Archive for Crazy Creatures

Ursus urukhai

CC: I’ve always wondered who would win in a fight – a grizzly or a polar bear, but this just blows my mind.

Hybrid bear sightings getting more common in Arctic

BY ED STRUZIK, EDMONTON JOURNAL

When biologists Jodie Pongracz and Evan Richardson flew up to Viscount Melville Sound this spring to capture polar bears, they had expected it to be an adventure.

The bears they were looking for live in an Arctic region so remote and so far north that Inuit hunters only began harvesting them in the 1970s. The number of animals living there is also small compared to what is found in most other polar bear regions of the Arctic.

That’s why they, and Ross Klengenberg, their Inuit field assistant, did a double-take when they saw a grizzly bear in the company of what they thought was a polar bear on the sea ice, hundreds of kilometres north of where grizzlies are normally found on the mainland.

What surprised them even more is that the bear turned out to be a hybrid, a cross between a polar bear and a grizzly.

Although a handful of hybrids and grizzlies have been seen in this part of the world in recent years, Pongracz is still having a tough time fully understanding the significance of what she saw that day. So is scientist Andrew Derocher, her academic supervisor at the University of Alberta.

“We know that grizzlies are in the area, and that local Inuit had seen hybrids, and recently shot two,” says Derocher. “So perhaps it isn’t that surprising. Nonetheless, given the size of the area involved, and the small number of hybrids that exist, I’d say they were extremely fortunate to make such sightings. I’d do back-flips, assuming I could, to see what they saw.”

Until about 20 years ago, sightings of grizzlies in the High Arctic were relatively rare; a quirk of nature, many biologists thought, that may have simply occurred because the bear had strayed too far following mainland caribou that sometimes cross the sea ice to the Arctic islands.

But that thinking began to change in recent years as more grizzlies and a succession of other animals such as red fox, white-tailed deer, Pacific salmon, and killer whales began showing up in areas traditionally occupied by polar bears, Arctic fox, caribou, Arctic char, and beluga whales.

No one seriously thought those grizzlies would eventually mate with polar bears until Roger Kuptana, an Inuit guide from Banks Island, led an American hunter to one in the spring of 2006. The killing of that animal made headlines around the world.

No one knows whether the grizzly and the hybrid seen that day are related, because Pongracz and Richardson weren’t able to collect the genetic material needed to make such a determination.

Pongracz has seen a lot of things in the north since she moved from a small town in Saskatchewan to Kluane National Park in the Yukon, Paulatuk in the central Arctic and Inuvik, where she now works as a biologist for the Northwest Territories government. But this sighting tops a long list of memorable events.

“You know that these hybrids may be out there somewhere, but seeing both a hybrid and a grizzly bear so far north standing right there beside each other on the sea ice, was amazing. I really can’t describe in words what it felt like.”

This is the first year of a three-year study of polar bears in Viscount Melville Sound. The last time this sub-population was surveyed was between 1989 and 1992.

“The sea ice in the Viscount Melville region has changed considerably since then, and in recent summers Viscount Melville Sound has been ice free in late August,” says Pongracz. “Tracking movements of female bears will help us to understand how bears are adapting to their changing sea ice environment.”

If this year is an indication of what Pongracz, Richardson and their Inuit field assistants can expect in the future, then they may be in for a few more surprises.

Two days after they saw the hybrid and grizzly, they saw another grizzly bear 25 kilometres offshore. This one was so fat and healthy that it was probably hunting seals, something that grizzlies on the mainland are not often seen doing, except in one spot near the Smoking Hills along the central Arctic coast.

That, however, was not the only surprise they came home with. A close inspection of photos taken of what was initially thought to be yet another grizzly bear on the north end of Victoria Island may have been a hybrid as well.

“We’ll be keeping our eye out for it, for sure next year when we go out,” says Pongracz. “This study was supposed to be about polar bears, but it may turn out to be more than that.”

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

Polar bear-grizzly cross spotted travelling with a grizzly bear in the High Arctic this spring.

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Sustainable development, not culling, key to reviving caribou populations in Alberta


"The caribou again are in the way."

By Michael Bloomfield, Edmonton Journal

For more than 30 years, Alberta has failed to implement the land-use guidelines necessary to protect declining caribou populations.

As collateral damage in our frenzied pursuit of natural resource revenue, Alberta’s caribou have been brought to the brink of disaster. While we should be furious, we should not be surprised. As Gordon Pitts recently wrote in a column on the shift of economic power west, “When Canadians find stuff in the ground, they take leave of their senses, unleashing contagions of get-rich-quick thinking.”

Now, as we stampede in our quest to become a Pacific power and build a pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to the B.C. coast, the caribou again are in the way. This time, if we care, not only for their sake but for ourselves and future generations, we have the power to demand change for the better. Are we ready to forgo a few dollars for a healthier environment?

Let’s make no mistake, habitat loss from logging, mining, oil and gas development and roads has been and continues to be the primary cause of the caribou decline. Wolves, if they contributed at all to the decline, were only significant because caribou were already so vulnerable. Predation has been overemphasized to avoid dealing with the real issues of power and money.

Caribou depend on mature and climax forests, and the cumulative effect of recreational and industrial activities on those forests has been devastating. The destruction of habitat fragmented a once cohesive population which stretched from B.C. through our Rocky Mountain parks into western Alberta. In turn, this fragmentation increased the vulnerability of local bands to disturbance from industrial and recreational activities in breeding, calving, migration corridors and other seasonally important areas.

Mismanagement of hunting caused further damage to already threatened herds.

To once again kill wolves to save caribou is like recycling beer cans in Fort McMurray to deal with greenhouse gases produced by oilsands development.

It’s long past time we developed a serious strategy that provides a sustainable future for us and the environment and includes a well-funded, science-based caribou recovery plan. Our economic footprint doesn’t need to squash caribou to extinction, nor liquidate the inheritance of future generations so we can enrich ourselves now.

So what’s required to achieve recovery and restoration of caribou in Alberta and Western Canada?

First, we must deal comprehensively with all of the issues and involve government, business and the public in development and implementation of the plan. It’s not enough to manage habitat for currently depressed populations and leave them perpetually at risk.

We must provide sufficient habitat to allow recovery to self-sustaining levels. Such action must include protection of migratory routes and seasonally important areas.

Furthermore, there must be a moratorium on new industrial and recreational activity in critical caribou range, coupled with urgent research into the effects of existing industrial activity and motorized recreation on caribou and their habitat. Where necessary, herd augmentation and adaptive management practices should be employed.

Albertans have been blessed with exceptional wealth derived from natural resources. With privilege comes responsibility and Albertans, therefore, have a serious duty to protect caribou and provide adequate habitat for their long term recovery.

After I left Alberta in 1982, I continued to work for the caribou, urging the Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada to recognize the woodland caribou as a rare species, something done in 1984. In 2000, the committee designated caribou as a threatened species.

So where are we today? Nearly 25 years of Alberta’s caribou “recovery” process has brought looming disaster. Despite compelling evidence, government continues to risk caribou survival to squeeze a bit more revenue out of Alberta’s wilderness.

In July 2010, the Alberta government updated its report on the status of the woodland caribou. In response to dismal results, the Alberta government ignored the advice of its own scientists and failed to downgrade caribou from threatened to endangered status.

Then in January 2012, federal Environment Minister Peter Kent delivered another blow to caribou survival, deciding not to recommend emergency protection for critical habitat for threatened caribou herds in Alberta.

If those trusted to defend the environment abdicate their responsibilities, it’s in our hands. Either we make it clear to our political and business leaders that we want a more environmentally sustainable approach to development with ample room for caribou and other endangered species, or accept that we are partners in this deadly greed.

You can start by asking candidates in the current election campaign to pledge themselves to action now before the caribou disappear.

“We must save caribou from our deadly greed”

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

Habitat loss from logging, mining, oil and gas development and roads is the primary cause of Alberta's caribou decline. The role of wolves has been overemphasized to avoid dealing with real issues of power and money.

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Giant furry T-rex discovered in China

Saw this article catching up on my Journal readings this morning… CRAZY!

A giant feathered tyrannosaur has been unearthed in China, the largest creature – living or extinct – known to sport a downy coat.

The carnivore, which grew up to nine metres long, likely looked “downright shaggy,” Corwin Sullivan, a Canadian paleontologist on the team that unveiled the creature, said on Wednesday.

Three specimens of the dinosaur, which the scientists have called Yutyrannus huali for “beautiful feathered tyrant,” have been uncovered in north-eastern China.

One was an adult estimated to have weighed 1.414 tonnes, 40 times bigger than any previously found feathered dinosaur. Two juveniles tipped the scales at about half a tonne.

The ancient bones were found by fossil traders and brought to museums where paleon-tologists realized their significance, which is detailed in the journal Nature this week.

The discovery “provides sol-id evidence for the existence of gigantic feathered dinosaurs,” reports the team led by Xu Xing, at Beijing’s Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology.

The scientists say the creature did not actually fly, which would have been impossible given its large size – far bigger than the average cow – and the downy structure of its feathers. But they say the feathers may have had an important function as insulation because the creatures lived about 125 mil-lion years ago when global temperatures took a dip.

“The average temperature would have been about 10 C,” says Sullivan, an associate professor at the Beijing paleontology institute.

“That is perhaps not too different from northern China today,” he says, but was an “unusually cool” period in the age of the dinosaurs.

Tyrannosaurus rex, which was larger and roamed a warmer world, is not believed to have had any feathers though the researchers don’t rule it out.”It’s possible that some dinosaurs that were even bigger had feathers but we can’t tell one way or the other because most dinosaurs are known only from bones,” Sullivan said from Beijing.

While the feather preservation on the three specimens “is patchy,” the team says the creatures had plenty of long, filamentous feathered plumage.

“They would have looked superficially more like hair than the feathers of modern birds,” says Sullivan, who de-scribes the downy creature as quite a carnivore.

“I wouldn’t want to meet one in a dark alley,” he says.

The obtaining of specimens from fossil traders is not uncommon in China. But the trade is not without problems.

“Some dealers will yield to the temptation to improve their specimens,” says Sullivan, explaining how they have been known to combine parts from different specimens and species.

But with experience and knowledge of both the fossils beds and the traders “who you are dealing with it is possible to largely avoid those problems,” he says. “So we are quite sure these specimens are authentic.”

Sullivan, who was raised in Ontario and British Columbia, did graduate studies at the University of Toronto and Harvard University before heading to China four years ago where he has been involved in several significant fossils finds.

By Margaret Munro, Postmedia News

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

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Taxidermy

The animal is lost from us, has been taken out of us.  I don’t just mean in our city lives.  I also mean in nature.  You go out there, and they’re gone, the ordinary and the unusual, they’re two-thirds gone.  True, in some places you still see them in abundance, but these are sanctuaries and reserves, parks and zoos, special places.  The ordinary mixing with animals is gone.

People object to hunting.  That is not my problem.  Taxidermy does not create a demand; it preserves a result.  Were it not for our efforts, animals that have disappeared from the plains of their natural habitat would also disappear from the plains of our imagination.  Take the quagga, a subspecies of the common zebra, now extinct.  Without the preserved specimens now on display here and there, it would only be a word.

There are five steps in preparing and animal: skinning, curing the hide, preparing the mannequin, fitting the hide onto the mannequin, and finishing.  Each step, if well done, is time-consuming.   Fruitful patience is what separates the amateur from the professional taxidermist.  Much time is spent on the ears, eyes and nose of a mammal so that they are balanced, the eyes not crossed, the nose not bent, the ears not standing unnaturally, the whole giving the animal a coherent expression.  The body of the animal is then given a posture that reflects this expression.

We do not use the word stuffed anymore since it is simply not true.  The animal that meets a taxidermist is no longer stuffed like a bag with moss, spices, tobacco, or whatnot.  Science has shed its practical light on us as it has on every discipline.  The animal is rather “mounted” or “prepared”, and the process is scientific.

Fish are hardly done these days.  That part of the business has died faster than the rest.  The camera can preserve the prize catch quicker and cheaper than the taxidermist, and with the owner standing right next to it, for proof.  The camera has been very bad for the business of taxidermy.  As if the forgotten pages of a photo album were better than a wall holding up the real thing.

We get animals as a result of attrition in zoological gardens.  Hunters and trappers are an obvious source of animals; in this case, the supplier is also the customer.  Some animals are found dead, killed by disease or as a result of an encounter with a predator.  Others are roadkill.  The by-products of food-making supply us with the skins and skeletons of swine, cattle, ostriches, and the like, or with stranger fare from more exotic parts of the world – my okapi, for example.

Skinning an animal must be the taxidermist’s first perfection.  If it is not done well, there will be a price to pay later.  It is like the gathering of evidence for the historian.  Any flaw at this stage may be impossible to fix later on.  If the subcutaneous ends of a bird’s tail feathers are cut, for example, they will be much harder to set in a way that looks natural.  Mind you, the animal might come to the taxidermist already damaged, whether when it was killed by a hunter or by another animal in a zoo or in a collision with a vehicle.  Blood, dirt, and other spoilage can be dealt with, and damaged skin or feathers can, within reason, be repaired, but there are limits to what we can do.  The evidence can be so ruined as to prevent a proper interpretation of the event, to use the language of the historian.

The mannequin, the form upon which the skin will be placed, must be built.  Any number of frames and fillings can be used, and have been used, or better yet, a mannequin can be made from balsa wood.  For more elaborate projects, a mannequin is made of clay on a wire armature, a mould is built around it, perhaps in several pieces, and then a cast of fiberglass or polyurethane resin is made, resulting in a mannequin that is light and strong.

Sewing thread must match the colour of the fur.  The stitching is done close and tight, with care being taken that the amount of skin taken from each side of the stitch line is the same so that the skin is not stretched unevenly.  A figure-eight stitch is used because it brings the edges of the skin together without forming a ridge.  Linen thread, which is strong and does not rot, is the best.

The advantage of retaining the skull of an animal in its mounted version is that it can then be displayed open-mouthed, with its real teeth showing.  Otherwise, on a mannequin head, the mouth must be sewn shut, or an elaborate mouth must be constructed, with artificial gums, teeth, and tongue.  The tongue is the hardest animal part to get right.  No matter the effort we put in, it always looks either too dull or too shiny.  It’s generally not a problem to keep the mouth shut – but what of the snarling tiger or the snapping crocodile, whose mouths are so expressive?

The pose given to the animal, at least the mammal or the bird, is a crucial matter.  Standing straight, skulking, leaping, tense, relaxed, lying on its side, wings out, wings tucked in, and so on – the decision must be made early on since it will affect the making of the mannequin and will play a crucial role in the expressiveness of the animal.  The choice is usually between the theatrical or the neutral, between the animal in action or the animal at rest.  Each choice conveys a different feel, the first of liveliness captured, the second of waiting.  From that, we get two different taxidermic philosophies.  In the first, the liveliness of the animal denies death, claims that time has merely stopped.  In the second, the fact of death is accepted and the animal is simply waiting for time to end.

The difference is immediately grasped between a stiff, glazed-eyed animal that is standing unnaturally and one that looks moist with life and seemingly ready to jump.  Yet that contrast rests on the smallest, most particular details.  The key to taxidermic success is subtle, the result is obvious.

The layout of animals in a habitat setting or diorama is as carefully thought-out as the blocking of actors on a stage.  When done well, when professionals are at work, the effect is powerful, a true glimpse of nature as it was.  Look at the crouch of the animal at the river’s edge, look at the playfulness of the cubs in the grass, see how that gibbon hangs upside down – it’s as if they were alive once again and nothing had happened.

There is no excuse for bad work.  To ruin an animal with shoddy taxidermy is to forfeit the only true canvas we have on which to represent it, and it condemns us to amnesia, ignorance and incomprehension.

There was a time when every good family brightened up its living room with a mounted animal or a case of birds, some representative from the forest that remained in the home while the forest retreated.  That business has all dried up, not only the collecting but the preserving.  Now the living room is likely to be dull and the forest silent.

Is there a level of barbarism involved in taxidermy?  I see none.  Or only if one lives a life entirely sheltered from death in which one never looks into the back room of a butcher shop, or the operating room of a hospital, or the working room of a funeral parlour.  Life and death live and die in exactly the same spot, the body.  It is from there that both babies and cancers are born.  To ignore death, then, is to ignore life.  I no more mind the smell of an animal’s carcass than I do the smell of a field; both are natural and each has its attaching particularity.

And let me repeat; taxidermists do not create a demand.  We merely preserve a result.  I have never hunted in my life and have no interest in the pursuit.  I would never harm an animal.  They are my friends.  When I work on an animal, I work in the knowledge that nothing I do can alter its life, which is past.  What I am actually doing is extracting and refining memory from death.  In that, I am no different from a historian, who parses through the material evidence of the past in an attempt to reconstruct it and then understand it.  Every animal I have mounted has been an interpretation of the past.  I am a historian, dealing with an animal’s past; the zookeeper is a politician, dealing with an animal’s present; and everyone else is a citizen who must decide on that animal’s future.  So you see, we are dealing here with matters so much weightier than what to do with a dusty stuffed duck inherited from an uncle.

I should mention a development of the last few years, what has been called art taxidermy.  Art taxidermists seek not to imitate but to create new, impossible species.  They – that is, the artist directing the taxidermist – attach one part of an animal to another part of another, so the head of a sheep to the body of a dog, or the head of a rabbit to the body of a chicken, or the head of a bull to the body of an ostrich, and so on.  The combinations are endless, often ghoulish, at times disturbing.  I don’t know what they mean to do.  They are no longer exploring animal nature, that is clear.  I think they are rather exploring human nature, often at its most tortured.  I cannot say it is to my taste, it certainly goes against my training, but what of that?  It continues a dialogue with animals, however odd, and must serve the purpose of some people.

Insects are the eternal enemy of taxidermy and have to be exterminated at every stage.  Our other enemies are dust and excessive sunlight.  But the worst enemy of taxidermy, and also of animals, is indifference.  The indifference of the many, combined with the active hatred of the few, has sealed the fate of animals.

I became a taxidermist because of the writer Gustave Flaubert.  It was his story “The Legend of Saint Julian Hospitator” that inspired me.  My first animals were a mouse and then a pigeon, the same animals that Julian first kills.  I wanted to see if something could be saved once the irreparable had been done.  That is why I became a taxidermist: to bear witness.

Excerpt from Beatrice and Virgil

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Pangolins and TCM

If you’ve ever rambled through the  rainforests of the Asian tropics, then you may have inadvertently meandered into the habitat of what appears to be a living, breathing, gargantuan pinecone called a pangolin.  Otherwise known as the scaly anteater, this creature is another one of those absurdly bizarre animals that often peak my interest.  Like the nickname suggests, its diet primarily consists of ants and termites they capture using a sticky, glue-like saliva, hence the toothless countenance and grossly elongated tongue.  Sheltered throughout its body by a massive coat of armour-like scales, its description sounds like that of a reptile but in fact these scales are keratinized, meaning they’re actually made of the same material as human fingernails; this anomalous characteristic makes them one of the most unique mammals in the world.

Pangolins are good at protecting themselves and have a variety of very efficient defensive mechanisms.  First, similar to skunks they are able to release a pungent stench by contracting their anal glands, also like an armadillo they have the behavioural instinct to roll up as a ball when provoked.  In this position, not only are they extremely difficult to pry apart, but pangolin scales are like razor edges fully capable of severing your finger or causing immense damage to the paws of large carnivores, causing even leopards to think twice before attempting to hunt one.  Unfortunately, there is one type of predator who has a particular taste for pangolin meat.

People

Now, I’m not here to point fingers or anything of the sort, but I’m inclined to inform you there are certain people from a certain country you may or may not have heard me mention before that starts with a C and ends with an a and is not Canada that has been blindly overharvesting pangolins for their meat.  As a result, pangolin populations have declined sharply in the past decade and in 2008 several species became endangered.  TRAFFIC, a joint organization between IUCN and WWF to ensure wildlife trading doesn’t threaten nature conservation, reveals that pangolin traders are the most common criminals convicted during animal trafficking stings in all of Asia. Interestingly, these pangolins were not all being hunted for their meat, but rather for another purpose…TCM, or Traditional C**nese Medicine (again, nothing of the sort).

In this undisclosed country Pangolin scales are known as Chuan Shan Jia, and are used to disperse blood stasis, promote lactation, dispel pus and reduce swelling.  They’re removed in a brutal process immersing the poor animals in scalding hot water, boiling them until the skin is soft enough to simply peel off the scales, which I would imagine feels a lot like getting your fingernails and toenails ripped off, except that you have them all over your body.

Because of their scarcity and nocturnal lifestyle, the scientific data currently available will not suffice and further research combined with the expertise of local hunters may be necessary to better understand their current distribution before implementing conservation measures.  Despite increased legal protection since their classification as an endangered species, proper enforcement of these laws and regulations continues to be a problem in developing countries like Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam and China.

Oh…………. woops.

References:

Newton, P., N. Van Thai, S. Roberton, and D. Bell.  2008.  Pangolins in peril: using local hunters’ knowledge to conserve elusive species in Vietnam.  Endangered Species Research 6: 41-53.

www.traffic.org

https://speakupforscience.wordpress.com/another-day-on-the-terrace/

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Beauty in the Beast

Happy Chinese New Year!

Under the spotlight this time around is the South China or Xiamen Tiger Panthera tigris amoyensis, symbol of bravery, dignity, courage, wealth, power and unpredictability.  At approximately 8 feet long and 330 lbs (scary if you ask me), it’s surprising that this subspecies of tiger is in fact one of the smallest, making it among the most delicate and perhaps most vulnerable felines in its clade.  Listed on the IUCN Red List as critically endangered, it saddens me to think that such a magnificent beast could be reduced to only tens of individuals remaining in the whole wild world.

Its persecution began in the 20th century, largely considered as pests and man-eaters by Chinese farmers and villagers under influence of the revolutionary Mao Zedong.  In just a short period of time, the South China tiger has become virtually extinct in the wild and it wasn’t until 1977, near the end of Mao’s leadership that the Chinese government imposed hunting bans, putting an end to the perverse trade of tiger farming in a desperate attempt to revive their populations .

In contrast to other beliefs, I personally don’t feel it’s too little too late.  The most optimistic conservationists hope to restore their numbers, breeding thousands of tigers in protected captivity though it likely won’t be for a while until they are ready to return to the jungle on their own.  Reintroduction of a captive species into the wild is a complicated task, as it may take generations to condition the tigers to hunt and self-satisfy their completely carnivorous diets, weaning them from the support of a few caring humans.

Like the Giant panda, the Xiamen tiger is a charismatic flagship species and 2010 serves as a good reminder to the Chinese as well as the general public.  Hopefully their additional attention this year gives them a bit of a boost in positive contributions over at least the next dozen years towards raising awareness of their critical situation so that the Panthera tigris amoyensis can, in all their glorious digitigrade prowess, stand tall as a species… once again.

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A Christmas Holiday Special: On the Origin of Santa Claus

Finally, it’s that time again, my favorite day of the year!  I hope you are all having a very enjoyable holiday season.  I can’t emphasize enough how much I love the snow but there’s so much to do and so little time.  My plan this year for a perfect Christmas is waking up first thing in the morning and opening my presents like an overjoyed toddler,  then enjoy a nice, hot cup of coffee doing some light reading while getting my daily trance fix.  Of course, I won”t forget a hearty breakfast; I’m thinking of making myself another one of my patented mega-omelettes complete with turkey, cheese, AND mushrooms.   During the day I am looking forward to all the hot chocolate and shinny I can handle, then later in the evening beer and hot sake and perhaps go old school tobogganing: something I haven’t done since my days as a child.  The thing I love most about Christmas is the fact that everyone gets the day off!  No work means no stress right?  We can all enjoy our one day of sheer free time.  All except one of course: the jolly old man from the great North Pole, sailing the skies by reindeer sleigh delivering presents worldwide in his usual red and white attire.

I was a little curious the other day about how Santa Claus came to be, so I did a little research on the topic.  Turns out old St. Nicholas has a mycological origin only a few would suspect.  Amanita muscaria, otherwise known as the fly agaric, is a red and white spotted mushroom known for its toxic and hallucinogenic effects.  The mushroom, once ingested, can cause a distortion in one’s perception of size… and for an odd reason Amanita intoxication has become a very popular concept making its way into many pieces of literature and other cultural depictions. 
Ring any bells yet?
In Chapter 5 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (big fan by the way), Alice encounters the Caterpillar smoking a hookah on top of a large mushroom.  “[She] waited patiently until it chose to speak again.  In a minute or two the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth and yawned one or twice, and shook itself.  Then it got down off the mushroom, and crawled away into the grass, merely remarking as it went, ‘One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you shorter.'”  Still not sold? Then perhaps you are more familiar with an Italian plumber and I think you know what happens when he eats the red and white spotted mushroom.

Anyhow, one of the earliest users of the mushroom were the Koryak: a tribe of Shamans known to herd reindeer.  These people believed the consumption of Amanita muscaria aids in the divination process and helps guide their spirit; their dependence on the mushroom has incorporated into many other aspects of their culture, from steeped tea to social drugs that eventually caused the mushroom to become an expensive commodity that even the reindeer themselves would indulge upon. It is said that the Shamans could allow their spirit forms to enter and exit their homes through a smoke-hole on the roof, which along with the red and white color of the mushroom led to the myth (yes, the myth.  Sorry kids.) of Santa Claus bringing gifts from the Gods…

… speaking of gifts it’s time to open them now!  MERRY CHRISTMAS ALL~!!

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