TIME animals

Giant Hippo Splashes Into River Thames

Giant Floating Hippo River Thames
Steve Stills

The artist's latest creation following his giant floating rubber duck

Along London’s River Thames are some notable landmarks: the London Bridge, the Millennium Bridge, and now, a giant floating hippo.

The nearly 70-foot-long replica of the water mammal—named “HippopoThames”—is the latest project of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, according to CNN. The work was commissioned by the Thames Festival Trust, which had approached Hofman earlier this year to design artwork for Totally Thames, an annual festival celebrating the river.

Hofman, who debuted the “world’s largest rubber duck” last month, is known for his humor, sensation and maximum impact, In line with his artistic vision, HippopoThames was inspired by everyday objects, especially those that time warp people to their childhoods. It’s also designed to force viewers to appreciate public spaces, even after the installations are removed.

“I wanted to use the hippo to get people out of their homes, away from the Internet and the TV, and to explore London with a new perspective,” Hofman told CNN.

HippopoThames will be on display until Sept. 28.

TIME viral

Cat and Toddler Team Up to Take on a Laser Pointer

They're so convinced they're eventually going to catch it

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This video shows a black cat desperately trying to pounce on the elusive red dot of a laser pointer, with a toddler joining in to assist with the task. The cat is named Muon and is one year old, and the child, Phineas, is two and a half, the poster explains. He adds that they “are on the same wavelength.”

The pair are so, so convinced that the dot is a real, physical being, and sadly, the video cuts off before they come to the realization that it’s not. Maybe a video of their shared existential crisis could be a good follow-up.

TIME Science

Russia’s Zero-G Sex Geckos Died Before Returning to Earth

Gecko
Getty Images

Russia's attempt to find out how organisms reproduce in space did not end with a bang

Russia’s troubled experiment to study how geckos, fruit flies and other organisms reproduce in weightlessness ended with a huge downer: When the Foton M-4 satellite containing the creatures returned to Earth on Monday and the hatch was opened, researchers found that all five geckos had died.

“We can’t say yet at which stage of Foton’s space flight it happened,” the RIA Novosti news agency quoted a source at the Russian Academy of Sciences as saying. Interfax quoted an unnamed source as saying the geckos were mummified and may have frozen to death.

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME animals

A Dog Started a House Fire By Turning on the Stove

A dog: man's best friend. A smart dog: firefighter's worst enemy

A dog is the culprit in a Friday night house fire in New Jersey that began when a pooch turned on a stove.

Local firefighters responded to a call in Lacey township and saw fire coming out of the roof of the home, the Asbury Park Press reports. The Forked River Fire Department entered the home and extinguished the fire.

The Ocean County Fire Marshal investigated the fire and found that a dog inside the house turned on the stove, which had then burned through a laptop that was sitting on the stovetop.

No word yet on whether the dog believed there were unattractive photos of it on the incinerated laptop.

[Asbury Park Press]

 

TIME animals

Florida Man Says He Ate 15 Threatened Tortoises and Planned to Eat 11 More

A gopher tortoise. Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute—Reuters

An officer found him in the woods, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Wildlife authorities say a Florida man confessed to killing gopher tortoises, a threatened species, for their meat.

On Facebook, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wrote that a member of the public tipped them off to tortoise shells that were being dumped in the woods in Citrus County, north of Tampa. Officer Thomas Reid went to the woods and found a container with 11 live tortoises. He stayed there until the man showed up, confronting him when he started to move the reptiles into a truck.

“The man told Reid that he had killed 15 gopher tortoises and dumped the shells in the woods and that he had caught the 11 that were in the container and was planning on eating them,” according to the Facebook post.

The officer freed the 11 reptiles. No word on whether the man was making turtle soup.

(h/t Reuters via WFTS Tampa Bay)

TIME viral

We Hope to One Day Be as Young, Wild and Free as This Chihuahua Enjoying a Neck Massage

Looks like somebody got a head-start on Labor Day Weekend

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What’s this? Oh, you know, just a chihuahua making great use of a neck massager. This right here is some next-level relaxation.

 

TIME animals

This Lamb Bouncing Gleefully Down a Hallway Will Remind You That Everything’s Gonna Be Okay

And also that baby lambs are so, so cute

Forget about your problems for a moment, and look at this lamb who comes hopping down a hallway when you call his name:

His name is Winter and Vine user Life of Shannen explains: “He was found weak from the cold and so we took him in to care for him.” Looks like he’s doing just fine now. Here he is being extra bouncy:

Oh man. This is almost as good as that llama who pranced to DMX. Almost.

TIME animals

Here’s The World’s Fastest Dog on Two Paws

His top speeds beat out how fast humans walk normally

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Jiff, performing pomeranian and Internet star, has set two world records – one for the fastest 10 meters on hind legs (6.56 seconds) and another for the fastest 5 meters on front paws (7.76 seconds) at an Illinois kennel in September, according to a Guinness World Records statement. That means the fluffy pom can literally walk at 3.4 miles per hour, slightly faster than the average walking speed of humans.

world-record-pomeranian-jiff
Guinness World Records

The dog will be featured in the Guinness World Records 2015 Edition, due out September 10, but Jiff has been quite the star for a while now. A social media sensation, the pom has appeared in the film Adventures of Bailey: A Night in Cowtown, the music video for Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” and a tweet from Ke$ha, who claimed Jiff was her “new boyfriend.”

And if Jiff’s credentials haven’t put you to shame yet, then ponder this: do you have an IMDB page?

Guinness World Records

But being the world’s fastest dog is only one trick in the Los Angeles pom’s repertoire. Jiff, whose owners have remained anonymous so that he gets all the attention, can also skateboard, stamp his autograph, cover his eyes and bow, among other moves. He’s known for his impromptu performances at the Santa Monica Pier and the Hollywood Walk of Fame—but if you can’t make it to one of those, there’s always his online trick demos.

TIME animals

11 Lobster Facts That Will Leave You Shell-Shocked

A blue lobster caught by Jay LaPlante off Pine Point in Scarborough, Maine. Meghan LaPlante—AP

Yes, they can naturally be blue.

Earlier this week, a Maine lobsterman and his 14-year-old daughter made headlines because they caught a blue lobster. Turns out chances of finding one are 1 in 2 million, and the blue color is caused by a genetic defect that produces “an excessive amount of a particular protein.”

We thought that tidbit was as good a time as ever to consider the lobster. Herewith, 11 totally essential facts:

1. They keep growing forever.

Or so research suggests. But scientists won’t be able to tell how long lobsters really live because traps aren’t designed to catch the largest lobsters. “When we catch one that is 20-30 pounds, it’s because a claw got caught in the entrance of the trap, not inside,” says Robert C. Bayer, executive director of The Lobster Institute at the University of Maine.

2. They eat each other.

“They’re looking for fresh food and what’s around, and if that happens to be another lobster, then it’s dinner,” says Bayer. “One of the reasons lobster culture is not profitable is because they are cannibalistic, and there are lot of expenses that go along with that.”

3. Females are players—and they make the first move.

Not much courtship precedes lobster love-making. Females that have just shed their shells send out a pheromone to let the males know they’re in the mood. Usually, lobsters that shed their shells are vulnerable and could be eaten by other lobsters, but when a female says she’s ready to get it on, the male lobster will usually opt to have sex with her over killing her.

How do they do it? “I would describe it as the missionary position,” Bayer says. Six to nine months later, eggs appear on her tail, and after another six to 9 months, they hatch. A one-pound-and-a-half female lobster can have between 8,000 to 12,000 eggs, each about the size of a raspberry segment. And they could be from multiple fathers. Females are not monogamous.

4. They taste with their legs.

Chemosensory leg and feet hairs identify food. Small antennae in front of their eyes are used for tracking down food that’s farther away. “If you watch a lobster in a tank in a market, you’ll see they’re flipping, looking for food, dissolved substances in the water,” says Bayer.

5. They chew with their stomachs.

The grinding structure for breaking up food is called the gastric mill, kind of like a set of teeth on their stomachs, which are right behind the eyes and the size of a walnut in a one-pound lobster.

6. The green in cooked lobsters is liver.

Well technically, it’s the tomalley—a digestive gland that’s the intestine, liver, and pancreas. And any red things are eggs.

7. They don’t scream in pain when you cook them.

The noise you hear is “air that has been trapped in the stomach and forced through the mouth after being out of water for short periods of time,” says Bayer. Lobsters don’t have vocal chords, and they can’t process pain.

8. One of their claws can exert pressure of up to 100 pounds per square inch.

So they may not feel pain, but they can cause some serious pain. Researchers discovered that after having the lobster’s larger claw, the crusher claw, clamp down on a load cell, a pressure-measuring device. This claw looks like it has molars because it’s used to break up anything hard like crabs, clams, mussels. The other, called the ripper claw or the quick claw, tears softer food like fish or worms.

9. They can regenerate limbs.

“It’s going to take probably a good five years for a one-pound lobster to regenerate a claw that’s about the same size of one that was lost,” says Bayer. But they can do it.

In this March 31, 2011, photo, a lobster is posed next to a golf ball made from ground lobster shells in Orono, Maine. Robert F. Bukaty – AP

10. Their shells were once used to make golf balls.

Shells left over after lobster processing are usually tossed into landfills. So in an effort to make them worth something and keep the money in the lobster industry, a University of Maine professor created golf balls with a core made out of lobster shells. They’re also biodegradable, designed for golfing on cruise ships or courses near oceans and lakes.

The problem is they only go about 70 percent of the distance of a regular golf ball, so you won’t see them at the U.S. Open anytime soon.

11. Once upon a time, they were the go-to prison food.

In the colonial era, only the poor, indentured servants, and prisoners ate lobsters because they were cheap, too plentiful, and considered “tasteless.” After prisoners in one Massachusetts town got sick of eating them all the time, a new rule said they only had to eat them three times a week.

 

TIME animals

Happy 29th Birthday to What Is Believed to Be The Oldest Wombat in Captivity

He may be "the oldest living wombat virgin" as well

Patrick, the oldest wombat in captivity, according to Ballarat Wildlife Park, turned the ripe old age of 29 on August 25.

His longevity is not the norm. In the wild, wombats tend to live only five years, while those in captivity average a lifespan of around 20 years.

Patrick — who was named the “3rd best city mascot” by CNN — is an Australian legend who has been greeting visitors to the wildlife park for decades. He was hand-raised by zookeepers after he was orphaned as a joey, as marsupial babies are called. According to Tourism Australia, “the team at the park tried releasing Patrick back into the wild a couple of times but he couldn’t defend himself against other wombats.”

The plus-sized Common Wombat may also be the world’s largest, tipping the scale at 88 lbs (40kg). He’s so big that Ballarat Wildlife Park curator Julia Leonard used to push the lovable wombat around in a wheelbarrow just “to keep a check on what is going on,” according to the organization’s website. He’s now been retired from active park duty, preferring to hang (and eat) in his pen.

Oldest and largest aren’t the only titles that Patrick has earned during his long life. According to Australia.com’s Facebook post, he may have earned another slightly more ignominious title as well. “Given that Patrick has never had children, or any partners in general, probably makes him the oldest living wombat virgin as well!,” said the post. “Congrats mate!”

MORE: Little Girl and Tibetan Mastiff Are Best Friends

MORE: Lil Bub Stars in a Summer Version of the Yule Log

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