John Singer Sargent - Muddy Alligators (1917)
John Singer Sargent – Muddy Alligators (1917)
  • Some crocodilians 1 bait birds by putting nest-worthy twigs on their snouts. When a bird flies down to pick up the twigs, the crocodilian lunges up and eats it.
  • Crocodilians use gastroliths for digestion and maybe also for buoyancy and balance.

O.crocodilia contains three families: f.gavialidae, the gharials and false gharials; f.alligatoridae, the alligators and caimans; and f.crocodylidae, the crocodiles.


Jean-Léon Gérôme - Women Feeding Pigeons
Jean-Léon Gérôme – Women Feeding Pigeons

The pigeon we’re most familiar with is the domesticated rock pigeon1. Because of this thousands-of-years-long domestication, their modern distribution is much more widespread than their native range (generously estimated below):

g.columba s.livia distributions (maroon: native, pink: contemporary)

Humans wanted pigeons around because they ate them and loved them as pets, but they discarded them in the second half of the last century, and now they’re just part of the refuse of cities. Here follows more pigeon facts:

If you want to listen to more pigeon facts, I highly recommend the Surprisingly Awesome podcast.


A Comorian stamp expressing the country's relationship to the "most beautiful fish"
A Comorian stamp expressing the country’s relationship to “the most beautiful fish”

Somehow I missed the existence of the African country of The Comoros. It’s some islands north-west of Madagascar.

For a country that has a population of about 800,000 (with about half below the age of 15), the government is exceedingly developed:

Around 80 percent of the central government’s annual budget is spent on the country’s complex electoral system which provides for a semi-autonomous government and president for each of the three islands and a rotating presidency for the overarching Union government.

This bloat is likely a direct result of the fact that the country has had at least 20 coups (or attempted coups) since its independence from France in 1975. It had its first peaceful democratic transfer of power in 2006.

The Comoros is also home to a large population of coelacanths1. In fact, the genome of the fish was sequenced from a Comorian specimen. Related, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer describes her discovery of the species amusingly:

I picked away at the layers of slime to reveal the most beautiful fish I had ever seen.

Animal Trials

An excerpt from a list of excommunications and prosecutions of animals in Appendix F of The criminal prosecution and capital punishment of animals
An excerpt from a list of excommunications and prosecutions of animals in Appendix F of The Criminal Prosecution And Capital Punishment Of Animals

Edward Payson Evans (1831–1917) collected a number of extremely interesting cases of animal trials and strange legal disputes in his book The Criminal Prosecution And Capital Punishment Of Animals (1906). For example:

Bartholomew Chassenee, a distinguished French jurist of the sixteenth century […], made his reputation at the bar as counsel for some rats, which had been put on trial before the ecclesiastical court of Autun on the charge of having feloniously eaten up and wantonly destroyed the barley-crop of that province. […] In view of the bad repute and notorious guilt of his clients, Chassenee was forced to employ legal shifts and chicane, dilatory pleas and other technical objections. […] He urged, in the first place, that inasmuch as the defendants were dispersed over a large tract of country and dwelt in numerous villages, a single summons was insufficient to notify them all; he succeeded, therefore, in obtaining a second citation, to be published from the pulpits of all the parishes inhabited by the said rats. […] He excused the default or non-appearance of his clients on the ground of the length and difficulty of the journey and the serious perils which attended it, owing to the unwearied vigilance of their mortal enemies, the cats, who watched all their movements, and, with fell intent, lay in wait for them at every corner and passage.

(Pages 18–19)

Another interesting rat-related anecdote:

A faded and somewhat droll survival of excommunication and exorcism is the custom, still prevailing in European countries and some portions of the United States, of serving a writ of ejectment on rats or simply sending them a friendly letter of advice in order to induce them to quit any house, in which their presence is deemed undesirable. Lest the rats should overlook and thus fail to read the epistle, it is rubbed with grease, so as to attract their attention, rolled up and thrust into their holes.

(Page 129)

Similar legal disputes were brought against all sorts of animals including insects:

In the fourteenth century the peasants of the Electorate of Mayence brought a complaint against some Spanish flies, which were accordingly cited to appear at a specified time and answer for their conduct; but “in consideration of their small size and the fact that they had not yet reached their majority,” the judge appointed for them a curator, who “defended them with great dignity”; and, although he was unable to prevent the banishment of his wards, he obtained for them the use of a piece of land, to which they were permitted peaceably to retire.

(Pages 110–111)

Humans have even punished plants:

Among the Kukis, if a man falls from a tree and is killed, it is the sacred duty of the next of kin to fell the tree, and cut it up and scatter the chips abroad. The spirit of the tree was supposed to have caused the mishap, and the blood of the slain was not thought to be thoroughly avenged until the offending object had been effaced from the earth.

(Page 171)

This is a fun aside that caught my eye:

A Frenchman bequeathed his property to his own corpse, in behalf of which his entire estate was to be administered, the income to be expended for the preservation of his mortal remains and the adornment of the magnificent mausoleum in which they were sepulchred.

(Page 110)