Cute bear cubs play-fight at South Dakota wildlife park

These two little bear cubs are play-fighting, but they look beary serious. Read the rest

King Penguin poop is rich in laughing gas

The poop of King Penguins releases high levels of nitrous oxide, aka laughing gas. An international team of researchers from China, Denmark, and the UK were studying how the retreat of glaciers and penguins activity impact soil greenhouse gases on South Georgia, an island north of Antarctica. They observed that the penguin guano is rich in nitrogen that, when it interacts with bacteria in the soil, is converted into nitrous oxide. From CNN:

"It is truly intense," said Bo Elberling, an author of the study. He noted it's not an insignificant amount, either -- the emissions measure about 100 times more than a recently fertilized Danish field. There was enough emitted nitrous, in fact, that one researcher went "completely cuckoo," while "nosing about in guano for several hours," Elberling said...

"The small nitrous oxide cylinders that you see lying in and floating around Copenhagen are no match for this heavy dose, which results from a combination of nitrous oxide with hydrogen sulphide and other gases," he added, referring to the containers designed for whipped cream but often used as a recreational drug.

"Combined effects of glacial retreat and penguin activity on soil greenhouse gas fluxes on South Georgia, sub-Antarctica" (Science of the Total Environment)

image: transformation of original photo by Andrew Shiva (CC BY-SA 4.0) Read the rest

Dogs will obey commands from social robots

Will dogs obey commands from robots? In IEEE Spectrum, Evan Ackerman writes that "Yale University’s Social Robotics Lab led by Brian Scassellati presented a paper taking the first step towards determining whether dogs, which are incredibly good at understanding social behaviors in humans, see human-ish robots as agents—or more specifically, whether dogs see robots more like humans (which they obey), or more like speaker systems (which they don’t)."

Spoiler: The dogs do respond to the robot's commands much more frequently than they obey the voice from the speaker system, even if the experiment appeared to baffle the animals.

From IEEE Spectrum:

We asked [lead researcher Meiyin] Qin whether she thought it would make a difference if the robot was more or less humanoid, how much of a face it had, whether it smelled like anything, and other traits that dogs might associate with human-ness. “Since dogs are very sensitive to human social cues, the robot being a humanoid or not may make a difference,” Qin says. “However, if a non-humanoid robot behaved like an agent (e.g., behaved like a dog, or exhibit any social behaviors), dogs may also respond in a social manner.”

She explained that, in terms of whether the robot has eyes or not, or smells like a person, these factors could also impact how dogs respond to the robot. But Qin adds that the researchers need further evidence to give a more affirmative answer. “Whether the robot moves or not could affect the dogs differently,” she says.

Read the rest

Watch a praying mantis enjoy a delicious murder hornet

As we face an invasion of murder hornets, we can look to our alien protectors, the praying mantis, to save us.

Read the rest

Why do otters juggle?

Why do otters juggle? It sounds like the opening to a joke, but many otters are frequently seen shifting pebbles back and forth between their hands, an activity referred to by scientists as "juggling." While animal behaviorists have thought that the juggling is a way for the animals to practice pulling meat from crustaceans and mollusks, a task that requires fine motor skills and coordination. However, researcher Mari-Lisa Allison and colleagues from the University of Exeter found that otters who frequently juggled didn't exhibit any better food-picking skills. Turns out they're probably just doing it because it's fun. From Science News:

The possible disconnect between play and real-life skills doesn’t startle Gordon Burghardt of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Over decades, he has analyzed play behavior, refining definitions and even reporting play in such unexpected animals as a turtle romping with a basketball in a zoo. The thinking about the evolution of play has by now expanded beyond simple notions of the benefits of instinctive practice, he says[...]

Otters that juggle may be doing so “for pleasure, out of boredom, or both,” he says.

"The drivers and functions of rock juggling in otters" (Royal Society Open Science) Read the rest

Watch this sleepy mama bear and cub nap in this guy's backyard

That is one very large furry baby. Read the rest

Outdoor pet cats kill more animals than wild cats do in the same size area

Wild cats certainly kill many more other animals than outdoor pet cats. After all, they have to hunt for their food instead of just bug their human companions. But a new study by North Carolina State University zoologists and their colleagues revealed that outdoor pet cats kill between two and ten times as many animals as wild cats in the same size area. Apparently, every year North American pet cats with outside access kill between ten and thirty billion birds and mammals. But according to the new data gleaned from GPS cat collars, our feline friends generally don't venture further than 100 meters away from their home. Still, their hunting can be a real problem when it comes to conservation. From Scientific American:

[...]In some places, including California, Florida, Australia, and elsewhere, cats were an important threat to some species that are already in trouble.

"On one hand, it’s kind of good news that the cats aren't going out further abroad, but it’s bad news that they're quite likely to have an impact on animals they share space with near their houses," [says North Carolina State University zoologist Roland Kays.]

With so much killing concentrated around people's houses, the positive impacts of urban wildlife—like the beauty of songbirds, or the way small lizards can control insect pests—could get washed away in precisely the areas where those benefits are most appreciated.

image credit: Stiopa (CC BY-SA 4.0) Read the rest

Good dog plays flute

“Zooopah.” 

A guy and his German Shepherd, just playing the flute, like you do. Read the rest

The evolutionary reason why dogs walk in circles before lying down

Why do dogs often walk in circles before lying down for bed? Turns out, it's a survival trait inherited from their evolutionary ancestor the wolf. Read the rest

Dog does not want bath

Phil the enormous malamute hasn't taken a bath in months, is increasingly in need of a bath, and has no intention whatsoever of having a bath.

SPOILER: Ultimately, Phil is bathed. Phil's vengeance begins at exactly 14:00. Read the rest

In NY, 2 cats are infected with coronavirus - first U.S. pets to test positive, federal officials say

Two cats in New York are reported to have been infected with the novel coronavirus. Both had mild respiratory symptoms and are expected to make a full recovery. Read the rest

Look at all the places this cat shouldn't be

Note: Not actually a great idea to let your cat inside the dishwasher, please don't try this at home.

Places Oliver Shouldn't Be,” a delightful gallery of cat portraits by @lovethecapybara.

Oliver has a very lucky human who loves him, and these are some very funny photos of a cat who enjoys being inside cozy little boxy places around the house, or maybe just nestled into a stack of frying pans or whatever. Read the rest

Bear relaxes in swing

From the Orphaned Wildlife Center: "To help you pass the time in your quarantine, here is a bear (Jenny) in a swing, not caring about quarantine and being oh-so-zen. Namaste my friends." Read the rest

Meet Janus, the adorable two-faced baby goat

Janus is a darling goat born on April 5 at Nueske Farms in Wittenberg, Wisconsin. He was named after the Roman god with two faces for obvious reasons. Jocelyn Nuesks is posting updates about Janus on the farm's Facebook page. A vet examined Janus this week and apparently the kid is doing pretty well, all things considered.

"He's a normal goat," Nueske told Fox11 News. "We just have to help him. We try to help him as much as we can, and give him a break when he gets tired." Read the rest

Delightful clip of a pizza-loving groundhog

Pizza Rat has got nothing on this Philadelphia groundhog who casually walked up to a glass door and casually munched on a slice, apparently for more than an hour, as two dogs looked on with delight.

(6ABC) Read the rest

Russian driver encounters rare endangered Amur Tiger walking down the road (VIDEO)

I would have completely lost it. Read the rest

Coronavirus outbreak leads to beef production cuts at Cargill plant in Canada that supplies McDonald's patties

The plant is “built around efficiency,” keeping workers in close quarters and making it impossible to social distance, Cargill says

Smithfield Foods, Inc. recently closed a major pork processing plant in South Dakota, after workers were sickened with coronavirus in what has since become an outbreak hotspot.

Now, U.S.-owned Cargill is cutting production at one of Canada's biggest beef-packing plants, after several dozen Cargill meat processing workers there were confirmed ill with the new coronavirus. Read the rest

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