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Horny, confused cane toads are humping a python, says biologist

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Those cane toads pictured riding on the back of a python in Australia were actually blind with lust, says an amphibian expert.

“You can see all of these male cane toads lined up along the snake sort of grabbing it, hoping, desperately hoping, that it is a female frog,” Jodi Rowley, a biologist at the Australian Museum in Sydney, told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.

“It’s a bunch of overly excited male cane toads trying to mate with a female cane toad — but they’ve got it wrong,” 

The photo of 10 yellow cane toads “hitching a ride” on the snake’s back in Kununurra, Western Australia, has been shared thousands of times on Twitter.

The bizarre scene was filmed by Paul Mock on Sunday night after a heavy thunderstorm caused a lake to overflow and sent local wildlife feeling for higher ground.

“Thousands of toads were all trying to find somewhere to go,” Mock told the BBC. “And then I saw Monty our local python with a bunch of hitchhikers on his back.”

Cane toads hump indiscriminately 

But when Rowley saw the picture, she immediately knew it was nothing so innocent.

Male cane toads, she said, are notoriously horny after a big rain fall.

They hang out in groups, she said, waiting for the much rarer female cane toads to show up. When they spot a female, they instinctively leap onto her back and hold tight.

“They really just want to make sure that as soon as that female shows up, they’re the one that gets it,” she said. “So they have such a reflex to grab onto things.”

But in their desperate frenzy, the toads have a tendency to latch onto anything and everything — including inanimate objects, human feet and other male toads and amphibians of the wrong species.

“I have personally seen … cane toads trying to mate with a rotting mango as it floated in a bit of water. So that was an interesting one. And there was a bit of competition for that rotting mango,” Rowley said.

“I’ve actually picked up a frog before and they’ve been so keen that they’ve tried to mate with my hand.”

‘Really strong forearms’

The python, Rowley said, was likely powerless against the toads’ desires.

That’s because the males have “really strong forearms” and it’s hard to shake them off. 

Jodi Rowley is an amphibian biologist from the Australian Museum in Sydney, Australia. (Stuart Humphreys/jodirowley.com)

“They’ve got a bit of a grip on that poor snake and there’s nothing that snake can do except for wait until they realize their error and get off on their own accord,” she said.

“In a correct circumstance, the male will grab onto the female frog and he has to hang on because she will take him to where she wants to breed.”

Stranger than fiction 

The python can’t exact its revenge on the toads by eating them for dinner, either. Cane toads are not native to Australia, and are poisonous to most local predators, Crowley said.

Rowley’s explanation for the viral photo flies in the face of the uplifting narrative about a deadly predator helping out its amphibian neighbours during hard times. 

But she said she’s glad for the opportunity to explain the often ill-fated mating rituals of cane toads. 

“It’s even better, I think. It’s good to have things corrected. It’s good to have the scientific facts, you know, the explanations about what is actually happening,” she said.

“Because the truth is often just as cool, if not cooler, than the fiction.”

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Jodi Rowley  produced by Ashley Mak.

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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