Category: animals

Why Do Cats Do That? (Vol.4)

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Happy #Caturday Tumblr! For the next several Saturdays, we’ll be trying to help you understand what’s up with your house cat.

In the wild, cats needed sharp claws for climbing, hunting and self-defense.  

Sharpening their claws on nearby surfaces kept them conditioned and ready, helped stretch their back and leg muscles, and relieved some stress too.  

So, it’s not that your house cat hates your couch, chair, ottoman, pillows, curtains and everything thing else you put in her environment. She’s ripping these things to shreds and keeping her claws in tip top shape because this is exactly what her ancestors did in order to survive.

Curious about cats? Check in with us every Saturday for some more #catfacts!

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why do cats act so weird? – Tony Buffington

Animation by Chintis Lundgren

It’s Cat Day, Tumblr! Wanna play ‘Why’s my cat so weird??’ with us?

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why do cats act so weird? – Tony Buffington

Animation by Chintis Lundgren

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The 200 or so species of octopuses are mollusks belonging to the order Cephalopoda, Greek for ‘head-feet’. Those heads contain impressively large brains, with a brain to body ratio similar to that of other intelligent animals, and a complex nervous system with about as many neurons as that of a dog.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why the octopus brain is so extraordinary – Cláudio L. Guerra

Animation by Cinematic

Happy World Octopus Day!

Learn more about these fascinating creatures, and then you’ll want to celebrate them….every day!!

12 Amazing Facts About Elephants

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In honor of World Elephant Day, we present you with 12 little known facts about one of our favorite creatures…in GIFs, of course.

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1. Elephants know every member of their herd and are able to recognize up to 30 companions by sight or smell. 

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2. They can remember and distinguish particular cues that signal danger and can recall locations long after their last visit.

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3. An elephant’s memory is not limited to its herd, nor is it limited to its species. In one instance, two circus elephants that performed together rejoiced when crossing paths 23 years later. Elephants have also recognized humans that they once bonded with after decades apart. 4. 

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4. The elephant boasts the largest brain of any land mammal as well as an impressive encephalization quotient (the size of the animal’s brain relative to its body size). The elephant’s EQ is nearly as high as a chimpanzee’s.

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5. The elephant brain is remarkably similar to the human brain, with as many neurons and synapses, as well as a highly developed hippocampus and cerebral cortex.

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6. Elephants are one of the few non-human animals to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

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7. Elephants are creative problem solvers. 

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8. Don’t try to outsmart an elephant! They have an understanding of basic arithmetic and can even keep track of relative quantities.

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9. Elephants communicate using everything from body signals to infrared rumbles that can be heard from kilometers away. Their understanding of syntax suggests that they have their own language and grammar. 

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10. Elephants can recognize 12 distinct tones of music and recreate melodies.

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11. Elephants are the only non-human animals to mourn their dead, performing burial rituals and returning to visit graves. 

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12. Elephants are one of the few species who can recognize themselves in the mirror.

Given what we now know about elephants, and what they continue to teach us about animal intelligence, it is more important than ever to make sure that these magnificent creatures do not vanish.

Check out some more fun elephant facts here and be sure to watch the TED-Ed Lesson Why elephants never forget – Alex Gendler

Animation by the ever-talented Avi Ofer

It’s Elephant Appreciation Day! We are FULL of reasons to appreciate these majestic creatures – here are 12 of those reasons.

Check out some more fun elephant facts here and be sure to watch the TED-Ed Lesson Why elephants never forget – Alex Gendler

Animation by the ever-talented Avi Ofer

Despite an increase in awareness and advocacy across the globe, elephants are still a highly vulnerable population. Consider adopting an elephant or donating to one of many organizations that work to conserve elephant populations! <3

Poison dart frogs have evolved a resistance to…

Poison dart frogs have evolved a resistance to their own toxins. These tiny animals defend themselves using hundreds of bitter-tasting compounds called alkaloids that they accumulate from consuming small arthropods like mites and ants. One of their most potent alkaloids is the chemical epibatidine, which binds to the same receptors in the brain as nicotine but is at least ten times stronger. 

An amount barely heavier than a grain of sugar would kill you. So what prevents poison frogs from poisoning themselves? Think of the molecular target of a neurotoxic alkaloid as a lock, and the alkaloid itself as the key. When the toxic key slides into the lock, it sets off a cascade of chemical and electrical signals that can cause paralysis, unconsciousness, and eventually death. But if you change the shape of the lock, the key can’t fit. For poison dart frogs and many other animals with neurotoxic defenses, a few genetic changes alter the structure of the alkaloid-binding site just enough to keep the neurotoxin from exerting its adverse effects.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why don’t poisonous animals poison themselves? – Rebecca D. Tarvin

Animation by Giulia Martinelli

What? You thought we ran out of cannibalism st…

What? You thought we ran out of cannibalism stories? Nah….

Many fish indiscriminately cannibalize each other during foraging behavior. Fish produce large numbers of tiny young, and adults exhibit about as much individual recognition of their offspring as humans do for a handful of raisins. Fish eggs, larvae, and juveniles are easily available, nutrient-rich meals, and with thousands of eggs in a clutch, plenty are still available to hatch after the adults have snacked. 

Baby fish aren’t just at risk of being cannibalized by adults—siblings eat each other too.

For more cannibalistic creatures, check out the TED-Ed Lesson Cannibalism in the animal kingdom – Bill Schutt

Animation by Compote Collective

Are naked mole rats the strangest mammals?

What mammal has the social life of an insect, the cold-bloodedness of a reptile, and the metabolism of a plant? 

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Bald and buck-toothed, naked mole rats may not be pretty, but they’re extraordinary. With a lifespan of 30 years, their peculiar traits have evolved over millions of years to make them uniquely suited to survive harsh conditions, especially long periods without oxygen. 

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In the deserts of East Africa, naked mole rats feed on root vegetables. They dig for the roots with teeth that can move independently, like chopsticks. 

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But even with these special teeth, a single naked mole rat doesn’t stand a chance of finding enough food; the roots are large and nutritious, but scattered far and wide. A large workforce has a much better chance so naked mole rats live in colonies. 

Similar to ants, bees, and termites, they build giant nests. Housing up to 300 mole rats, these colonies feature complex underground tunnel systems, nest chambers, and community bathrooms. Also like insects, naked mole rats have a rigid social structure. 

The dominant female, the queen, and two to three males that she chooses, are the only naked mole rats in the colony who have babies. All the other naked mole rats, male and female, are either soldiers, who defend the colony from possible invaders, or workers. Teams of workers are dispatched to hunt for roots, and their harvest feeds the whole colony.

Living in a colony helps naked mole rats find enough food, but when so many animals live in the same underground space, oxygen quickly runs out. Naked mole rats can thrive in low oxygen in part because they’ve abandoned one of the body functions that requires the most oxygen: thermoregulation. Naked mole rats are the only mammals whose body temperature fluctuates with their environment, making them cold-blooded, like reptiles.

In response to a real oxygen emergency, naked mole rats enter a state of suspended animation. They stop moving, slow their breathing, and dramatically lower their heart rate. This greatly reduces the amount of energy, and therefore oxygen, they need. At the same time, they begin to metabolize fructose, like a plant. Fructose is a sugar that can be used to make energy without burning oxygen. Usually, mammals metabolize a different sugar called glucose that makes more energy than fructose, but glucose only works when oxygen’s available. Naked mole rats are, in fact, the only mammals known to have this ability.

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For more on these weird & cool creatures, check out the TED-Ed lesson Are naked mole rats the strangest mammals? – Thomas Park

Animation by Chintis Lundgren

Fun Freaky Fact Friday!

Fun Freaky Fact Friday!

Some male mammals, including bears and lions, will kill offspring sired by another. That’s because childless females become receptive to mating more quickly than if they were caring for a cub. 

Rather than waste nutritious meat, the males then eat the dead cubs.

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For more cannibalistic creatures, check out the TED-Ed Lesson Cannibalism in the animal kingdom – Bill Schutt

Animation by Compote Collective

teded: Sea turtles ultimately grow from the si…

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Sea turtles ultimately grow from the size of a dinner plate to that of a dinner table. In the case of the leatherback sea turtle, this can take up to a decade. Happy World Turtle Day!

From the TED-Ed Lesson The survival of the sea turtle – Scott Gass

Animation by Cinematic Sweden

What happens when an animal plays dead?

Imagine you’re being attacked by a ferocious predator. 

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With no chance of escape, you do what any courageous, self-respecting possum would do: curl into an immobile state called catatonia, stick out your tongue, drool, and ooze some foul-smelling liquid from your anal glands.

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Disgusted, your assailant loosens its grip, decides you’re not the dinner it was looking for, and departs. After 10 minutes, you resurrect and merrily saunter on.

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From lemurs to lizards, ants to amphibians, sharks to chickens, hundreds of animals “play dead” as a survival tactic. Nicknamed “playing possum” after its star performer, feigning death is also called ‘thanatosis’. That’s from Thanatos, the ancient Greek deity of death. But most scientists call it tonic immobility, or TI. How and why TI occurs depends on the species and situation.

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Most of the physiological mechanisms underlying these theatrics originate in the parasympathetic nervous system, better known for controlling cycles of resting and digesting. In possums, the parasympathetic nervous system causes their heart rates to drop by nearly half, respiration by a third, and body temperatures by more than half a degree Celsius for up to an hour.

But maintaining a death ruse isn’t easy. The performers are constantly gauging their surroundings for cues on when it’s safe to rise. So TI can work to an animal’s advantage, unless someone else knows its secret. Would you believe that California orcas can flip over young great white sharks, inducing TI for so long the immobilized sharks, who must move to respire, essentially suffocate.

For more surprising stories of animal fake-outs, check out the TED-Ed Lesson The surprising reasons animals play dead – Tierney Thys

Animation by Stretch Films

Cannibalism in the animal kingdom

In the deserts of the American Southwest, spadefoot toad tadpoles hatch in tiny oases. Until they develop into toadlets, they can’t survive outside of water, but these ponds are transient and quickly evaporate. 

The tadpoles are in a race against the clock to grow up before their nurseries disappear. So nearly overnight, some of the brood explode in size. 

They use their jack-o-lantern teeth and huge jaw muscles to devour their smaller pond mates. Nourished by this extra fuel, they develop quicker, leaving the pond before it can dry out. 

The spadefoot toad is far from the only animal to eat members of its own species as a normal part of its life cycle. All of these animals do, too. 

If that surprises you, you’re in good company. Until recently, scientists thought cannibalism was a rare response to starvation or other extreme stress. Well-known cannibals, like the praying mantis and black widow spider, were considered bizarre exceptions. But now, we know they more or less represent the rule.

For more cannibalistic creatures, check out the TED-Ed Lesson Cannibalism in the animal kingdom – Bill Schutt

Animation by Compote Collective