Dec 8, 2021 Episode 76
Kid News This Week: As the holiday season begins, it’s time to look back on 2021. First up, we present the best Newsy Pooloozi animal stories this year!
OPENING STING – LEELA: “New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”
LEELA: Hello and welcome to the holiday season on Newsy Pooloozi – the news pool for curious kids and adults!
I’m your host Leela Sivasankar Prickitt and, as ever, I’m joined by my side-kick here, otherwise known as my Mama.
MAMA: Hello – I’m Lyndee Prickitt.
LEELA: And this week on Newsy Pooloozi begins our holiday specials… cue your voice, Mama.
MAMA AND LEELA: (Sing) “Happy holidays, happy holidays. While the merry bells keep ringing, happy holidays to you!”
LEELA: Yes… Good thing this is a news podcast and not a musical one!
MAMA: Hmmm. That last note is always hard to get…
LEELA: So, as it’s the holiday season and the year is coming to an end –
MAMA: It’s time to look back and reflect..
LEELA: In other words, it’s time for…
MAMA AND LEELA: Newsy Pooloozi’s Best of 2021!
MAMA: And this year we have four categories from which we’ll select the best Newsy Pooloozi stories of the past 12 months.
LEELA: Yep. Over the next few weeks we’ll be giving you the best animal stories, technology stories –
MAMA: big news stories and of course – everyone’s favorites – our best oddballs. But, first, I’m afraid I have to correct a mistake I made last week –
LEELA: Oh, can’t we just brush that under the carpet and hope no one heard?
MAMA: Nope. Afraid not. We have to issue a correction, so we don’t mislead anyone.
LEELA: Oh, ok. What was the mistake?
MAMA: Well, in the world wrap I said a 41-and-a-half year old piece of jewelry was found in a cave in Poland. That the small oval-shaped pendant was carved from the ivory tusks of a mammoth and is now the oldest known ornate jewellery made by humans in Eurasia.
LEELA: 41-and-a-half years old? Uhhhhh…
MAMA: Yeah. That’s not very old, at all. I meant to say 41-one-and-a-half-THOUSAND-year old piece of hand-carved ivory jewelry.
LEELA: That’s more like it! But, it’s ok, Mama. We all make mistakes.
MAMA: Yes, as long as we acknowledge and correct them. And now – back to our year-ender best ofs…
LEELA: Get ready, folks, because first up in our look back of 2021 – we’ve got the best ANIMAL stories we’ve covered this year! From the dramatic rescue of a brave little cat off the coast of Thailand – meooow!
MAMA: To the fossil found in Egypt – of a four-legged whale!
LEELA: Yep – you heard her correctly. And don’t forget the one about the furry little ferret – THAT WAS CLONED!
MAMA: And quite a few stories about teeny-tiny members of the animal kingdom.
LEELA: In other words – bugs!
MAMA: From swarms of cicadas –
LEELA: To fruit flies that get.. well, you’ll just have to hear it for yourself if you don’t remember.
MAMA: And even if you do – will you remember all the little fab facts that we include to back up our stories?
LEELA: Well, you better stay tuned!
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE
MAMA: Well, your headline pretty much summed this story up Leela: A new species of an ancient four-legged whale – that both walked and swam – has been discovered in an Egyptian desert.
LEELA: I have to say, there is just so much that sounds wrong with that. I mean – I’ve heard of a four-legged whale before, but I’m not sure everybody has. And it was found in a desert? Back up! And how can something ancient be new anyway?
MAMA: Ah, well, it’s a fossil of an ancient animal, ancient as in 43 million years ago, that’s been found. You know, fossil as in the remains of a prehistoric plant or animal that’s embedded – like pressed into – in a rock, so it becomes preserved in what’s known as a petrified form. This one was a partial skeleton.
LEELA: OK, that bit I know. But why is it new then?
MAMA: Ahhh – gotcha. That is confusing. It’s because they’ve never found this species of whale before. So it’s a new species.
LEELA: Ahh – that makes sense. But the four-legged bit – I think most people would think of whales as sea creatures?
MAMA: You’re right. But they are a little special. Despite living in the water, whales breathe air. And, like humans, they’re warm-blooded mammals who nurse, or breastfeed, their young. In fact it’s believed the ancestors of modern whales developed from deer-like mammals that once lived on land.
LEELA: Yep – they evolved from semi-aquatic crocodile-like whales into giant, fully aquatic, whales. I think they must have been pretty ugly.
MAMA: Yeah – have you seen what this one is thought to have looked like? It’s not just a huge blubbery whale with legs but the face of a crocodile, or a fierce canine, with a strong jaw and super sharp teeth, capable of tearing apart a wide range of prey.
LEELA: (Shudders) Yikes!
MAMA: The scientists, from Mansoura University, have officially named it Phiomicetus Anubis – after the canine-headed Egyptian god of the dead, Anubis, associated with mummification and the afterlife. But guess what the nickname is?
LEELA: I don’t think I want to know.
MAMA: You don’t – “the god of death.”
LEELA: So happy to know these creatures aren’t walking the earth any longer.
MAMA: I know this isn’t the first time the fossil of a whale with legs has been found. Ten years another 43-million-year-old four-legged whale was discovered in the South American country of Peru. Though this latest discovery is the earliest type of semi-aquatic whale to be discovered in Africa.
LEELA: About that. How is a semi-aquatic creature discovered in a desert, huh?
MAMA: Ah – that’s easy. 43 million years ago that area of Egypt’s Western Desert was once covered by sea. That’s why it’s such a rich source of fossils.
LEELA: Well, who knew!
MAMA: And that’s why this discovery is so important – because it’s revealing new details about the ocean there and the evolution of whales.
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE
SFX OF FERRET
LEELA: What’s that, you ask? Well, move over Frankenstein, scientists have a new creation – the cloned black-footed ferret, called Elizabeth Ann. And she’s soooo adorable.
MAMA: Yes, cloning means creating exact copies of a living thing using the information found in the cells that make up that thing.
LEELA: And cells are the smallest functioning unit of an organism. And humans have not just billions, but trillions of cells. So even for a ferret – that’s a LOT of copying those scientists had to do.
MAMA: And, not just any ferret. Not only was it copied from an endangered species, but it’s the clone of a ferret that had died over 20 years ago.
LEELA: What now…?
MAMA: Well, the original ferret had been sent to a “frozen zoo” when it died, which maintains the cells from more than 1,100 species and subspecies worldwide.
LEELA: Wow… So does that mean all endangered species can be brought back to life?
MAMA: Well, I think the idea is to help those species that are around but endangered today.
LEELA: Gotcha. And now – if your jaw hasn’t dropped already… then buckle up.
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE
MAMA: Oh, no… That doesn’t sound good.
LEELA: Don’t worry. It’s harrowing – that means super stressful and disturbing – but it has a “paw”-sitive ending.
Once upon a time – just a few days ago – a boat was burning off the coast of Thailand – a country in Asia.
The crew were swiftly rescued, phew.
But the Thai Navy moved in closer to see if any oil was leaking from it.
Instead of oil, what did they see?
Four darling cats clinging on to the last bits of wood for their dear lives!
Never fear, a feline lover was near.
(Feline is another word for cat.)
What did the 23-year-old naval officer do?
Put on a life jacket… jump into the choppy waters… and swim to the cats’ rescue.
Naturally. (Wouldn’t you?!)
But, ummm, cats and water don’t really mix, so… they hitched a ride on the sailor’s back.
At least one of them did – as seen in the most adorable picture ever. (Which we’ll post on our Facebook page.)
But all of them were saved.
Forget about it being an “odd” rescue – I’d say it was “puurrrrr”-fect!
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE
MAMA: A once in 17-year wondrous natural phenomenon is about to happen.
LEELA: Wondrous is one word for it… Creepy might be another!
MAMA: No, come on. A swarm of cicadas are about to descend upon the United States.
LEELA: Not millions, but billions of the big-winged, flying bugs. And boy do they make an entry – one cicada might be chirpy, but a swarm is downright noisy!
SFX OF CICADAS
MAMA: But don’t worry they aren’t dangerous for you or the fields and crops they’ll descend upon,
unlike hungry locusts, or grasshoppers, which are of a different order. Not only do those have huge hind legs, unlike cicadas, but will chew and destroy virtually all vegetation they come across.
LEELA: Most cicadas only cause damage to weaker tree branches when they lay their eggs. Buuuut – when millions come-a-calling, it’s…
LEELA: Or… kinda ick!
MAMA: Well, standing by in the state of Ohio – which is likely to see some of the highest concentration of these buzzing bugs, are our correspondents Avery and Jackson Ausmer.
LEELA: Also known as the brother-sister-duo from the Hey Black Child podcast. So what do you two think – will this swarm be intensely fascinating or intensely ick?
AVERY: Good question, Leela!
No doubt these bugs are fascinating.
They spend most of their life underground, sucking sap from the roots of trees.
SFX OF SLURPING
JACKSON: 17 years underground, to be exact, eating and slurping underground. Not my idea of a good life!
AVERY: And… any day now… they are due to emerge… craaaaawling up through holes, which are about as round a dime.
JACKSON: Boy, you can imagine what the ground looks like with all those holes!
AVERY: Well, once above ground, the cicadas like to let the world know they’ve arrived!
SFX OF CICADAS
AVERY: So there are around three to four-thousand species of cicadas around the world. But “periodical cicadas” only emerge every 13 years or 17 years, like the ones we’re expecting, to mate.
JACKSON: And… did you know that “periodical cicadas” are unique to eastern part of North America? Yep. We’re so special!
AVERY: Well, I believe we need to talk to our resident expert… our mother! She experienced this first-hand 17 years ago.
JACKSON: Welcome to the podcast, Mom.
NICOLE: Hey Avery and Jackson and Newsy Jacuzzi listeners – thanks for having me! They were such a huge nuisance 17 years ago and I vowed not to be here. One of the most fascinating things about cicadas is that all of the carcasses that are on the ground under trees. You could not walk under a tree without stepping on hundreds of them, sometimes thousands – in the parks, even more. So you had to be very careful where you walked. And another funky thing about them is they like to stick to you. So they’ll stick to your hair and your clothes. So it’s not best to have outdoor activities during their time here on earth.
JACKSON: Thanks, Mom! Of course. The big question is why do they only come out once every 17 years?
AVERY: Well, it’s their only defense against predators. By emerging, in the millions, all at once, they’re just too many for any predators to eat enough of them to wipe them out.
JACKSON: Talk about power in numbers!
AVERY: Yep, teamwork is dream-work. And, in a weird way, I’m kinda looking forward to seeing them in action. (NOTE: Or whatever their view is!)
AVERY: Well, from behind a window anyway. From Cincinnati, Ohio, I’m Avery Ausmer–
JACKSON: And I’m Jackson Ausmer.
LEELA: Whoa – what a story. I wish I were there. Well, maybe not…
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE
SFX of chewing food
LEELA: Uhhh, Mama? (whispers) We’re recording – we’re supposed to be doing the big story!
MAMA: I know, I know. I’m just soooo hungry! And you know how I get when I haven’t eaten…
LEELA: Oh, boy, do I ever! You get snippy and snappy.
MAMA: Yeah… But so do you!
MAMA: Cranky and snotty.
LEELA: Says you, snippy and snappy.
MAMA: Ratty, catty.
LEELA: Irrationally strict.
MAMA: Hmmph! Irrationally fussy.
LEELA: Too fancy. Basically –
MAMA: We’re talking about being –
MAMA: And we’re not alone.
LEELA: Yes, most dog owners know food aggression can be a problem for dogs.
MAMA: And scientists have found monarch caterpillars turn aggressive when there isn’t enough milkweed to go around.
LEELA: Who knew?
MAMA: But, get this, even the humble little, but very annoying, fruit fly shows hanger.
LEELA: Well that explains why they’re so pesky! Like, look at your banana peel! There’s already four fruit flies buzzing around it.
MAMA: I know, sorry. Let me throw it away. Only now… I’ve taken away their food source and –
LEELA: They’re gonna get hangry?
MAMA: Exactly. So say a group of scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Oxford University, who teamed up for this study. So they put fruit flies – officially named Drosophila melanogaster, if you please – into different containers, all given different amounts of food, at different lengths of time. They found that hungry male fruit flies became angrier and more hostile towards each other when there was a longer wait between meals.
LEELA: Wait – how could they tell this? Do they speak the Drosophila melanogaster language? (Whispers) Were they saying bad words to each other?
MAMA: No. They don’t speak Drosophila melanogaster language. Yet. But, even more interesting, these flies got physical. Lunging for each other and swatting at each other with their front legs – using them like…
SFX OF SWORDS
MAMA: Swords! Not surprisingly this gesture is called “fencing behavior.”
MAMA: And, of course, they also spend more time defending any food patches they’ve claimed. The hungrier they got, the more combative they became.
LEELA: In other words, hangry.
MAMA: Yep. That’s not all. Curiously the researchers also discovered that flies who had less food earlier in their life, were generally less aggressive when they got older.
LEELA: Oh, that’s interesting. And I guess that was pretty easy to tell considering – did you know – that fruit flies only live for forty to fifty days. On average.
MAMA: Oh, look at you with that fab fact! Well, maybe that’s another reason these little pests are often used for biological research in everything from disease disorders, genetics to the evolution of life. But, rest assured, in this study the researchers said that no flies were hurt during their experiments.
LEELA: But they did get hangry!
LEELA: And that brings us to the end of this “best of” episode.
MAMA: We hope you enjoyed this look back at the best animal stories on Newsy Pooloozi this last year. Next week – it’s the best of technology news. If you have a favorite tech news story, do drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the contact page of our website, which is newsypooloozi.com.
LEELA: That’s Pooloozi as in a POOL of news: p-o-o-l o-o-z-i. I repeat: pooloozi.com
MAMA: Thank you, robot Leela.
LEELA: Alrighty then, we’ll see you next week in the informative, happy, splashy Newsy Pooloozi!