Pooch On Parade


Biker bowsers
Cha-Cha and Candy, dressed up as biker babes, compete in the fifth annual Times Square Dog Day Masquerade, in New York on October 18, 2009. The contest aims at raising awareness for homeless and abandoned animals.


Pimped out
A Chihuahua dressed as “Vinny the Pimp” seduces the crowd at the Times Square Dog Day Masquerade. Top prizes were awarded to the dogs whose costumes best evoked Times Square’s past or present.


Two pugs walk the puppy plank in pirate costume to compete in the fifth annual Times Square Dog Day Masquerade.


First Spider Known To Science That Feeds Mainly On Plant Food

spider @food

There are approximately 40,000 species of spiders in the world, all of which have been thought to be strict predators that feed on insects or other animals. Now, scientists have found that a small Central American jumping spider has a uniquely different diet: the species Bagheera kiplingi feeds predominantly on plant food.

The research, led by Christopher Meehan of Villanova University and Eric Olson of Brandeis University, has revealed the extraordinary ecology and behavior in Bagheera kiplingi, which lives throughout much of Central America and southern Mexico. There, the spider inhabits several species of acacia shrubs involved in a co-evolutionary mutualism with certain ants that has long been a staple of ecology textbooks: the ants fiercely guard the plants against most would-be herbivores, while the acacias provide both housing for the ants via swollen, hollow spines and food in the form of nectar (excreted from glands at the base of each leaf) and specialized leaf tips known as Beltian bodies. The Bagheera spiders are “cheaters” in the ant-acacia system, stealing and eating both nectar and—most remarkably—Beltian bodies without helping to defend the plant. The spiders get the job done through active avoidance of patrolling acacia-ants, relying on excellent eyesight, agility, and cognitive skills.

How do the spiders get around the ants that are supposed to be guarding the acacias and gobbling up the Beltian bodies themselves?

Peculiar Pets

pec pets

Sonic the hedgehog has got nothing on Little Miss Satin Mirranda Hufflepuff. According to Melissa Gardner of Ypsilanti, Mich., her 2-year-old pet hedgehog “yawns like a tiny roaring lion and gives high fives with her front paw.”

Maybe not what you’d expect from these quilled creatures, but then again, hedgehogs are much more than adorable novelties. Pet African hedgehogs, Algerian and White Bellied hybrids, are on average about the size of a guinea pig, typically to 1 lbs. and 5 to 8 inches long. They’re mostly nocturnal, mild-mannered animals whose quills aren’t barbed like those of porcupines. And, for a growing community of hedgehog owners, their beloved pets are unique, friendly companions.

“My hedgie’s temperament and personality are the best things about her,” Gardner tells PEOPLEPets.com. “She sleeps during the day when I’m at work; eats and runs in her wheel all night while I sleep. She’s a shy little girl who will run up to me and snuggle in my arms.”

Italian Police Seize Mafia Boss’ Pet Crocodile


88-pound reptile allegedly was used to intimidate local businessmen .Here’s another of the Mafia’s trademark offers-you-can’t-refuse: pay or be eaten by a crocodile.Italy’s anti-Mafia police unit said Wednesday it has seized a crocodile used by an alleged Naples mob boss to intimidate local businessmen from whom he demanded protection money.

Officers searching for weapons in the man’s home outside the southern Italian city last week found the crocodile living on his terrace, said police official Sergio Di Mauro.The crocodile, weighing 40 kilograms (88 pounds) and 1.7 meters (5.6 feet) long, was fed a diet of live rabbits and mice, Di Mauro said.He said the suspect, an alleged boss in the Naples-based Camorra crime syndicate, used to invite extortion victims to his home and threaten to set the animal on them if they didn’t pay or grant him favors.

The man was not arrested but placed under investigation for illegal possession of an animal, Di Mauro said. Investigators are also working on extortion charges against him.Di Mauro said the animal is believed to be a caiman, a species that lives in Central and South America, and it is not yet clear how it got to Italy. The crocodile was placed in the care of Italy’s forestry service.