Saturday, April 25, 2009

Npr = cows

NPR is full of cows!

Firstly, there was this report on the completion of the sequencing of the bovine genome. L1 Dominette 01449, an eight year old Hereford cow has been the subject of intense scrutiny for six years as a team of scientists from around the world have sequenced her DNA. The resulting information gathered from L1 Dominette gives us valuable information into "the essence of bovinity", as well as the differences and similarities between cows and other mammals. One difference that makes a lot of intrinsic sense is that cows have a larger portion of their genome devoted to milk production than humans do. Another logical discovery is that cows lack the genome areas relating to certain digestive enzymes. As cows let commensal bacteria digest their grass for them, they no longer needed to keep those genes around. For an even more in depth discussion of the information gained from the cow genome, check out Science Daily.

Secondly, NPR's quiz show "Wait wait, don't tell me" alerted me to even more cow related news this week. Apparently, a conservationist in England has imported 13 rare Heck cattle to his farm. Cattle importation is not normally newsworthy, but Heck cattle are special. Heck cattle are the result of a breeding project sponsored by Herman Goering, and were produced in Nazi Germany in an attempt to back breed existing cattle to recreate the extinct aurochs. While they did not manage a complete recreation, Heck cows are fairly impressive looking, and are basically wild. As the limerick listener challenge put it (an audio recording is here): "A specter is haunting Europe, namely giant Nazi cows." As amusing as that sounds to us in America, the Brits appear to be taking the matter more seriously. Here is a BBC video in which the reporter asks the conservationist Mr. Gow if he is "a collaborator".

And if all this cow-ish goodness was not quite enough, I present to you a recent story by NPR about how cows align themselves with power lines.

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