Why Tigers Find Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men Cologne So Irresistible

iStock.com/guenterguni
iStock.com/guenterguni

Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men cologne was released in 1986, and the scent is making a surprising comeback in the animal kingdom. As The New York Times reports, forest rangers in central India are using the fragrance to lure a dangerous tiger out of the jungle.

That's the goal, anyway. The 5-year-old female tiger, known as T-1, is suspected of killing 13 people over a period of more than two years. Indian authorities hope they can trap the cat and move her to a zoo or wildlife refuge. However, if attempts to tranquilize and capture her are unsuccessful, the Supreme Court has given forest rangers its blessing to shoot and kill the animal if necessary.

All parties are hoping to avoid more bloodshed, though, and they believe Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men could play a key role. The secret to the scent's seductiveness is civetone, a pheromone that's secreted by small carnivorous mammals called civets and used in many musky colognes. Civetone used to be scraped from a civet's perineal glands—which, less glamorously, are situated near the animal's anus—but today most civetone is synthetic.

When big cats like tigers catch a whiff of civetone, they go crazy and bask in the scent. Los Angeles-based biologist Miguel Ordeñana suggested that civetone resembles a type of "territorial marking" that makes big cats want to rub their own scent all over it. For this reason, wildlife photographers and conservationists sometimes use civetone-rich cologne to coax cats towards the camera.

It's also spritzed throughout some zoos as part of their animals enrichment programs. Louise Ginman of Sydney's Taronga Zoo told Scientific American that lions, tigers, and snow leopards all love Calvin Klein cologne. "We spray it around the enclosure in lots of little concentrated sprays, and when the cats come out and smell it, they literally roll onto the ground, rub their cheeks all over it, and rub their faces with it," Ginman says. "I guess it's kind of like the reaction that you get from a cat when it's enjoying catnip. They just seem to be in absolute heaven."

The scent is also appealing to cheetahs. In 2010, Wildlife Conservation Society researchers at New York's Bronx Zoo sprayed a variety of perfumes and colognes inside the tiger, snow leopard, and cheetah enclosures. Calvin Klein Obsession for Men was definitely the biggest crowd pleaser, but Obsession for Women didn't incite the same response.

As for T-1, she's been spotted only a few times in recent months, and for only a few seconds at a time. Horses have been used in an attempt to lure her out into the open, but she has "ripped into them, eaten fast, then vanished," The Times notes. Let's hope that Obsession for Men will be the unlikely force that saves lives—of both animals and humans alike.

[h/t The New York Times]

Do Dogs Understand What You’re Telling Them? Scientists Are Scanning Their Brains to Find Out

iStock/kozorog
iStock/kozorog

We all know that dogs can learn to respond to human words, but it’s not always clear what’s happening in a dog’s brain when they hear and recognize words like “cookie” and “fetch.” Do they have to rely on other clues, like gestures, to figure out what we mean by that word? Do they picture a dog biscuit when you say “cookie,” or just the sensation of eating? In a new study, scientists from Emory University and the New College of Florida tried to get to the bottom of this question by training dogs to associate certain objects with words like “blue” and “duck,” then using fMRI brain scanners to see what was happening in the dogs’ heads when they heard that word.

The study, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, examined the brains of 12 different dogs of various breeds (you can see them below) that had been trained to associate two different objects with random words like “duck,” “blue,” and “beach ball.” Those two objects, which were different for each dog, were brought by the dogs’ owners from home or chosen from a selection of dog toys the researchers compiled. One object had to be soft, like a stuffed animal, and the other one had to be something hard, like a rubber toy or squeaky toy, to make sure the dogs could clearly distinguish between the two. The dogs were trained for several months to associate these objects with their specific assigned words and to fetch them on command.

Then, they went into the fMRI machine, where they had been trained to sit quietly during scanning. The researchers had the dogs lie in the machine while their owners stood in front of them, saying the designated name for the toys and showing them the objects. To see how the dogs responded to unknown words, they also held up new objects, like a hat, and referred to them by gibberish words.

Dogs in a science lab with toys
Prichard et al., Frontiers in Neuroscience (2018]

The results suggest that dogs can, in fact, discriminate between words they know and novel words. While not all the dogs showed the same neural response, they showed activation in different regions of their brains when hearing the familiar word versus the novel one.

Some of the dogs showed evidence of a greater neural response in the parietotemporal cortex, an area of the dog brain believed to be similar to the human angular gyrus, the region of the brain that allows us to process the words we hear and read. Others showed more neural activity in other regions of the brain. These differences might be due to the fact that the study used dogs of different sizes and breeds, which could mean differences in their abilities.

The dogs did show a surprising trend in their brains’ response to new words. “We expected to see that dogs neurally discriminate between words that they know and words that they don’t,” lead author Ashley Prichard of Emory University said in a press release. “What's surprising is that the result is opposite to that of research on humans—people typically show greater neural activation for known words than novel words." This could be because the dogs were trying extra hard to understand what their owners were saying.

The results don’t prove that talking to your dog is the best way to get its attention, though—it just means that they may really know what's coming when you say, "Want a cookie?"

Scientists Find Fossil of 150-Million-Year-Old Flesh-Eating Fish—Plus a Few of Its Prey

M. Ebert and T. Nohl
M. Ebert and T. Nohl

A fossil of an unusual piranha-like fish from the Late Jurassic period has been unearthed by scientists in southern Germany, Australian news outlet the ABC reports. Even more remarkable than the fossil’s age—150 million years old—is the fact that the limestone deposit also contains some of the fish’s victims.

Fish with chunks missing from their fins were found near the predator fish, which has been named Piranhamesodon pinnatomus. Aside from the predator’s razor-sharp teeth, though, it doesn’t look like your usual flesh-eating fish. It belonged to an extinct order of bony fish that lived at the time of the dinosaurs, and until now, scientists didn’t realize there was a species of bony fish that tore into its prey in such a way. This makes it the first flesh-eating bony fish on record, long predating the piranha. 

“Fish as we know them, bony fishes, just did not bite flesh of other fishes at that time,” Dr. Martina Kölbl-Ebert, the paleontologist who found the fish with her husband, Martin Ebert, said in a statement. “Sharks have been able to bite out chunks of flesh, but throughout history bony fishes have either fed on invertebrates or largely swallowed their prey whole. Biting chunks of flesh or fins was something that came much later."

Kölbl-Ebert, the director of the Jura Museum in Eichstätt, Germany, says she was stunned to see the bony fish’s sharp teeth, comparing it to “finding a sheep with a snarl like a wolf.” This cunning disguise made the fish a fearful predator, and scientists believe the fish may have “exploited aggressive mimicry” to ambush unsuspecting fish.

The fossil was discovered in 2016 in southern Germany, but the find has only recently been described in the journal Current Biology. It was found at a quarry where other fossils, like those of the Archaeopteryx dinosaur, have been unearthed in the past.

[h/t the ABC]

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