Many people have asked (ok, actually a member of one of our immediate families), "Smells like Science", "The truth is up there somewhere"? What's up with that? Seems pretty cryptic.
Fair enough. So, when cooking up this blog idea, I shared this video posted below. I think that you can now see where these lines come from. This is a white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus) and a dead zebra in the Masai Mara. However, the IUCN updated their red list of yesterday (Oct 29, 2015) and downgraded the status of African vultures, reporting that half of all African vultures are now endangered, including Gyps africanus.
So, that clears up "Smells like Science".
Brain eddy or not, we try to squeeze some science out (stinky bad pun intended), or at least some cool natural history. We all know that vultures are carrion feeders, and obviously, this group found this dead zebra. However, by far the common field encounter with these vultures is seeing them picking on the remains of a carcass after the hyenas, lions, cheetahs, jackals, ... have consumed their kill. Old world vultures do not have a sense of smell, so they circle in networks and when they find an animal, they all hone in on it. They found this zebra, which had succumbed to disease or something: the carcass was intact. White-backed vultures apparently do not have strong jaws and can not rip skin to enter the carcass. Predators (listed above) and the Lappet faced vultures do. However, given that neither mammals nor the lappet faced vultures had yet happened upon this carcass, the white backed vultures were faced with a package of food that they could not unwrap. This one crafty vulture was getting in there the only way possible (once other vultures had nibbled out the eyeballs and tongue).
This video serves to remind us that nature may be cool, pretty, fascinating, but getting by on the plains of Africa can get pretty gritty. Life is not for the squeamish.
It might be science, it might be nons(ci)ense, but it still smells.