It’s time for the A to Z Challenge! Hello and welcome to my main blog. My name is Rose Anderson and I’m a novelist. Join me and nearly 2000 bloggers and authors as we blog the alphabet throughout the month of April. It’s not as easy as you might think. There’s a reason Q and Z are worth 10 points in Scrabble!
For me, this year’s alphabet will be about history and historical science– things that tickle my fancy or capture my imagination. I hope you will find them interesting too.
Keep the topic rolling! If you’ve enjoyed the today’s offering and have comments or questions, add them at the end of the post in the comment section. And…if you enjoy romances with unique twists, a good deal of steam, facts, and characters full of personality and depth, scroll down for a free chapter sampler. I love to make the impossible sound plausible. Suffice to say, I have an unusual mind.
Today’s Calliope’s Writing Tablet post is brought to you by the letter R ~ Rat King
For nearly thirty years I’ve lived on the hill surrounded by woodlands, wetlands, and prairie. It’s lovely here. Truly lovely. Oh we’ve had our buggie years where hordes of mosquitoes make for very unpleasant summers. I notice such things. lol But how the mosquitoes go depends upon weather. A drought year, for example, will be virtually pest free. As nice as it is to sit outside on a balmy summer’s night without slapping yourself silly, a drought isn’t something to wish for.
Weather changes the environment in subtle and not so subtle ways. For one, it allows creatures and plants into areas where they’ve never been before. An example of this in my area would be possums (opossums being their official name). These cute little scavengers with their naked tails, pink noses, and delicate ears and paws are southern habitat animals. Weather changes allowed them to venture north, but here we get deep winter and frostbite is the price they pay. It burns their pink bare skin so when you see them in spring and summer their pink ears and tails are black on the edges and much shorter. Possums aren’t the only slow invaders in my neck of the woods. In the last eight years we have a new pest to make summers miserable– ticks and tick-borne diseases. Ticks go for just about any warm-blooded mammal, but the two that play perfect host for tick carrying Lyme Disease are the white-tailed deer and the deer mouse. These I have in abundance all around my home.
Vectors & Weather
Most people have read or heard about the historic Black Death or Bubonic Plague pandemic that hit Europe and Asia in waves between the 1100s and 1400s. The plague killed approximately 60% of Europeans — best guess, that works out to 20 million people. It’s caused by a particular bacteria living in the guts of fleas that feed on humans but are most commonly found on rodents. After studying the hows and whys, fingers point to weather in Asia as the bringer of plague. Weather changes and rats.
Now that you have the image of rats as vectors for disease in your mind, add to this the fact they live everywhere we do. That’s enough to inspire a shudder or two, no? Here’s another image…
Sometime in the mid-1500s a dessicated horror was found inside a wall in Germany and immediately pegged as the bringer of plague 100 years before. It was a mummified rat king.
Medieval scholars not only believed a rat king was actually one animal with many bodies, but also an extremely bad omen. In truth, a rat king is a rare phenomenon found in colonies of black rats born and living in tight spaces in northern climates. Because of the cramped conditions, a number of rats become helplessly tangled at the tails. The tails eventually knotted up with blood, dirt, and excrement. X-rays of rat kings show a large number of tail breaks that healed as well as calluses from where the tails rubbed against each other. Both suggest the injuries and calluses happened while the animals lived.
Apparently, fifty-eight reliable rat kings had been registered since 1564. Even with x-rays showing broken and healed tail vertebrae, some skeptics believe rat kings to be cryptozoological, meaning they could potentially be real or imply hoaxes. Still, Europe has several rat kings on display in museums, including the largest rat king found in Germany in the early 1800s. It consists of 32 rats. Now that’s the stuff of nightmares!
It does happen in the wild as this photo shows. These baby squirrels were all connected at the tails. Here you see they’re sedated for the untangling.
Tomorrow ~ letter S!
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