Meerkat School

This story came out a couple weeks ago in Science, but I didn't read about it until flipping through The Week a few days ago.

Researchers in the Kalahari Desert recently observed meerkats teaching their young how to bite the stinger off a scorpion before eating it. "So what?" replied my mailman when I told him about it. "Well", I said to Andy the mailman, "This is the only other mammal that's been found actively teaching its young. Most other animals seem to learn through observation, but not direct teaching." "Cool, here's your mail."

Meerkat hunters rapidly bite their prey's head or abdomen to disable its attack, but young pups lack the experience for the task. Instead of allowing pups to learn by trial and error and risk receiving a potentially life-threatening sting, other meerkats older than three months take the pups under their wing to show them how its done.

The helpers respond to the pups' begging calls, and as the cries sound more and more mature, the teachers increase the difficulty of the lesson. Instead of a dead scorpion, teachers remove the stinger from a live scorpion and present it to the pups. At this stage in the pupil's tutelage, if the scorpion escapes, the teacher nudges it back for a second try.

Once the pups have mastered disabled prey, teachers bring an unaltered scorpion to the classroom for their students to tackle.

This discovery brings the number of species known to teach their young to three. The other two are humans and a certain species of ant.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
The Simple Way to Reheat Your French Fries and Not Have Them Turn Into a Soggy Mess
iStock
iStock

Some restaurant dishes are made to be doggy-bagged and reheated in the microwave the next day. Not French fries: The more crispy and delectable they are when they first arrive on your table, the more of a soggy disappointment they’ll be when you try to revive them at home. But as The Kitchn recently shared, there’s a secret to making leftover fries you’ll actually enjoy eating.

The key is to avoid the microwave altogether. Much of the appeal of fries comes from their crunchy, golden-brown exterior and their creamy potato center. This texture contrast is achieved by deep-frying, and all it takes is a few rotations around a microwave to melt it away. As the fries heat up, they create moisture, transforming all those lovely crispy parts into a flabby mess.

If you want your fries to maintain their crunch, you need to recreate the conditions they were cooked in initially. Set a large pan filled with about 2 tablespoons of oil for every 1 cup of fries you want to cook over medium-high heat. When you see the oil start to shimmer, add the fries in a single layer. After about a minute, flip them over and allow them to cook for half a minute to a minute longer.

By heating up fries with oil in a skillet, you produce something called the Maillard Reaction: This happens when high heat transforms proteins and sugars in food, creating the browning effect that gives fried foods their sought-after color, texture, and taste.

After your fries are nice and crisp, pull them out of the pan with tongs or a spatula, set them on a paper towel to absorb excess oil, and sprinkle them with salt. Now all you need is a perfect burger to feel like you’re eating a restaurant-quality meal at home.

[h/t The Kitchn]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
Bone Collector
iStock
iStock

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios