giz asks
Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails?

Cats are enigmatic little creatures. It’s hard to get a read on the species. Does your cat love you, or would it gladly stab you in your sleep, if only it had thumbs and a slightly larger brain? The cat never tells—it thrives on inscrutability. But it can’t help betraying certain signs of its inner life: it’s hard to play things totally cool when you have a large, ungainly tail sticking out of your back, swishing this way and that for no immediately clear reason. Do these movements actually mean anything? Or is this just the species’ way of distracting us from whatever it is they’re really feeling? Read More >>

science
What Scientists Saw When They Put a Crocodile in an MRI Scanner and Played Classical Music

Sounds weird—and even a bit dangerous—but the experiment is revealing new insights into the evolution of brains and how mammals and birds acquired the capacity to comprehend complex sounds. Read More >>

biology
New Species of ‘Exploding Ant’ Discovered in Borneo

When confronted by an enemy, Southeast Asian “exploding ants” do exactly what their name implies: they explode. Ignored for decades, researchers have completed a detailed survey of these enigmatic ants, discovering over a dozen species that fit into this group, including one that’s completely new to science. Read More >>

biology
Swallowed Bombardier Beetles Spew Hot Chemicals From Their Butts to Make Predators Barf

These crafty bombardier beetles are able to escape after being swallowed by toads, which they do by ejecting hot, noxious chemicals that forces the predator to barf. It ain’t pretty, but it works. Read More >>

science
For Fish Penises, Bigger Isn’t Always Better

When it comes to reproduction, most fish are external fertilisers, crop dusting eggs in a cloud of sperm. But swordtails (Xiphophorus) aren’t like most fish. These fish fertilise eggs internally and “give birth” to live young. To help this whole operation, males have evolved external genitalia for transferring sperm—a tool not typical among fish. Naturally, the next question would be—for swordtails at least—is bigger better? After all, they went through all the trouble of evolving penises in the first place. New research on the matter of female swordtail preferences towards their males’ members provides an answer: not necessarily. Yes, size is important, but so is how the males use it—and only when females are healthy enough to be in a discerning position. Read More >>

science
Dozens of Octopuses Crawl Ashore Along Welsh Coast: ‘It Was a Bit Like an End of Days Scenario’

For three consecutive nights, troves of octopuses have been seen walking out of the sea and stranding themselves along several beaches in Wales. Experts say the unusual behaviour may have something to do with recent storms that swept through the region. Read More >>

animals
When Male Ducks Hang Out Together Their Penises Get Longer

Male ducks have some of the weirdest junk in nature—a ludicrously long, corkscrew-shaped member that evolved on account of an ongoing battle of the sexes. New research shows that the social environment in which the male duck finds himself in has a pronounced effect on the length of his penis, a finding that may finally put the “size matters” debate to rest. For ducks. Read More >>

science
How the Dragonfly’s Surprisingly Complex Brain Makes it a Deadly Hunter

Like a baseball player running to make a catch, dragonflies are also capable of predicting the trajectory of a moving object, typically its next meal. New research is revealing the mechanisms behind this complex cognitive task, which was once thought to be exclusive to mammals. It’s hoped that these insights will lead to innovations in robot vision. Read More >>

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Brutal Drone Footage Shows a Pod of Orcas Attacking a Minke Whale

As apex predators, orcas can prey on whichever marine animal they choose—large or small. During a recent expedition off the coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula, scientists captured rare footage of orcas attacking a 40-foot-long minke whale. Read More >>

animals
Rotting Wildebeest Carcasses Are a Force of Nature in the Serengeti

Each year, thousands of wildebeest drown while making their annual migration through the Serengeti. New research shows how the resulting two million pounds of rotting flesh performs a crucial role in maintaining the region’s vibrant ecosystem. Read More >>

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Watching a Banana Slug Munch a Bunch of Salad Greens Will Soothe Your Soul

Banana slugs are slow. Like, ridiculously slow. Watching them eat is tantamount to watching paint dry, which is why Canadian photographer R. Jeanette Martin wisely set her phone to record in timelapse mode when she encountered a particularly hungry mollusc in her garden. Read More >>

animals
Pigeons Are Misunderstood Mermaids

Most city dwellers would agree that pigeons are sentient rubbish. They eat pizza off the ground and defecate with abandon, sometimes on pedestrians’ heads. Worst of all, they don’t seem terribly bothered by humans—they’ll flap their filthy wings in our faces and move on as if nothing happened. But yesterday just so happened to be Pigeon Appreciation Day (yes, really) so we’re giving them a little extra love. Like a diamond in the rough—or the chip at the bottom of the bin—it’s entirely possible these creatures have some kind of hidden goodness. Maybe. Read More >>

science
Pufferfish Have Some Very Intricate Sex Rituals

Many animals’ mating rituals can be pretty elaborate, and some are borderline disturbing. For pufferfish, the lead up is so stupidly intricate that it’s exhausting and just kind of sad. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be appreciated, so today, we’re celebrating the indefatigable pufferfish and its bizarre sexual habits. Read More >>

science
Baby Humpback Whales Whisper to Their Moms Because the Ocean Is Terrifying

The ocean is dark and full of terrors — including hungry orcas, and horny men looking to bang your mum, if you’re a baby humpback whale. And so, you keep your voice to a whisper to avoid these predatory eavesdroppers. Read More >>