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Biting Back

Chaos in the Animal Kingdom

Rising temperatures and environmental decline wrought by climate change makes it seem like a full-fledged animal kingdom revolt is just a couple notches in the thermometer away—and it might be.

Like a scene from a made-for-TV horror movie, more than 70 beach-goers were attacked on Christmas Day when a sudden influx of piranhas swarmed the crowded waters of bathers seeking a respite from the unusually high 100-degree temperatures on the Rambla Catalunya beach in Rosario, Argentina. Seven children lost parts of fingers and toes to the sharp-toothed creatures. Then, just this past weekend, the same carnivorous fish attacked again, injuring 10 downstream in the same river near Buenos Aires.

To be sure, the legends about man-eating piranhas are notoriously overblown—compare, for instance, the numbers in these attacks against the 800,000 Americans who annually need medical treatment for dog bites, and the piranha “threat” begins to pale a bit.

But that doesn’t mean that we won’t be seeing—and feeling—more of them and their kith and their kin in the future.

Across the globe, scientists say, an increasingly warm planet has forced animal populations to abandon their usual hunting grounds in a search of food or a more comfortable habitat, clashing with humans in the process. Bears are lumbering into towns, jellyfish are arriving at coastlines, mosquitoes are swarming northward, and storms are pushing tigers and humans into close proximity. Rising temperatures and environmental decline wrought by climate change makes it seem like a full-fledged animal kingdom revolt is just a couple notches in the thermometer away—and it might be.

YouTube user (and crabber?) Scott Murray attached a GoPro camera to a crab net—and was surprised with what he saw.

YouTube user Scott Murray had the brilliant idea to attach a GoPro camera to a crab net before casting it to the ocean floor, and was "surprised by what actually goes on down there." 

Spoiler alert: it's really not all that surprising. There are crabs. There are fish. There is an admittedly cool stingray cameo. And if you make it all the way through, you'll even see a dolphin. 

Still, this is a pretty cool perspective on the sea life that comes out when we drop in a freshly-baited net.

AWWWWWW

Politicians’ ‘Pelfies’

From Bo and Sunny Obama to California’s Sutter Brown, politicians’ pets have captured our Insta-hearts. These are the ‘pelfies’ of 2013.

The road to political popularity never did run smooth, and 2013 has definitely been no exception.

131223-lytton-pelfies-tease

Bo (L) and Sunny, the Obama family dogs, on the South Lawn of the White House on August 19, 2013 in Washington. (Pete Souza/White House via Getty)

The government shut down, the healthcare website failed to stay up, and the NSA got their rocks off by snooping through our inboxes. But amidst all the uncertainty, there has been one bastion of political stability which has remained unshakeable all year round: photos of government officials’ pets on Twitter!

Indeed, if 2013 has been the year of the selfie, our elected leaders have put their own fluffy spin on things with the “pelfie” (yep, I went there), unabashedly pimping out their pets for cheap RTs.

Purrrfect Paradise

10 Destinations for Cat Lovers

Every day, millions of cat lovers click on cat videos and cat memes. But 2014 is the year to get offline and on the road to check out some of these kitty-centric locations.

Cat Cafes, Japan

131219-cat-destinations-japancafe

Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty

Japan is known for many things, but lots of living space isn’t one of them. Cramped quarters haven’t stopped the Japanese from craving cat company, but short of collecting Hello Kitty figurines, what can a feline freak do? Enter the cat cafes, which are exactly as the name suggests. For a cover charge, patrons get a caffeine-n-cat fix, snuggling, romping, or just ogling as many as two dozen fluffballs for anywhere up to six hours on end. Though the concept originated in Taiwan, cat cafes are whoppingly popular in Japan, with 150 of them nationwide.

Of more than 40 cat cafes in Tokyo alone, the most popular are Calico and Cat Café Nekorobi.

Ungulates

Where Robots Race Camels

Just when you thought the most competitive sport in Dubai couldn’t get any more exciting, the owners of purebred racing camels have gone and invented remote-control jockeys to whip their dromedaries to victory.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—A late-afternoon sandstorm had descended on the Al Marmoom racetrack, some 40 kilometers outside of Dubai, and dust swirled everywhere. But even with the harsh desert weather, the races went ahead as planned.

Camel racing

Christopher Furlong/Getty

The camels—many of them owned by the royal families of the United Arab Emirates—galloped along a five-kilometer track, with the fastest ones zipping past the finish line, like clockwork, on or near the 7:40 mark. Stamped with electronic chips for identification, the animals are presented by their owners, along with parentage certificates specifying their breed and age, before every race. Afterwards, the top three finishers are taken to a nearby center to test for doping—routine fare for Dubai’s multimillion-dollar camel racing industry.

Though the camels can gallop as fast as 50 kilometers per hour (30 miles an hour)—slightly slower than the average racehorse—the most astonishing aspect of the races is not the ungulates’ blistering speed but the jockeys perched atop each animal. They weigh four to six pounds, and are equipped with remote-controlled whips that camel owners operate while driving along a parallel track in white, identical SUVs. These jockeys, in fact, are robots.

OMG

Dallas Zoo Lion Kills Lioness

Dallas Zoo Lion Kills Lioness Ilnar Salakhiev/AP

In front of visitors.

On Sunday afternoon, while horrified visitors watched, a lion bit and killed a lioness in the exhibit. The lioness, five-year-old Johari, died quickly after being bitten in the neck by one of the male lions. One onlooker said the lion bit her “for, like, 10 minutes...waiting until it quit moving.” Zoo officials could not explain the attack but said it is rare. Another witness to the grisly scene described it unfolding, saying, “At first you think they’re playing, and then you realize he’s killing her, and...you’re watching it and you just can’t believe your eyes.” For now, officials say the male and female lions will not be placed in the same exhibit.

Read it at CNN

Spooky

Horse Stampede Causes Car Crashes

After mass escape from Ohio farm.

More than three dozen horses escaped from a family farm in western Ohio during the night Friday and caused a cascade of car crashes that left six horses dead and two drivers injured. The horses were involved in at least five crashes, the first at 3:30 a.m Friday as they roamed through the forest and wandered into roads. They may have escaped through a hole in the fence, the the owners have not been reached for comment.

Read it at ABC News

Mystery Solved?

DNA Shows Dogs Came from Europe

DNA Shows Dogs Came from Europe Jens Buettner/AP

Were the first domesticated animal.

It’s mystified scientists for years, but a new study may help solve the puzzle of where man’s best friend first emerged. The large DNA study, published in the journal Science, shows that dogs originated in Europe somewhere between 19,000 to 32,000 years ago. The earliest known fossils came from Europe, but other DNA studies have suggested Asia and the Middle East. Scientists generally agree that dogs descended from wolves to become the first domesticated animal. They theorize that wolves developed a symbiotic relationship with humans after being attracted to the garbage groups of people discarded, and people found them useful for hunting and protection.

Read it at Fox News

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Animal Planet

Speak, Fido, Speak!

Scientists Interpret Dog Tail Wags

Scientists Interpret Dog Tail Wags Matt Cardy/Getty

Right tail wag means happy. Left means nervous.

There may be more to Fido’s tail-wagging than just him telling you he’s happy. According to a study published in the journal Current Biology, dogs wag their tails more to the right when they are happy and, conversely, swish to the left when they are nervous—and not only that, but other dogs can read and respond to these signals. That last bit of new information comes from researchers working with Georgio Vallortigara, a neuroscientist from the University of Trento, who said, “It is very well known in humans that the left and right side of the brain are differently involved in stimuli that invokes positive or negative emotions. Here we attempted to look at it in other species.” 

Read it at BBC

20 Years Ago

‘Hocus Pocus’ Cat Speaks

Jason Marsden, the voice of Binx, talks about the cult classic on its 20th anniversary. He’s also starred in Full House, Boy Meets World, and just about every show millennials love.

Halloween movies are supposed to be terrifying. Gory. Filled with blood-curdling screams and face-eating zombies and hatchet-wielding villains played by Hollywood’s most menacing actors. They’re not, traditionally, supposed to feature a choreographed musical number, endear audiences to a precocious talking cat, or star a villain played by…Bette Midler.

Hocus Pocus

(From left to right) Sarah Jessica Packer as 'Sarah,' Bette Midler as 'Winifred' and Kathy Najimy as 'Mary' in the 1993 film "Hocus Pocus." (Buena Vista/Everett Collection )

Yet Hocus Pocus, which was released twenty years ago this year, features all of those things and has, implausibly, become a cherished entry in the Halloween-movie canon. (Just ask Buzzfeed...)

It’s an utterly silly movie, which should surprise no one who learns that it stars Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker. They’re sister witches by way of Larry, Curly, and Moe—decked in hideously fun costumes, campy personalities, and, on Midler at least, glorious fake teeth. (All the better to chew scenery with.) There’s an endearingly complicated mythology to track, with the sisters on a mission to devour the souls of children—only after performing a production number, naturally—as an intrepid teen (Omri Katz), his crush (Vinessa Shaw), his sister (Thora Birch), and a talking cat named Thackery Binx team up to stop them.

Deep Dive

Fishy Mystery

A pair of giant, bony fish—one 18 feet long—have washed up on California beaches this week. Are they climate change victims? Prophets of doom? Scientist Kevin Bailey on what we know.

Two sea serpents washed ashore in southern California shores last week, startling local beachgoers, puzzling marine biologists—and giving rise to countless creepy conspiracy theories.

Giant Fish

This Friday Oct. 18, 2013 image provided by Mark Bussey shows an oarfish that washed up on the beach near Oceanside, Calif. This rare, snakelike oarfish measured nearly 14 feet long. (Mark Bussey/AP)

The first sighting of the oarfish was an 18-footer that surprised a diver off Catalina Island. She dragged the dead beast, estimated to weigh 400 pounds, out of the water with the help of friends on October 13. The second, logging in at 14 feet, washed up at Oceanside Harbor five days later.

Beaching of the oarfish is a very rare occurrence—the last time it happened was 2010—so two in one week is certainly an oddity. In fact, the creatures dwell so deep in the ocean that they’re rarely seen at all. (One eerie video which surfaced in June was something of a viral hit.)

sea serpent

18-Foot Oarfish Found in CA

18-Foot Oarfish Found in CA KTLA

Discovery made by science instructor.

Who says the Loch Ness monster isn't real? A snorkeling marine science instructor made the discovery of a lifetime on Tuesday when she discovered the carcass of an 18-foot-long oarfish, a serpent-like creature. "We've never seen a fish this big," said a senior captain of a sail training ship at the Catalina Marine Institute. "The last oarfish we saw was three feet long." Sightings of the oarfish, which can grow up to 50 feet, are extremely rare since the animal dives more than 3,000 feet deep into the ocean. The fish appears to have died of natural causes and will be buried in the sand to decompose then its bones will be reconstituted for display.

Read it at Fox News

This is a chihuahua who likes to sing-along to a Vampire Weekend song. And it's totally adorable.

Baxter is a full-grown long-haired chihuahua who likes howling along to Vampire Weekend's 2008 hit song "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa." Baxter's owner, Geoff Stockton, says he discovered the pooch "has a serious passion for singing" a few months before posting the video. "High pitched vocals and/or harmonica provide all the inspiration he needs," Geoff writes. Baxter was unavailable for comment.

Beast Beast

Welcome to BeastBeast! Feed this, pet that.

Need Tips To Become A Better Boyfriend?

These animals can help you out. Do: copy this adorable dog's 'feel better' eyes. Don't: whine like this irritated frog.

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Man Attaches GoPro Camera to Crab Net, Sees Crabs

Man Attaches GoPro Camera to Crab Net, Sees Crabs

YouTube user (and crabber?) Scott Murray attached a GoPro camera to a crab net—and was surprised with what he saw.

All Dogs Aboard!

Beast Beast

It Really Is Raining Cats and Dogs