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10 Jul

410-Million-Year-Old Arachnid Brought Back to Life in Extraordinary New Video

A 410-million-year-old relative of modern-day spiders crawls again in a remarkable new video from scientists at The University of Manchester and Berlin's Museum für Naturkunde.

The team used fossils to recreate the ancient arachnid's movements on open-source software; the creature is now extinct but "300 to 400 million years ago, seem to have been more widespread than spiders," palaeontologist Dr. Russell Garwood said in a statement.

Watch the arachnid in action:

If this arachnid were still living today, might it face off with the ogre-faced spider? We can only speculate...

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7 Jul

Chimpanzees and Humans Have Something Big in Common: We Both Hunt and Eat Meat

Humans share over 90 percent of our DNA with chimpanzees and we share something else too: chimps and humans are the only "higher primates" that hunt and eat meat.

Mutant Planet returns tonight at 10/9c on Science Channel with a look at the unique creatures that call Africa home. The show opens by exploring the predator-prey relationship between red colobus monkeys and chimpanzees. Chimps love eating fruit and plants but, sometimes, they also have a taste for meat -- and red colobus are their favorite prey.

Recent research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that adult male chimpanzees regularly eat meat, although the bulk of the chimp diet comes from plants.

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16 May

On Endangered Species Day, Here's An Elephant Playing A Harmonica

In honor of Endangered Species Day -- and simply because it's a Friday -- here's a video of Shanthi, an Asian elephant living at Smithsonian's National Zoo, playing the harmonica. She truly has some elephant-sized pipes!

According to the World Wildlife Fund, endangered Asian elephants are classified as a "priority species," with between 25,600 and 32,750 animals living in the wild.

The zoo notes that Shanthi is not being prompted to play but instead blows into the instrument using her own free will.

"We offer the elephants opportunities to do the same things that they would do in the wild... only they get to do them here for pleasure, almost, and in the wild they have to do them to survive," an elephant keeper says in the video.

Are elephants self-aware?

See more talented animals and other cool science videos on SCI2.

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15 Feb

Happy World Pangolin Day!

We're as happy as a pangolin in mud to wish you a very happy World Pangolin Day.

Not familiar with this scaly cutie? Allow us to introduce you.

A pangolin is a nocturnal mammal found in Africa and Asia. Sometimes called "scaly anteaters," pangolins mostly eat ants and termites, and are endangered at least in part because some cultures believe pangolins have magical powers:

"When mixed with bark from certain trees, the scales are thought to neutralize witchcraft and evil spirits. If buried near a man’s door, they are said to give an interested woman power over him. Sometimes the scales are burned to keep lions and other wild animals away. In some areas, pangolins are sacrificed for rainmaking ceremonies; in other areas, they are hunted for meat."

While some pangolins dig burrows several feet under the ground, we're pretty sure the little guy in the above video is just enjoying splashing in the mud as much we did as kids. Sometimes, there's no scientific reason behind what we do!

Want to see a pangolin in person? Visit San Diego Zoo to hang out with Baba the tree pangolin.

For something a little less cute and cuddly, check out the preserved pangolin presented to the team from Oddities:

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7 Jan

This Is Why It Takes Forever For Fido To Find The Perfect Place To Poop

You know how annoying it is when your dog has to scratch, sniff and turn in circles to find the perfect place to do his business? There may actually be some science behind the seemingly random movements.

A new study published in the journal Sci Channel Dog Comic 1_Final.jpg found that dogs "preferred to excrete with the body being aligned along the North–south axis."

In other words, your pup has a butt compass. And listening to that internal compass is more than just a preference, according to the study: "Our analysis of the raw data (not shown here) indicates that dogs not only prefer N-S direction, but at the same time they also avoid E-W direction."

The scientists observed 70 dogs of 37 breeds during a two-year period during walks in open fields, "and routes of walks were routinely changed to exclude or limit pseudoreplications which would arise when dogs are defecating or urinating at just a few places within their kennel or house yard."

This is only true when the Earth's magnetic field is calm -- about 20 percent of daylight hours, the researchers said.

Why are dogs so sensitive to the Earth's magnetic field lines?

"We don't know yet," study coauthor Dr. Sabine Begall told HuffPost Science. "We can only speculate. Since it is the polarity that has an effect on the alignment direction, it could be that the dogs somehow calibrate their compass or read their 'mental map' during the walks."

Take a compass next time you walk your dog and let us know what you discover! Do you believe it?

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Illustration by Cuddles and Rage

8 Jan

Giant Squid Caught on Camera at 900 Meters Deep

Giant-squid-253x150For the first time ever, the legendary giant squid was filmed in its natural habitat at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. See amazing footage on Discovery Channel's "Monster Squid: The Giant Is Real" on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 8/7c as the season finale of Curiosity.

Scientists worked with broadcasters at Discovery and Japanese-based NHK to seek out the creature at depths of up to 900m using special submersibles in hopes of catching the creature on film.

According to a story from Discovery News:

After around 100 missions, during which they spent 400 hours in the cramped submarine, the three-man crew tracked the creature from a spot some 15 kilometers (nine miles) east of Chichi island in the north Pacific Ocean.

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17 Aug

Dark Matters: Reviving the Bat-Bomb?

Big Eared Townsend FledermausAnd no, I'm not talking about getting George Clooney to don a cape and mask again to remake the exquisitely awful 1997 flick Batman and Robin. I'm referring to an this weekend's episode of Dark Matters, which deals with what has to be one of the most bizarre weapons systems ever developed by the U.S. Military — kamakaze bats armed with tiny canisters of napalm, whom planners envisioned unleashing against Japanese cities during World War II.

The episode airs Saturday, August 18 at 10PM e/p!

As Jack Couffer detailed in his 1992 nonfiction book Bat Bomb: World War II's Other Secret Weapon, the concept originally was dreamed up on December 7, 1941 by Dr. Lytle S. Adams, a 60-year-old dentist who was driving home from a vacation at Carlsbad Caverns when he heard the radio reports about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Like many other Americans, Adams felt the urge to retaliate against the Japanese. He thought back to a vision that had made a powerful impression upon him in the cavern — millions of bats suddenly taking flight — and suddenly had an inspiration.

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26 Jul

Let's Talk to the Animals

Author Patrick J. Kiger with his dog MadgeEver wonder what your dog is thinking? Wish that he or she could tell you? Don't you wish there was some sort of gadget that made it possible to translate your pooch's thoughts into speech, and to make your response understandable to him or her?

I know, me too. I've got three dogs: a diminutive mixed-breed terrier with Napoleonic tendencies; a Puggle who seems to have the canine version of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; and a basset hound-pit bull mix with soulful eyes and a fear of loud mechanical noises.

Sometimes I can't help but speculate on what their perspective on our world is from 18-24 inches off the ground. They display at least a limited understanding of human speech (the words "dinner" and "walk" seem to particularly resonate). But I'm at a loss to get across more complex concepts, such as the importance of not encircling me on walks and wrapping their leashes around my legs as if I was a maypole. And conversely, they are unable to communicate back to me their nuanced views on subjects — for example, whether they'd enjoy riding on the roof of our Prius on our next vacation trip, as Seamus, Mitt Romney's Irish setter, supposedly did.

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