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7 Oddball Aquatic Mammals We Love

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Everyone knows all about dolphins and whales, and even dolphins that pretend to be whales (the orca! coughcough). But there are over 100 species of marine mammals in the world, and most of them have as much cool stuff going for them as any old Moby Dick.

1. Leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx)

You’ve probably heard of the leopard seal, well-known for being one of the world’s fiercest undersea predators; its name comes from its spotted coat, and from its huge mouth full of extremely sharp, terrifying teeth. Unlike other seals, which eat mostly fish, leopard seals feed on warm-blooded animals like seabirds, penguins and, yes, even other seals. Their diverse and surface-dwelling diet allows them to find plenty of food without needing to dive very deep.

2. Amazon River dolphin (Inia geoffrensis)

Known as the boto in Portuguese, the Amazon River dolphin is one of only five species of freshwater dolphin, four of which are severely endangered, and the last of which has gone extinct. The Amazon River Dolphin sometimes called the “pink dolphin,” though it is naturally white, taking on a pink, blue, or brownish hue depending on its diet and environment. The boto’s shape is different from sea-dwelling dolphins: it’s rostrum (snout) is extra long and thin, and instead of a pronounced dorsal fin, it has a long ridge along its back. Due to the low visibility in cloudy river waters, the boto also has tiny, poorly functioning eyes, and therefore relies almost entirely on echolocation to hunt its prey.

3. Dugong (Dugong dugon)

Along with its close relative the manatee, the dugong belongs to an animal order called Sirenia, derived from the belief that these arguably human-shaped creatures inspired tales of mermaids, who sang their siren song to ill-fated sailors. Less glamorously, the manatee and the dugong are informally known as “sea cows,” and use their large, rough lips to graze on sea grasses. In actuality, their closest relative among land animals is the elephant. The dugong is in a separate family than the better-known manatee, however; while the manatee has a completely round tail, the dugong’s tail is fluked, like that of a whale or a dolphin. And while manatees can live in freshwater, dugongs are strictly ocean-dwellers, making them the only marine mammals that subsist entirely on vegetation.

4. Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris)

For decades, scientists credited the sperm whale and elephant seal as performing the deepest and longest dives among air-breathing sea creatures. But recently, studies using digital tags have proven that the unassuming beaked whale leaves all other marine mammals in the proverbial dust. Cuvier’s beaked whale can dive up to 6,230 feet (1,900 meters) and for up to 85 minutes—about 2,00 more feet and 24 minutes beyond the sperm whale. It may not be the most beautiful or graceful of all cetaceans, but its thick, dense body is better suited to withstanding deep-sea pressure than to flitting about upon the waves.

5. Vaquita (Phocoena sinus)

People often use the terms “dolphin” and “porpoise” interchangeably, but the smaller, snub-nosed porpoises differ greatly from their more popular cousins in the Delphinidae family. Also known as the “Gulf of California porpoise,” the vaquita’s name means “little cow” in Spanish. It is endemic to the relatively shallow waters of the Gulf of California, inside Mexico’s Baja peninsula, where commercial fishing and changes in habitat make it one of the most endangered cetaceans on the planet. It’s also the smallest of all cetaceans, at about 4-5 ft. in length.

6. Long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas)

After the killer whale (orca) and the short-finned pilot whale, the long-finned pilot whale is the third-largest member of the dolphin family, Delphinidae (characterized primarily by their cone-shaped teeth). It also looks somewhat similar to the arctic’s beluga whale; both have bulbous “melon” heads, which help them echolocate. But unlike the long-finned pilot whale, the beluga is a true whale, most closely related to the narwhal (the one with the unicorn-looking horn).

In terms of social structure, however, the long-finned pilot whale is without rival. Known for being a gregarious species, with strong, maternally based social structures, they engage in a number of showy social behaviors like breaching, fluking, even swimming in formation, and are one of the species of cetacean most likely engage in mysterious mass strandings.

7. Polar bear (Ursus maritimus)

You read that right: Polar bears are scientifically categorized as marine mammals because they spend a large proportion of their time in the water, and rely on the ocean for survival. Other marine mammals in its order (Carnivora) are otters: the sea otter (Enhydra lutris) and the marine otter (Lontra feline). Which of these would you prefer to meet on a scuba dive?

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Food
Learn to Spot the Sneaky Psychological Tricks Restaurants Use
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While dining out, you may have noticed (but perhaps didn’t question) some unusual features—like prices missing dollar signs, or burgers served on plates that could accommodate a baby cow.

These aren’t just arbitrary culinary decisions, as the SciShow’s Hank Green explains in the video below. Restaurants use all kinds of psychological tricks to make you spend more money, ranging from eliminating currency symbols (this makes you think less about how much things cost) to plating meals on oversize dinnerware (it makes you eat more). As for the mouthwatering language used to describe food—that burger listed as a "delectable chargrilled extravagance," for example—studies show that these types of write-ups can increase sales by up to 27 percent.

Learn more psychological tricks used by restaurants (and how to avoid falling for them) by watching the video below. (Or, read our additional coverage on the subject.)

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Lists
8 of the Weirdest Gallup Polls
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Born in Jefferson, Iowa on November 18, 1901, George Gallup studied journalism and psychology, focusing on how to measure readers’ interest in newspaper and magazine content. In 1935, he founded the American Institute of Public Opinion to scientifically measure public opinions on topics such as government spending, criminal justice, and presidential candidates. Although he died in 1984, The Gallup Poll continues his legacy of trying to determine and report the will of the people in an unbiased, independent way. To celebrate his day of birth, we compiled a list of some of the weirdest, funniest Gallup polls over the years.

1. THREE IN FOUR AMERICANS BELIEVE IN THE PARANORMAL (2005)

According to this Gallup poll, 75 percent of Americans have at least one paranormal belief. Specifically, 41 percent believe in extrasensory perception (ESP), 37 percent believe in haunted houses, and 21 percent believe in witches. What about channeling spirits, you might ask? Only 9 percent of Americans believe that it’s possible to channel a spirit so that it takes temporary control of one's body. Interestingly, believing in paranormal phenomena was relatively similar across people of different genders, races, ages, and education levels.

2. ONE IN FIVE AMERICANS THINK THE SUN REVOLVES AROUND THE EARTH (1999)

In this poll, Gallup tried to determine the popularity of heliocentric versus geocentric views. While 79 percent of Americans correctly stated that the Earth revolves around the sun, 18 percent think the sun revolves around the Earth. Three percent chose to remain indifferent, saying they had no opinion either way.

3. 22 PERCENT OF AMERICANS ARE HESITANT TO SUPPORT A MORMON (2011)

Gallup first measured anti-Mormon sentiment back in 1967, and it was still an issue in 2011, a year before Mormon Mitt Romney ran for president. Approximately 22 percent of Americans said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate, even if that candidate belonged to their preferred political party. Strangely, Americans’ bias against Mormons has remained stable since the 1960s, despite decreasing bias against African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and women.

4. MISSISSIPPIANS GO TO CHURCH THE MOST; VERMONTERS THE LEAST (2010)

This 2010 poll amusingly confirms the stereotype that southerners are more religious than the rest of the country. Although 42 percent of all Americans attend church regularly (which Gallup defines as weekly or almost weekly), there are large variations based on geography. For example, 63 percent of people in Mississippi attend church regularly, followed by 58 percent in Alabama and 56 percent in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Utah. Rounding out the lowest levels of church attendance, on the other hand, were Vermont, where 23 percent of residents attend church regularly, New Hampshire, at 26 percent, and Maine at 27 percent.

5. ONE IN FOUR AMERICANS DON’T KNOW WHICH COUNTRY AMERICA GAINED INDEPENDENCE FROM (1999)

Although 76 percent of Americans knew that the United States gained independence from Great Britain as a result of the Revolutionary War, 24 percent weren’t so sure. Two percent thought the correct answer was France, 3 percent said a different country (such as Mexico, China, or Russia), and 19 percent had no opinion. Certain groups of people who consider themselves patriotic, including men, older people, and white people (according to Gallup polls), were more likely to know that America gained its independence from Great Britain.

6. ONE THIRD OF AMERICANS BELIEVE IN GHOSTS (2000)

This Halloween-themed Gallup poll asked Americans about their habits and behavior on the last day of October. Predictably, two-thirds of Americans reported that someone in their house planned to give candy to trick-or-treaters and more than three-quarters of parents with kids reported that their kids would wear a costume. More surprisingly, 31 percent of American adults claimed to believe in ghosts, an increase from 1978, when only 11 percent of American adults admitted to a belief in ghosts.

7. 5 PERCENT OF WORKING MILLENNIALS THRIVE IN ALL FIVE ELEMENTS OF WELL-BEING (2016)

This recent Gallup poll is funny in a sad way, as it sheds light on the tragicomic life of a millennial. In this poll, well-being is defined as having purpose, social support, manageable finances, a strong community, and good physical health. Sadly, only 5 percent of working millennials—defined as people born between 1980 and 1996—were thriving in these five indicators of well-being. To counter this lack of well-being, Gallup’s report recommends that managers promote work-life balance and improve their communication with millennial employees.

8. THE WORLD IS BECOMING SLIGHTLY MORE NEGATIVE (2014)

If you seem to feel more stress, sadness, anxiety, and pain than ever before, Gallup has the proof that it’s not all in your head. According to the company’s worldwide negative experience index, negative feelings such as stress, sadness, and anger have increased since 2007. Unsurprisingly, people living in war-torn, dangerous parts of the word—Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Sierra Leone—reported the highest levels of negative emotions.

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