And now for something completely different

Whew! That was a heavy way to start the morning. I need a palate cleanser -- something that's cute and fanciful and playful and the exact opposite of a serial killer. I need...

The world's silliest animal: the tapir. From Tapirback:

  • There are four species of tapirs worldwide, and all of them have babies with striped coats that make them look like "watermelons on legs." They lose the stripes within the first year of life.
  • Nobody knows whether their ancient ancestors began in Asia or North America. Tapir fossils for millions of years back can be found in Asia, Europe, and the U.S., but there are none in Africa, Australia, or [editor's note: unsurprisingly] Antarctica. Today, tapirs live only in South America and Southeast Asia.
  • They'll eat basically anything, but almost all of them love bananas.
  • The tapirs featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey are Tapirus terrestris, or lowland (Brazilian) tapirs, which would not survive in the desert environment Kubrick designed for them. These particular ones came from the Twycross Zoo in England.
  • Apparently the great French zoologist Georges Cuvier once announced to the world that all the large land mammals had already been discovered. The next year, the Malayan tapir became known to Western science.

_39482725_pa200baby.jpgHere's one more fact we didn't find on Tapirback: The male tapir is so well endowed that, when he's in a good mood, his manhood can extend past his front legs.

If you're near a zoo that has a tapir, particularly a baby one, go visit! If not, at least check out this blog that's entirely about tapirs -- because it wouldn't be the interweb if there weren't one of those.

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Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too
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There’s plenty of research that suggests that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. In some cases of depression, in fact—particularly less-severe ones—scientists have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, which don’t work for everyone and can come with some annoying side effects. Previous studies have largely concentrated on aerobic exercise, like running, but new research shows that weight lifting can be a useful depression treatment, too.

The study in JAMA Psychiatry, led by sports scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland, examined the results of 33 previous clinical trials that analyzed a total of 1877 participants. It found that resistance training—lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push ups, and any other exercises targeted at strengthening muscles rather than increasing heart rate—significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

This held true regardless of how healthy people were overall, how much of the exercises they were assigned to do, or how much stronger they got as a result. While the effect wasn’t as strong in blinded trials—where the assessors don’t know who is in the control group and who isn’t, as is the case in higher-quality studies—it was still notable. According to first author Brett Gordon, these trials showed a medium effect, while others showed a large effect, but both were statistically significant.

The studies in the paper all looked at the effects of these training regimes on people with mild to moderate depression, and the results might not translate to people with severe depression. Unfortunately, many of the studies analyzed didn’t include information on whether or not the patients were taking antidepressants, so the researchers weren’t able to determine what role medications might play in this. However, Gordon tells Mental Floss in an email that “the available evidence supports that [resistance training] may be an effective alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms that could be prescribed on its own and/or in conjunction with other depression treatments,” like therapy or medication.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet comparing whether aerobic exercise or resistance training might be better at alleviating depressive symptoms, and future research might tackle that question. Even if one does turn out to be better than the other, though, it seems that just getting to the gym can make a big difference.

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