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Scientists Tell Octopus Species Apart by Counting Their Warts

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As kids, we were taught that it’s impolite to stare. It’s a good thing not everybody listened. Researchers peering at adorable, pudgy deep-sea octopuses say the placement and number of their warts could be a way of differentiating two very similar-looking species. They published their findings in the journal Marine Biology Research.

Graneledone verrucosa, pictured above, and Graneledone pacifica, pictured below, have an awful lot in common.

A small pink octopus on the sea floor near coral.
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They live deep in the sea, sometimes chilling as far down as 9500 feet into the blackness. They’re My Little Pony–colored, big-eyed, and cute as dumplings. And they’re warty as heck.

Previous studies have suggested that these lumps could help distinguish one Graneledone species from another, but deep-sea critters are tricky and expensive to find and collect. The scarcity of specimens has made the wart hypothesis difficult to confirm.

And that’s where museum collections come in. Lead author Janet Voight is associate curator of invertebrates at The Field Museum in Chicago. She and her co-author, Jessica Kurth of Pennsylvania State University, examined 72 different squishy specimens, carefully noting the placement, size, and quantity of each animal’s warts.

“Nobody has sat down with dozens of these octopuses and compared them,” Voight said in a statement. “There are so many things like that in museum collections, just waiting for the right scientist to come along and use the information they offer."

The researchers’ octopus ogling paid off: They found clear, if subtle, differences in the two species’ lump-scapes. G. pacifica was wartier, with more bumps running down its arms and mantle than its cousin has.

The study shows the importance of having multiple specimens to compare, Voight says. "If you only have two individuals, you don't know what's important and what's not—it'd be like meeting a person with blonde hair and a person with brown hair and concluding that they must be different species."

It also illustrates how little we know about animals in the deep sea. "This study should make future octopus analysis easier and more rigorous," Voight says. "I’d be happy if that happened.”

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Animals
The Simple Way to Protect Your Dog From Dangerous Rock Salt
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Winter can be a tough time for dogs. The cold weather usually means there are fewer opportunities for walks and more embarrassing accessories for them to wear. But the biggest threat to canines this time of year is one pet owners may not notice: the dangerous rock salt coating the streets and sidewalks. If you live someplace where this is a problem, here are the steps you need to take to keep your pooch safe until the weather warms up, according to Life Hacker.

Rock salt poses two major hazards to pets: damage to their feet and poisoning from ingestion. The first is the one most pet owners are aware of. Not only do large grains of salt hurt when they get stuck in a dog’s paws, but they can also lead to frostbite and chemical burns due to the de-icing process at work. The easiest way to prevent this is by covering your dog’s paws before taking them outside. Dog booties get the job done, as do protective balms and waxes that can be applied directly to their pads.

The second danger is a little harder to anticipate. The only way you can stop your dog from eating rock salt from the ground is to keep a close eye on them. Does your dog seem a little too interested in a puddle or a mound of snow? Encourage them to move on before they have a chance to take a lick.

If, for some reason, you forget to follow the steps above and your pet has a bad encounter with some winter salt, don’t panic. For salty feet, soak your dog's paws in warm water once you get inside to wash away any remaining grit. If your dog exhibits symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and disorientation and you suspect they’ve ingested rock salt, contact your vet right away.

Even with the proper protection, winter can still create an unsafe environment for dogs. Check out this handy chart to determine when it’s too cold to take them for a walk.

[h/t Life Hacker]

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© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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Animals
Boston's Museum of Fine Arts Hires Puppy to Sniff Out Art-Munching Bugs
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Some dogs are qualified to work at hospitals, fire departments, and airports, but one place you don’t normally see a pooch is in the halls of a fine art museum. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is changing that: As The Boston Globe reports, a young Weimaraner named Riley is the institution’s newest volunteer.

Even without a background in art restoration, Riley will be essential in maintaining the quality of the museum's masterpieces. His job is to sniff out the wood- and canvas-munching pests lurking in the museum’s collection. During the next few months, Riley will be trained to identify the scents of bugs that pose the biggest threat to the museum’s paintings and other artifacts. (Moths, termites, and beetles are some of the worst offenders.)

Some infestations can be spotted with the naked eye, but when that's impossible, the museum staff will rely on Riley to draw attention to the problem after inspecting an object. From there, staff members can examine the piece more closely and pinpoint the source before it spreads.

Riley is just one additional resource for the MFA’s existing pest control program. As far as the museum knows, it's rare for institutions facing similar problems to hire canine help. If the experiment is successful, bug-sniffing dogs may become a common sight in art museums around the world.

[h/t The Boston Globe]

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