Bites at Animal Planet

Weird

28 Feb

Should We Watch Weathermen or Animals for Accurate Predictions of Weather?

Animal-instinct-weather-forecasters-BLOG-500w

"There will be a 90% chance of snow this evening, so gear up for a bad one, people." 

"Thank you, John. Now Rebecca, back to you with sports." 

We've all had that day, or several days, after watching the morning news and bracing for a storm or looking forward to a beautiful day, only to find that the weatherman was wrong. But we always hear stories of animals seeking safety and gearing up for weather changes before anything occurs. So, should we just watch the animals at the zoo? The pets in our home? Or the furry, flighty creatures in our backyards? Does animal instinct predict the weather better than meteorologists can? 

Well, yes and no. 

Animals have the ability to sense things we humans can't: changes in air and water pressure and high and low frequency sound vibrations, main indicators of weather change. 

For example, when a hurricane is brewing, sharks don't know what's happening, but they do know that the hydrostatic (water) pressure is changing, so they seek safety in deeper waters, Jessika Toothman from HowStuffWorks reports.

And elephants can sense earthquakes, or well, they can't sense earthquakes, but they can sense the changes in vibrations beneath their feet triggered from the shock waves produced from its epicenter. These unusual vibrations let them know something is up and they flee to safety. 

Continue reading >

23 Feb

Meet the Bobbit Worm and Get Ready for Nightmares

Bobbit Worm - Dinner time from liquidguru on Vimeo.

There are some creatures that are hard to believe aren't CGI creations from a sci-fi horror film. The bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois) is one of them.

Bobbit worms are giant invertebrates that lie in wait under the sand on the sea floor for an unsuspecting victim to swim or crawl too close. When that happens, they launch themselves upwards at speeds almost too fast for the human eye to see, grab their victim, and drag it to its death under the sand.

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Photo by Rickard Zerpe via Flickr Creative Commons.

Bobbit worms' terrifying mouth parts look like an unholy cross between the mouth of a Predator from the Schwarzeneggar movie and a sarlaac from Star Wars (although fortunately, they don't hunt humans for sport or take thousands of years to digest their prey).

They can grow to lengths of over 9 feet. They are venomous. They got their common name from the fact that because they attack their prey with such speed and force they often cut the fish in half, similar to a what abused wife Lorena Bobbitt did to her husband's man-parts. 

Here's another video showing the full body of a bobbit worm that was discovered lurking in an aquarium tank to add to the nightmare-fuel.

 

 Protect Wildlife with the National Wildlife Federation.

 

19 Feb

Odd Couple of the Day: Goat and Dog

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 1.35.17 PM

BFFs: Goat and Dog

This video went viral on social media, showing a white German Shepherd looking over and cuddling with a family's newborn baby Pygmy goat, a breed of miniature domestic goat. According to her owner, she took care of the adorable goat as if it were one of her puppies! Look at that face!

Watch videos of 'Animals In Love' on AnimalPlanet.com!

Watch another adorable goat and puppy in love on Too Cute!

12 Feb

Mysteries [Kind of] Explained: Why Cats Love Boxes

Etta-in-a-box
Tabby cat Etta: Resident Box-Welcoming Committee. (Photo by Jodi Westrick)

Any day I get a delivery from Amazon (or any site that sends shipments in boxes, really) is the best day in the eyes of my cats - particularly for my tabby Etta. As soon as I empty the contents and place the box on the floor, Etta makes her way to it and curls up for a nap.

What is it about boxes that's so appealing to our feline friends? In Wired's "What's Up With That" series, they explore several theories attempting to explain this cat behavior. So why do cats love boxes?

Here are the theories:

1) Boxes provide security.

According to the article, ethologist Claudia Vinke of Utrecht University in the Netherlands has been studying the stress levels of shelter cats. In particular, she observed newly-arrived cats to Dutch shelters - a group of which was provided with boxes, and another group that was not.

Can you guess what happened?

Turns out, the cats with access to boxes were much less stressed out, were more willing to interact with humans, and got used to their new surroundings faster. So, it seems like those boxes your cat(s) love could be comforting spots for them.

Continue reading >

21 Jan

Meet Mini-Moby the White Porpoise

Mini Moby 2

Meet Mini-Moby the white harbor porpoise. Named after Moby Dick, the famous fictional white whale from the Herman Melvin book of the same name, Mini-Moby is an exceptional animal in more ways than one.

First, the condition that causes his white coloration is very rare. Mini-Moby is leucistic. Leucism is a genetic condition that causes an animal to lack pigmentation and appear white or mostly white (albinism is similar, but causes a total lack of pigmentation). Mini-Moby is mostly white with some darker coloration on his fins. Harbor porpoises are normally a gray color.

Second, harbor porpoises are special because they have made a remarkable comeback in the last few years in the San Francisco Bay, where they were absent for decades.  The return of the species is a notable wildlife recovery success story in these times where the news about wildlife populations is usually bad. Here's a great video about the recovery.

Here's an excerpt about the work biologists are doing to study these harbor porpoises, Mini-Moby in particular, from an upcoming book by my National Wildlife Federation colleague Beth Pratt-Bergstrom, NWF's California Director. NWF is partnering with and supporting Golden Gate Cetacean Research's work on harbor porpoises.  

Mini Moby 1“If it seems like making these connections from pattern identification would be an extremely time-consuming endeavor, then you are understanding the process. It requires an insane level of attention to detail. Sometime nature cuts the researchers a break with a very distinct looking animal. Take for instance, Mini-Moby. It’s a cetacean anyone can be trained to recognize. Mini-Moby is an albino porpoise first spotted in the Bay in 2011. He’s pretty hard to miss,” observes Bill, “he’s definitely the most recognizable porpoise in the Bay Area, if not the entire coast of California.” Almost entirely white, black accents decorate his dorsal fin and blowhole as if he donned the porpoise version of a tuxedo.

 
In the past 100 years, only a small number white porpoises have been documented worldwide, ranging in causes from true albinism to leucistic (reduced pigmentation) to hybridization with another animal. A GGCR paper, “First Record of Anomalously White Harbor Porpoises from the Pacific Ocean” characterized Mini-Moby’s condition as leucistic and also noted these animals appear to have a normal life span and despite their unique color don’t appear to be ostracized by their peers. Since Mini-Moby has proved social with other porpoises, he’s also employed as a natural marker for their research to track movements of his porpoise companions over time.

Continue reading >

6 Jan

Did Traffic Cameras Catch Glimpse of a Bigfoot Family?

Highway cameras caught something mysterious along the side of an Arizona highway.

Sasquatch

Courtesy: Arizona Department of Transportation Facebook page

The Arizona Department of Transportation posted the photos above on its Facebook page on Jan. 1 with the caption: “We might have spotted a family of sasquatches on SR 260 near Heber this afternoon. What do you think?“

The post has garnered more than 2,000 likes and 3,000 shares on Facebook. 

Finding Bigfoot

Catch Up On Finding Bigfoot Full Episodes!

 

25 Nov

First Footage of a Monster from the Deep

What's believed to be first ever footage of a live, female anglerfish swimming at extreme depths has been recorded by researchers with the Monterey Bay Research Institute.  

AnglerfishThis species of anglersfish is known as the black seadevil. These terrifying-looking fish live in the deep ocean where no light reaches. The females have an appendage on their head with a bioluminescent tip. The glowing tip lures in potential prey just like lure on the end of a fishing pole, hence the name "anglerfish."

No one knows why so many creatures from the deep look like horror movie monsters. Perhaps our image of monsters is influenced by the human species' deep instinctual fear of the dark, cold depths of the ocean where we could never survive. Luckily, anglerfish are harmless to people. 

Regardless of human impressions of them, anglerfish are a fascintating species, as this video proves.

Protect wildlife with the National Wildlife Federation.  

22 Oct

Meet the Hellbender

Just in time for Halloween, I introduce you to the hellbender.

No, it's not one of Satan's minions or a CGI monster. It's a type of salamander native to the streams and rivers of eastern North America.  Despite its demonic-sounding name, this spectacular amphibian is completely harmless to people. Yet the species is rapidly declining due to human activity such as deforestation, erosion and chemical runoff into our streams--which is the real horror story.

Watch this video put out by the Forest Service and partners about one of North America's most fascinating and little-known wild animals.

 

The Last Dragons - Protecting Appalachia's Hellbenders from Freshwaters Illustrated on Vimeo.

Here's a close up of the ancient beauty of the hellbender, an animal perfectly adapted to and camouflaged in its environment.

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Photo by Brian Gratwicke via Flickr Creative Commons. 

Save Appalachian streams and the hellbenders that live in them with National Wildlife Federation.

30 Sep

Meet the Carnivorous Kangaroo

Kangaroos are herbivores. Native to Australia, they've evolved to be grazers and browsers, feeding on vegetation much like deer in other parts of the world.

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Red Kangaroo. Photo by Mike Souza via Flickr Creative Commons.


When I stumbled on this footage of a young red kangaroo feeding on a seabird, I had to do a double-take. It sounds like something out of the plot of a bad horror movie, but apparently, there have been anecdotal reports of kangaroos eating meat. This seems to be the first time the behavior has been recorded.

Check it out:

No one really knows what might cause this unusual feeding behavior. It turns out that many herbivores have been documented feeding on meat, from cows to deer to elephants. 

It could be that this particular kangaroo was lacking some vital nutrient and developed a craving for meat that could supply it. It could be caused by some a mutation that drove this particular animal to go carnivorous. It's that kind of mutation that sometimes leads to entirely new species, if the mutation results in better survival and reproductive success for the animals that have it. I doubt it hunted the bird, but rather scavenged the carcass on the beach. Either way, it's pretty amazing to see this behavior captured on video. 

Nature never ceases to amaze!

Protect Wildlife with the National Wildlife Federation.  

6 Sep

Poop-Eating Pika Makes History

My friend and National Wildlife Federation colleague Beth Pratt-Bergstrom is a self-avowed pika lover. Pikas are small mammals that live in high-elevation cool mountains west of the Rocky Mountains in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico. They are very, very cute.

Even though they look like it, pikas are not rodents. They belong to the taxonomic order called Lagomorpha and are closely related to rabbits and hares. They feed on on grasses and other vegetation, and spend much of their time gathering and hoarding plants in their rocky burrows, which they feed on during the long winter. You can often see them with their furry little faces stuffed with a huge amont of vegetation, scurrying through the rocks.

Apparently, that's not all they collect. Beth snapped this picture of a pika with what looks like a poop pellet in its mouth. She thought it was a funny and odd photo (right on both counts) but there's more the story than that. 

  

Pika Poop
Photo by Beth Pratt-Bergstrom.

 

From Beth:

Wow! Just heard from top pika researcher and my hero Eric Beever and he said I made a pika discovery! "I think this photo is the first photographic evidence of pikas moving / consuming fecal pellets of marmots." My contribution to science involves poop! How fitting.

Marmots are large members of the squirrel family that share the pika's habitat. Perhaps there's still available nutrients in the marmot droppings, and in nature such resources rarely go to waste. Lagomorphs are known for their coprophagia (poop-eating), and pikas are no exception, but usually it's their own droppings that they feed upon. More study is required to figure out what's going on with pikas in this regard. Science is cool!

Continue reading >

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Welcome to the Bites @ Animal Planet, where you can connect with the people who bring Animal Planet to life. Find out what's in the works here at Animal Planet, share your feedback with the team and see what's getting our attention online and in the news.

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