TIME animals

Watch a Groom Surprise His Bride With an Owl Ring Bearer

Owl about that!

=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2MDB-0k-Ps]

Shaun Palmer of Sunderland, England, surprised his bride Adele at their wedding with an owl ring bearer that flew down the aisle to deliver the rings.

The bird went by Bilbo, the name of the protagonist in The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel, and the Lord of the Rings series.

The clip was first uploaded on Dec. 4, but it is now going viral.

Though incorporating a bird into the ceremony might not be the mark of a traditional wedding, the practice is something of a growing trend in the U.K. where several companies hire out barn owls that have been trained to deliver wedding rings.

TIME animals

These 2 ‘Seeing-Eye’ Dogs Help a Blind, Old Canine Get Around

akita-blind-dog
Jessica VanHusen

Paws-itively heartwarming

These two pups are seeing-eye dogs—for another dog.

Jessica VanHusen of Waterford, Mich. has two healthy dogs that help out her older, blind pooch, a 10-year-old Akita named Kiaya.

Kiaya had to have both eyes removed after a two-year battle with glaucoma, according to a press release on the website for BluePearl Veterinary Partners. Now, the other Akitas that VanHusen owns, 8-year-old Cass and 2-year-old Keller, are always by Kiaya’s side, grooming her, lying next to her in the yard, and watching out for her while she’s eating or when they’re all in the car together.

“It’s clear the other dogs are trying to protect her,” Dr. Gwen Sila, the veterinary ophthalmologist who performed Kiaya’s surgeries, said in a statement.

 

TIME animals

See the Amazing Selfie That This Elephant Took

Or an "elphie," as the photo has been nicknamed

Let's get this Elfie on Ellen Degeneres! #ElfieOnEllen @theellenshow

A photo posted by Christian LeBlanc (@christian_leblanc) on

An elephant in Thailand stunned a Canadian student when it took his GoPro camera and snapped a selfie—or “elphie,” as the animal’s photo has been nicknamed.

ABC News reports that the device was in continuous shooting mode, so it started taking photos as soon as the animal snatched it up from Christian LeBlanc, a 22-year-old business major at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on study abroad, who was feeding elephant bananas.

He had better luck than Kim Kardashian did when she was in Thailand last year and got “attacked” by an elephant when she tried to take a selfie with it.

This wasn’t the first time an elephant picked up a camera. Just around this time last year, a 23-year-old man visiting West Midlands Safari Park in Worcestershire, England, dropped his phone while driving through the elephant enclosure, and it got picked up by one of the elephants, which also managed to take a photo.

TIME animals

Let’s All Stare at These Adorable Purritos

purritos-kittens
Lori Fusaro—Best Friends Animal Society

It's for a good cause

There aren’t many things on this planet we value more than a really, really good burrito.

In fact, there might be only one thing better than cheese/carbs, and that is the fluffier, inedible feline cousin of the burrito: the purrito. No cheese, no carbs – just bundled-up kittens who want to cuddle with you and love you forever and ever.

And this is an especially delightful purrito: Best Friends Animal Society snapped these babies to raise awareness for all the kittens who need homes. “Sometimes you have to go cute to get serious information out there,” says Holly Sizemore, director of national programs, community programs and services.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME animals

Treat Yourself to This Video of a Piglet Playing With a Cat

You deserve this

#tbt to bitty Pearl and Elsa at play!! @pearlspigtales

A video posted by Lindsey Bonnice (@livesweetphotography) on

If you’re having a rough day — or if you’re having a good day and want to make it even better — we recommend taking 15 seconds to view this video of a tiny piglet named Pearl playing with a cat named Elsa.

This little gem of a video comes from Lindsey Bonnice of Live Sweet Photography. She also recently shared a video of some insanely cute baby goats headbutting one another, so enjoy that.

Oh, and if you want to see more Pearl, she’s got her own separate Instagram.

(h/t Buzzfeed)

TIME animals

These Are the Top 10 New Species Discovered Last Year

Including a frog that gives birth to live tadpoles

Scientists named 18,000 new species in 2014—but these 10 are a notch above the rest.

From a spider that cartwheels away from its predators to a frog that gives birth to live tadpoles, the newly discovered animals on the top 10 list compiled by an international committee of taxonomists at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry each have something that stands out.

The list is released each year to honor the May 23 birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, an 18th-century Swedish botanist who is considered the father of modern taxonomy.

“The Top 10 is a reminder of the wonders awaiting us,” said Dr. Quentin Wheeler, ESF president and founding director of the International Institute for Species Exploration.

  • Feathered Dinosaur

    Mark A. Klingler, Carnegie Museum of Natural History

    Dubbed the “chicken from hell,” the feathered dinosaur, anzu wyliei, made nests and sat on eggs until they hatched. It was a contemporary of the Tyrannosaurus Rex and lived in North America, and it had many bird-like qualities including hollow bones, feathers and a beak.

  • Coral Plant

    P.B. Pelser & J.F. Barcelona

    The coral plant was immediately dubbed endangered when it was discovered last year. That’s because scientists have only discovered about 50 instances of this parasitic plant, which has branching, above-ground tubers that resemble coral. All of the plants were found between specific elevations on the southwestern side of Mt. Mingan in the Philippines.

  • Cartwheeling Spider

    Prof. Dr. Ingo Rechenberg, Technical University Berlin

    This desert spider from Morocco has a speedy way to run from danger: it cartwheels. The cartwheeling is a last resort. First the spider assumes a threatening posture. If that doesn’t work, it will run away, and if that still isn’t fast enough the arachnid can spin and cartwheel its way across the sand.

  • X-Phyla

    Jørgen Olesen

    The X-Phyla are the so-called “mysterious newcomers” of the group. That’s because these mushroom-like creatures are possibly related to the phylum Cnidaria, which contains jellyfish, corals, and sea anemones, but they are missing some unique properties, which means they could represent an entirely new phylum. So stay tuned on the X-Phyla.

  • Bone-house Wasp

    Michael Staab

    The bone-house wasp is on the list for a morbid reason: she feeds and protects her young with carcasses of other dead insects. The female bone-house wasps, found in Eastern China, construct nests that have multiple chambers. The female kills and deposits spiders in each cell to provide food for her babies, then seals off the front door of the nest with bodies of dead ants. The chemicals from the dead ants mask the scent of her larvae from potential enemies.

  • Indonesian Frog

    Jimmy A. McGuire

    The Indonesian frog made the list because, unlike most other frog species, it does not lay eggs. Instead, it gives birth to live tadpoles, which are deposited in the water. Less than 12 of the world’s 6,455 frog species have internal fertilization, and the Indonesian frog is the only one that gives birth to tadpoles; the others either lay fertilized eggs or give birth to frogs.

  • Walking Stick

    Dr. Bruno Kneubühler

    The walking stick is the newest member of a family known as giant sticks. Given that this species was just discovered, despite being 9 inches long and living in a national park in Vietnam frequented by entomologists, it shows that there could be many other camouflaged giant sticks that are yet undiscovered. These new walking sticks aren’t the biggest in the family: that title belongs to Chan’s megastick, which measures 22 inches.

  • Sea Slug

    Robert Bolland

    This new species of sea slug, which photographs beautifully in shades of blue, red and gold and lives in Japan, is a missing link between the sea slugs that feed on hydroids and those that feed on corals.

  • Bromeliad

    A. Espejo

    Tillandsia religiosa, a red and green bromeliad plant found in Mexico, was officially recognized by science last year, but it had long been known to locals in the region. Its festive coloring meant the bromeliad was often used in altar scenes assembled by villagers around Christmas.

  • Pufferfish

    Yoji Okata

    This new species of pufferfish solved a decades-old underwater mystery. Scientists had seen crop circle-type etchings in the undersea sand off the coast of Japan but didn’t know what was creating the geometric designs, about 6 feet in diameter. It turns out they are made by this fish and used as spawning nests. The designs both attract females and minimize the ocean current at the center.

TIME Environment

Here’s What a Massive 5-Year Study of Ocean Life Reveals

tara ocean expedition plankton
Courtesy of Sacha Bollet/Fonds Tara The Tara ship at sea.

Scientists don't know how climate change may affect life in the ocean

In 2009, the research schooner Tara set sail on a three-year journey. The crew would be facing rough waters and the threat of pirates in the name of studying plankton—microscopic organisms that can serve as a proxy for the overall health of an ocean ecosystem. Now, five studies in the journal Science offer a new take on the state of the oceans, the largest ecosystem in the world, and one that’s under enormous strain.

“We provide the most complete description yet of the organisms together with their genetic repertoires,” said Chris Bowler, a scientific coordinator on the expedition, on a call with the media. “Thanks to the treasure in Tara‘s holds, life in the ocean is a little less murky than it was before.”

Plankton diversity was higher than anticipated. Differences in ocean temperature—as opposed to geography or some other environmental factor—seem to chiefly determine which kind of plankton survives, according to the study. Because plankton play an essential role in sustaining life on Earth by propping up the bottom of the food chain, rising temperatures could have grave implications for other sea life, in part because scientists don’t yet know how plankton overall will respond as ocean temperatures increase with global warming. In addition to their role as the primary food source for many fish and whales, plankton also provide half the oxygen produced on the planet each year through photosynthesis.

Viruses also play a role determining what species of ocean life survive in a given spot. Research identified more than 5,000 types of viruses in the upper ocean, only 39 of which had been known previously. Many of the viruses have spread around the ocean, meaning you’re likely to find a surprising diversity of viral life almost anywhere you look in the ocean.

“The most abundant and widespread viral populations in the oceans have yet to be characterized, but now we have an idea of what viruses are important targets for future investigations,” says Jennifer Brum, a researcher at the University of Arizona.

An editorial accompanying the issue draws further attention to climate change and its unknown impact on the ocean ecosystem. Oceans play an important role in protecting the ecosystem from global warming by absorbing the excess heat released due to greenhouse gas, according to the editorial. In the short term, oceans have yet to shown significant damage, but researchers fear that we may not know the true effects.

“Take a moment to thank the ocean for supplying half of your oxygen,” writes Science Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt in the editorial. “It is time to start valuing the ocean and stop using it as a dump for waste heat, CO2, sewage, pollutants, and other trash.”

Scientists once considered much of the vast oceans to be largely barren of life—seawater, and little less. The research from Tara underscores just how untrue that is—everywhere we look in the watery world, there is life of some kind. And the five studies released this week are just the beginning of what promises to be a trove of new research. Scientists on the expedition analyzed only 579 of 35,000 collected samples for this issue of Science.

TIME Australia

Australians Are Trying to Decide if It’s O.K. to Swear at Sheep

548560315
Getty Images

Activists say that sheep don't like being verbally abused

A complaint by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) over the abuse of animals at a remote Australian sheep station has prompted a debate over whether sheep can be cursed at.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) reports that PETA’s complaint, made in September 2014, was not solely about verbal abuse, but the use of offensive language toward the animals was an element of the complaint that had been taken seriously by animal-welfare organization the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

Steve Coleman, CEO of the New South Wales branch of the RSPCA, told the ABC that the organization would investigate “an allegation that puts at risk an animal, that would cause it unnecessary suffering.”

Ken Turner, the operator of Boorungie Station in outback New South Wales, where the cussing was alleged to have taken place, said, “The allegation was that bad language was used by an employee on the property in front of the sheep, and that they could have been offended by the use of bad language.”

The president of Lawyers for Animals, Nichola Donovan, argued that verbal abuse of “an extreme nature” could constitute “an act of violence” against an animal.

Although the PETA complaint has now been dropped, pastoralists remain wary about being seen as rude and upsetting by their woolly charges. The issue was debated at last week’s annual general meeting of the Pastoralists’ Association, where many members felt that colorful language was occasionally necessary during mustering and shearing.

Addressing the meeting, Dean Boyce of the RSPCA conceded that many of the complaints the organization received each year were “petty.”

For his part, Boorungie Station’s Turner said he had no plans to mind his own language in front of sheep. “We’ll continue as normal,” he told the ABC.

[ABC]

TIME animals

Watch This Paddleboarder’s Extremely Close Encounter With an Orca

"He slowly crept up and grabbed the back of my board"

A New Zealand restaurant owner named Luke Reilly was doing some relaxing stand-up paddleboarding when an orca whale popped up out of nowhere. Naturally, things got a little less chill.

“He popped up about 10cm away from the back of my board,” Reilly told 3NEWS. “I was a bit nervous thinking, ‘what’s this guy going to do?'”

Reilly happened to have his GoPro with him, so he managed to film the encounter. He admits he was a “bit freaked out” while it was happening, but ultimately figured the animal was just curious.

TIME Environment

Louisiana Black Bear Is No Longer Endangered

In this May 17, 2015 photo, a Louisiana Black Bear, sub-species of the black bear that is protected under the Endangered Species Act, is seen in a water oak tree in Marksville, La.
Gerald Herbert—AP In this May 17, 2015 photo, a Louisiana Black Bear, sub-species of the black bear that is protected under the Endangered Species Act, is seen in a water oak tree in Marksville, La.

The bear is the original inspiration for the "Teddy Bear"

The Louisiana black bear is set to be removed from the endangered species list, the U.S. Department of Interior announced.

The bear, which was the original inspiration for the “Teddy Bear,” has been the focus of conservation efforts for more than 20 years. On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced that because of that conservation push, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that the Louisiana black bear no longer be listed as endangered.

“Across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, we have worked together with our partners to protect and restore habitat, reintroduce populations and reduce the threats to the bear,” Jewell said in a press release.

“Today’s recovery of the bear is yet another success story of the Endangered Species Act.”

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com