CLOSE
Olivier Testa
Olivier Testa

The Orange Cave Crocodiles of Gabon

Olivier Testa
Olivier Testa

Image via.

In 2010, a group of scientists went on an expedition into the Abanda caves in the rainforest of Gabon. Among the many creatures they found there—bats, snakes, moths, spiders, crickets, scorpions and other insects and arachnids—there was a surprise. While making his way through a narrow passage, one of the scientists caught the reflection of two big eyes in the light of his headlamp. He was face-to-face with a crocodile. As he stood frozen wondering what he should do, the croc disappeared down the tunnel.

Crocs in caves are rare, but not unheard of. The reptiles are known to shelter in caves and caverns in Madagascar and Mauritania, but when the scientists tracked down and captured a few of the Abanda crocs, they found they were strange in ways besides their choice of home.

They were orange.

Some of the animals were clearly trapped in their underground home, and found in parts of cave system that were only accessible through a 7-meter-deep pit. While the rest of the crocs had more freedom to move around, the genetic and physical differences (broader heads, poorer eyesight and that strange orange skin) between them and crocodiles living on the surface suggested that the cave population had been isolated for a few thousand years.

The researchers think that the caves may have been more accessible in the past and a few crocs found shelter there, but over time the entrances they used filled in with sediment that kept them from coming and going on their own and cut them off from the outside world.

The group of cave crocs, which was 20 strong when the researchers made their expedition, live in complete darkness and are almost blind. Their diet consists of their underground neighbors—mostly bats, insects and a good amount of algae. Their unique color could be caused by any number of things: a physiological change linked to a life in darkness, their diet, or even a chemical reaction to algae or something else in the water or on the caves’ rock surfaces.

There are no hard answers yet, as the research is still ongoing, but you can get a peek at the scientists in action. A film crew accompanied the scientists on expedition and released a documentary about it last year for French television. You can watch a trailer here.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
iStock
iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
If You Want Your Cat to Poop Out More Hairballs, Try Feeding It Beets
iStock
iStock

Have you ever wondered if there’s a way to get your cat to poop out its hairballs instead of hacking them up? If so, you’re likely a seasoned cat owner whose tolerance for gross stuff has reached the point of no return. Luckily, there may be an easy way to get your cat to dispose of hairballs in the litter box instead of on your carpet, according to one study.

The paper, published in the Journal of Physiology and Animal Nutrition, followed the diets of 18 mixed-breed short-haired cats over a month. Some cats were fed straight kibble, while others were given helpings of beet pulp along with their regular meals. The researchers suspected that beets, a good source of fiber, would help move any ingested hair through the cats’ digestive systems, thus preventing it from coming back up the way it went in. Following the experiment, they found that the cats with the beet diet did indeed poop more.

The scientists didn’t measure how many hairballs the cats were coughing up during this period, so it's possible that pooping out more of them didn’t stop cats from puking them up at the same rate. But considering hairballs are a matter of digestive health, more regular bowel movements likely reduced the chance that cats would barf them up. The cat body is equipped to process large amounts of hair: According to experts, healthy cats should only be hacking hairballs once or twice a year.

If you find them around your home more frequently than that, it's a good idea to up your cat's fiber intake. Raw beet pulp is just one way to introduce fiber into your pet's diet; certain supplements for cats work just as well and actually contain beet pulp as a fiber source. Stephanie Liff, a veterinarian at Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York, recommends psyllium powder to her patients. Another option for dealing with hairballs is the vegetable-oil based digestive lubricant Laxatone: According to Dr. Liff, this can "help to move hairballs in the correct direction."

[h/t Discover]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios