From there, as Beth (now played by Anya Taylor-Joy) is adopted out of the orphanage and her prowess gradually gains public notice, “Gambit” proceeds straightforwardly through her teenage years, showing us how she becomes the glamorous but troubled chess pro of that opening scene. It follows the beats of a sports tale, like a classic Hollywood boxing film, but it’s also a coming-of-age story about a woman succeeding in a male-dominated world, and a restrained spin on an addiction saga, as Beth rises in the chess hierarchy on a steady diet of alcohol and downers.
Frank wraps it all up in a package that’s smart, smooth and snappy throughout, like finely tailored goods. The production has a canny combination of retro Rat Pack style, in its décors and music choices, with a creamy texture, in its performances and cinematography, that is reminiscent of another Netflix period piece, “The Crown.” (This connection is reinforced by the abundance of British actors playing the American roles, including Taylor-Joy and, as three mentors and competitors for Beth’s affection, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd and Harry Melling.)
“Gambit” never quite gets back to the charm of its Dickensian opening chapter, though, and it gets thinner as it goes along. Frank pulls off his combination of themes with a lot of old-Hollywood-style skill, but in the mix, neither the sports nor the personal-demons story line hits the levels of visceral excitement or emotional payoff that you might want. In the end, it was an admirable package that I wanted to love more than I did.
That may have had something to do with the construct around which the story is built. Beth finds a refuge in chess — it’s a predictable place where she feels safe and in control. And we’re shown why she needs a refuge, beginning with flashbacks to life with her brilliant, troubled biological mother (Chloe Pirrie) and continuing through her teen years with her alcoholic, depressed adoptive mom (an excellent Marielle Heller, who directed the female coming-of-age film “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”).
Both of those elements make sense. But the question that becomes the central theme of the series — whether Beth can overcome, or even survive, the obsessiveness that powers her success and the anger that’s reflected in her superaggressive style of play — is primarily melodramatic, a fact reflected in the show’s unsatisfying conclusion.
On Instagram, I am besieged with ads for personalized skincare and hair care. Curology, Skintelli, Proven, Skinsei, Prose, Function of Beauty—you name it, and I have been targeted by it. The general gist is that either via a selfie, quiz, or sometimes even a form of DNA testing, I can get a direct order beauty product that is personalized for my skin, hair, or whatever else I’m insecure about thanks to society’s unrealistic beauty standards.
I’ve never believed in any of it. All of these products seem like clever marketing gags that capitalize on both my vanity and insecurity to part me from my hard-earned money. Not only are self-reported quizzes prone to error, but these services aren’t exactly cheap. Still, online ads are persistent and pernicious. Also, I was curious. My willpower finally crumbled when a friend messaged me to say I should check out Atolla, a skin serum backed by the power of artificial intelligence. Allegedly.
In a crowded field of personalized beauty products, Atolla has, at the very least, the veneer of science. I believe the words “algorithm” and “AI” were tossed around in the ads I saw, which meant for reviewing purposes, it counted as tech. (Skincare tech is actually a product category that some major beauty brands are actively experimenting with; it had a huge presence at CES 2019.) Atolla requires you to answer a hyper-detailed quiz about your diet, lifestyle, environment, and skincare regimen, and then every three weeks, the company prompts you to take a series of tests to measure your oil, hydration, and skin’s pH levels. Based on your results and your skincare goals (minimizing fine lines and discoloration, refining pores, etc.), the data you provide is then fed through Atolla’s patented algorithm to generate a serum that is for you and you alone.
The feedback loop was at least a little different from the dubious quizzes that make up most of this online beauty trend. The idea that periodic testing and AI could take the guesswork out of skincare is a powerful one because the skincare industry is extremely confusing. The basic principles of skincare are simple—wash your face, use at least SPF 30 every day even if you’re indoors, moisturize, and if you wear makeup, remove it before bed!—but the specifics are complicated as hell. There are entire TikToks, Instagrams, and subreddits dedicated to de-mystifying ingredients and explaining why you can’t really trust claims like “clean beauty”—and yet no matter how many explainers I read or videos I watch, I still haven’t found the right combination of products to minimize my fine lines, pores, and dark circles.
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On top of the “science” angle, the company was founded by three folks with expertise in these areas: a data scientist, an engineer from MIT, and Dr. Ranella Hirsch, a cosmetic dermatologist who once served as the president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery. Company founding stories are still marketing and shouldn’t be blindly trusted, but at the very least this didn’t immediately raise red flags. So, with that in mind, I figured it couldn’t hurt to at least try an AI’s recommendations.
Atolla’s initial survey is extremely thorough, covering everything from my goals and allergies to my lifestyle, the products I currently use, and my zip code to factor in environmental considerations. It even asked me to list my medications. The website’s mobile dashboard—there’s no app—was easy enough to navigate and included some helpful features, like being able to track your progress and test results over time, as well as which ingredients in my serum might interact with other products.
I got a package in the mail a few days later, containing my first serum, a test kit, and a handy card explaining my formula. My first formulation contained 1.5% Ascorbic Acid Complex (basically a gentler vitamin C) and 1.5% alpha-arbutin, which Google tells me is used for hyperpigmentation. Some supporting ingredients were rice extract, vitamin B5, and Rumex Occidentalis extract. It came in a little 15ml bottle and the instructions said to use a “dime-sized amount” every day—twice a day if I wanted results faster.
I did as instructed every day, but also used Neutrogena’s Skin360 app to document my progress. The way that app works is you take a selfie weekly and it then uses an algorithm to analyze the quality of your skin based on fine lines, smoothness, wrinkles, dark circles, and dark spots. Ideally, you take the selfie under the same lighting conditions each time. It wasn’t the most scientific method of evaluating my progress but at the very least I’d have my before and after photos in an easily compared format.
Right on schedule, three weeks after I received the serum, Atolla emailed to remind me to take my first test. This part was legitimately fun, even if you do look stupid. The test takes about 10 minutes overall, and there are three components total—one for oil, one for moisture, and a final one to measure your pH—and you stick each strip to your forehead and cheek. If you take the test using your phone, you can take photos to let the company’s software automatically scan your results. Otherwise, you can do it on a desktop and manually select the picture that best matches your test strips.
Did I learn anything new? No. I know my forehead is oilier than my cheeks and, lo: My test results said I was 40% oily on my forehead and 20% oily on my cheeks. The test results also said my skin was “70% hydrated” on my forehead and cheek, while my skin overall had a pH of 5.5, which I was told is good. But while I was clueless as to what that meant, the algorithm decided it was going to bump up the percentage of ascorbic acid to 3%. I was also asked to restate my skin goals and prompted to enter my zip code—again for environmental factors—and woo! A few days later I got another package with another little bottle. This time, though, the formula was a deeper orange-y color than before. I admit, I thought, “Wow, my results actually mattered?”
After three weeks, the testing process repeated. Again, my results were roughly the same, and yet my formula changed again. This time, Rumex Occidentalis was bumped off the ingredient list, alpha arbutin was upped to 2%, and vitamin C stayed at 3%. The serum was also completely clear this time.
Cool! Clearly, my results were impacting the formulation I was getting, but visually, I didn’t see much of a difference. Likewise, my scores weren’t improving in the Neutrogena app. If anything, they were getting slightly worse, especially in the areas I wanted to improve. Not by much, mind you, but there are a lot of things that factor into your skin’s health outside of the products you use, like sleep and exercise. It’s peak product review season so, no, I’m not what you’d call relaxed. Prime Day had my brainmelting out of my ears. I got married, and haha, weddings are totally chill. (While lovely, they’re decidedly not chill.) I replaced the dying lightbulbs in my bathroom, which means it’s easier to see my nascent wrinkles in the Neutrogena app selfies due to the harsh, unforgiving light. All these things could have as much an impact on my skin as say, a tiny little bottle of serum.
This week, I took yet another skin test. My results were again, pretty much identical to the ones before. My goals have remained unchanged. My next formula is also mostly unchanged, though this one adds ferulic acid, which Vogue UK tells me is both anti-aging and an antioxidant that helps the efficacy of vitamin C. My reaction is basically as follows: ¯_(ツ)_/¯
I have scrutinized my skin in the mirror, in selfies, and in my wedding photos. I’ve annoyed my husband for the past three months asking, “Does my skin look better to you?” His answer is always: “You look the same.” I suspect he’s a filthy liar because, I don’t know, I think my pores are marginally smaller. I can’t tell. Then again, I met up with a friend who I haven’t seen in months this past weekend and one of the first things she said was, “Yo, your skin looks great.” To be fair, she was also a socially distant six feet away.
I can’t definitively say Atolla doesn’t work just because it didn’t really do much for my skin. Anecdotally, I know the formulation changed based on periodic feedback and that feels like something. Like all other skincare products, what does or doesn’t work for my skin isn’t a guarantee it will or won’t work for another person. It’s more a matter of whether the cost was worth the experiment.
At $45 per month, Atolla is a bit much for my wallet, especially since I haven’t seen much improvement on the issues I want to fix. That might just be my luck. However, the service has an easy-to-use interface, and I appreciate that it’s easy to pause a subscription, change renewal dates, and if you’re unhappy with your progress, schedule a skin consultation with an advisor. In all fairness, it’s a smoothly run service and fun to try. But, it’s not as simple as just paying $45 to try Atolla. You’d probably have to commit to $90 realistically to see if its feedback-based approach works for you. If you have insurance and have serious skin issues, for that cost you might as well make the effort to see a dermatologist first.
My biggest frustration on my skincare journey occurred after I tried slugging on a whim. Slugging is yet another internet skincare trend that involves slathering petrolatum (Vaseline) over your face at night. I didn’t even use fancy petrolatum. I used the cheap-ass, half-used jar of generic Amazon-brand petroleum jelly we had lying around. I spent three months squinting at my reflection in the mirror, trying to figure out if this AI-generated serum was doing anything, and after one night of slugging, I woke up a glowing goddess with baby soft skin. Them’s the breaks.
A personalized, AI-generated skincare serum that is refined and customized with periodic oil, moisture, and pH tests.
Costs $45 a month. Look, skincare can be expensive.
Smoothly run service with a nice, easy-to-use website.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a major expansion of products now available directly to consumers. We can now buy razors, toothbrushes and tampons through subscription services that promise not only higher quality, but lower prices. These direct-to-consumer (DTC) products also include dog food, though those companies tend to focus on offering high-quality food, rather than promoting a substantial cost savings. There are plenty of DTC dog food options out there, but are they worth the money? Here’s what to know.
What’s the deal with direct-to-consumer dog food?
Like other DTC products, part of the appeal of having a subscription is not having to remember to purchase something you need on a regular basis. But, as NBC News reports, in most cases, DTC dog food is more about indulging your pet with “higher quality,” more nutritious food, rather than convenience or saving money. These products aims to fill the gap between affordable dry dog food and the really expensive, high-end stuff (probably sold in a refrigerated section of your local grocery store). Brands and services include: Sundays, Tailored, Jinx, Nom Nom and The Farmer’s Dog.
Is direct-to-consumer dog food actually healthier?
These DTC dog food companies are banking on the fact that people with dogs are willing to pay more for their furry friends’ food if it’s higher in quality and better for them. But is that really the case? Some veterinarians, like Dr. Kristin Neuhauser, DVM, of Noah’s Ark Animal Clinic, see kibble as an important part of a dog’s diet. “For dogs, the main benefit to being on a commercially-prepared dry dog food is that they are eating a complete and balanced diet,” she told NBC News.
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The most important thing to consider when selecting a dog food, according to Dr. Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, a professor of Sections of Clinical Nutrition and Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornel, is to make sure that it meets nutrient standards set by organizations like the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). “If not [complete and balanced] then there’s vitamins and minerals that need to be added,” he told NBC News. “I, as a veterinarian nutritionist, feel much more comfortable [knowing] a product has met AAFCO specifications.”
That’s not to say that DTC dog foods don’t meet those standards—it’s just important that you check that they do, instead of simply assuming that higher cost equals higher quality.
Is direct-to-consumer dog food worth the price?
In short, it all depends on your priorities. If your dog is perfectly happy eating kibble that meets AAFCO nutrition standards, then it may not be worth the extra money to upgrade to a more expensive DTC plan. But in cases where your dog may not be eating enough or getting the nutrients it needs, then it could be worth splurging on high-quality human-grade food.
“If you want to feed your pet human-grade foods it will be more expensive, but if your pet finds it palatable and really enjoys their meals, I think it’s worth the extra cost,” veterinarian Dr. Hunter Finn, DVM, told Fast Company. He also only recommends dog food brands that employ a full-time veterinary nutritionist and are open and honest when answering your questions regarding research, manufacturing and nutrient profile studies.
So ultimately, it’s up to you—but as long as your dog is enjoying a complete and balanced diet, don’t feel as though you need to shell out the extra cash for human-grade food.
After four years of Donald Trump, it’s easy for a U.S. resident to believe that TV news reporters aren’t permitted to ask tough questions or push back when given inadequate answers. So it can be quite jarring in 2020 to see such things happen in a live interview.
That’s why this clip from a New Zealand news broadcast is getting so much attention. Newshub’s Tova O’Brien sat down for a chat with Jami-Lee Ross, a controversial New Zealand politician with some decidedly Trump-y qualities who lost his seat in Parliament following the country’s just-concluded 2020 election.
The four-minute clip highlights an exchange that’s marked primarily by O’Brien’s incisive questioning and unwillingness to let Ross dodge. She steers the conversation in a way that’s meant to hold the ousted politician to account for his more questionable behavior.
For U.S.-based TV watchers who have lived on a diet of domestic news coverage for the past four years, O’Brien’s disposition throughout the interview might seem overly aggressive or hostile. But no, this is actually a professional reporter doing the job of digging into the sorts of questions viewers should want an answer to.
She doesn’t let Ross get away with anything, and in fact openly calls him out because his attempts to dodge and re-frame the conversation are so shameless.
Predictably, the clip went viral on U.S. Twitter, accompanied by expressions of shock at O’Brien’s approach (lol) and wistfulness for the American news media to reach a place where this kind of no-nonsense attitude is an expectation rather than a rarity.
On the righteous pleasure scale this rates a 10 of 10. You will want to watch this New Zealand journalist “grill” an alt right politician the way it should be done. pic.twitter.com/01n3jbcCVw My favorite: “Would you like to have another go at answering that?” Via @charlesarthur
Pour one out for the TaBbies—Tab Cola has been discontinued by Coca Cola. With nearly zero market share and limited availability, you might be surprised to learn that Tab even still exists. But the once-popular zero-calorie drink has been kept afloat by intensely devoted fans—also known as TaBaholics—who have already been stockpiling the distinct, slightly bitter cola for years.
Sweetened with saccharine, Tab debuted in 1963 as Coca-Cola’s first diet soda, and was initially targeted to women with some extra-cringey ads:
A forerunner in the diet soda market, Tab reached its peak in the 1970s and early 80s, when the drink became something of a pop culture icon embraced by health-conscious yuppies:
With the launch of Diet Coke in 1982, Tab slowly faded away from the limelight, left to a small hardcore following that regularly petitioned Coca-Cola to make more of their soda. As of 2019, Tab represented 0.1% of all global diet cola sales, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Where can I buy Tab?
You’ll need a lot of luck if you want to hoard Tab, as it’s been in short supply for a long time. With supply cutting off entirely by December 31, it will only get harder to find.
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As has been the case for months, Amazon, Target, eBay and Walmart are all out of stock, as are the more obscure vendors like Beverages Direct. Note that you can enable “in stock” alerts for the big chains and be notified when they’re available, but they will sell out fast. Your best bet might be fan-run websites and Facebook pages that share Tab sightings.
If you do get your hands on some Tab, remember that soda typically only lasts six to nine months in storage (keep it in a fridge and you might be able to stretch that out a bit). After that, the stuff will become undrinkable and then it really will be over. R.I.P. Tab.
U.S. News has once again ranked all the diets, with the groundbreaking result that…they are all different ways to eat food. Amazing. Their website does provide a nice comparison of the various diets’ pros and cons, but the whole concept of declaring one diet better than another is broken to begin with.
As we’ve seen with the “Dirty Dozen” produce rankings, a ranking assumes that each thing is competing against the others, and that those at the top of the list are better than those at the bottom. With vegetables as with diets, there are a whole bunch that are just fine, and you don’t need to pit them against each other any more than you need to choose which of your children is your favorite.
Then there’s the question of what a “diet” really is, anyway; as a word of the English language, diet can mean many different things. If somebody is “going on a diet,” we understand that they are trying to create a calorie deficit to lose weight. If instead we read that “the diet of wild lemurs varies among species,” we understand the word to mean a description of the totality of things a lemur typically eats.
The 51 diets in the U.S. News database form a bizarre mix. Some are vague approaches to eating, like volumetrics; some are commercial products intended to help people lose weight, like Noom or Weight Watchers; still others are science-unsupported crash diets. Putting these disparate items into a lineup is not really helping anyone. U.S. News seemed to understand this on some level, since they only ranked the “best” 35, leaving a pool of particularly bad options—like the Master Cleanse, which I’m not sure fits any definition of a diet, to be honest—off the main list.
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I could puzzle over the rankings themselves for days. For example, Atkins and keto are listed as two separate things (they’re arguably not), and both rank below a raw food diet that the list describes as “all but impossible to follow.” Like the paper’s wildly popular college rankings, the diet rankings seem to exist to give us something new to worry and argue about, rather than to help people eat healthier or lose weight.
How to actually choose a diet
First, if you’re looking to lose weight, recognize that all weight-loss diets work the same goddamn way: they give you a framework to eat fewer calories than you burn. The “best” diet to do that is whichever one you find easiest to stick with.
Some people feel great on a keto diet; some find intermittent fasting convenient; some would rather eat low-fat and vegan. It doesn’t really matter, so long as the calorie deficit isn’t too extreme and you’re not depriving yourself of important nutrients like fiber, vitamins, or protein.
Whether you’re trying to change your body weight or not, the basics of a healthy diet are pretty straightforward: lots of fruits and vegetables, enough protein, not too much sugar. If you have specific health concerns that you’ve discussed with a doctor, make sure to account for those. (For example, the DASH “diet” is a list of guidelines you can follow if you need to lower your blood pressure. It involves eating less sodium and more potassium, among other things.) If you’re willing to pay for help, you’re better off consulting a dietitian than buying into the latest expensive weight-loss product.
So are you looking to eat more healthy, lose weight, or both? Find an approach to eating that meets your goals and that you can stick with. If you want some structure, it’s fine to buy a book that gives you recipes and a fancy name for the diet. The top-ranked diet, the Mediterranean diet, is fine. But the #29-ranked paleo diet, despite its silly premise (that cavemen made lots of fake pizzas from almond flour and coconut oil, if I understand correctly), might do the job just as well.
Sunshine Mills announced the initial voluntary recall on September 2, 2020, after a retail product sample of their dog food was found by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry to contain an unsafe level of aflatoxin—a toxin produced by the mold Aspergillus flavus. When ingested at high levels, it can result in serious illness or death for dogs and other pets. And just because you can’t see any mold on the food, it doesn’t mean the toxin is not there, according to the FDA.
The voluntary recall was expanded on October 8, and the FDA issued a public advisory regarding all the dog food brands involved to make sure people don’t feed the potentially toxic food—which may have been purchased a few weeks ago and is still sitting on their shelves—to their dogs.
Jaundice (yellowish tint to the eyes, gums or skin due to liver damage)
Because dogs don’t tend to have much variety in their diets, when they eat food containing aflatoxin, it can build up over time, in some cases causing long-term liver issues and/or death. It’s also important to note that some pets suffer liver damage without showing any symptoms, so even if your dog seems to be OK, if it has been eating any of the 18 recalled brands, their humans should contact their veterinarians. Currently, there is no evidence that humans who handle products containing the toxic mold are at risk of poisoning, the FDA says.
If your dog looks or acts sick after eating these brands of food, call your veterinarian right away. Bring your dog’s full diet history to your vet, along with photos of the labels (including lot numbers) of the food that you suspect made them ill.
Of course, don’t feed the recalled products to your dog or any other pets. If you’re not sure how to dispose of the food, contact the company listed on the package for further instructions, or throw it away in a way that ensures children, pets, and wildlife cannot access them. Finally, sanitize your dog’s food bowls, scoops, and storage containers using bleach, rinsing well afterwards with water, and drying thoroughly, the FDA recommends.
Consumers who have purchased the recalled products should discontinue use of the product and may return the unused portion to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers may contact Sunshine Mills, Inc. customer service at (800) 705-2111 from 7AM to 4PM Central Time, Monday through Friday, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
How to report a suspected case of aflatoxin poisoning to the FDA
If you suspect your dog has been poisoned by the recalled dog food, it’s a good idea to report that to the FDA. You can do that electronically through the FDA’s Safety Reporting Portal or by calling your state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators. If possible, the FDA says that it’s most helpful if you can work with your veterinarian to submit your pet’s medical records as part of your report. More information on lodging complaint to the FDA can be found on their website, specifically: How to Report a Pet Food Complaint.
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This microdermabrasion tool is specifically engineered to function as a blackhead vacuum with a 10x zoom camera and an app. It’s on sale for $89.99, but with the code OCTSALE20, you can get it for $71.99.
This facial massager delivers hot and cool facial massage as well as red and blue light therapy. For a limited time, you can get it on sale for $46.39, so long as you enter the code OCTSALE20 at checkout.
A cultured meat research program led by a Spanish biotech firm has been awarded a €2.7M grant under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 R&D funding framework. The consortium project, called ‘Meat4All’, says it’s the first lab-grown meat research effort to get public investment by the EU — which it’s taking as a sign that regional lawmakers are “effectively” committing to cultured meat.
EU president Ursula von der Leyen has made a Green Deal a key plank of her policy plan for the bloc — with the long term aim of the region being “climate-neutral” by 2050. At the same time factory farming remains a massive contributor of greenhouse gases — meaning there’s an imperative to rethink how Europe produces food and what people eat. Boosting investment in renewable energy and improving building insulation (which the Commission has also pledged to do) won’t be enough to meet key climate targets. So there’s growing opportunity for regional businesses to innovate around meat alternatives — whether that’s lab-grown meat or plant-based proteins.
The Meat4All project was awarded the Horizon 2020 grant at the start of August but it’s just being announced now. San Sebastián-based BioTech Foods, which has been producing a slaughter-free pork-cell based product called Ethicameat sicne 2017, is leading the consortium.
French firm Organotechnie, a biotech supplier, is also participating.
The aim of the project is the “Industrialization and commercialization of a competitive, sustainable and consumer oriented alternative animal protein source”, with their proposal focused on increasing cultured meat production technology; working on market acceptance; and testing to assess safety to bring more cultured meat products to market.
Commenting in a statement, Iñigo Charola, CEO of BioTech Foods, said: “It is hugely satisfying for the entire team at BioTech Foods, and for our partners at Organotechnie, to obtain this backing from the European Union for our ‘Meat4All’ project. This is the first time that Europe has effectively committed to cultured meat. Cultured meat will be a key ingredient of our future diet, and now we have it confirmed also by the institutions.”
Key aims for the consortium include scaling up production of cultured meat from kilograms to tonnes; maintaining the nutritional value for large-scale amounts; obtaining the means to culture cells free from animal serum; and the use of animal cells that have not been genetically modified.
Other stated aims include developing a competitive product and performing taste tests to determine and predict market demand.
“By extending this technology, ‘Meat4All’ will create a new development area which will enable the European industry to leverage the high potential of this market, by fostering competitiveness and creating growth throughout the European Union,” they also write in a press release, adding: “The challenge is none other than to reach the production capacity necessary to supply the meat processing industry.”
Some of North America’s big predators—wolves, mountain lions, bobcats, and the like— are now getting nearly half their food from people. It’s a big shift away from eating foods found in nature and could put them in conflict with one another, or lead to more human-carnivore encounters on running trails or suburban backyards.
A new study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of New Mexico used hair, fur, and bone samples to identify the diets of seven carnivore species across the Upper Midwest, from the outskirts of Albany, New York, to remote Minnesota forestland. The scientists used chemical tracers to show that the animals were relying on human food sources either directly, such as by raiding fields or trash bins, or indirectly by preying on smaller animals that do, such as mice, rabbits, or sometimes even pets.
“These species are eating human food,” says Philip Manlick, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of New Mexico and the lead author of the study, which was published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “In some cases, up to half of their diets are coming from humans. It might be garbage, or corn residue, or house cats and pets,” Manlick says. “This is bad news for carnivores, because people don’t want predators eating their pets—and, generally speaking, people don’t like carnivores in their backyard.”
The complete list of these carnivores studied in the report includes foxes, coyotes, fishers, and martens. And not only are they coming into contact with people more frequently (you probably already saw this six-minute viral video of the Utah jogger chased by a mountain lion after he got too close to her cubs), but they are also fighting each other for food, Manlick says. “They will use their weapons against each other as well,” Manlick says. “As their diets begin to overlap, they are more likely to kill each other. The consumption of food resources presents a lot of challenges for carnivores in the future.”
The researchers found that foxes were the most likely to eat from human food sources, getting about half their food by eating domesticated animals or by foraging in areas that have been disturbed by agriculture, while the wolf and bobcat were the least likely, getting less than 5 percent of their diet from these sources.
How did they know this? The team used chemical isotopes of carbon taken from the animals’ fur and bone samples to distinguish between human-grown and naturally occurring foods. “Human foods look like corn, because we give corn to everything,” Manlick says. Corn syrup can be found in many processed foods, while corn grain is fed to beef, chicken, and pork that humans eat. But corn looks very different than natural foods when analyzed in the lab.
“Corn is a carbon-4 [isotope] plant, while most plants shrubs and berries that are native are a carbon-3 [isotope] plant,” he continues. “They look different isotopically. If you are eating mice that’s eating corn, you might look like that as well.”
His team’s study on North American carnivore diets follows two other recent big studies of the effects of humans on animals. A 2018 study published in the journal Science tracked 57 mammals species across the globe and found that they are moving around less, covering a smaller range when they either forage or hunt in areas with more human development. They authors said that could be because that their habitats are becoming more fragmented or because there’s more easy grab-and-go food near people. “An alternative explanation is that at least some of the animals limit their movements because they do not need to move as much when and where they can take advantage of human food sources,” William Fagan, an author on the Science paper and professor of biology at the University of Maryland, wrote in an email to WIRED. “This possible explanation would tend to agree with the authors’ discussion in the PNAS paper.”