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Britain’s “Big Cat” Conundrum

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Thinking of the wild English countryside might conjure up images of manor houses, green fields, and secret gardens; lions, tigers, and bears are from a different kind of story—but that's not actually so, according to a recent discovery by a team of researchers. The team analyzed the skeleton and mounted skin of a previously unidentified animal in the basement of the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and have found it to be a Canadian lynx, a cousin to housecats and cheetahs and tigers—oh my.

A previous curator of the Bristol Museum had mislabeled the specimen as a Eurasian lynx, a close-but-not-quite-right identifier for the species of “big cat.” The records also indicated that the museum had acquired the animal’s body in the early 1900s, after a Devonshire landowner shot the creature for having killed two of his dogs—a surprisingly domestic end for an animal more likely to be found roaming in dense forests under the cover of deep snow.

The Canadian lynx obviously isn’t a species native to Britain, so how did it get there if not by boat or plane? British big cats are something of an anomaly to begin with: Reports come in every so often of one having been sighted in the wild, despite the impossibility of any natural animal migration to the island, but the Bristol Museum’s long-dead specimen is one of the only definitive cases subjected to scientific scrutiny. One hypothesis traces the surge in non-native species like various big cats to the time of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976, passed when the worrying trend of imported exotic pets threatened to infringe on public safety. That is, traveling by boat or plane may be exactly how Canadian lynxes got to England. Spooked by the threat of regulation and hefty fines, owners then irresponsibly released foreign creatures into the British wild.

The museum’s lynx acquisition, however, dates from 1903—proof that big cats have roamed English soil for over a century, long before the 1976 law might have convinced tiger-owners to set their pets free. The origins of Britain’s big cats, and Bristol’s one Canadian lynx, remain a mystery.

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Animals
Why Male Hyenas Have It Worse Than Females
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A life of hunting zebras and raising young on the savanna isn’t half bad for a female hyena. Sadly, the same can’t be said for their male counterparts. As MinuteEarth explains, things take a downturn for the males of the species once they hit adolescence. No female in their pack will mate with them, a behavior scientists believe evolved to avoid inbreeding, so they head off in search of a different group to join. After dealing with vicious hazing from their new clan, they file in at the bottom of the rank and wait for other males above them to die so that they can slowly gain status.

Even after rising through the hierarchy, the most a male hyena can aspire to is being second place to the lowest-ranking female. Thanks to their bulky build and aggressive behavior, female hyenas enjoy a dominant position that’s rare in the animal kingdom.

After watching the video below, head over here for more facts about hyenas.

[h/t MinuteEarth]

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Art
A Beached Whale Sculpture Popped Up on the Banks of Paris's Seine River
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In Paris, dozens of fish varieties live in the Seine River. Now, the Associated Press reports that the famous waterway is home to a beached whale.

Rest assured, eco-warriors: The sperm whale is actually a lifelike sculpture, installed on an embankment next to Notre Dame Cathedral by Belgian artists’ collective Captain Boomer. It’s meant to raise environmental awareness, and evoke "the child in everyone who still is puzzled about what is real and what is not,” collective member Bart Van Peel told the Associated Press.

The 65-foot sculpture has reportedly startled and confused many Parisians, thanks in part to a team of fake scientists deployed to “survey” the whale. One collective member even posted a video on social media, warning Parisians that there “may be others in the water” if they opt to take a dip in the river, The Local reported.

The whale sculpture is only temporary—but as for Captain Boomer, this isn’t their first whale-related stunt. Last summer, the collective installed a similar riverside artwork in Rennes, France, and they also once strapped a large-scale whale sculpture to the back of a truck and drove it around France.

[h/t Associated Press]

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