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Watch a clam snarf salt off a table

Here’s a fun pastime, if you’re mildly sociopathic: Put a clam on a table. Sprinkle salt around it. Watch as it investigates with what looks for all the world like a gigantic creepy beige tongue.

Yes, we know it's not a tongue, but you know it looks like it's sticking out its tongue and very slowly licking its lips.

Alex Hern at the New Statesman captures the pathos of it all:

Read more: Animals


These beautiful bridges are just for animals

Highway A50, Netherlands. (Photo by Niels Verheul.)

If we're going to keep putting roads in the middle of their habitats, animals are sometimes going to need to cross the road. But it's better for everyone involved if they don't have to push a button and wait for the light to change, because they don't have thumbs and nine times out of 10 they'll just careen into the side of your car. Which is why some highways have overpasses built specifically for animals like deer, elk, and grizzly bears.

Banff, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Joel Sartore.)
Read more: Animals


The ocean’s tiniest, strangest creatures

Polychaeta. (Photo courtesy of Tara Oceans.)

The Tara Oceans is a 118-foot research ship that collects ocean zooplankton and phytoplankton -- microscopic marine organisms that we often know nothing about. These tiny critters have a crucial place at the bottom of the food chain, but global warming is killing them off at a rate of 1 percent per year. The Tara Oceans wants to chronicle these often-unstudied species before they're lost -- because they're important, because they're rare and mysterious, and also because they're SO WEIRD.

Read more: Animals


If you promise not to panhandle, San Francisco will give you a puppy

Photo by: Jessica R.

San Francisco has an overabundance of dogs who need love and homes, and a large number of people who make their living by panhandling. This summer, the city's starting a program that could benefit both groups. The program, called WOOF (which, in a textbook example of why coming up with the acronym first isn't always a great idea, stands for Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos), will pay residents of supportive housing $50-75 a week -- about the same amount a panhandler might take in -- to foster adorable puppies who need to get accustomed to human companionship.

It's a great idea, but Atlantic Cities reports that some dog-loving San Franciscans worry about whether the dogs will be getting the best of care. I mean, whose dogs are these? How can anyone just sit there eating while they're tied up to poles? Who puts their dog on a pole like a stripper?

Not to worry, Portlandians San Franciscans, the organizers of the program are on it:

Read more: Animals, Cities


Chinese police save 3,600 endangered crocodiles from being eaten by humans

In southern China, police intercepted three foreigners trying to sneak over the border with precious cargo -- more than 3,600 crocodiles. By the time police arrested the smugglers, 42 of the Siamese crocs (an endangered species) had died of dehydration and overheating. But if the police hadn't intervened, the rest would have met an equally gruesome fate, as dinner for the culinarily adventurous in Guangdong province.

This was a particularly large load: The crocodiles weighed more than 17 tons in all. But according to the Guardian, environmental watchdogs like Zheng Yuanying, southern China program director for Green Eye of China, say that smugglers are slipping smaller shipments of reptiles over the border all the time:

Read more: Animals, Food



Scientists make depressing discovery about oceanic plastic pollution using depressing research technique

An as-yet unhelpful scientific indicator. (Photo by Jason Crotty.)

One of the best ways to determine how much plastic is polluting a region of the ocean is, unfortunately, to autopsy dead birds in the region. One species of bird in particular, the Northern fulmar, eats nearly anything, rarely regurgites plastic, and is populous enough to die in large numbers over a broad area. So scientists scour the beach for dead Northern fulmars and cut them open. Fun.

What they've found recently suggests a massive increase in the amount of plastic these birds are ingesting in the Pacific Northwest. From the Globe and Mail:

Necropsies of 67 of the beached gull-like seabirds collected between October 2009 and April 2010 from the coasts of B.C., Washington and Oregon indicated nearly 93 per cent of them had bellyfuls of plastic, she said.

One bird had 454 pieces of plastic in its gut, said [University of British Columbia researcher Stephanie] Avery-Gomm, the study’s lead author and graduate of the university’s zoology department.

Not only are more birds ingesting plastics, they're ingesting more of it.

The mass of plastic that’s eaten also increased dramatically -- from 0.04 grams in 1969-1977 to 0.385 grams in the current study, she said, adding the average northern fulmar weighs about 800 grams.

Read more: Animals, Pollution


South Korea may start hunting whales again, for ‘science’

CNN reports:

South Korea is considering hunting whales in the waters off its shores for what it says are scientific purposes, drawing criticism from environmental groups and countries around the Pacific Rim.

Citing calls from fishermen for a resumption of limited whaling, the head of the South Korean delegation to the International Whaling Commission, Kang Joon-suk, said Wednesday that Seoul was working on a proposal to hunt minke whales migrating off the Korean Peninsula.

As everyone knows, some of the world's greatest scientists are first-and-foremost fishermen: J. Craig Venter, James Cameron, the Gorton's guy.

The tastiest / most scientifically pertinent part. (Photo by kohane.)

The "we're doing it for science" argument is one that Japan has used for years. As of yet, there have been very few peer-reviewed studies about the whales that they catch.

Read more: Animals


Cute bushy-tailed fossil suggests most dinosaurs had feathers

The dinosaur shown in this new fossil, which is so great it almost looks fake, is called Sciurumimus albersdoerferi -- Sciurumimus means "squirrel mimic." That's undoubtedly because of its lush, bushy tail, perfectly preserved in fine-grained sediment. But that's not a furry squirrel tail you're looking at; it's all feathers, and the discovery of S. albersdoerferi suggests that most dinosaurs had them. The smooth, scaly dinosaurs you remember from your childhood pajamas are a myth.

Read more: Animals


Antarctic moss eats 8,000-year-old penguin poop

Earlier this year, a slightly horrifying factoid made its way around the internet: Penguins poop so much that piles of their poop can be seen from space. But take heart, people who don’t like thinking about mountains of bird guano: It turns out that today's penguin dung heap could be tomorrow's source of nutrition for beautiful, fuzzy moss.

A team of Australian researchers were looking into the source of nutrients for these Antarctic plants, the BBC explains, and had narrowed it down to "nitrogen that's gone through algae, krill and fish." That food chain leads to seabirds -- penguins -- but the researchers were puzzled:

Since no penguins live on the elevated lakeside site in East Antarctica, the researchers had to work out where the mysterious seabird poo came from.

They realized that their moss beds were growing on the site of an ancient penguin colony.

"Between 3,000 and 8,000 years ago, on the site where the moss is now growing, there used to be [Adelie] penguins," said Prof Robinson.

Read more: Animals, Biofuel