TIME animals

Dolphins Are Apparently Attracted to Magnets

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Dolphin in aquarium of Barcelona vdorse—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Where does this fit into their plot for world domination?

According to a French study released Monday, dolphins are attracted to magnets. Platonically, of course.

To find out if dolphins are magnetosensitive—or able to sense Earth’s magnetic field—researchers tested how six bottleneck dolphins swimming freely independently reacted to barrels containing both magnetized and demagnetized blocks.

Dolphins approached the device with shorter latency when it contained a strongly magnetized neodymium block compared to a control demagnetized block that was identical in form and density and therefore undistinguishable with echolocation. We conclude that dolphins are able to discriminate the two stimuli on the basis of their magnetic properties, a prerequisite for magnetoreception-based navigation.

If the findings hold up to scrutiny, it would be a momentous discovery. Although many animals are suspected to orient themselves using the Earth’s magnetic pull, there’s precious little proof that this is the case. Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine concluded in 2012 that pigeons have magnetosensitive GPS cells in their brains.

We don’t quite know where this fits into dolphins’ plot to take over the world, but now that they might be working with the pigeons, we are utterly terrified.

TIME Pets

Yes, Dogs Can Get Jealous Too

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Dog Zwergpinscher Simone Ciaralli—Getty Images/Flickr RF

A new study offers scientific backing to a long-reported anecdotal phenomenon. But canine envy is a little different from the human kind.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

We’ve long treated our dogs like humans, dressing them in sweaters, letting them sleep in our beds—even painting their nails. So it makes sense that we’re eager to attribute their canine behavior to human emotions, crediting a wagging tail to joy or lowered eyes to shame. Yet while research has shown dogs feel love and affection, more complicated emotions like embarrassment and guiltdon’t seem to be in their repertoire.

(MORE: 8 Scientifically-Backed Ways to Feel Happier Right Now)

But here’s one that might be: Scientists at UC San Diego have found evidence suggesting that dogs could actually be capable of jealousy.

Although Charles Darwin wrote about dogs’ jealousy in 1871 and dog owners have been quick to offer anecdotal evidence ever since, there’s never been scientific proof of the phenomenon.

This experiment involved 36 dogs and their owners. The owners petted an animated toy dog while their real dog was in the room. They also petted and played with a jack-o-lantern, and sat reading a noise-making children’s book. Observers wrote down and cataloged the dogs’ reactions to each of these three situations, which ranged from biting, barking, and pushing at either the toy or the owner.

(MORE: 40 Classic Children’s Books)

The dogs were more likely to show signs of aggression, attention-seeking behavior, and a heightened interest in their owners when the fake dog was the object of affection. Most of the dogs clearly thought the stuffed dog was real: 86 percent inspected and sniffed its butt at some point during the experiment.

“We can’t really speak to the dogs’ subjective experiences, of course,” study author and psychology professor Christine Harris said in a release. “But it looks as though they were motivated to protect an important social relationship.”

So is this behavior really the green-eyed monster as we know it? Not quite. Researchers called the envious emotion that dogs experience a “primordial” type of jealousy rather than the complicated thoughts that torment adult humans.

Infants show this instinctive kind of jealousy, too, when their mothers shower affection on another baby. The scientists behind the study say this could be evidence that jealousy is an innate emotion, like fear or anger, that humans share in common with other social creatures.

So if it seems like Fido is giving you the cold paw after you’ve shown some love to another dog, it might not be your imagination.

(MORE: How Not to Apologize)

TIME Crime

Police Dogs Can Now Uncover Child Porn by Sniffing Out Electronic Devices

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Getty Images

The animals have been trained to identify a chemical common to laptops, flash drives and so on

Two dogs that flunked out of New York City’s Guiding Eyes for the Blind program have found a new job helping police find hidden electronic devices, Bloomberg reports.

The skill is proving useful to investigators looking for devices containing, for instance, child pornography or fraudulent documents.

Black Labrador Selma and golden Labrador Thoreau underwent months of training to be able to sniff out laptops, digital cameras, flash drives and even memory cards. The dogs were trained to detect the scent of a particular chemical common to all these devices on people’s hands, clothes, metal boxes and even concrete blocks.

The chemical, which police have declined to name, was identified by forensic-science veteran Jack Hubball, who in 1986 isolated a flame accelerant present in cases of arson that could be detected by dogs. He later helped train canines to sniff out narcotics and bombs.

In his latest work, Hubball took apart circuit boards, hard disks and flash drives and tested each component individually to pinpoint the chemical they shared.

Detective George Jupin of the Connecticut State Police Computer Crimes Unit, who is Selma’s handler, told Bloomberg that the animal had assisted in over 50 search warrants since starting in October 2013. Selma has found child pornography, falsified documents and stored software that was used to help identify firearms in a homicide case.

Thoreau is doing similar work with the Rhode Island State Police.

[Bloomberg]

TIME animals

No More Cowbell! Bovines May Be Hurt By Heavy, Noisy Bells, Study Finds

Swiss cow bell
Getty Images

The only prescription is less cowbells

The classic cow bells worn by Swiss bovines could be damaging the animals’ hearing and feeding habits, according to researchers in Zurich.

A recent study at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology studied more than 100 cows carrying 12-pound bells at two dozen farms across the country, and found that the bells can lead to deafness in cows, whose hearing is more sensitive than that of human beings.

The bells can create noise levels of up to 113 decibels, about the amount of noise made by a chain saw and louder than the legal noise limit of 85 decibels. The researchers also said cows wearing bells tended to chew for less time than cows without bells, reports Schweiz Am Sonntag.

Farmers said that Switzerland’s 12-pound cowbells are an iconic part of the country’s cultural heritage, and that replacing cowbells with GPS devices would hurt Switzerland’s image. The heavy cowbells are rarely used except at ceremonial occasions.

The study didn’t conclude whether the weight of the bells or the sound of their ringing were causing cows to change their behavior.

[Schweiz am Sonntag]

TIME animals

Did New York City’s Mayor Accidentally Kill a Groundhog?

"Charlotte" died after Bill de Blasio dropped it during Groundhog Day ceremony in Staten Island

Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, standard-bearer of the New Left, and now… slayer of groundhogs?

At this year’s Staten Island Zoo Groundhog Day ceremony, Mayor de Blasio fumbled the marmot after a zookeeper placed it in his hands. The animal dropped to the ground, and within a week, it was dead.

The groundhog’s death was only reported Thursday.

It’s unclear whether the death of the Staten Island Zoo’s “Charlotte,” who was standing in for the famed Staten Island Chuck, was actually de Blasio’s fault.

A zoo spokesman told the Associated Press in an interview that the drop was “a complete bungle” and attributed it partly to the zoo handler’s weak placement of the animal in de Blasio’s hands. And a medical examination after the incident showed that there was “no evidence of trauma or pain,” the spokesman said.

But when the animal was found dead on Feb. 9, a necropsy showed the groundhog had died of internal injuries. “We don’t know how the animal suffered the injuries but we don’t think it was from the fall,” the zoo’s spokesman said. “We believe it happened sometime the night before she was found dead.”

Thus, the mystery of the slain groundhog remains unsolved. And we can be sure de Blasio will be closely watched next Groundhog Day, innocent as he may appear.

[AP]

TIME animals

When a Corgi and a Lamb Race, Everyone Wins

Take a cute break

Before they were populating the internet with their adorable antics — and costing businesses millions of dollars in lost revenue as their employees waste working hour watching corgis surfing, riding merry-go-rounds, or twerking — Welsh Corgis were bred to herd sheep. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t be friends with them too.

While Fashion the Corgi could be getting in touch with her deep-bred instincts to herd Tansy the Lamb into a corner, after watching this clip, there’s no doubt that the two are good buds as they race around the yard at a hot clip.

Watch now, but don’t tell your boss we said you should spend your time watching instead of filling out a spreadsheet.

(h/t Daily Picks and Flicks)

 

 

TIME animals

Study: Narwhal Tusk Size Correlates With Testicle Size and Fertility

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Paul Nicklen—National Geographic/Getty Images

Is that a giant tooth on your head or are you just happy to see me?

A ballsy new study may have unlocked the secret behind narwhals’ unicorn-like tusks, or the single tooth found atop males’ heads.

Researchers studied the testicle size of 144 narwhals collected during aboriginal Inuit hunts between the years 1990 and 2008, and found that the bigger the tusks, the better the testes, pretty much — tusk length and teste mass (which indicates fertility) were closely related.

In a study published in Marine Mammal Science, these researchers suggest that a tusk’s length signals to female narwhals which males are the most fertile and would make the best mates, Science reports. That means narwhal tusks aren’t unlike peacock feathers or antlers in the sense that they’re animal body parts used to attract females with their impressive displays.

Previous theories about the tusks’ usage have included that they might serve as a (literal) icebreaker or a sensor of water salinity and temperature.

The latest study notes that while the tusks may serve other purposes, the fact that it’s such a gendered trait means it likely plays a small role in survival and providing a competitive evolutionary advantage.

[Science]

TIME animals

These Baby Red Panda Twins Need Names

The Lincoln Children's Zoo in Nebraska is now accepting submissions

These cuddly little bundles of cute you see right here are a pair of red panda twins — one boy and one girl — born this summer at Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Nebraska. They don’t have names yet, and the zoo is accepting submissions now through Sept. 29 on its Facebook page.

The names will be announced on Oct. 14 and the winner will get to enjoy a special “meet and greet” with the cubs. If you’re interested in submitting, be sure to check out photos of the twins on the zoo’s Instagram to get some inspiration:

It sort of feels like no names are good enough for these guys, but we’re definitely excited to see what they end up with.

TIME Business

This Puppy Is the Face of Budweiser’s Tear Jerker Anti-Drunk Driving Campaign

This ad will melt your heart

Budweiser, a leading expert in interspecies friendship, released a poignant PSA Friday with a resonating message: Don’t drink and drive — You will break your puppy’s heart.

Anheuser-Busch InBev used ad agency Momentum Worldwide to create the 60-second spot, which shows the evolving relationship between an adorable man and his adorable yellow lab, the same breed used in Budweiser’s successful Super Bowl ad campaign.

In a moment of worry, the man is shown leaving his house with friends and a few buds and not coming home. The dog whimpers. The audience holds its collective breath. While we fear for the worst, in the end it turns out that he just spent the night at his friend’s house to stay safe. The puppy might have peed on the floor (that’s our guess of what cut footage holds), but at least the best friends will be able to play for years to come.

TIME animals

Monkey Is Completely Obsessed With Poor Cat That’s Just Trying to Nap

Unrequited love in the animal kingdom

Animals friendships are a beautiful thing — but they’re often rather one-sided, as we’ve learned from this video, shared on the popular science Facebook page Biologia Total. Watch as a very aggressive monkey disturbs a cat who’s just trying to catch some Z’s. This video highlights both immense persistence and immense patience.

As the original post says (in Portuguese), cultivating patience is essential. This cat knows.

MORE: This Owl and Cat Have a Beautiful Friendship

MORE: Watch a Cat Ruin a Game of Mini Golf for Everyone

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