Why is this owl on a scale? Because of science.
Tracking the growth of captive animals isn't just about making sure the captive animals are well taken care of. It's also an important part of understanding animal life cycles and how life in captivity differs from life in the wild. Data on millions of animals is stored in the Zoological Information Management System—a database used by zookeepers, aquarium officials, and researchers. In order to have that database, though, zoos and aquariums must do annual inventories of their charges—measuring height and weight, and recording data on details like egg-laying patterns. And this is where the cute comes in.
The Guardian has a slideshow of images taken last week during the London Zoo's animal inventory. If you've ever wanted to see somebody stretch a tape measure around a penguin's chubby belly, or coo over meerkats climbing around a scale, this is your chance.
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It's not just adorable! Grooming is actually an incredibly important part of keeping this baby sea otter healthy. Joanne Manaster visited the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and came back with a whole post for the PsiVid blog about the science of cute baby animals.
When an otter is raised by humans, there are many skills they need to learn, including how to feed themselves, groom themselves, and to sleep in the water. Unfortunately, once they are habituated to humans, they will not gain the skills needed to hunt, so cannot be released into the wild. On the other hand, the otter raised by the surrogate will gain all necessary skills and may be released to the wild in the future.
That's why Toola—the world's most influential otter—was so important. Those habits, including grooming, are a big deal in the wild.
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From Shedd’s website: “Keeping the pup’s thick fur clean, dry and fluffed is essential to her survival. Sea otters are the only marine mammals that aren’t wrapped in an insulating blanket of blubber. Instead, they have about 1 million hairs per square inch of skin, divided into an outer layer of thick guard hairs and an inner layer of dense, wooly underfur honeycombed with millions of tiny air pockets. The layers work together to keep water out and body heat in. If the fur becomes matted or fouled with pollutants such as oil, cold sea water penetrates to the otter’s skin and the animal can quickly succumb to hypothermia.
I had never heard about Toola the Sea Otter before today, but I'm not going to pass up an opportunity for a headline like this. Also, her story turns out to be incredibly inspiring. Seriously, this otter was a bit of human-interpretable speech away from being a guest on Oprah.
That's because Toola was a foster mother. THE foster mother, really, at least as far as the otter world goes. She was the first otter, living in captivity, to serve as a foster for orphaned baby otters. Along the way, she helped change the way aquariums all over the world approach the rehabilitation of injured otters, and how those otters are reintroduced to the wild.
NPR is calling Toola an "otter pioneer". You can read the full obituary on that site.
Via Brian Switek
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Meet Brookesia micra, one of four newly identified species of ultra-small chameleons that live in Madagascar.
Never let it be said that reptiles can't be totally cute.
Submitterated by Dr. Sideshow and lecti. Read the rest
Things I did not know before viewing this adorable video shot by Surrey Wildlife Trust Mammal Project Officer Dave Williams:
1) The dormouse, a little rodent species you'll find in Britain, hibernate in the winter in nests they hide on the ground.
2) The dormouse spends up to one-third of its life in hibernation, and typically begin that winter "sleep" when the first frost hits, and their food sources are gone.
3) They lose about a quarter of their body weight during hibernation.
4) The word "dormouse" comes from the Anglo-Norman dormeus, which means "sleepy (one)"
You can donate to support the Surrey Wildlife Trust's nature conservation work here.
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They're ripping each other to shreds! Oh the humanity!
Thanks for Submitterating, hombrelobo! [Video Link] Read the rest
For no real reason, here is a picture of a cute hedgehog.
Image: Acorn is displeased after a bath., a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from justinandelise's photostream
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The science of adorable kitties is actually really fascinating, and more than a bit weird, says Marc Abrams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research and the man behind the Ig Nobel prizes. In an article at The Guardian, he writes about some great moments in cat physics research.
In 1969, TR Kane and MP Scher of Stanford University, in California, published a monograph called A Dynamical Explanation of the Falling Cat Phenomenon. It remains one of the few studies about cats ever published in the International Journal of Solids and Structures.
Kane and Scher neither lifted nor dropped a single cat. Instead, they created a mathematical abstraction of a cat: two imaginary cylinder-like chunks, joined at a single point so the parts could (as with a feline spine) bend, but not twist. When they used a computer to plot the theoretical bendings of this theoretical falling chunky-cat, the motions resembled what they saw in old photographs of an actual falling cat. They conclude that their theory "explains the phenomenon under consideration".
Via The Modern Scientist
Image: I Can Has Cheezeburger, via Lirpa Perdida
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[Video Link: "Baby Monkey (Going Backwards On A Pig) Art Show!!!"]
Boing Boing pal Andrea James says,
It seems that the video you posted on Boing Boing of the baby monkey riding a baby pig backwards has inspired a lot of fan art, including a lot of variants with baby monkeys on unicorns... now set to music by Parry Gripp.
What's this? Someone done gamified it?
Here's the original below [Video Link].
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