Livin' on the MDedge

Poppy-seeking parrots, harmonious mice, and feline-fueled hospital bills


Polly want another hit?

Once again, the animals are getting high.


Parrots in India are giving opium farmers a huge and expensive headache. The birds have become addicted to the poppy crop and are taking a huge bite out of the seasonal yields. According to an opium specialist, the birds get a jolt of instant energy from the poppy flower, similar to drinking a cup of coffee. No wonder the birds keep coming back for more.

This roving (flying?) gang of parrot menaces are feeding 30-40 times a day on the plants. Farmers have tried in vain to use firecrackers to scare off the birds, but nothing will stop Polly from getting her next fix. Opium dens might be long gone, but opium nests might be the next big thing.

Sing your little mouse heart out

In addition to being a big star on American Idol: Rodent Edition, the Alston’s singing mouse could also be a key player in understanding how mammalian brains control conversations.


These musical mice, native to Central America, do something unique: They take turns singing, rather than all belting it out at once. Researchers at New York University are using these mouse powerhouses as a model to study how conversation is regulated.

Unsurprisingly, this superstar is reportedly the mouse version of Mariah Carey, requiring a very specific environment: a palatial terrarium, a highly specialized diet, a microphone-shaped swimming pool, no brown M&Ms … you get the picture.

Researchers believe the demands are worth it, however. They’ve discovered that the mice time their songs very precisely to avoid any overlap with a singing neighbor. This could lead to insight on how humans delay conversation in order to not talk over one another (except for that one annoying coworker – you know who you are).

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