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Facts About Strange Forms of Currency used During a Pandemic

Today, digital currency stands to eliminate paper money one day, possibly. As people can now transfer money electronically on their smartphones, governments are moving to eliminate cash.

Today, business professors say that using digital currency could help eliminate the spread of viruses like Covid-19.

Whatever the eventual fate of paper money, it’s interesting to look at alternative forms of currency throughout history. So, we’ll look at two strange currencies from medieval times.

One of these forms of money lost popularity after a pandemic, the Black Plague. The other currency may have helped stop the spread of the same widespread pandemic.

Finally, we’ll look at one odd paper money with a fascinating story. (But not plague-related for a happy change!)

Eels as Currency

In medieval England, one common form of currency was eels. Recently, a Ph.D. student in Medieval Studies from Cornell University, Dr. John Wyatt Greenlee, explained how the eels were used.

Eels were so popular in England that they appeared on medieval shields and crests and were a favorite food for nobles and King Henry I.

Notably, Shakespeare talked about eels more than any other fish.

Paying Rent in Eels

Greenlee shared a map showing where people paid taxes in eels. In 1200, people paid as many as 500 thousand eels. Landlords received payments from their tenants in “sticks” of 25 eels. On the other hand, the English called a bundle of ten eels a “bind.”

According to TIME:

“Many landlords collecting rent payments in eels were monasteries; being paid in eels meant the monks would have enough fish to eat during the Lenten season when they couldn’t eat meat. The fish was thought to be the perfect food to eat to suppress sexual thoughts during this fasting season.”

Dr. Greenlee, now an eel historian, says that an Amazon Prime subscription would cost between 150 and 300 eels today. However, European eels are critically endangered. Thus, Greenlee is trying to show people why endangered animals like eels are worth saving today.

Eels After the Black Death

In 1348 and ’49, the Black Death outbreak led to a rapid 90% decline in rent payments made in eels annually during the 13th century and the 14th century. Unfortunately, the human population declined rapidly. At the same time, other forms of protein became available, and it seems eels were no longer as essential.

Next, we’ll look at another animal form of currency that seems to have protected a country to some extent from a plague.

Related: The Most Amazing Facts About Fish: Everything You Should Know

Payments in Squirrel Pelts and Parts?

As we’ve seen, eels were an extremely popular currency in England until the Black Death. Meanwhile, in medieval Russia, one popular form of money was squirrel pelts. The pelts were a form of currency. Also, people used parts like ears, claws, and snouts. Today, we speculate those parts were to make change.

Related: 22+ Fun And Nutty Facts About Squirrels: Acorns, Habitat And More

Squirrel pelt currency
image by CreditCards.com, CNBC

Pennsylvania Bank executive David Doty collects odd forms of currency from around the globe. In a CNBC interview, Doty speculated about a possible benefit of trading in squirrels during the Black Plague.

By reducing the number of squirrels, it stands to reason it also could have reduced the exposure to infected fleas.

“During the Black Plague, Russia didn’t get hit as hard as everybody else. By making their currency the squirrel pelt, it may have reduced the number of disease-bearing parasites,” Doty explained.

However, today Russia is cracking down on hunting another rodent, the marmot. Officials suspect the hunters on the border with Mongolia and China could be spreading bubonic plague carried by the animals.

Red Squirrel Currency

In medieval Europe, red squirrel pelts were a form of currency and appeared in currency exchange charts until 1926.

In Finland, the word for money, Raha, translated to ‘dried fur,’ comes from squirrels. If you had ten pelts, it was called a Tikkuri, while 40 pelts were called a Kiihetelys. With 100 pelts, you could buy yourself a cow.

Seeing how we can now trade in digital currency, could it be going the way of the squirrel soon? That’s the topic of this video from VoxCreative below:

Cook Islands Bill Featuring Ina Riding a Shark

Now for something totally unrelated but fascinating. One of the weirdest paper currencies may be a bill from the Cook Islands in the South Pacific.

On the note, which can be 3 or 20 dollars, a naked woman rides a shark into the sunset. As she rides, she holds a coconut, which she has opened by cracking it on the shark’s head, per the legend.

The woman is Ina, a representative of the “first woman.” 

Per the island myth, she’s the loved one of the Eastern Polynesian God of the Ocean named Tinirau. The sea God lived on a floating island called the Sacred Isle Motu-Tpau.

On a journey to visit Tinirau, Ina travels by shark, aided by Tekea the Great, the king of all sharks, per the Cook Island News.

Ancient DNA Tied to Ina

Interestingly, an American man from Montana, Darrell Crawford, was found to have the oldest North American DNA ever tested last year. Astonishingly, his mitochondrial DNA was traced back 17,000 years to an ancient female ancestor: Ina, one of four ancient ancestors, including Ai, Chie, and Sachi. 

The four women were among the earliest colonizers of North and South America. The ancient women’s mitochondrial DNA was passed through generations until today as discussed in the Seven Daughters of Eve by Oxford genetics researcher Bryan Sykes. 

Cook Island Bill
$20 bill from the Cook Islands screenshot via Foreign Currency & Coin Exchange
Image via MoreBankNotes.com

As another odd footnote: The Cook Islan $3 bill featured Ina is by artist Rick Welland who died in 2016. Little did he know, his artwork and the bill became one of the country’s most sought-after souvenirs after it was adopted in 1992. Before he died, he was surprised to learn the bills were going for $300 on eBay. 

Footnote: Last year, the island’s government reportedly provided $450,000 in the budget to reprint more of these bills.


Featured Image: Squirrel via Pixabay and Eels via Pixabay

 

 

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The Rare and Not-So-Rare Fascinating World of the Chimera

When you think of the word Chimera, you might think of the mythological beast. In Greek myths, the Chimera was a female fire-breathing monster with three different animal appearances. 

A Strange Mythological Beast

From the front, a Chimera had a lion’s appearance. However, the middle was that of a goat. At the back end, the Chimera resembled a dragon. Nevertheless, artistic representations are widely different. Sometimes, the lion has a bizarre goat’s head in the middle of its back with the tail of a snake.

Today, Chimera can describe any imaginary beast seen in architecture. More broadly, the word conjures a fanciful illusion, fabrication, or unrealizable dream, according to Merriam-Webster.

Chimera sculpture
Chimera by Sailko via Wikimedia Commons  (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Real-Life Chimeras

Apart from the mythological beasts, Chimeras are also very real. In fact, it’s possible that many people are Chimeras, to some degree. Also, it’s known that many mammal species are a type of Chimera due to the ancient process of childbirth. 

What does that mean?

A Chimera describes a person or animal with two different sets of DNA in their bodies. Sometimes, the DNA is from the same species, but today, Chimeras can also feature genes from different species.

Artificially Created Chimeras

How does this happen? Chimeras occur naturally but can also happen as a result of genetic tinkering. (Hence, the possibility of more than one species.)

Today, due to advances in DNA gene editing, scientists can create Chimeras in the lab. Firstly, in 2015, Chinese scientists first edited human embryos’ DNA using a gene-editing technique. By 2018, a Chinese scientist announced Chinese girls named Lulu and Nana had been successfully born with edited genes.

Then, in 2019, China created Human-Monkey Chimera embryos to grow human organs.

Ethically, creating Chimeras in a lab is, of course, extremely controversial. The practice, along with CRISPR gene-editing in human embryos, sparked a global outcry from scientists. It remains illegal in most parts of the world.

More recently, the researchers who developed the CRISPR tool won the Nobel Prize. The technique has transformed responsible genetic science, but an international team concluded it wasn’t mature enough to alter human embryos. Nevertheless, it’s already happened.

See more from ABC News Australia below:

Naturally Occurring Chimeras

Historically, most Chimeras occurred naturally. For example, a woman pregnant with fraternal twins can give birth to a Chimera. 

If one embryo dies in the womb, it can be absorbed by its twin. Thus, a baby is born with two sets of DNA. Most of the time, the person won’t ever know they are a Chimera. The New York Times dubbed it a “pregnancy souvenir.”

Also, a pregnant mother can become a Microchimera when she absorbs cells from a fetus that migrate into the blood and organs. Interestingly, this type of Chimera could be “very common, if not universal,” according to experts. 

In addition, there have been studies that show Microchimeras are common. Unfortunately, mothers lose twins at a relatively high rate, as much as 21 to 30% of the time. It’s referred to as the “Vanishing Twin Syndrome.” In such cases, it’s possible the mother may absorb the cells.

Researchers can detect Microchimeras by finding mothers who have a Y chromosome found only in males. In such cases, they know for sure that the cells came from a male fetus. 

Interestingly, the cells can live inside the mother for a lifetime. In one case, a woman who lived to 94 years old was found to have DNA traces from her male fetus inside her brain. Scientists are just beginning to research how these cells could influence behavior.

Rare Documented Human Chimeras

Cases in which a person is a documented Chimera remain exceedingly rare, with as few as 30 documented cases worldwide. 

In one case, a mother named Lydia Fairchild almost lost custody of her children when Social Services discovered her children didn’t share her DNA. Then, she was accused of abducting the children!

After many accusations, a court officer witnessed her giving birth to another child, immediately testing the baby. Even so, the test showed the child wasn’t hers, and officials still suspected she was a surrogate.

Finally, a similar case from Boston tipped off her attorney that she could be a Chimera. Following testing, Fairchild was found to be her own twin and not an imposter.

See more from Facts Verse below:

Organ and Tissue Transplant Chimeras

When a person receives tissue or organs from a donor, that can technically result in a Chimera. A donor’s bone marrow retains the donor’s DNA. Sometimes, the recipient has 100% donor DNA in their blood cells. In this case, it’s called “complete chimerism.”

In other cases, there’s a case of “mixed chimerism,” with DNA from donor and recipient mixed.

Recommended reading: Science Facts – 80 Interesting Facts About Science

Rare Half-Male, Half-Female Chimeras

In nature, sometimes, a Chimera can exhibit the genetic traits of both males and females. Recently, one such specimen was found in Pennsylvania. There, a beautiful songbird called a grossbeak was found exhibiting male coloration on the right and female on the left. In 60 years of bird collection, only five cases have been recorded.

Amazingly, the grossbeak was perfectly split down the middle as male and female. Consequently, it’s a case of bilateral gynandromorphism, a type of genetic chimerism. 

In the 1920s, a case of bilateral gynandromorphism was described in a chicken, which laid eggs. Early in the bird’s development as a zygote, two ova fuse, bonding two fraternal twins.

The condition has been found in lobsters, crabs, shrimp, ants, butterflies, moths, spiders, and bees. However, it’s exceedingly rare. In humans, it’s thought that hormones that determine sex rule out cases of bilateral gynandromorphism.

The researcher who captured the bird alive said finding the bird was like “seeing a unicorn,” a “once-in-a-lifetime discovery.” The rare bird’s discovery delighted the biologists who found the bird as part of a routine banding program. Afterward, the researchers released it back into the wild.

See the bird below in the video from LiveScience:

A Chimera Cardinal

Last year, another male/female songbird was spotted in Erie, Pennsylvania. This time, it was a northern cardinal. In appearance, it had the female colors on the left and the red male colors on the right.

A homeowner who set up a bird feeder described how the bird behaved, singing with a male companion in courtship behavior.

“It does seem to be traveling with a male. Every time we have seen this bird, there is a male cardinal as a companion. They always fly in and out of our yard together,” Caldwell told Forbes.

Although both a male and female, the Cardinal may be able to produce eggs. On the left side, it could have one functional ovary.

See the Chimera Cardinal from Nat Geo WILD below:


Featured image: Screenshots via YouTube

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Facts About Asian Giant Hornets, the So-Called ‘Murder Hornets’

The year 2020 has been one of many troubles, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the largest wildfire in recorded California history. Then the cruel fates seemed to say, “Hold my beer,” and we learned that giant “murder hornets” invaded North America. Truly, 2020 is a year not to be forgotten.

Fortunately, facts always help when confronting any potential threat, from big to small. So, with that in mind, we’ll look at what is currently known about murder hornets.

The World’s Largest Hornets

As you might have suspected, murder hornets are the world’s largest hornet species. Their scientific name is Vespa mandarinia. No, not Mandalorian, but there is a slight resemblance, don’t you think?

The queens can grow up to two inches long. Although their popular name is certainly catchy, they are Asian giant hornets. These insects are native to the forests of eastern and southern Asia. However, they are most common in the forests of Japan.

A Painful Sting 

Using spiked mandibles that look like shark fins, they viciously attack honeybee colonies, tearing off the heads of bees. They’re also armed with a long stinger and potent venom that can puncture a beekeeper’s suit. 

According to the Times, being stung feels like “hot metal driving into” the skin. Others say the sting feels like being “stabbed by a red-hot needle.”

One researcher expert from Japan described the sting:

“Usually, the stung part severely swells and continues aching for a few days,” stated Shunichi Makino. And “although you could also have these symptoms when stung by the other hornet species, the intensity is said to be much more severe in Vespa mandarinia.”

Similar accounts suggest the painful sting can last for two days, disturbing restful sleep.

Annually, murder hornets kill 50 people in Japan. For comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that stings from hornets, wasps, and bees combined kill about 62 people in the United States every year.

Notably, most people who are stung will recover with symptoms of swelling and redness. Thus, they pose little risk to most people who are not allergic to bee stings. If stung repeatedly, the neurotoxin from the sting can be dangerous, but no more than the Africanized bee.

As you would expect, their relatively toxic venom can pose a real threat to allergic people. 

A Tasty Hornet Treat

Of course, the hornet’s painful sting doesn’t prevent people from finding them delicious. In Japan, their venom is used in liquor after live specimens are drowned in a clear beverage called shochu.

In the central Chubu region of Japan, murder hornets are a delicacy and eaten as a snack. There, they are commonly called “giant sparrow hornets,” and the queen grub is considered most delicious.

According to the Times:

The giant hornet, along with other varieties of wasps, has traditionally been considered a delicacy in this rugged part of the country. The grubs are often preserved in jars, pan-fried or steamed with rice to make a savory dish called hebo-gohan. The adults, which can be two inches long, are fried on skewers, stinger and all until the carapace becomes light and crunchy. They leave a warming, tingling sensation when eaten.”

A Growing Interest in Entomophagy

Although you might feel squeamish at the thought, the hornets are a cheap protein source for impoverished people in rural areas. In the past, eating hornets was widespread across Japan. 

Today, young urban dwellers are attracted to the novelty of eating the large hornets. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that insects are an environmentally friendly source of protein. Today, there’s a growing international interest in entomophagy, the practice of eating insects.

Thus, murder hornets are popular in Tokyo restaurants, eaten as snacks, and as “hornet liquor.” Curiously, hornet saliva is used in energy drinks and is considered a source of strength by some Japanese athletes.

 Kushihara Hebo Matsuri: The Wasp Festival

Every year, for generations, a Japanese wasp festival has taken place. Then in 1993, a public celebration developed as elderly wasp hunters passed along the tradition. In the rural Gifu prefecture, families who hunt the huge giant wasp nests come together for a November contest. Contestants with the most impressive nests win trophies. During the festival, wasp larvae –still alive in the oversized nests are eaten like treats.

To locate the wasps, hunters place a piece of fish in the forest. Attached to the fish, they place a piece of paper. Soon, a wasp arrives to carry off the fish, waving the paper like a tiny flag.

Then the hunters follow along, chasing the wasp through the forest until they discover the nest. Incredibly, the enormous underground nests can house a thousand hornets and their larvae.

See more about the wasp hunters and the prized giant nests from Journeyman Pictures below:

They’re Attracted to Hair Spray and Perfume

According to accounts from Japan, if you live in an area where murder hornets are present, they are attracted to hair spray and perfume. 

But, don’t worry.  Encountering the hornets in the United States is so far extremely unlikely. Since their arrival in northwestern Washington State, scientists are urgently trying to destroy them all. And, that’s a good thing for native honeybees. 

Murder Hornets Could Spread Rapidly

Today, scientists are doing their best to prevent the spread of murder hornets in North America. Unfortunately, they say the risk to honeybees and other native insects is very high. Western honeybees have no defense against the wasps, and they can quickly devastate whole colonies in the late summer and fall.

On the other hand, Asian bees have developed a defense strategy, buzzing together in a ball to raise the hive’s temperature, cooking hornets alive.

See what murder hornets do to honeybees in the video from VICE News below:

Native Bees are Most at Risk

Sadly, panic about the hornets causes some people to act irrationally, killing already threatened native bees. In Washington, authorities called on residents outside the state not to attempt to trap the hornets. As they tried to trap murder hornets, they were accidentally killing the wrong bees. 

In September 2019, the giant wasps were found in western British Columbia, Canada. From there, it spread to Washington state along the border. Now, studies suggest murder hornets are most likely to spread through along the west coast and eastern seaboard. Fortunately, the interior states may be at much less risk due to extremes in heat, cold, and precipitation.

Flying 68 miles a year, murder hornets could spread fast if left unchecked. Fortunately, scientists believe the invasion is presently manageable and are working to stop them from gaining a foothold. Notably, many of them would like people to stop calling them “murder hornets,” which has led to overblown media hype.


Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube

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Chill Out With Facts about Yawning and Yawns

Yawning: it’s the familiar process of opening the mouth wide while taking a deep breath. Often yawning is an involuntary reaction to fatigue or boredom, according to Merriam-Webster.

We know that hunger, stress, boredom, and tiredness, can all trigger yawning. For people, spontaneous yawning begins in the womb. Later, we often start to yawn as we observe others do so.

Interestingly, yawning is seen in animals of just about every size and description. From the huge gaping mouth of a hippopotamus to the tiniest hummingbird, all creatures big and small seem to yawn. For the most part, the reason remains mysterious, though we may all make intuitive guesses.

Below, watch a hummingbird snoring peacefully as it sleeps. 

Yawning is Contagious

Andrew Gallup of the State University of New York at Oneonta is a biopsychologist and a yawn specialist. Thanks to his research, we can say that yawning is contagious– in birds. Gallup and his team researched budgerigars commonly kept parakeets.

Budgies kept in view of other yawning birds were shown to yawn in response. If you have kept budgies as a popular pet, it may not be surprising. However, the research proved budgies yawn when they see other budgies yawn, just like people.

Parakeet budgies yawning
Budgies yawn, screenshot via YouTube

Before Gallup’s research, it was known that yawning is harmlessly contagious in humans, domestic dogs, wolves, and chimpanzees. New research confirms that when humans yawn, dogs “catch” them contagiously.

Additionally, we know yawning is contagious in a type of rodent called the high-yawning Sprague-Dawley rat. 

As for the last critter, it seems necessary to offer further explanation. Sprague-Dawley rats are the albino type used extensively in laboratory research. However, these rats are not ordinary run-of-the-mill Sprague-Dawley rats, but a subline known to yawn 20 times an hour versus the typic two times. 

For all creatures, in evolutionary terms, contagious yawning is ancient.

Recommended reading:

Brain facts – 135 Interesting Facts About the Brain

When Yawning is Not Contagious

For some people, yawning is not as contagious. Researchers in Japan have noted that children with autism or those with schizophrenia are not as prone to so-called social yawning. Both conditions involve impaired social skills, and people with autism or schizophrenia have no problems spontaneously yawning.

While most children yawn contagiously when seeing or even hearing others yawn, the scientists found that kids with autism are less likely to take note of facial cues. Thus, they yawned only when they were focused on the mouth area while someone yawned.  

Another study from Durham, North Carolina found that people are less prone to social yawning as they age. Strangely, yawning may have little to do with how tired you are. 

Now, researchers are searching for a possible genetic basis that makes some people more prone to contagious yawning.

Recommended reading: 

Sleep Facts – 36 Interesting Facts About Sleep

A Yawn Shows Greater Empathy?

As part of Gallup’s research, the team suggested why they thought parakeets may yawn contagiously.

According to Nature World News:

“The researchers believe that contagious yawning is not the result of stress or anxiety, nor an involuntary action, but rather a primitive form of showing empathy.”

 

“It has, for instance, been found that it’s more common among people who are deemed to be more empathetic. Thanks to a process called emotional contagion, or state matching, contagious yawning occurs when a person thinks about or senses someone else carrying out this drowsy action.”

Notably, it’s not certain that yawning correlates to empathy. More recent studies have not proven a relationship between empathy and social yawning. For example, studies of dogs that yawn when seeing a person show it makes no difference if they know the person or not. So, it would stand to reason that empathy probably didn’t play a factor.

Yawning as Indicator of Brain Size?

Yawn researchers continue to study the phenomena. In 2016, another Gallup study found that the duration of a yawn correlates with brain size. Thus, a human tends to yawn for longer than other species. 

Interestingly, the study also found that yawning might promote brain growth.

Why? It may have to do with a thermoregulatory effect, cooling off the bain by sucking in outside air—the bigger the yawn, the more cortical neurons, which need to cool off.

While temporarily cooling the brain, yawning may also increase the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid. Thus, rather than putting one to sleep, it could kick bring the brain to attention. In evolutionary terms, this means that contagious yawning could bring about more alertness and vigilance in a group, as non-intuitive as that may sound.

See Dr. Andrew Gallup discuss yawning and empathy below from WSJ News:

Dog Versus Cat Yawns

After studying 19 different animal species and many YouTube yawn videos, the researchers found that humans yawn longest, at an average of 6.5 seconds. From there, they found that animals had varying yawn lengths, potentially corresponding to brain mass. And, animals with huge jaws did not necessarily yawn longer than those with smaller jaws.

Does the length of yawn indicate how smart you are? Or how interested you are in the topic? We don’t know, but another interesting find was that dogs yawn longer than cats at 2.4 versus 1.97 seconds on average.

Does this solve the age-old question of whether dogs are smarter than cats or vice versa? Ha! We’re treading in dangerous territory with that question, so we’ll say definitely not!

Below, see pets yawning, including budgies, bunnies, cats, and more from My Happy Pets:

Yawning to Cure Hiccups?

In a more recent study, Gallup suggests that contagious yawning could be a cure for chronic cases of hiccups. Unfortunately, some people are inflicted with intractable hiccups, involuntary contractions of the diaphragm lasting for days or even months. In those cases, patients must rely on medication or try acupuncture –or even digital rectal massage.

Since the time of Plato, it has been thought that related sneezing could stop chronic hiccups. Of course, one can’t induce sneezing reliably, but, as we’ve seen, there is a way to induce yawning. Thus, perhaps using yawn therapy could disrupt the muscles in the diaphragm causing hiccups.

If you’re suffering from intractable hiccups, here are some other suggestions from NYU otolaryngologist Dr. Erich Voigt and Business Insider:

We hope you’ve found our facts about yawning and yawns entertaining, and not worthy of a yawn. On the other hand, maybe yawning means increased brain growth?

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Roly-Polies and Pillbugs – Cute Isopods Which Aren’t Bugs at All

Pillbugs, sometimes given the common name, Roly-polies, are known for rolling into a tight ball when disturbed. Like miniature armadillos, these little bugs are found all across the world, a cosmopolitan species. Their scientific name reflects the roly appearance: Armadillidium vulgare.

However, the pill bugs seen in North America were introduced from Europe.

Today, pillbugs are having a sort of renaissance, as breeders are offering multiple colors, and many species beyond Armadillidium, as pets. Their small size, cute appearance, and ease of care make them desirable, although perhaps an unlikely pet.

Later, we’ll show you our favorites from several species, and where you can get them!

Fancy, colorful varieties can range from rather inexpensive, to costly and coveted among isopod aficionados. As pets, they can live up to five years.

Pillbugs Aren’t Bugs but Related to Lobsters

Often, pillbugs are found with a very similar creature, the sowbug, Porcellio scaber, also called a woodlouse. Sometimes, pillbugs are referred to as sowbugs, woodlouse, or woodlice. It’s a bit confusing, and the common names vary by geography. In Europe, they may all be called woodlice.

Although similar, the sowbug can’t roll into a ball, which is called conglobating. Also, sowbugs are generally more agile. To tell the difference: a sowbug is flatter in shape and has two pointy appendages like tails. These tails stick out and prevent them from rolling into a ball. 

Both critters are isopods, not technically insects at all, but arthropods known as a terrestrial crustacean. Therefore, these little guys are relatives of sea-dwelling crabs, shrimp, and lobsters, not insects! They are the only land-based crustacean, having left aquatic life behind millions of years ago.

Notable (and Scary) Relatives

Deep in the ocean worldwide, related giant isopods can reach over a foot long. Although large, they are harmless scavengers waiting for food to fall to the ocean floor.

See a video of a giant isopod below from the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017:

Another relative, the sea-dwelling tongue-eating louse, is rather horrifying. It lives as a parasite on fish, clinging to the tongue of living fish. Over time, the tongue is eaten away, and the louse remains in place. From there, the isopod functions much like a tongue stand-in for the fish.

See the fish tongue louse from Animal Wire below:

A Creature with Lots of Names

Although you may have your favorite name for them, these critters go by many names. For example, the common names in the UK include:

  • Armadillo bug
  • Wood shrimp
  • Cheeselog
  • Doodlebug
  • Roly-poly
  • Potato bug
  • Roll-up bug
  • Chuggypig

Which name is your favorite? Certainly, Chuggypig is ours!

Roly-Poly Pilgrims

At one time, there were no roly-polies in North America, which is strange to consider seeing how plentiful they are now. Today, there are so many that their collective feeding habits may serve to mitigate the effects of climate change to some extent. Notably, they feed on a fungus that otherwise releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

These terrestrial isopods colonized the New World along with humans from Europe and northern Africa. 

Similar to some fascinating sea creatures, pillbugs may have traveled the globe in the ballasts of ships. Sometimes, earth and boulders were used to balance wooden ships. Then, when the ships arrived at their destination, the dirt was discarded. Also, they likely found their way along with imported plants, hidden out of sight.

Thus, the pillbugs and their similar sowbug friends made themselves at home like wee crustacean pilgrims. However, these little guys seem to have had an overall harmless or even beneficial effect, unlike many invasive species. Wherever they go, they feed on rotting plant material, aerating and fertilizing the soil. Fortunately, they don’t tend to be harmfully destructive to live plants in the wild, though some isopods in planted vivariums are likely to eat your plants.

Breathing Through Tiny Arm-Like Appendages

How is it that Roly-polies are related to isopods that live in the ocean? Interestingly, they breathe air with tiny arm-like appendages under the abdomen called pleopods. These multi-purpose appendages act as gills and serve to catch food, for swimming, and brooding eggs.

A pillbug, though relatively adaptable, must keep the pleopods moist. Moisture tends to be more critical for related sowbugs, but they can’t live underwater for long. However, if they do begin to dry up, they can push their tail-like appendages into water droplets to replenish the gills.

Similarly, a lobster can survive out of the water as long as the gills on their legs remain moist. In fact, lobsters may survive transport better if chilled and wrapped in soaked towels, not kept in standing water. Otherwise, they may use up the oxygen in small containers.

See more about the pleopodal lungs from the Natural History Museum below:

A Pouch Like a Kangaroo?

As noted, pillbugs are sometimes compared to armadillos. However, they have a characteristic in common with opossums or kangaroos: Females have a brood pouch to hold babies. This pouch is called the marsupium, the same as with kangaroos!

Inside the Roly-poly’s fluid-filled marsupium, the babies hatch and go through their first molts in safety. In general, as many as 200 young can hatch and live underneath the mom for up to two weeks (depending on the species). Then, when they reach 2mm in length, they start to venture off.

By spotting the marsupium, you can differentiate a pregnant female from a male. Otherwise, males have copulatory organs on the anterior portion of the thorax.

See more about this from Animal Fact Files below:

 

Recommended reading: Armadillo Facts – 46 Interesting Facts About Armadillo

Iridescent, Infected Blue Roly-Polies

Blue is a beautiful color, sometimes seen in lobsters and crayfish. However, when seen in pillbugs, it could be a sign of a virus. Scientists from California have noted the Isopod Iridescent Virus, or IVV, that spreads among the isopods, turning them a bright blue.

Don’t worry; it’s completely safe for humans! In southern California, researchers have studied where the blue ones are showing up. Generally, sowbugs and pillbugs are shades of grey, white, dark brown, orange, and variegated. Also, the eyes can be colorless, red, or black.

Cute Cultivated Varieties

Next, we’re sharing some amazing photos with permission from Smug Buga reputable source which offers cultivated isopods for pets. Some species benefit plants in planted vivariums, aerating the soil, and consuming dead leaves and organic matter. Plus, their waste fertilizes the plants. 

However, those in the Armadillidium genus can consume fresh leaves and shoots. Thus, there is much to be learned about which species to choose, depending on your setup. For one example, some species prefer more humidity while others tolerate drier conditions. 

Also, the isopods differ greatly in size, with dwarf varieties and some that reach two and a half inches long. Below are a few notable varieties shared with permission.

Thanks to Smug-Bug.com for allowing us to share these pictures!

Below: Porcellio haasi “high yellow” comes from Spain

Porcellio haasi "high yellow" comes from Spain
Porcellio haasi “high yellow” comes from Spain. Shared with permission from Smug-bug.com.

Below: Armadillidium klugii “Montenegro,” also called the “clown isopod.”

Below: Armadillidium klugii "Montenegro," also called the "clown isopod."
Armadillidium klugii “Montenegro,” also called the “clown isopod.” Shared with permission from Smug-bug.com.

Below: Cubaris species “rubber ducky” from limestone caves in Thailand.

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Cubaris sp. “rubber ducky” from limestone caves in Thailand. Shared with permission from Smug-bug.com

Below: Armadillidium vulgare “magic potion” – a Japanese line.

Shared with permission from Smug-bug.com
Armadillidium vulgare “magic potion” – a Japanese line. Shared with permission from Smug-bug.com.

As you can see, isopods come in an amazing array of colors and sizes. Do you fancy a Roly-poly pet yourself? As one of the most beloved of “bugs” that aren’t, they are also surprisingly fascinating.


Featured image: Armadillidium klugii “Montenegro” with permission from Smug-Bug.com

 

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A Practically Immortal Animal Is Spreading Across the Planet

For almost every living thing, aging and eventual death are an expected part of the life cycle. It’s the fundamental law of the natural world. So much so that the very idea that an animal could be immortal sounds preposterous. However, there is a bizarre creature that is considered practically immortal.

Aside from this immortal critter, other notable animals and plants live extraordinarily long lives. Even so, they haven’t exactly taken over the planet. Actually, most people may not have ever seen one of those animals or plants in person.

However, in the watery depths, this ‘immortal’ creature has been slowly, quietly spreading across the globe. 

Let’s take a close look at one of the world’s only practically immortal creatures. 

Discovery of an Immortal Jellyfish

Of all the species on the planet, only Turritopsis dohrnii is considered biologically immortal. Thus, it’s called the immortal jellyfish, a tiny, three millimeter long transparent alien-looking gelatinous blob. Another common name for the species is the Benjamin Button jellyfish, referring to the story about a man who ages in reverse.

Notably, these creatures were first discovered in 1883 in the Mediterranean Sea. However, its life cycle secrets weren’t known to scientists until much later: the mid-90s. 

 In 1988, a German marine-biology student in his early 20s studied the jellyfish while snorkeling near Portofino’s cliffs. Christian Sommer was studying hydrozoans, creatures that can resemble both a coral and jellyfish during their life cycle. 

 Examining the jellyfish in a petri dish, Sommer discovered the jellyfish could revert from the adult stage to the earlier polyp stage. Thus, it was as if a butterfly reverted to the caterpillar stage. Notably, the jellyfish refused to die.

From Chicken to Egg, Then Back to Chicken

Although Sommer didn’t know it at the time, other biologists studied his findings and realized what he had found. They compared it to the butterfly analogy and another: a chicken reverting to an egg, only to hatch again. Kind of gives a new twist to the age-old question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Strangely, the discovery of an immortal creature didn’t get much attention outside the academic world. Today, scientists still aren’t sure how it ages in reverse, and there aren’t many experts who study them. One pre-eminent expert is from Japan, Shin Kubota, an Associate Professor at Kyoto University.

See Shin Kubota discuss the immortal jellyfish below:

The Immortal Jellyfish Life Cycle

The two main life cycles of these jellyfish are the polyp and medusa. While most similar hydrozoans die after spawning, Turritopsis dohrnii falls to the ocean floor, turns into a blob, and turns back into a polyp. 

If the creature faces hardship, like starvation or injury, it can take this strategy of self-preservation. Thus, it can regenerate its body over and over again. However, most of the time, the jellyfish reproduces and dies like other animals. It’s only when faced with a hardship that it seems to trigger reversion to a polyp.

Below, you can see the other stages in the cycle, from planula to adult medusa.

Video by SciShow:

Unique Powers of Transformation

Like human Stem cells found throughout our body, the jellyfish’s cells can transform into other types of cells, a transdifferentiation process. Unlike humans, the jellyfish’s transformation powers rare in the animal kingdom. Muscle cells can become nerve cells or change into egg or sperm cells. 

Studies show there may be other aquatic invertebrates with similar abilities. Today, scientists hope the jellyfish’s regeneration abilities could be applied in new ways to help humans.

A Slow Invasion Across the Seas

Of note, these transforming critters the size of a pinky nail are slowly spreading around the globe, unnoticed. One reason for their spread is they are carried inside the ballasts of ships. Now, they are found in waters across the planet, from Panama to Florida to Spain.

As the jellyfish encounter different temperatures, they adapt. They have eight tentacles in warmer waters, but in cooler water, they grow 24 or more. Also, they may have a bright scarlet bell when found in cooler waters. Using the tentacles, they feed on fish eggs, plankton, and mollusks.

Although they can breed the typical way for jellyfish, with free-floating sperm and eggs, the immortal species also reproduce asexually. One colony of polyps can create an endless chain of genetically identical jellyfish.

Potentials for Science

Many scientists don’t believe these creatures hold the key to immortality. However, not so for the leading expert, Shin Kubota. He believes these jellyfish are the root of the Tree of Life. 

“Turritopsis application for human beings is the most wonderful dream of mankind,” he told New York Times journalist. “Once we determine how the jellyfish rejuvenates itself, we should achieve very great things. My opinion is that we will evolve and become immortal ourselves.”

Kubota needed to care for his jellyfish’s captive population for three hours each day for over 15 years. Strangely, they are complicated to keep in captivity and seldom breed. Although they technically immortal, they often die and remain subject to being eaten or killed; not so immortal, after all, but still, quite impressive.

The Secret to Eternal Youth or Treating Cancer?

Studies of creatures like the immortal jellyfish could reveal something extraordinary, such as a potential cancer treatment. Now, scientists know there is more genetic similarity between humans and jellyfish than one might suspect. 

Strangely, we researchers who completed the first full genome sequence of a comb jelly found they could be our most distant animal relative. However, their survival strategies allowed them to endure 500 million years of mass extinctions on Earth.

Studying similar freshwater creatures called Hydra, scientists have learned about genes called FoxO genes also found in humans. Jellyfish sit alongside corals, sea anemones, and Hydra on the Cnidarian branch of animal life. It’s one of the oldest branches on the animal family tree.

Studies show that the FoxO genes in Hyrda play a role in determining lifespan. Unlike in humans, the genes are more often expressed, allowing the creature resembling a polyp jellyfish to remain youthful.


Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube

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Facts About the Search for Extraterrestrial Life in the Universe

In 2017, a global survey suggested that half of all Earthlings believe in “in the existence of intelligent alien civilizations in the universe.” When asked if they believed in “some form of life on other planets,” those responding yes rose to 61 percent.

Interestingly, the number of Americans who believe in alien life has risen in recent years, following the 2019 New York Times reports about UFOs. Following the public release of the Pentagon’s UFO video footage, the Navy created a new protocol for pilots to report sightings.

Since then, interest in alien life has been growing, leading Gallup to poll Americans about UFOs for the first time in decades. According to the poll, 60 percent of Americans thought UFOs were natural phenomena or human activity. However, 33 percent believed extraterrestrials could pilot UFOs.

On the other hand, a 2020 poll from Ipsos concluded, “nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that there is life on other planets and a bare majority hold that intelligent life and civilizations exist outside of Earth.”

Whatever these UFOs are, the interest in extraterrestrial life is growing. So, we’ll look at some facts on the search for life in the universe. Judging purely by facts alone, we can’t say for sure if extraterrestrial life exists, but we also can’t rule it out.

Alien Life May Resemble…Pasta?

When most of us think about what an alien looks like, the image that may come to mind could be derived from stories about the 1947 Roswell incident. In these stories, aliens are often depicted as the so-called Grey Aliens, with large eyes, enlarged heads, and frail bodies. 

However, a 2019 NASA-funded study concluded that if extraterrestrial life exists, it is more likely to resemble pasta. The researchers pointed to fettuccini-like rock formations found in hot springs at Yellowstone National Park. There, hot acid water is home to filamentous microbe mats that produce the noodly rock formations.

These microbes break down sulfur for energy and evolved 2.5 billion years ago when the atmosphere was almost devoid of oxygen. Now, if a future space rover picks up a similarly-formed rock, it could be a tip-off of life. Thus, life on Mars could resemble the lifeforms eeking out an existence in inhospitable environments here at home.

Possible Life on Venus?

In 1967, Carl Sagan wrote that life could exist in the clouds on Venus. Although the surface is hotter than the melting point of lead, there are cooler areas in the middle atmosphere. There, sulfuric-acid droplets could provide a home for microbes.

Now, a new study points to the existence of phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere, a chemical generally produced naturally as organic matter decomposes.

Telescopes in Hawaii and Chile detected phosphine in the Venusian clouds. Researchers believe the phosphine could be a biosignature indicating that microbes are at work on Venus.

Prior to this discovery, scientists learned that the presence of water in the atmosphere indicates Venus once had oceans. In these oceans, now long-evaporated, microbes may have evolved and then taken to the atmosphere.

However, scientists also suspect that if microbes exist on Venus, they may have arrived when rocks blasted away from Earth or Mars. Or, the microbes may have come aboard contaminated space probes from the Soviet Union and the United States in the 70s and 80s.

Life on the Moon?

Strangely, there may also be microbes from Earth living on the Moon. On April 11, 2019, an Israeli moon mission Beresheet crash-landed on the Moon. The lunar lander was holding thousands of microbes called tardigrades, microscopic “water bears.”

The water bears were in cryptobiosis, a state of suspended metabolic activity. Though it’s unlike they survived, the tardigrades are among the most resilient living things dubbed extremophiles. The little eight-legged animals can go without food or water for 30 years. Not to mention, they can survive temperature extremes to absolute zero or above boiling. Plus, they can survive extreme pressures and the vacuum of space.

Desiccated on the Moon, the water bears may remain dormant. However, technically, there could be life on the Moon. Strangely, there is another possibility for life from Earth on the Moon. When the astronauts visited the Moon, they left behind bags of poop. Inside these bags of poo, scientists suspect gut bacteria may still be present.

In January 2019, the world learned that China began growing cotton seeds on the far side of the Moon. As part of the Chang’e 4 mission, the plants were sealed aboard the Moon lander.

SETI Confirms Earth-Like Exoplanets

The SETI Institute, founded in 1984, has a mission of searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. Today, the search has entered the mainstream after discovering more than 3,000 exoplanets outside our solar system. According to SETI’s senior astronomer, one in five or six of these planets could be Earth-like. Thus, they are rocky and are in the “Goldilocks zone,” allowing liquid water to form.

Even if it’s just pasta-like, scientists suspect extraterrestrial life could inhabit some of these exoplanet systems with a few standouts such as:

  • Proxima B 
  • TRAPPIST-1 System
  • LHS 1140b
  • Ross 128 b
  • GJ 1214b

Also, some of Jupiter’s and Saturn’s moons could be a home for life in liquid oceans under the surface.

Martian Life?

Lastly, we must mention Mars, the Red Planet. Since 2015, NASA has known there is liquid water on Mars. Rolling down steep Martian slopes, the water appears seasonally, and the source remains a mystery.

In December 1984, geologists in Antarctica discovered an ancient meteorite dubbed ALH84001. By 19993, researchers realized the rock was from Mars and formed from volcanic lava 4 billion years ago. Thus, it predated any rock on Earth and could be almost as old as the Solar System. However, it landed on Earth some 13,000 years ago after drifting in space.

In 1994, NASA geochemists discovered that the meteorite contained microscopic shapes suggesting microbes similar to those on Earth. After further scrutiny, researchers found evidence of complex organic molecules, potential fingerprints of life. 

The findings were reviewed by Carl Sagan, published, and ended up at the White House. Inspired, President Bill Clinton addressed the nation about the findings on August 7, 1996. (see below)

“Today, rock 84001 speaks to us across all those billions of years and millions of miles,” Clinton said. “It speaks of the possibility of life.”

 

“If confirmed, he added, the implications ‘are as far-reaching and awe-inspiring as can be imagined,” he continued.

Today, after twenty years and dozens of studies, the consensus remains that the ALH84001 formations indeed happened on Mars. Specifically, according to ScienceFocus, “the carbonates deposited in a watery environment at temperatures around 25-30°C.”

Thanks to the discovery, the search for life on Mars got a big boost, though definitive proof remains elusive. However, studies in the Mars-like Atacama Desert of Chile point to the possibility that microbes could exist beneath the Red Planet’s surface.

There, in the dry Mars-like environment, researchers found that “microbial life is able to efficiently move across the driest and most UV irradiated desert on Earth.”

Thus, extremophiles like those on Earth could well exist on other worlds. For now, we continue the search. Hopefully, one day, we will know for sure. In 2015, NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan predicted that day could be as soon as 2025.


Featured image: Pedras Rojas, Atacama Desert, Chile by Wescottm via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 4.0)

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Reptiles That Breed and Reproduce Without Males

A gecko native to Southeast Asia that is extremely common around human dwellings, the Mourning gecko, Lepidodactylus lugubris, can reproduce without males. Thus, the species is almost entirely parthenogenic females. 

Even though Mourning geckos don’t breed with males, gregarious females do breed with each other. When females copulate, they encourage each other to produce eggs. Then, they lag the adhesive eggs in a communal nesting site.

What is Parthenogenesis?

Parthenogenesis is an evolutionary reproductive strategy, which allows the development of a sex cell called a gamete without fertilization. Most of the time, the gamete is a female cell, but sometimes a rare male develops. It’s a common strategy for invertebrates like ants, aphids, and bees. However, it’s rare in higher vertebrates like geckos.

The term parthenogenesis translates to virgin origin in Greek, which means we’re talking about virgin births. In theory, even humans could be capable of parthenogenesis. However, the odds are extremely low of that happening in real life. Plus, parthenogenesis never produces viable embryos, though it can’t be ruled out completely.

Scientists have discovered these so-called virgin births in reptiles, including snakes like pit vipers and pythons. Also, the phenomenon has been noted in amphibians, birds, and fish, including sharks.

Male Mourning Geckos are Infertile

In the Mourning gecko species, males are occasionally produced. However, researchers determined the males are infertile, although otherwise perfect.

While the males are capable of producing spermatozoa, they are largely deformed. Meanwhile, females can create fertile eggs without another male or female. However, copulation with females encourages egg production.

Mourning Geckos Thrive Near Humans

These Amazons of the reptile world thrive near human structures and have spread from Asia to tropical islands, the Americas, and Australia. Thus, they are one of the most widely distributed reptiles in the world. Hiding out on boats, they have even made it to remote islands like the Galápagos and Hawaii. Interestingly, their eggs are resistant to saltwater, which no doubt has helped the species spread.

There, they thrive by taking up residence on building walls, hiding out in any crevice. At night, they also take advantage of human dwellings by capturing bugs attracted to nighttime lights.

Human structures provide a hunting territory and hideout for the geckos. Within any crevice, they can find the perfect spot to lay their eggs. Like many other geckos, they will drop their tail if captured. Then, they can grow the tail back later.

Mourning Geckos Don’t Mourn Life Without Males

The Latin for lugubris is “Mournful,” and, rather amusingly, it’s thought the name came from the idea that the females mourned life without males. However, these geckos do just fine, producing only infertile males.

At night, these geckos are vocal, making chirping sounds. Listen carefully, and you can hear them chirping in the video below:

Notably, these geckos can live for ten years in captivity, with some reports of as much as 15 years. However, they stay small, usually at no more than three and a half to four inches in adult length.

They Like to Eat Each Other’s Eggs and Hatchlings

Although they may nest communally, Mourning Geckos don’t object to eating freshly-laid soft eggs or hatchlings. The tiny hatchlings are less than an inch long and highly vulnerable. Fortunately, the adults may sometimes leave them alone.

Generally, two eggs are laid every month or so, and they hatch in about two months. When they hatch, a tiny female clone of the mother comes into the world, aside from a few rare males.

Although they may eat babies and eggs, the females usually tolerate each other. Often, pet keepers have a few females together, and they will develop a pecking order. Another bonus is their small size, which means they can live in a small enclosure.

One Gecko Can Produce Offspring

If you obtain a Mourning gecko female, she can produce fertile eggs. Thus, the species is one of the easiest to breed, requiring only one animal. However, Mourning geckos are not the only reptiles that can pull off this neat trick. Another example is one of the world’s largest reptiles, the Komodo dragon, known to have given virgin births in UK zoos.

Although it’s a fascinating ability, parthenogenesis can also lead to lower genetic diversity. Therefore, scientists aren’t sure why virgin births are fairly common in many species. Notably, asexual reproduction has not been found naturally in mammals but has been artificially facilitated in genetically engineered mice.

Interestingly, Mourning geckos do vary in appearance, depending on their geography. Thus, there is some genetic diversity, even though they are clones of their mothers.


Featured image: Lepidodactylus cf. lugubris (KU 330065) from the forested crater of Mt. Cagua by JS via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

 

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Facts About Faithless Electors and the Electoral College

When you cast your vote in presidential elections, you are voting for a slate of Electors even though their names generally aren’t on the ballot. Each state has an Elector for each of its members of Congress, and two for each Senator. That’s 435 Representatives, 100 Senators, and three electors from the District of Columbia.

This always controversial system, created almost 250 years ago, faces much criticism today. However, today it remains in place and will determine the next presidential election.

Since 1964, 538 Electors determine the fate of the presidency. However, after each Census count every decade, the numbers for each state can change.

Now, let’s look at some interesting facts about Faithless Electors and the Electoral College.

Four Other Methods Were Proposed for Presidential Elections

Although we know the Electoral College determines the presidency and vice presidency, that was the result of a compromise. In 1787, delegates met in Philadelphia at a Constitutional Convention. There, they couldn’t all agree on the best method to elect a chief executive, a new concept at the time.

According to the National Constitution Center, there were four possible methods proposed other than the Electoral College:

  1. Direct election by voters
  2. Election by state legislatures
  3. Election by state governors
  4. Election by Congress

After debate, the Electoral College won out, but initially, the Electors could cast two votes for President. Then, the two candidates with the highest votes became President and Vice President. However, this method proved problematic, and in 1804, the 12th Amendment called for separate votes for President and Vice President.

Five Presidents Didn’t Earn the Popular Vote

Sometimes, the Electoral College or the House of Representatives determines who rises to the presidency despite losing the popular vote. Historically, it’s happened five times. 

The House chose Democratic-Republican President John Quincy Adams in 1824 after Democratic-Republican Andrew Jackson won the popular vote. Why? Jackson didn’t earn the majority of electoral votes, so the election was determined by the House.

Perhaps most dramatically of all, Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes won by a single electoral vote in 1876. Nevertheless, Democrat Samuel Tilden had won the popular vote by some 254,235 votes.

In 1888, Republican Benjamin Harrison became the 23rd President, beating Democrat Grover Cleveland, the incumbent. However, Cleveland had won the popular vote by some 90,596 votes.

Then in 2000, Republican President George W. Bush took office though he lost the popular vote by 543,895 votes to Democrat former Vice President Al Gore. After a contentious and almost tied vote count in Florida, the Supreme Court determined the election, awarding the Florida election to Bush. With this win, Bush won the Electoral College vote by only one more vote than was required. Notably, one Gore elector abstained from voting.

Finally, in 2016, Republican Donald Trump became the 45th President though he lost the popular vote by 2.8 million votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton. President Trump won the election with 304 electoral votes versus Clinton’s 227.

Faithless Electors Have Never Decided a Presidency

So-called “Faithless Electors” ignore their pledge to vote for a candidate. However, it’s historically rare and has never decided a presidency. Nevertheless, there have been over 150 Faithless Electors since 1978, according to the National Constitution Center.

Faithless Electors Almost Changed a Vice Presidency

The Senate chose the ninth Vice President of the United States, Richard Mentor Johnson of Kentuck. Notably, it was the only time in history that the Senate exercised the Twelfth Amendment, which states, “if no person has a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President.”

Faithless Electors had refused to vote for Johnson, switching to William Smith of Alabama. Thus, Johnson lacked one vote needed to secure the vice presidency. Then, the Senate cast their votes, and Johnson became Vice President. Before this, Johnson had served for three decades in the House and Senate, spanning five presidential administrations.

Faithless Electors Chose Not to Vote for a Dead Candidate

Imagine a candidate passing away between Election Day and the day the Electoral College votes. Although it sounds unlikely, it has happened. In those cases, Electors chose not to vote for a dead candidate, which certainly makes sense. 

In total, 63 “deviant votes” were cast for another candidate due to the nominee’s death. That was in 1872 in the Grant vs. Greeley election. That year, the Republican incumbent Ulysses S. Grant defeated Horace Greeley, the Liberal Republican, and Democratic candidate with 286 electoral votes. Sadly, Greeley died after the election and the Electors then divided their votes up between the remaining five candidates.

Those 63 votes make up two-thirds of all deviant Elector votes in history.

Graphic from FairVote:

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Since 1872, the 2016 Presidential Election Had the Most Faithless Electors

The 2016 presidential election saw the highest number of Faithless Electors since 1872. That year, eight Democratic and two Republican Electors chose to cast so-called “deviant” votes for President. Also, seven of the same group chose not to vote for their party’s nominee for Vice President. However, these Electors did not impact the outcome of the election, according to FairVote.org.

On Elector from Maine cast his vote for Bernie Sanders, but was ruled out of order and switched his vote back to Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, two Republican Electors from Texas chose to vote for John Kasich and Ron Paul instead of Donald Trump. In all, seven votes went to candidates other than Trump or Clinton, but not enough to affect the outcome.

See more about the Electoral College via TED-Ed below:

 


Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube