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Rodent vs. Rodent

The Nut Job is a new CGI animated feature film that was announced in Animation Magazine’s 2012 calendar. It’s being produced by Toonbox Entertainment and Red Rover International, who are hoping to release it next summer. The director is Peter Lepeniotis, who first introduced his character Surly the Squirrel in a 2005 animated short film titled, appropriately, Surly Squirrel. In this new feature film, Surly and his rat buddy (named Buddy) must contend with a new group of rodents who invade their city park home. Not a lot to go on yet, but the film does have an entry up on IMDB, and Toonbox also has an web page for the project. Word is that The Nut Job may be developed into a TV series also.

image c. 2011 Toonbox Entertainment

Squirrels: more interesting than their size suggests

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Warning: May Contain Nuts

Squirrels may be small, but are extremely complex creatures.

Squirrels will actively try to deceive people, pretending to hide their nuts when they think they are being watched, but actually keeping them hidden in their mouths. They have different calls for different things and can learn by watching other species, even humans. Physically they have a number of exceptional features, like the ability to jump ten times their body length.

Furcadia adds "Hyooman", Rodent races

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Noble Hyooman sprites, by DEP

Furry-themed online social MMO game Furcadia has settled a perennial topic of debate by adding "Noble Hyoomans" to its set of purchasable avatars in an attempt to boost revenue. Rodent avatars were also added.

Human-style avatars have been advocated by Furcadia CEO Felorin (Dr. Cat) and programmer sanctimonious, but opposed by game designer Talzhemir. An earlier poll of players found that 61.5% favored the addition of an official human avatar, while 38.5% were opposed to their presence - some citing their absence in Furcadia's canon roleplaying continuity, The Dragonlands.

Those disappointed in Digo Market prices are unlikely to be pleased by the new additions, which sell for $19.99 for one year of use. Dragon's Eye Productions have indicated that further free avatars are unlikely, at least until a future upgrade to 32-bit colour.

New Species of Rodent Found in Thailand

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The BBC is reporting that an animal know locally as "Kha-Nyou" and given the scientific name Laonastes aenigmamus may have diverged from the rest of the rodent population millions of years ago. The animal is described as having "long whiskers, stubby legs and a tail covered in dense hair." Picture in article.

This Fluffy Guy Wasn't a Wimp!

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According to this article at CNN, an extinct species of giant prehistoric guinea pig has been discovered in South America. It weighed an estimated 1500 lbs, and ate grass. Presumably, it filled much the same ecological niche as a buffalo.

Somehow, I just can't picture _this_ animal being kept as a pet by eight-year-olds living in apartments...

Hitchhiker Chipmunk To Be Flown Home

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A Utah chipmunk will soon be flown home to his friends, and my but he'll have quite a story to tell when he gets there! See this story for details.

UK Water voles threatened

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BBC Online reports that the endangered water vole (a mouse-like, aquatic rodent) is being killed in large numbers by people who mistake them for rats.

Award Wining Cat and Mouse Tale. (Well, Rat actually)

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This is late news, but I wanted to be sure our American Audience could actually buy the book in question before I wrote about it.

This years Carnegie Medal award went to Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. The chair of the panel praised it for refusing to make the tale 'cute', "This is an outstanding work of literary excellence - a brilliant twist on the tale of the Pied Piper that is funny and irreverent, but also dark and subversive".

Pet prarie dogs might carry rare disease

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Baby prarie dogs have become increasingly common in the last year or two in pet stores as the latest exotic pet. Though some are raised in captivity, many are still removed from the wild to meet the demand and also to help turn PD-ridden fields into profit.
The Center for Disease Control is concerned that an outbreak of the rare but potentially fatal if untreated tularemia, or 'rabbit fever' could be spread through the animals after the deaths of wild caught animals at a Texas facility were traced to tularemia.
Prarie dogs from that distributor have been sent across the United States and overseas, so the CDC cautions anyone handling sick or dead prarie dogs in the last few weeks contact their local health department to determine if treatment is nessisary. Tularemia is very rare in the US and is usually caught by people handling wild rabbits. It is not trasmitted from humans to humans.

Remote controlled rats?

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You may have already seen this mentioned on /. but currently there is an article on CNN's Science and Technology page. The article is about the recent results of a team of scientists who have recently developed what could be coined as "remote-control rats". Details are in the article, but here we are seeing the first significant melding of technology into behavioral conditioning (something humans have been doing with animals for eons). Rather than using rewards (food, praise, etc) to encourage specific behaviors in animals, scientists have wired electrodes directly into the brains of their test subjects to stimulate the pleasure center. Additional electrodes into other areas of the brain provide cues to the animal, replacing traditional cues (verbal commands, for example).

Not quite from NIMH, but mice are getting smarter

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A British reporter despairs, as he discoveres mice are becoming trap and poisons wise all over the UK. After all, the smart ones keep escaping and breeding. Where 10 years ago a mouse would happly stroll into a bait box, now exterminators are having their work cut out for them.

Book Review: The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

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"One day, when he was naughty, Mr Bunnsy looked into Farmer Fred's field and it was full of fresh green lettuces. Mr Bunnsy, however, was not full of lettuces. This did not seem fair."

-- From Mr Bunnsy Has An Adventure

These words start Terry Pratchett's latest novel, The Amazing Maurice. It is his first novel "for young readers in the Discworld universe". It is also his first novel where most of his main characters are intelligent, talking (though not anthropomorphic) animals.

New fossil puts placental mammals during the dino age

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Placental mammals had long been thought to have come well after the extinction of the dinosaurs, but fossils of Kulbeckia, a long snouted animal from 85 million years ago, shows signs of being an ancestor of modern rabbits and rodents. Including the possibility of having developed its young in its uterus instead of a pouch or eggs.

UK residents needed for nation wide hazel dormouse survey

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Brits are being asked to take part in the largest ever survey of one of Britain's rarest and smallest animals, the hazel dormouse. But these sleepy animals are hard to spot, so the public is being asked to hunt for nuts. Hazelnuts eaten by the dormouse have a distinctive hole on one side, with nibble marks around the edge. Researchers are hoping finding out the range of the hazel dormouse will help avert extinction.

For images on what to look for, and where to send suspect shells, visit the BBC article here