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We've got SpoOoOoOoOooky science stories on this week's episode! Footage of our bird prep lab, a missing label mystery, and an adorable diseases reservoir. ooOOoOOoOooo... *hoot hoot*
↓ More info + Links! ↓
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Papers/Articles:

Tailless tenrecs, adorable little disease reservoirs.
“Identification of Tenrec ecaudatus,a Wild Mammal Introduced to Mayotte Island, as a Reservoir of the Newly Identified Human Pathogenic Leptospira mayottensis,” PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Lagadec et. al (2016): http://bit.ly/2f8puMF

It’s Wednesday…
“Field Museum volunteers help do ‘gross’ but critical work for bird collection,” Joan Cary, Chicago Tribune. 2016): http://trib.in/2ewu4Cj

Chicago Bird Collision Monitors: http://www.birdmonitors.net/

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Credits:

Host, Producer, Set Design: Emily Graslie
Written by:Emily Graslie, Mark Alvey, Kate Golembiewski
Contributions from: Steve Goodman, Alan Resetar

Camera, Editor, Graphics, Sound: Sheheryar Ahsan

Camera, Graphics, Animation: Brandon Brungard

Music: Jason Weidner

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This episode is supported by and filmed on location at:
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Emily: Hey, welcome back to Natural News from the Field Museum! We've got some spooooooky stories in today's episode! New research on a few of Madagascar's adorable bacterial-disease carrying critters, a shout-out to our volunteers in the bird prep lab, and a scary story about how a ghost from science past continues to haunt our researchers today. Let's get to it!

[The Natural News intro plays]

Tailless Tenrecs: cute little disease reservoirs

Tenrecs are funny little mammals - they look sort of a mashup between a shrew, an opossum, and a hedgehog - some of them even have quills! There are a number of species throughout Africa and the island of Madagascar, and recently one of these - the tailless tenrec -- was discovered by Field biologist Steve Goodman and his collaborators to be adorable reservoirs... for DISEASE.

Tailless tenrecs are native to Madagascar, but have been introduced to Mayotte, an island that's part of the Comoros Archipelago. And with them they've brought Leptospira mayottensis, which is a bacterial disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. The illness the bacteria causes is called leptospirosis, and it's passed on to humans through contact with contaminated urine, blood, or water, soil, or food from infected hosts, making it bad news for farmers, and those that work with animals. Contracting the disease doesn't come without some potentially major consequences. While some infected people may not exhibit symptoms, others can experience fever, headache, vomiting, even liver failure or meningitis - and death.

While it was known to come from certain livestock animals like cattle and pigs, Steve and his colleagues report in a recent PLOS paper that the tailless tenrec also carries the bacteria, along with dogs and rats. So ultimately, knowing how different species of the Leptospira bacteria travels between wild animals, livestock, and humans can help healthcare professionals and medical researchers diagnose and treat the disease. The good news is that the Centers for Disease Control recommends limiting your time swimming or wading in water that's contaminated with animal urine and you greatly reduce your risk for exposure. So, yeah, don't swim in pee. Got it.

I'm going to tell you the spooooooky story about a scientist who took incomplete notes. Doctor Elias Francis Shipman was a student at Northwestern University Preparatory School in 1872 when he became interested in natural history - specifically, botany. But on one collecting trip in northwestern Indiana near his home, he snagged another find: the Hoosier frog, a new and rare species.

The find was published six years later in the 1878 edition of the Manual of the Vertebrate Animals of the Northern United States and his specimen went to the Chicago Academy of Sciences, but there was a mystery to solve: where, and when exactly, did Shipman find the frog? The only clue he left was a single name: Benton County, Indiana.

Collections manager of reptiles and amphibians Alan and coauthor Donna Resetar detail in their recent paper, Doctor Elias Francis Shipman and the Hoosier Frog, how they combed through records from the herbarium to try and pinpoint the specimen's origins. They tracked his movements based off of digitized school newsletters, and the dates on plants he collected as a student. Alan and Donna narrowed down a year: 1876.

During the process they revealed that Shipman enjoyed going by the name Shippy, and he excelled at intramural sports. While these details didn't really help pinpoint the frog's location, they were kind of fun to learn anyway. Unfortunately, Shippy passed away not long after graduation. There's no record of his death, and his original tombstone has worn away, replaced by one with inaccurate information, leaving his legacy with even more questions to answer.

Perhaps Shippy's ghost still wanders Benton County in search for other specimens of the Hoosier Frog, reminding young students: recooooord exact collecting coordinates. Invest in global positioning systems. Or you will be haunted by scientists from the paaaasssssttt. [thunder]

It's Wednesday - that must mean a few dozen people are her pulling apart dead birds for science.

The Chicago Tribune came by the bird collection to highlight one of the cooler, but smellier, activities Museum volunteers get to participate in: bird prep! Every year some 6-7,000 new birds are donated to The Field Museum by a group called the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors.

Throughout the year, volunteers from the CBCM pick up any birds that are injured or die as a result of flying into our downtown skyscrapers. The injured birds are taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center, and the dead ones end up here at the Museum. Each one of these birds coming into the Museum is accompanied with information about when and where it was found, before going into a freezer to kill off any hitchhiking parasites or pests.

Before the bird is prepped, the parasites are collected and stored in vials, the bird is weighed, and it either becomes a study skin or is skeletonized by our flesh-eating beetles - but first! A portion of its tissue is preserved in a tube and cryogenically frozen for future DNA analysis because, after all, this is the future we live in. In the last thirty years, our Museum has received more than 75,000 birds that have died from window strike alone. In a single square mile in downtown Chicago, more than 170 different species of birds have been recovered.

There's a ton of information that can be learned from these birds, like the weeks the migrations are occurring, and how that changes from year to year as effects from climate change impacts temperature and food availability. And, researchers from all over the world use the birds to answer questions about everything from how the age of a bird can be learned by studying its plumage, to the type of pathogens and parasites found on them, and how those may be transmitted between birds - and perhaps, to humans. Regardless of what these specimens are used for in the future, it's great to have a team of volunteers who help them along to meet their research potential.

If you're into this sort of thing, be sure to check in your area for any museums that might be interested in taking birds for their collections! With the correct permits you, too, could be tasked with telling passer-bys that the dead bird in your hand is destined for science.

Hey, thanks for watching this episode of Natural News from The Field Museum! If you guys are interested in the things we talked about, we've got links to articles in the description that you should check out - and make sure you subscribe so you can get a notification every time we post another video! Like, the next episode of "Natural News," comin' out in two weeks. Seeya!