself a camper and drove around the country with his French poodle Charley to discover “What are Americans like today?”, I loaded my very understanding spouse and our Rhodesian Ridgeback into a very small car, and we set off on our journey into the true heart of America. It somehow seemed appropriate that we do my family’s bicentennial trip in reverse, so we mapped our journey from Washington D.C. through Virginia down to I-40, then across the country from Tennessee to Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and on to my childhood home in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley.  An astute therapist might call my adventure “regressive”; I prefer to think of it as nostalgic.

Beast Beast

Welcome to BeastBeast! Feed this, pet that.

Need Tips To Become A Better Boyfriend?

These animals can help you out. Do: copy this adorable dog's 'feel better' eyes. Don't: whine like this irritated frog.

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    The Cutest Animal Pals

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    Baby Sea Lion Likes To Snuggle

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Man Attaches GoPro Camera to Crab Net, Sees Crabs

Man Attaches GoPro Camera to Crab Net, Sees Crabs

YouTube user (and crabber?) Scott Murray attached a GoPro camera to a crab net—and was surprised with what he saw.

All Dogs Aboard!

Beast Beast

It Really Is Raining Cats and Dogs