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WebClawer: Great elephant bird of Madagascar's egg for sale, science finds truth in theory that pets look like their owners

March 25, 2009 |  6:35 pm

Lookalikes! From dogs to bears to extinct birds, these are a few of the animal-related stories that turned our heads today:

-- A new report published in the journal Psychological Science says there really is scientific evidence that pets resemble their owners (at least, purebred pets do).  UC San Diego researchers Nicholas J.S. Christenfeld and Michael M. Roy had 28 judges try to match photos of 45 dogs to photos of their owners.  They were correct almost two-thirds of the time when presented with purebred dogs, although the research found little or no evidence of resemblance between mixed-breed dogs and their owners.  "When you pick a purebred, you pick it specifically because of how it's going to look as a grown-up," Christenfeld said, adding that he thinks mixed-breed dog owners make more spur-of-the-moment decisions when choosing their pets.  San Francisco Gate

-- A Kent, U.K., antiques dealer and paleontologist is offering for sale a giant egg laid by a great elephant bird of Madagascar.  Asking price?  £5,000 (more than $7,000 U.S.).  The egg, thought to be one of the biggest in the world, has a circumference of more than three feet.  It once held a baby elephant bird, but at some point in its history it was broken and repaired and is now hollow.  Elephant birds were the world's largest flightless bird -- weighing half a ton and standing more than 10 feet tall -- before becoming extinct in the mid-1600s.  "The egg has a great social history. The Madagascan Elephant Bird was the only giant bird to exist with man, and man caused its extinction," said egg seller John Shepherd. "It's nice to be able to show children today about environmental issues that have been going on for hundreds of years."  BBC

-- A 4-month-old Shih Tzu puppy was recovered unhurt by Southeast Area Animal Control Authority officers after being thrown into a storm drain by a man during a shouting match with his girlfriend.  "He told us he got upset and threw the dog into the drain. He indicated he wanted the dog gone," Sgt. Alex Irizabal of the Downey Police Department said of the incident. "The good thing is we were there fast. Thank God the animal wasn't hurt."  The man, identified as 21-year-old Juan Lopez of Los Angeles, was arrested on suspicion of felony animal cruelty and released after posting $20,000 bail.  L.A. Times

-- Suburban Seattle wildlife officers are trying a novel approach to dealing with the black bears that sometimes wander into backyards in search of food.  They've added a dog to their staff -- a Karelian bear dog named Mishka, to be exact.  Mishka helps officers track down the bears and assists with a pilot project that uses "bear-shepherding" techniques.  Rather than tranquilizing the bears and moving them to a different area, officers are using scare tactics.  First they tranquilize and tag the bear, then allow it to wake up in the suburban area in which it was found.  When it wakes up, it's pelted with rubber bullets or beanbags.  Officers set off fireworks and shout, and Mishka is trained to bark menacingly, all in an effort to persuade the bear not to return.  Officers say this practice is actually less dangerous for the bear than transporting it elsewhere, since it may face starvation in its new home if it's unable to find adequate food there.  "We give 'em a chance to become a better bear," said state Department of Fish and Wildlife officer Bruce Richards. "If they come back, they're in trouble."  Seattle Times

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Paul and Buddy, winners of JetBlue's JetPaws Pet Look-Alike contest.  Credit: PRNewsFoto / JetBlue Airways

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