10 Fascinating Facts About Guatemala

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10 Fascinating Facts About Guatemala



There used to be a joke in Guatemala, when the country was ruled by themilitary dictatorship. Instead of greeting his subjects with “Good afternoon” or any other such common pleasantries, the president would say, “I see you have all survived . . . ”

10There Are A Lot Of Volcanoes

Photo credit: Kevin Sebold

There are three active volcanoes in Guatemala, one of which, the awesomely named Volcan de Fuego, erupted for the sixth time in 2017 this past June. There are 37 volcanoes in total, rising out of the crust of the planet thanks to Guatemala’s location on the Ring of Fire—the area where all the inside planet juice seeps out and gets all melty in our business.

Apparently, the three active volcanoes, Pacaya, Fuego, and Santiaguito, are so active that you are almost guaranteed to witness an explosion or lava flow just by visiting the area. Just 35 kilometers (22 mi) from Guatemala City, Volcan de Fuego is closely monitored by authorities in case it decides to kill everyone, which, alone, it is unlikely to do. However, the volcano Pacaya is a mere 30 kilometers (19 mi) from Guatemala City, so a double-team scenario is possible.

A September 2012 eruption of the Volcano of Fire saw an evacuation of 10,000 people ordered. In February 2015, another eruption forced the closure of the capital’s main airport.

9The Poorest Central American Nation With The Highest Crime

Carjacking, daylight sexual assault, armed holdups with automatic weapons conducted by MS-13 and other hardcore gangs, and fake police officers for good measure—all available in sunny Guatemala. Guatemala sees over 5,000 violent deaths a year, primarily from the aforementioned gang crime, but tourists are a natural source of free money for those desperate enough to risk it.

And the risks pay off, as there is a very low arrest and conviction rate, and resisting criminal attempts on your wallet is likely to cost you more than a handful of quetzals. The problems are deeply rooted and multifaceted. The effects of the civil war are still being dealt with, and the literacy rate is just 75 percent. (Only Haiti has a lower rate in the Western Hemisphere.) These surface issues are compounded by Guatemala being such a diverse nation that there are 24 different recognized languages, including Spanish.

8Giant Holes

Photo credit: Moises Castillo/AP

On May 30, 2010, an enormous hole, 18 meters (60 ft) wide and 30 stories deep, opened up in the middle of Guatemala City, swallowing a three-story building and a home. It also caused the death of a man. Because of the location of the capital—between two active volcanoes—the earth beneath is made up primarily of a substance called pumice fill, which was deposited in previous eruptions. This stuff is soft and unconsolidated, so it is theorized that this sinkhole is not actually a sinkhole at all. It is, in fact, man-made.

Due to the local zoning regulations being treated with as much respect as Charlie Sheen treats his own body, leaking water pipes are the likely culprit for digging a massive hole under the city. The repairs cost millions of dollars for each hole ($2.7 million for a similar sinkhole in 2007), so the impoverished government is lackadaisical at best. The 2010 hole became a minor tourist attraction, guarded by police to discourage spelunking.

7A Drunk God Will Sleep With Your Wife

Photo credit: Espiritualidad Maya

While you go to church and say sorry for thinking lewd thoughts, the Mayain Guatemala have a different take on how to entreat with deities to get what you really, really want. Their take is to bribe Maximon with cigars, cash, and liquor and ask for real-world boons.

The faith likely came about by the mixing of indigenous deities withCatholicism, the “San Simon” of the conquistadors being combined with an older native god. According to the old legends, when men left the village to work in the field, Maximon crept into town and slept with their wives. When the men found out, they returned and cut off all his limbs, leaving him behind as a womanizing torso. Gnarly.

Today, Maximon sits uncomfortably alongside and as part of the Catholic faith—at least as interpreted by the Guatemalans. The Church considers prayers to Maximon to be akin to witchcraft. The Maya? They say Maximon is a “friend to the saints.”

6The 36-Year-Long Civil War You Didn’t Hear About

Photo credit: Robert Schediwy

During the Guatemalan Civil War, which lasted from 1960 to 1996, 200,000 people died, and at least 400 villages were simply wiped off the map. The whole affair was one long, drawn-out power struggle between the indigenous rural people and the military junta that was installed in the 1950s. As with many Central and South American nations at the time, the main concern for many was how to keep the communists out. In Guatemala, however, the story deviated a little from the script.

Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, the leader of the junta that was installed after the (democratically elected) communist regime was ousted, took it upon himself to systematically strip the poor of their rights, wealth, and land. The subsequent uprising in 1960 killed Colonel Armas, and a new general was put in his place to continue the fight. By 1963, he was also dead, and another new general was put in place to continue the fight.

In the late 1960s, following the ousting of the military by the civilian regime of Cesar Mendez, the military—already with a reputation for extreme violence—conducted a campaign that butchered thousands of Guatemalans in their ultimately successful bid to remove Mendez and retake power. In short, the army really, really liked being in charge, and the myriad ethnic groups really, really disagreed.

5Guatemala Has Been Inhabited For 20,000 Years

Today, more than half of Guatemalans are descendants of the indigenous Maya peoples.

As found by many imperialist nations, drawing lines on a map and calling it your own rarely works in the long term. Before the arrival of the conquistadors in the 16th century, the region that would become Guatemala was ruled by many different Mayan kingdoms, as evidenced by the upwards of 5,000 archaeological sites spread throughout the country, dating back almost 20,000 years.

By the time of the Spanish conquest, the Maya were in steep decline. Smallpox had swept the continent, and internecine conflicts had weakened the once-mighty civilization. The Spanish, once the Maya were defeated, promptly subjugated the people and treated them little better than slaves. The social stratification—Maya natives at the bottom, Creole Spanish at the top—persisted for centuries. Essentially, the racial divisions imposed on the nation formed the tinder that sparked repeated bloody conflict, repression, exploitation, and misery.

4CIA Interference In Guatemala Accidentally Helped Cuba Go Communist

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Of course, the CIA and the United States had a hand in the overthrow of the communist regime in Guatemala. Propping up the military junta until the 1980s, the US propagated the Cold War with brutal callousness. This would be just another footnote of the tragedy of US involvement in other countries, were it not for the arrival on Christmas Eve, 1953, of a young Argentinian by the name of Che Guevara.

At the time, 70 percent of Guatemala’s usable land was owned by two percent of the population, and the socialist government was in direct conflict with American conglomerate United Fruit. Although not a Marxist at this time, Guevara witnessed mercenaries backed by the United States Air Force bombing civilians in support of a capitalist enterprise. The sight of the conflict between the people and a foreign government was a key moment in shaping the young man into the beginning of the most romanticized revolutionary of the last century. Less than nine months after his arrival, Che had fled to Mexico City to seek out the Cuban revolutionary, Fidel Castro.


The Ixil Maya; the Q’anjob’al and Chuj Maya; the K’iche’ Maya of Joyabaj, Zacualpa, and Chiche; and the Achi Maya. These names are unfamiliar to the English-speaking world, but we should consider them in the same tragic sphere as the Jews of Europe and the Armenians of Turkey. Between 1981 and 1983, an estimated 200,000 Mayans were exterminated for the crime of existing where the powerful willed that they did not.

Regular troops as well as irregular death squads, armed with weapons from the United States and funded by the Guatemalan government, slaughtered innocent people, desecrated sacred places, scorched the earth, and slaughtered livestock. Over 150,000 people fled north to Mexico seeking refuge. In part an effort by the junta to combat the communists by depriving them of the villages in which they hid, the genocide was also a racist expression of generations of ethnic tensions. The perpetrators are still being prosecuted in courts to this day.

2Corruption Is Big Business

Photo credit: Surizar

As one might imagine with a country of crumbling infrastructure and huge levels of regular crime, bribery is a major part of big business, too. It’s still totally illegal in Guatemala to bribe someone, same as anywhere else, but it certainly appears as if many of those at the top of the pile are in up to their elbows, including the recently deposed president.

Former army general and now former President Otto Perez Molina is currently accused of being involved in a multimillion-dollar customs fraud case that the UN has described as being run like “an organized crime syndicate.” The similarities to the mob deepen when you discover that Molina has also been accused (but not convicted) of murdering both a rebel leader in the 1980s and a Catholic bishop in the 1990s. In short, the Molina administration used corrupt money to gain office, and then once in power, it cheated the nation out of millions of dollars while taking kickbacks from foreign parties at the same time.

Nice job if you can get it.

1Drug Gangs Control Almost Everything

Guatemalan authorities intercepted 12,427.2 kilograms (27,397.3 lb) of cocaine last year, but being conveniently placed for distribution of product from Colombia or Ecuador means that Guatemala has significant drug trafficking and related crime problems. The notorious Los Angeles gang MS-13 has wisely discovered that in a world in which the CIA is pulling back its teeth, countries in Central America are fertile grounds. While Guatemala has had success fighting the largest gangs, outfits like MS-13 and the Mexican Sinaloa cartel still exert influence over the 50 or more smaller gangs that ferry cocaine and marijuana through the region.

Drugs are shipped by fast boats from Colombia, which dock at Guatemala’s Puerto Quetzal. Almost all of the cocaine coming out of Colombia arrives in Guatemala, before moving northward or across the Atlantic. The Mexico/Central America corridor handles 87 percent of the cocaine that reaches the US. Next time you’re racking a line, you can be sure that it has the Guatemalan seal of approval.


Top 10 Cases Of Pet Serial Killers

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Top 10 Cases Of Pet Serial Killers




For many people, their pets are like family. When Robert Fisher blew up his home and murdered his family, he took his dog with him.People who kill pets are hated because they kill our best friends. They’re usually never caught, and when they are, their sentences pale in comparison to the pain they cause. In fact, Johannes Brahms, a composer of symphonies who lived from 1833 to 1897, was only recently cleared of being a serial cat killer. For over 100 years after his death, Brahms was wrongly accused of “spearing” cats, reeling them in through his apartment window like a fisherman, and then working their death groans into his music.

Pet serial killers are a real phenomenon, and here are ten more recent cases of tragic pet murders.

10The Elusive Dog Killer Of Hong Kong

Photo credit: Pao Ho Lung

Hong Kong’s dog murders have occurred since the 1980s, and the victim count could be as high as 200 dogs and families. The last colonial governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, said his dog died after eating poisoned food in 1997. The poison is typically chicken or pork laced with easily acquirable pesticides.

While these murders have occurred all over Hong Kong, the wealthy area along Bowen Road has received the most attention.The road, lined with mansions, is not fit for cars, so many local residents jog or walk with their dogs down what should be a safe road.

Some police officers and residents believe the killer gets a kick out of murdering animals and causing emotional harm to the families. Suspected motives are the failure of some dog owners to pick up their pets’ poop and possibly a hatred or fear of dogs.

9Cat Poisonings In South Wales

In the small village of Cilgerran in Wales, residents have suffered nearly 20cat deaths. The felines died from acute kidney failure. Although this is a sign the cats were likely poisoned, a local pet association said they could not be sure if the deaths were intentional or accidental. All of the cat deaths have occurred within a ten-minute walking radius, and residents were asked to search their garages for poisonous substances the cats could have gotten into.

Some residents say there could be an “innocent explanation” for the deaths, but 20 cat deaths in such a tight radius is more likely the work of a serial cat killer.

8Malicious Dog Poisoner In Nevada

In 2017, residents east of Las Vegas in Pahrump, Nevada, concluded that a serial dog killer was on the loose. The killer would drop green pieces of rubbery meat on the ground, which dogs would eat. The meat had apparently been soaked in poison and resulted in the deaths of five pets in one week.

One unfortunate resident suffered the deaths of two beloved dogs to the malicious murderer. “I can’t imagine hurting someone else’s family the way that we’re hurting right now,” said Sabrina Buckley.

Residents suspect the killer may be the same serial pet killer who attacked the same neighborhood in 2015. “Animals can’t fight for themselves,” said Elizabeth Payton, whose dog was murdered in 2015. Speaking to the killer’s obvious cowardice, she said, “Pick on someone your own size.”

7Trigger-Happy Cop In Georgia

In 2016, a former police lieutenant and school resource officer in Georgia named Daniel Peabody was charged with killing several dogs, two of them his own police K-9s.

The first police dog to die was a yellow lab named Dale. After serving on the police force together for about five years from 2007 to 2012, Dale retired from being a police dog. Soon after, Peabody told officers that Dale had died by choking on a chew toy. Four years later, they would charge him with lying to investigators.

Peabody eventually took on the duty of working as a school resource officer. For this duty, he was assigned another dog named Inca. One scorching hot day in June of 2016, Lt. Peabody left Inca in his car for three hours after returning home from work. The poor K-9 died an agonizing death by heatstroke. Just three days later, Peabody resigned from his post as school resource officer.

Investigators were suspicious of the two K-9 deaths under Peabody’s watch. While looking for clues on Peabody’s former property, they found the remains of another dog that Peabody had shot and killed. Investigators said they had reason to believe the animal was Inca’s grandmother. Further evidence led police to believe Peabody shot Dale: “Peabody initially claimed Dale’s death was accidental due to Dale choking on a toy. However, the investigation yielded evidence that Dale was in fact shot and killed.”

Peabody was quickly arrested and charged with cruelty to animals and lying to the police about Dale’s cause of death. It was later revealed that Peabody applied to adopt Dale when the K-9 retired. Apparently, he just wanted to murder his loyal police partner.

6Disemboweled Cats In Croydon

Croydon, a small town in South London, suffered at least five heinous cat deaths in late 2008.

Grant Ramsey said his kitten Molly napped on his chest earlier in the day. When he and Mrs. Ramsey let ten-month-old Molly go outside around 7:30 PM, she did not return. The next time they saw Molly, her stomach was ripped open “from neck to hip.” “You could have put your head in [the hole],” said Mr. Ramsay. Molly’s intestines were found about 2.4 meters (8 ft) away from her body. Eerily, there was no blood trail in between.

Another attack left a cat with “severed tendons and a dislocated hip.” The owner found the cat on the side of the road still alive, trying desperately to drag itself home.

5Keith Jesperson: General Pet Killer

Photo credit: ABC News

In the 1990s, Keith Jesperson became known as the Happy Face Killer for signing letters to journalists with smiley faces. Now serving time for killing at least eight women, he actually killed many more pets than people.Jesperson enjoyed killing animals that passed through his property, such as gophers and cats. Killing strays was not good, but his family wasn’t alarmed.

Then things changed. Jesperson’s daughter, Melissa Moore, went on Dr. Philand revealed that when she was a little girl, Jesperson once tied her pet kittens to the clothesline and beat them to death for fun. As an adult and with her father forever removed from society, she bravely told Dr. Phil, “I realized that he doesn’t feel guilt. My dad is sick, and I don’t have to have a relationship with someone who is sick.”

4The Rabbit Slayer Of Germany

In 2008, residents in the German cities of Witten and Dortmund began hiding their pet rabbits in their garages, cellars, and in the woods. “His head was missing,” said resident Elfriede Dumont of her pet rabbit. “I looked inside and saw Rocco just lying there.” Elfriede was not alone. At least 30 rabbits were slaughtered by a vicious serial rabbit killer.

Children at a playground discovered numerous headless rabbits. As with all the victims, the killer left no rabbit heads or blood to be discovered and apparently drained the blood into a “box or bottle.”

Although police set up a task force to catch the killer, many questions remained unanswered. For example, the rabbits were not in plain sight, and residents could not figure out how the killer knew they even had rabbits. They suspected the killer could have been using satellite images, such as those on Google Earth, to discover potential victims.

“This place is so quiet,” said Elfriede’s granddaughter, Sabrina. “You can leave your car open and everything’s fine. Yet there are people who murder rabbits!”

3Pet Killers In England

Sussex, England, suffered a rash of pet murders in 2004. Police believed more than one person was responsible for the deaths of 19 cats, four rabbits, and one fox. One innocent cat’s head was found buried among flowers, and its (supposed) body was later found along with two dead rabbits in a mail bag.

The mutilations were not consistent. Some animals had both their tails and heads removed. Pet detective June Bailey of Rustington compiled all the reports and said all the murders took place between midnight and 3:00 AM. “We are all living in fear,” she said. “[Leaving pets outside is] like playing Russian roulette.”

2The Dog Killer Of Condesa

Mexico City experienced a serial dog killer at a park in the trendy Condesa district in 2001. Within 20 minutes of walking their dogs in the park, owners said their dogs vomited, had convulsions, and then died. “These dogs were like our children,” said Caroline Owen, whose dog was killed by poison at the park. In response, police blocked off the park and searched for clues while autopsies were performed on the murdered dogs.

For many people on social media, the special attention given to the dog murders contrasted sharply with the perceived lack of attention given to thousands of unsolved human drug war murders. “All life deserves attention,” said one resident. Another dog owner thought the police needed to do more: “Are they waiting until a child dies to do something?”

Yet another person, a man who had been selling his artwork in the park for the past 30 years, offered a motive for the killer, which apparently no one found suspicious: Maybe the killer was tired of dog owners not picking up dog poo.

1Depressed Dog Killer Caught In Delhi

Photo credit: India Today

In 2016, police in Delhi, India, arrested a serial dog killer who was caught on video feeding poison to dogs. Once the dogs ate the poison, dog killer and engineer Nakul Mishra, age 28 at the time, brutally beat the dogs.

When the video first surfaced, police set up a task force to find the killer. They painstakingly combed through thousands of rental applications and searched the area door-to-door. Eventually, they honed in on Mishra and arrested him at his home.

Mishra’s excuse was that he was depressed over a failed relationship, the death of his own dog, and losing his job. Police said Mishra injured three dogs and murdered a puppy. He is expected to receive jail time and psychological counseling.

On a final note, animal serial killers are often either future serial murders of humans or failed ones. There are many examples of serial killers who killed and tortured animals as children. Young Jeffrey Dahmer impaled animal heads on sticks long before attempting to turn humans into zombie slaves. As a child, the Boston Strangler liked to put dogs and cats into boxes and then shoot arrows through them. The Columbine school shooters mutilated animals in their free time and bragged about it.

Micah Morris lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has an English degree and enjoys writing.

For some considerably more uplifting pet stories, check out 10 Pets That Put Killers Behind Bars and 10 Incredible Pets That Returned Home After Years Of Being Lost.

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DNA Analysis Reveals Why ‘Water Bears’ Are the World’s Toughest Animals

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DNA Analysis Reveals Why ‘Water Bears’ Are the World’s Toughest Animals

Diane Nelson, a Tardigrade researcher who works in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, used a scanning microscope to take this 3-D image of a Tardigrade.

Credit: NPS/Diane Nelson

Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are less than a fraction of an inch in length, yet they are believed to be Earth’s toughest, hardiest animals. They are virtually indestructible. Tardigrades have the ability to withstand complete dehydration. Once desiccated, they have been frozen in blocks of ice, exposed to radiation, and sent into the vacuum of space, and yet they still usually spring back to life when water becomes available again.

New genetic research, published in the journal PLOS Biology, reveals how tardigrades achieve such resurrections after drying to a crisp. The authors now even believe that alien life forms could possess this remarkable ability.

“If life exists on other planets, and it is water-based, then those organisms that live out of water will evolve to resist extreme events, including the threat of drying out,” said co-author Mark Blaxter of the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Evolutionary Biology.

He added that the ability to undergo anhydrobiosis — the desiccated, dormant state — “has evolved multiple times on Earth, so I am sure it will have evolved on other living planets.”

Blaxter and his colleagues took a clever approach to unravel the scientific secrets behind anhydrobiosis in tardigrades.

The scientists re-sequenced and reassembled the genome of Hypsibius dujardini, a tardigrade that can only undergo desiccation after extensive pre-exposure to drying conditions. They then compared the tiny animal’s DNA with that of Ramazzottius varieornatus, a related species with tolerance to rapid desiccation.

The researchers then looked at a particular set of genes, the so-called HOX genes, which establish the nose-to-tail pattern in embryos. There are usually about ten different HOX genes in animals, but tardigrades are missing five. Nematodes (roundworms) lack these same five genes.

RELATED: Microscopic Tardigrade ‘Water Bears’ Will Be the Last Survivors on Earth

“This could be because they share a common ancestor with tardigrades, and the loss happened in this ancestor,” Blaxter said. “Alternatively, it could be that the loss is associated with both groups becoming miniaturized, and these ‘middle’ HOX genes are the ones that are the easiest to lose.”

He added that the shared genetic loss could also simply be due to independent evolution. Because of these remaining questions, scientists continue to debate whether or not tardigrades are more closely related to nematodes or to arthropods — insects, spiders, and crustaceans.

By asking which genes were turned on during tardigrade anhydrobiosis, the scientists could identify sets of proteins, which appear to replace the water that tardigrade cells lose, thus helping to preserve the microscopic structures until water is available again.

Arakawa explained that all cells contain around 60–80 percent water when they are active, including human cells.

The key proteins that they identified are highly soluble. They dissolve in water that, due to surface tension, clings to and surrounds intracellular molecules within tardigrades. Like a microscopic protective coating, they prevent the cells from denaturing when the animal otherwise desiccates.

Arakawa added that tardigrades also possess additional genes that protect their DNA from damage. Because these small animals lack stress-sensing pathways, their cells do not usually die out when damaged. Instead, the identified proteins try to make repairs, and are often successful in doing so.

Due to these abilities, scientific consensus holds that tardigrades could be Earth’s last survivors. Such resilience is unexpected in a tiny creature that seems to exist in the slow lane.

“Tardigrades are slow walkers, and are not really aggressive animals,” Arakawa explained. “Therefore, they tend to lose competitions for food, or can become prey in a diversified ecosystem. But tardigrades fled to their own niche, where only tardigrades can survive, so paradoxically, tardigrades presumably acquired their extreme survival abilities due to their ecological incompetence.”

RELATED: Tardigrade ‘Water Bear’ Dries to a Crisp and Then Comes Back to Life

Arakawa and his colleagues can envision a day when enzymes, vaccines, human organs, tissues, and cells could be preserved in a state of anhydrobiosis instead of by liquid-nitrogen-based freezing.

“Some people have suggested that tardigrades could somehow travel through space to seed other planets with Earth-derived life,” Baxter said. “That obviously didn’t happen on Earth, as only some tardigrades are able to do anhydrobiosis, and tardigrades are derived from other, more ancient forms.”

While it is doubtful that tardigrades are somehow hurtling through space now, these amazing animals continue to captivate researchers. Blaxter and Arakawa, for example, have been studying them with awe and admiration for years.

Blaxter, one of the few tardigrade genomics experts in the world, reminisced that his scientific career was sewn when, as a child, he was gifted with an animal encyclopedia by his parents.

“I especially pored over the weird and wonderful animals that were so beyond what I had seen with my own eyes,” he recalled.

When, many years later, one of his Ph.D. students suggested that he study tardigrades, a lightbulb went off.

“We haven’t looked back,” Blaxter said.

Originally published on Seeker.


Moving Nose to Tail, Shrew ‘Conga Line’ Shimmies Online

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Moving Nose to Tail, Shrew ‘Conga Line’ Shimmies Online

A caravan of shrews

Credit: Alamy

A creepy, crawly video of tiny critters holding each other’s tails and scurrying across the ground like a furry centipede has captured the internet’s attention.

Called “The NOPE train,” the video has garnered nearly 3 million views since it was posted to Imgur on Monday (July 24). Commenters got creative, calling the furry unit “the human centipede: mice edition,” a “rat king in the making” and a “fluffy snake.” One user wryly posted, “The caboose is a bit wobbly.”

At least two commenters got the animal right: They’re shrews. And not just any shrews — that fuzzy conga is a mother shrew leading her babies in a train, known as a caravan, according to Cynthia Alvarado, a clinical veterinarian at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. [The World’s 6 Smallest Mammals]

Here’s how the caravan works: The mother shrew heads the line, and each preceding baby shrew bites down on the base of the tail belonging to the shrew in front of it. Then, with Mom in the lead, the shrews can travel together in a fairly ordered procession.

The NOPE train…

Shrews typically form these caravans when their nest is disturbed and the mother decides to evacuate her young to safety, according to the Mammal Society, a charity in the United Kingdom that advocates science-led mammal conservation. Caravans may also be used to encourage shrew pups to explore their surroundings, the society noted.

Female shrews usually have three or four litters between May and September, with each litter consisting of about five to seven pups. Each litter can have two or three fathers, the Mammal Society reported.

Another video of a shrew caravan, posted by YouTube user Вот так Вот and called “Мыши идут строем,” which translates to “Mice go in line,” shows the bizarre phenomenon as well.

Given that Вот так Вот and several Imgur posters thought the critters were rodents, it’s important to note that shrews are in an entirely different taxonomic order.

“Mice are in the order Rodentia, and shrews are in the order Eulipotyphla, which includes animals likes moles and hedgehogs,” Alvarado said.

Original article on Live Science.

The Evil Eye: A Closer Look

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The Evil Eye: A Closer Look

The evil eye is a specific type of magical curse. It is believed to cause harm, illness and even death.The evil eye is a specific type of magical curse. It is believed to cause harm, illness and even death.

Credit: Vasilchenko Nikita | Shutterstock

Everyone gets a dirty look now and then, and we usually think little of it (especially if we deserved it). For most of us it is soon shrugged off, but in many places belief in “the evil eye” is taken very seriously, and requires immediate action to avoid harm.

The evil eye is a human look believed to cause harm to someone or something. The supernatural harm may come in the form of a minor misfortune, or more serious disease, injury — even death. Folklorist Alan Dundes, in his edited volume “The Evil Eye: A Casebook” notes that “the victim’s good fortune, good health, or good looks — or unguarded comments about them — invite or provoke an attack by someone with the evil eye … Symptoms of illness caused by the evil eye include loss of appetite, excessive yawning, hiccups, vomiting and fever. If the object attacked is a cow, its milk may dry up; if a plant or fruit tree, it may suddenly wither and die.”

The evil eye is also said to cause a number of other maladies including insomnia, fatigue, depression and diarrhea. In many places, disease is considered a magical as well as a medical issue, and the reason a given person succumbs to a malady may be attributed to a curse instead of random chance or exposure to a virus. It can even affect objects and buildings: The evil eye cast upon a vehicle may break down irreparably, while a house so cursed may soon develop a leaky roof or an insect infestation. Just about anything that goes wrong may be blamed on the power of the evil eye.

The evil eye is well known throughout history. It is mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman texts, as well as in many famous literary works, including the Bible (such as Proverbs 23:6: “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats”) the Koran and Shakespeare’s plays. Though belief in the evil eye is widespread, it is not universal. A 1976 cross-cultural survey by folklorist John Roberts found that 36 percent of cultures believed in the evil eye.

The evil eye is essentially a specific type of magical curse, and has its roots in magical thinking and superstition. Let’s say that a person experiences bad luck, ill health, accident, or some unexplained calamity — perhaps a drought or an infectious disease. Before science could explain weather patterns and germ theory, any bad event for which there was not an obvious cause might be blamed on a curse. Curses, including the evil eye, are an answer to the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people.

Eyes are said to have special powers; they are said to be the gateway to a person’s soul. Shifting eyes are said to subtly betray liars, while a steady gaze may be endearing or menacing depending on the circumstances. Eye contact can create an intensely personal connection, whether between lovers or superiors and subordinates. Glaring or intense staring can convey power and authority over another. And of course, actors use their eyes to convey a wide range of emotions, including love, hate, disgust, boredom, scorn, surprise and envy. In fact it is this last emotion — jealousy — that underlies the evil eye’s cultural association with magic.

Belief in the power of the eyes is so powerful that any eye affliction has come to suggest evil and bad luck. People who are cross-eyed, have uncontrollable eye twitches or spasms (a condition called blepharospasm), or who merely have a prominent squint have been shunned and feared as provoking bad luck, especially among those who work in dangerous occupations such as fishing and mining. Similarly, those with unusually close-set eyes or eyes of different colors were often suspected of having the evil eye.

Babies and children are said to be especially susceptible to harm from the evil eye, and in many countries, including Greece, Romania, and India, praising a child publicly is sometimes considered taboo, for the compliment will draw the attention of the evil eye. In order to ward off the evil eye, parents of a thoughtlessly praised child may ask the person who gave the compliment to immediately spit in the child’s face. Because the momentarily exalted youngster has been brought down a peg, any harm by the evil eye is unnecessary; this spittle salve is harmless yet insulting enough to negate the compliment.

Who has the evil eye? Maybe you do. Many believe that bad intention is not necessary, and that some people can cast an evil eye without even knowing it. If one person is believed to have the evil eye, other members of his or her family are often treated with suspicion — and any children are assumed to have the curse as well.

The best way to deal with the evil eye is to avoid it in the first place. The method varies by culture, geographic region, and personal preference. In Latin America the evil eye is known as “mal de ojo,” and belief in it is especially widespread in rural areas. In Puerto Rico, for example, newborns are often given a good luck charm called an azabache to protect them from the evil eye.

Amulets can be worn to deter the evil eye, often using the color blue (symbolizing heaven or godliness) and an eye symbol. Charms, potions and spells can also be prepared; garlic can be used to deter the evil eye, and some believe that just saying the word “garlic” offers protection.

Often those who believe they have been harmed by the evil eye will seek out shamans, witch doctors, psychics or other spiritual healers to remove the curse. There are several ways to cure mal de ojo; one traditional method from Mexico involves the use of a raw egg. The egg, a universal symbol of purity and birth, is said to absorb evil energies as it passes over the forehead and prone body of the victim. The egg is then broken over a bowl of water and the resulting forms closely examined for any unusual shapes. An oval or eye shape seen in the yolk or whites is said to indicate that the evil eye’s power has been successfully removed from the victim. Some claim that the gender of the person who cast the evil eye can be determined from the shapes.

It is tempting to view the evil eye as an ancient, discredited belief that plays no role in our 21st-century world. Instead, as folklorist Dundes notes, we “should keep in mind that the evil eye is not some old-fashioned superstitious belief of interest solely to antiquarians. The evil eye continues to be a powerful factor affecting the behavior of countless millions of people throughout the world.”

Though belief in the evil eye can be a harmless superstition, it can also be dangerous in some circumstances. Any time one person believes that another has harmed them — whether naturally or supernaturally, intentionally or accidentally — there is the potential for deadly retribution. Like other accused witches and sorcerers over the centuries, many people have been attacked, beaten, and killed for casting an evil eye.

Canaanites Live: DNA Reveals Fate of Biblical People

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Canaanites Live: DNA Reveals Fate of Biblical People

A burial jar containing the remains of an ancient inhabitant of the Canaanite city of Sidon. This individual was one of five whose DNA was sequenced to reveal the ancestry of the Canaanites.

Credit: Dr. Claude Doumet-Serhal/The Sidon Excavation

The people of modern-day Lebanon can trace their genetic ancestry back to the Canaanites, new research finds.

The Canaanites were residents of the Levant (modern-day Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine) during the Bronze Age, starting about 4,000 years ago. They’re best known from the Old Testament of the Bible, in which they’re described as the cursed descendants of Canaan, blighted by God because Canaan’s father dishonored his own father, the patriarch Noah. The Canaanites were often in conflict with the Israelite tribes that wrote the Hebrew Bible. In fact, the Book of Deuteronomy features Yahweh (God) ordering the Canaanites to be exterminated.

In part because the Canaanites kept their records on easily degradable papyrus rather than clay, little is known about their side of the story. But now, ancient DNA reveals that the Canaanites were the descendants of Stone Age settlers and the ancestors of the Lebanese. [Biblical Battles: 12 Ancient Wars Lifted from the Bible]

“Canaanite ancestry was widespread in the region,” study researchers Marc Haber and Chris Tyler-Smith of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom wrote in an email to Live Science, “and several groups who were probably culturally different shared the same ancestral background.”

Haber, Tyler-Smith and their colleagues extracted ancient DNA from the bones of five Canaanites who died in the ancient city of Sidon (an area now in Lebanon). The skeletons dated from between 3,750 and 3,650 years ago. The researchers then compared the genetic sequences of these ancient Canaanites with those of 99 modern Lebanese people, as well as with ancient DNA sequences of more than 300 other people from an ancient DNA database.

A young person’s body buried in the Canaanite city of Sidon more than 3,500 years ago.

Credit: Dr. Claude Doumet-Serhal/The Sidon Excavation

The findings revealed broad overlap between Canaanite genetics and the sequences of modern-day people from Lebanon. Researchers even found some ancient gene variations that suggested the Canaanites probably had similar coloration in skin, eyes and hair as Lebanese people do today. It was surprising, Haber and Tyler-Smith said, to find such continuity in the Canaanite line, given all of the conquests and expansions into the Middle East from outside groups since the Bronze Age.

The Canaanites themselves descended from Stone Age settlers who mixed with newcomers from what is now Iran about 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, the researchers said. This mixture could be explained by the expansion of the Akkadian Empire, a Mesopotamian empire that peaked around that time, the researchers wrote.

The excavation of Sidon, an ancient Canaanite city in what is now Lebanon.

Credit: Dr. Claude Doumet-Serhal/The Sidon Excavation

After the Bronze Age, the Canaanites did mix a little bit with their neighbors. Modern-day Lebanese populations are largely Canaanite, the DNA showed, with a bit of Eastern hunter-gatherer and Eurasian Steppe influence that got added to the mix some 3,000 years ago, the researchers said.

Understanding the Canaanite’s genetic history is important, Haber and Tyler-Smith said, because so few written records of the group’s story remain.

“Genetics has the power to fill these gaps,” the two told Live Science. The Near East is a key place for these sorts of studies, the researchers said, because it was such a central location in human history.

The next steps are to study “more samples, different places and different time periods,” Haber and Tyler-Smith said.

The researchers reported their findings online today (July 27) in The American Journal of Human Genetics.

Original article on Live Science.

How Two Bodies Stayed Mummified for 75 Years in a Swiss Glacier

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How Two Bodies Stayed Mummified for 75 Years in a Swiss Glacier

The mountain range bordering the Jungfrau Glacier in Switzerland, as viewed from the Jungfraujoch.

Credit: Terry Chambers/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty

Last week, during a routine inspection tour, a ski-lift technician for the Swiss adventure resort Glacier 3000 found what he thought was a collection of black rocks near the Tsanfleuron glacier in the western Bernese Alps, reported The New York Times. Upon close inspection, though, he discovered that the rocks were, in fact, mummified bodies.

DNA testing has now confirmed that the bodies are those of Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin, spouses that had been lost ever since they left home to feed their cattle the morning of Aug. 15, 1942. So how did the bodies become preserved in the glacier?

Whether the Dumoulins fell into a crevasse remains a mystery, but it may be that a snowstorm covered them, making it impossible to find the couple by sight. But regardless of what happened, the water inside their bodies eventually froze. Still, the ice crystals in their tissues likely didn’t stay put, said Dan Fisher, a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in identifying the remains. [25 Grisly Archaeological Discoveries]

“The tissue starts out with a high water content, but that water would freeze, and in many cases,actually under those frozen conditions, when surrounded with [air] with low water-vapor content, the ice crystals in the tissue can sublimate,” Fisher told Live Science. Sublimation is the process by which solid ice transitions directly into water vapor without ever becoming liquid. In other words, the tissue dried out, Fisher said.

As such, it was both the cold and the dry conditions that inhibited the work of bacteria and fungi, as well as the chemical processes that would normally break down human tissue, leaving the bodies well-preserved.

Additionally, the bodies remained relatively intact likely because the Tsanfleuron glacier may be relatively stable, even though glaciers, rivers of slow-flowing ice, are in constant motion. They advance when more ice and snow are added than lost, and retreat when more ice and snow is lost, according to Martin Callanan, an associate professor of archaeology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who was not involved in identifying the remains.

This retreat makes it possible to glimpse even further back into the past. In 2003, less than 20 miles (32 kilometers) away from Tsanfleuron, at the Schnidejoch glacier, coins, leather, a piece of a wooden bowl and a bow and arrows were among items discovered. Those objects date from Medieval times, all the way back to nearly 4500 B.C., during the Neolithic age.

“There is a definite increase in the number of objects that we’re finding and in the number of different regions that are reporting finds,” said Callanan, mentioning that he couldn’t speak to whether this was true specifically for bodies as well.

Photo published for Swiss police confirm identity of couple found on glacier

Callanan attributed this increase in discoveries, in part, to global warming. Global temperatures in 2014, 2015, and 2016 each broke the record for the hottest year on the planet since recordkeeping began in 1880, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told Live Science. This warming is causing glaciers worldwide to shrink, a 2016 study in Nature Geoscience confirms with 99 percent certainty.

The recent discovery and identification of the Dumoulins is a great relief to the couple’s daughter Marceline Udry-Dumoulin. Udry-Dumoulin, one of seven children, was only 4 when her parents went missing. After their disappearance, local rescue teams searched crevasses for more than two months but found nothing.

“I climbed the glacier three times afterwards, always looking for them,” Udry-Dumoulin told the Swiss newspaper Le Matin. “I kept wondering if they had suffered and what had become of them. Now I have the pleasure of having answers to these questions.”

Original article on Live Science.