TIME animals

This X-ray Shows How Hamsters Can Fit So Much Food in Their Tiny Cheeks

From the BBC documentary Pets Wild At Heart

Thanks to the Internet, we’ve seen tiny hamsters eat tiny burritos, tiny pizzas and tiny Thanksgiving dinners. We’ve even seen tiny hamsters best competitive eating champion Kobayashi in a food face-off and watch them feast in a tiny mansion. But what is going on inside their tiny heads and tiny mouths while they eat those giant meals?

A recent BBC documentary takes you inside a hamster’s mouth via x-ray, revealing what is happening inside that tiny head while it fills its cheeks with those burritos, pizzas or whatever else it is having for lunch. The documentary, Pets Wild At Heart, which is narrated by once-and-future Doctor Who David Tennant, explains that hamsters come equipped with built-in travel coolers — incredibly stretchy cheek pouches that stretch all the way down to their hips. The cute little rodents can also turn off their saliva glands, which means they can preserve their fancy feasts for any time they are feeling peckish. That probably explains why hamsters aren’t allowed anywhere near the Sizzler salad bar.

TIME animals

This Police Dog Just Became a Detective

Jena will continue serving with officers in Escondido, Calif.

The police department in Escondido, Calif., promoted a dog to detective this week.

Jena, an eight-year-old German Shepherd from the Czech Republic, is the first dog to ever reach that rank in department history, according to a statement. Jena has served as a patrol dog since 2010 and located drugs on suspects almost 90 times. She will help other detectives sniff out drugs in her new role.

“The decision was made to promote Jena to detective where her skills could be used to assist detectives with narcotic interdiction and she would not be subject to the physical demands of a patrol service dog,” the statement added.

TIME animals

Here’s an Adorable Newborn Pygmy Hippo Just Doing His Thing

Easily the cutest thing you'll see today

The Zoological Society of London’s Whipsnade Zoo has released adorable footage of the newest member of its family, a male pygmy hippo calf.

The baby’s mom, 28-year-old Flora, gave birth on Boxing Day and had a smooth pregnancy even though she has been battling cancer.

In the clip, the animal mostly pals around in the hay with his mother and goes for a swim.

Senior keeper Steve White said in a statement: “On his first weigh-in, he was so slippery it was like picking up a big bar of soap!” The zoo also says the animal “is a particularly welcome addition to the Zoo because there is a shortage of male pygmy hippos within the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme.”

In September, a pygmy hippo named Olivia went viral because of her striking resemblance to the Michelin Man.

TIME animals

Watch a Hippo Chase a Boat Full of People on Safari

No word on whether it was a hungry hungry hippo

Tourists on safari got up close and personal with a hippopotamus.

In the description of this viral video on YouTube, user David Jackson says his son Craig Clive Jackson captured the footage from a boat on the Chobe River during a safari in Kasane, Botswana.

“We were traveling on the Chobe River in Botswana, when we came across this hippo which appeared to want to charge the boat,” the user wrote. “The Hippo was closer to the boat than what it appears on the video.”

No word on whether it was a hungry hungry hippo.

TIME Bizarre

LA Residents Kept Alligator in Backyard For 37 Years

Los Angeles Alligator
An 8-foot alligator was found in a box with two dead cats in the backyard of a home in the Van Nuys area of Los Angeles. Los Angeles Animal Services Department/AP

"We tried to give him a good home"

An eight-foot-long alligator was found by animal control officials in the backyard of a Los Angeles home Monday after remaining in captivity in the same location for 37 years, according to media reports.

The alligator, named Jaxson, was found in a wooden crate alongside two cat carcasses and was taken to the Los Angeles Zoo by animal control officials, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“We tried to give him a good home,” said Ron Gorecki, who took care of the alligator after the death of the original owner last year.

The keepers of the pet are likely to face prosecution for housing wildlife without a permit, an animal services spokesman told the Times.

[LA Times]

TIME psychology

The Science Behind Why Dogs Might Just Be Man’s Best Friend

dog
Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Dog owners experience a wide range of health benefits.

Via Richard Wiseman’s excellent book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

After carefully following the recovery rates of patients who had suffered a heart attack, Friedmann discovered that those who were dog owners, compared to those without a canine pal, were almost nine times more likely to be alive twelve months later. This remarkable result encouraged scientists to explore other possible benefits of canine companionship, resulting in studies showing that dog owners coped well with everyday stress, were relaxed about life, had high self-esteem, and were less likely to be diagnosed with depression.

In fact, they’re more health promoting than a spouse is.

Via 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

The participants had lower heart rates and blood pressure and made far fewer errors on the counting task in the presence of dog than they did if their partner was present—scientific evidence, if any is needed, that your dog is better for your health than your husband or wife is.

And this isn’t true for cat owners.

Via 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

Interestingly, the same cannot be said for cats. Some studies show that living with a cat may help alleviate negative moods but is unlikely to make you feel especially good, and others suggest that cat owners may actually be more likely than others to die in the twelve months following a heart attack.

And it’s causal, not correlative.

Via 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

She assembled a group of city stockbrokers who suffered from hypertension, randomly divided them into two groups, and gave each person in one group a dog to look after. Both groups had their blood pressure monitored over a six-month period. The results revealed that the stockbrokers with dogs were significantly more relaxed than those in the control group. In fact, when it came to alleviating the effects of mental stress, the dogs proved more effective than one of the most commonly used drugs to treat hypertension. More important, as the people were randomly assigned to the “dog” and “no dog” condition, there was no difference in personality between the groups, and so that factor could not account for the findings. In addition to feeling less stressed, the hard-nosed city types had become emotionally attached to their animals, and none of them accepted the opportunity of returning their newfound friends at the end of the study.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

Watch a Mourning Dog Standing Guard Over Her Puppy’s Grave

A stray dog in Georgia refuses to leave her puppy's grave in Georgia

A stray dog in Georgia has taken residence in Savannah’s Laurel Grove North Cemetery after burying her deceased puppy among the headstones, reports The New York Daily News.

Aspiring photographer Hunter Cone, 15, first spotted the mother dog sitting beside her late pup while he was taking photos in the cemetery on Jan. 6. Cone returned with his mother to try and feed the mourning animal, but she ran off.

Cone came back again the following day, and found the dog standing guard in the same spot, but now with her puppy buried next to her.

“She wouldn’t let us get within seven feet of her,” Hunter told the Daily News. “She wasn’t aggressive. She didn’t bark at us or anything.”

Rescuers have been feeding the dog and working to safely remove the grieving mom from the cemetery and into a shelter, even bringing in another puppy to distract the canine. So far attempts to lure the dog away from her own puppy’s grave have not been fruitful.

“If this doesn’t prove that dogs have feelings, just like humans do, I don’t think anything else will,” said Cone.

Along with wanting to help the mourning stray, Cone hopes this story raises awareness about Georgia’s animal control laws, which prevent rescue groups from taking in strays unless the group is contracted by the government.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME animals

Super Chill Dog Takes the Bus to Meet Her Owner at the Dog Park

Owners: who needs 'em?

Sometimes a dog just really wants to go to the dog park — and if that means taking the bus alone, so be it.

Eclipse, a self-sufficient 2-year-old black lab, has taken to riding public transit to the dog park alone when her owner misses the bus. “We get separated. She gets on the bus without me, and I catch up with her at the dog park,” said Eclipse’s owner Jeff Young, speaking to Seattle’s KOMO News. “It’s not hard to get on. She gets on in front of her house and she gets off at the dog park, three or four stops later.” No word on how she pays the fare with her cute little paws.

Since Lassie, Benji and Milo and Otis have helped pave the way for such precocious canine behavior, neither the dog, the owner, the bus driver, nor the other commuters seem to view the pup’s behavior as anything but adorable. “All the bus drivers know her. She sits here just like a person does,” commuter Tiona Rainwater, told KOMO. “She makes everybody happy. How could you not love this thing?” A spokesman for Seattle’s Metro Transit said the agency loves that a dog appreciates public transit.

While Eclipse is apparently capable of riding the streets of Seattle alone, helpful Seattleites frequently stop the dog on her travels. Young told KOMO that he gets a phone call once a week or so from good Samaritans anxious to help reunite a lost dog with its owner: “I have to tell them, ‘no. She’s fine.’ She knows what she’s doing.” Lassie probably never had to put up with that.
[H/T KOMO News]

TIME animals

Dogs Arrived in the Americas Only 10,000 Years Ago, Research Suggests

That's several thousand years after humans first migrated to the region

They may be man’s best friend, but new research indicates that dogs arrived in the Americas thousands of years after humans did.

According to a recent study, dogs only came to the region about 10,000 years ago, NBC News reports.

Researchers arrived at this conclusion by testing 42 D.N.A. samples taken from taken from ancient dog remains and comparing it with the same number of samples from previous studies. Their findings indicate canines came to the continent with a second wave of human migration, long after humans had initially settled in the New World.

The study’s lead author Kelsey Witt said in a statement that dogs were one of the earliest species to accompany human migration to every continent. “They can be a powerful tool when you’re looking at how human populations have moved around over time,” she said.

[NBC]

TIME animals

Marine Biologists Capture Rare Photo of a Shark Birth

Scientists noticed a visibly "agitated" shark off of the Philippines coastline

Marine biologists say they’ve never seen anything like it: Possibly the first known snapshot of an elusive species of shark giving birth in the open ocean.

The image, which was published in the December issue of the journal Coral Reefs, was captured off of the Philippines coastline in 2013. Scientists there, during a routine reef survey, noticed a “visibly” agitated thresher shark swimming nearby, trailed by several cleaner fish pecking at its pelvic region. One marine photographer snapped a photo, which later revealed the cause of the shark’s agitation: The head of a newborn pup jutting out head-first from the shark’s body.

“I freaked out,” study author Simon Arthur told BBC News, adding that it was the first image of a shark birth he had encountered in his career.

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