TIME animals

Scientists Trace Back the First Sexual Act Ever, to Weird Ancient Fish

Ancient fish were the first to copulate. And according to a world renowned paleontologist, it looked a lot like square dancing

Scientists have discovered the origins of sex, and like anyone’s first time it sounds pretty awkward.

Now light some candles and let’s set the scene: The first act of copulation occurred in the nippy Scottish sea some 385 million years ago. The fornicators in question were a set of primitive jawed, bony fish aptly called Microbrachius dicki. The dirty details? Well, according to Australian paleontologist John Long, “With their arms interlocked, these fish looked more like they are square dancing the do-se-do rather than mating.”

Not only had scientists previously thought that the first sex act occurred on land at a later date, but Long says, “We didn’t expect these little suckers to have reproductive organs.”

But the M. Dicki were endowed, as is explained by Long and his colleagues in a paper that was published in Nature Monday. Although their genitalia are not described in romantic terms.

Long, a professor at Flinders University, explained to the BBC that the fish’s arms linked them together, “so the male can get this large L-shaped sexual organ into position to dock with the female’s genital plates, which are very rough like cheese graters. They act like Velcro, locking the male organ into position to transfer sperm.”

This is also the first species that displayed a different appearance between the male and female.

TIME animals

Dogs Can Be Pessimists, Too

Sad dog
Patricia Doyle—Getty Images

Dogs may seem happy-go-lucky, but according to a new study some pooches might actually be cynics

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

With their tongues out, tails wagging, and hearts full of seemingly unconditional love, it’s easy to assume man’s best friend is happy by nature. But a new study suggests that, just like their human counterparts, certain dogs may see their bowls half empty.

It seems some canines are born optimists, while others are pessimists, according to the research from Dr. Melissa Starling, a faculty member of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney.

(MORE: How to Make Positive Changes in Your Life)

To determine which dogs were happy-go-lucky and which were generally down in the dumps, the researchers set up a test: First, they taught the study animals to touch a target after hearing a tone associated with a more favorable lactose-free milk reward and refrain from touching the target after hearing a tone associated with plain water. Once the dogs learned the sound associations, researchers presented them with unfamiliar tones to see how they would respond.

(MORE: How to Look Good in Pictures)

Animals that did not respond to the tones were considered pessimists, while dogs that touched the target after hearing the unknown sounds were categorized as optimists, because they expected a favorable reward. Since optimistic canines hoped for a positive outcome, they’re more likely to take risks and try again—even if the initial result isn’t favorable.

Pessimistic dogs, on the other hand, are more cautious because they’re hardwired to expect a negative outcome. A darker disposition doesn’t necessarily mean those dogs are unhappy though—they’re just less willing to try new things, as failure can be distressing.

(MORE: 6 Office Wardrobe Malfunctions to Avoid)

The findings are particularly useful for determining which dogs may be better suited for certain service roles: “A pessimistic dog that avoids risks would be better as a guide dog while an optimistic, persistent dog would be more suited to detecting drugs or explosives,” Starling said in a statement.

(MORE: Banishing Life’s Little Annoyances)

“The remarkable power of this is the opportunity to essentially ask a dog ‘How are you feeling?’ and get an answer,” she said. “It could be used to monitor their welfare in any environment, to assess how effective enrichment activities might be in improving welfare, and pinpoint exactly what a dog finds emotionally distressing.”

(MORE: 5 Ways to Win People Over)

TIME animals

Stunning Photos Taken by Animals Equipped With Cameras

Captured by a dog, a cat, a cow, and a pair of pigs

lost-at-e-minor_logo

This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

Photographer Chris Keeney usually calls the shots for his images, but for his PetCam project, he took the unusual route of relegating the work of documenting everyday life according to 20 four-legged animals instead.

These include a Galloway cow from the Swiss Alps, a pair of miniature pot belly pig siblings from San Diego, and a tabby cat living in the Ore Mountains of Germany. For the series, he hung lightweight cameras on the animals’ collars and cowbells, with a shutter that went off at specified intervals of time ranging from split-seconds to many seconds.

One thing is for sure: looking at the world from the animals’ point of view, the world is really quite beautiful.

(via Feature Shoot)

TIME Television

John Oliver Mocks the Supreme Court’s Camera Ban by Dressing Up Dogs as Justices

Plus, he offers up some raw footage so you too can reenact your favorite Supreme Court cases

In the latest episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver criticized the Supreme Court’s refusal to allow cameras during oral arguments in the court chamber. The Court does release audio — but according to Oliver, this simply isn’t enough to get Americans as interested as they should be.

Oliver’s solution? Reenact SCOTUS activities with footage of cute animals instead of actual justices. The Last Week Tonight writers were inspired by the Internet’s beloved feline star Keyboard Cat, who paws away at a keyboard as terrible electronic music plays. “Think about it,” Oliver says. “If someone made you just listen to the audio of that, you would punch them repeatedly in the face. But the visual makes it irresistible. Why? Because a cat’s paws are doing things you wouldn’t expect them to do.”

After just a few seconds, Oliver proves this is a great idea. Scalia as a bulldog? Yes. The Notorious R.B.G. as a bespectacled chihuahua? Yes.

But wait — there’s more! Last Week Tonight put together a tool kit featuring 10 minutes of raw footage so we can all reenact our favorite Supreme Court cases. One guy already did a great job with Florida v. Harris:

Okay, everybody else. Get to work.

 

TIME movies

Leo DiCaprio Teams With Netflix on Endangered Gorillas Documentary

8th Annual Clinton Global Citizen Awards - Arrivals
Leonardo Dicaprio at the 8th Annual Clinton Global Citizen Awards at Sheraton Times Square on Sept. 21, 2014 in New York. Michael Loccisano—Getty Images

Virunga hits Netflix and select theaters on Nov. 7

Leonardo DiCaprio is coming to Netflix — but not in the way you might expect.

The actor is teaming up with the streaming giant to release Virunga, a documentary directed by Orlando von Einsiedel that takes a look at gorilla preservation in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The movie follows a team of park rangers, one of whom is a former child soldier, as they try to protect endangered mountain gorillas from poachers.

The movie, executive produced by DiCaprio, will hit Netflix and theaters in Los Angeles and New York City on Nov. 7.

“Leo intuitively understands that there is nothing like the power of film to reach people’s hearts and minds,” Ted Sarandos, Neflix’s chief content officer, said in a statement. “With Virunga, we’ll work with Leo to introduce viewers around the world to an incredible, gripping story that will have audiences guessing right up until the final act.”

[THR]

TIME animals

Stop What You’re Doing And Watch This Live Rescue Mission of a Baby Bear

This is a developing story

You need to stop what you’re doing and watch this live-streaming video of a small baby bear who escaped from a dumpster in Pasadena, Calif. and is now being pursued—along with its mother—by animal rescue officers, and a helicopter news crew:

You’re welcome.

TIME animals

Meet the Lumbering, Quarter-Ton, Extinct Kangaroo

Don't call me Joey: Not a kangaroo—but not not one either.
Don't call me Joey: Not a kangaroo—but not not one either. Nobu Tamura—Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes the most fascinating animals are the ones that are no longer with us. The oddly named sthenurine is no exception.

Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, kangaroos gotta hop—unless you’re talking about the eight-foot-tall, quarter-ton, kangaroos known as sthenurines (and no, that is not a typo). These distant cousins of modern red and gray kangaroos went extinct about 30,000 years ago, and their fossils weren’t discovered until the 1800s. When the species at last came to light, it was not easy to take seriously, resembling nothing so much as cartoon versions of its modern cousins. “They were short faced,” says Brown University biologist Christine Janis, “not long-faced like modern kangaroos, and the smallest of them were as big as the largest modern kangaroos. It wasn’t clear,” she adds, “how they could hop at that size.”

And according to a new paper Janis just published in the journal PLoS ONE, they probably couldn’t. Instead, she and two co-authors conclude after several years of investigation involving more than 140 skeletons from kangaroos and related species such as wallabees, the sthenurines walked upright on two legs.

The evidence comes from virtually everywhere across the creatures’ anatomy. Their teeth, the scientists observe, look more suited to browsing on trees and bushes than nibbling on grass as modern ‘roos do. That implies the ability to stand upright on two legs to reach the branches.

“They also had flared hipbones,” says Janis, with ample room for large gluteal muscles that would have permitted them to put weight on one leg at a time, something today’s kangaroos never do. Modern kangaroos amble around on all fours—or fives, if you count the tail, which they use for balance—when they’re browsing. When they want to go fast, they hop.

That’s possible only because they have flexible backs and stiff, substantial tails, which sthenurines lacked. The sthenurine hands, moreover, were unsuitable for bearing their weight. “They would have had trouble walking on all fours,” says Janis. The animals’ very bulk would have put terrible strains on their tendons if they even tried to hop.

“Some have argued that the sthenurines might have had thicker tendons to compensate,” Janis says, “but that would have made the tendons less elastic. It just seems biomechanically unlikely.” Any arguments about tendons and other soft tissues are somewhat speculative in ancient specimens, of course. “Imagine that we only knew elephants as fossils,” says Janis. “How would we know for sure they had trunks?”

The other evidence all points in one direction, however. As Janis straightforwardly puts, “just about everything we looked at made us go, ‘oh, that fits in.'” In the often elegant study of anatomy, the answer that fits is usually the answer that’s right.

TIME animals

Watch a Squirrel Rudely Wake Up a Sleeping Panda

Your cute panda fix for the day

We all know squirrels can be a nuisance. They terrorize college campuses and attack people taking selfies — although, you could certainly argue some excessive selfie-takers are asking for it.

Now their new target is pandas. The Toronto Zoo has uploaded a video showing the moment a squirrel jumped on top of the panda, Er Shun, while she was napping.

“She wasn’t that startled, as it didn’t take long for her to go back to sleep,” the zoo wrote in a description of the video on YouTube.

MORE: College Students Go Nuts over Squirrels

MORE: Richard Nixon Asked a Reporter to Watch Panda Sex

MORE: The World’s Best Job Is Hiring: Panda Nanny

 

TIME animals

This Video of a Shark Feeding Frenzy Is Basically a Real-Life Sharknado

Lunch hour

A video going viral claims to show “hundreds” of sharks in a feeding frenzy off the coast of North Carolina.

Brian Recker, a pastor at One Harbor Church in Beaufort, says he was out fishing with a group from the church when he witnessed the sharks going after a “school of bluefish” around noon on Oct. 8, at Cape Lookout National Seashore off the state’s Crystal Coast, according to the video’s description on YouTube. Recker calls the video, shot by fellow pastor Donnie Griggs, a real-life “Sharknado” in a Facebook post for the video, which boasts nearly 1 million views so far.

WATCH: Great White Shark Attacks Another Great White Shark

WATCH: Capturing a Great White Shark with a GoPro

Read next: 11 Halloween Costumes for People Who Spend Too Much Time on the Internet

TIME viral

Watch a Bulldog Puppy Try to Howl in an Adorable Video

Puppy love.

In Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” the poet wrote about letting loose with a “barbaric yawp.” This little bulldog puppy is doing its best to live up to Whitman’s edict and sound its own barbaric yawp from the rooftops. But there’s one little problem— it doesn’t quite know how to do it. (Maybe it should take a page from the Dead Poets Society playbook?)

Drop everything you are doing, and watch this little bundle of joy try its best to master that whole howling thing now. Once this adorably wrinkly ball figures out how to let loose, it will undoubtedly be sounding it yawp from the rooftops and driving the neighbors batty. For now, though, the clip is 100% adorable.

 

 

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