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7 Animals That Eat One Food Almost Exclusively

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Occasionally, deep in the bliss of a fourth of fifth or sixth slice of pizza, you might remark, "I could eat pizza for the rest of my life." But most of us aren't dedicated enough to forgo the bounty of modern cuisine for just one foodstuff—not even pizza. Most wild animals opt for a buffet style approach, too; after all, being picky about what to eat could mean starvation. But a few animals are able to make the equivalent of the pizza pledge. Here are a few of them. 

1. Egg-eating snakes

These snakes eat only amniotic eggs, which have a shell and a number of embryonic membranes. The snakes have bones, called hypapophyses, which are large and sharp enough to penetrate egg shells. After the snake cracks the shell, the yolk proceeds on to the stomach, and the snake regurgitates the shell. There are 11 kinds of egg-eating snakes in Africa and one really rare species found in India.

2. Koalas

The vast majority of a koala's diet consists of the leaves from the eucalyptus plant. There are some 600 species of eucalyptus available to the koala, but the koala only eats the leaves of about three dozen varieties. The fibrous leaves, which are low in nutritional value, are also difficult to digest; the koala saves its energy by sleeping or resting up to 22 hours a day.

3. Snail kite

A kite is a kind of bird, and a snail kite is a kind of bird that eats apple snails almost exclusively. When apple snails are scarce, it will occasionally poke around at other animals (including small turtles and crayfish) found in its habitat, which spans much of South America and parts of Florida and the Caribbean.

4. Giant pandas

Some 99 percent of a giant panda's diet is comprised of the leaves, shoots, and stems of bamboo. Like eucalyptus, bamboo doesn't have a lot of nutritional value, so pandas have to eat 26 to 83 pounds of the tough, fibrous plant a day. China's giant pandas are from the animal order Carnivora, though, and so they occasionally will eat small rodents. (And in captivity, according to the Smithsonian National Zoo, the bears eat "bamboo, sugar cane, rice gruel, a special high-fiber biscuit, carrots, apples, and sweet potatoes.")

5. Monarch caterpillars

Monarch butterflies, of course, eat nectar. But as caterpillars, they only eat the leaves of the toxic milkweed plant, which makes the caterpillars—and the adult butterflies—poisonous to animals.

6. Black-footed ferrets

The endangered black-footed ferret lives in the Western United States and eats mostly prairie dogs—more than 100 a year. The ferrets hunt them in their burrows and live in the abandoned digs. Occasionally, when a prairie dog isn't around (roughly nine percent of the time), the black-footed ferret will chow down on squirrels and mice.

7. Pen-tailed treeshrews

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The pen-tailed treeshrew of Thailand and Indonesia only drinks the naturally fermented nectar of the bertam palm, which has an alcohol content of 3.8 percent (the equivalent of a can of light lager). The little creature drinks the equivalent of 10 to 12 cans of beer a night. Despite the fact that the animals are drinking an amount of alcohol that would be dangerous for most mammals, they don't show any signs of intoxication.

All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise noted.

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This Just In
Criminal Gangs Are Smuggling Illegal Rhino Horns as Jewelry
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Valuable jewelry isn't always made from precious metals or gems. Wildlife smugglers in Africa are increasingly evading the law by disguising illegally harvested rhinoceros horns as wearable baubles and trinkets, according to a new study conducted by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

As BBC News reports, TRAFFIC analyzed 456 wildlife seizure records—recorded between 2010 and June 2017—to trace illegal rhino horn trade routes and identify smuggling methods. In a report, the organization noted that criminals have disguised rhino horns in the past using all kinds of creative methods, including covering the parts with aluminum foil, coating them in wax, or smearing them with toothpaste or shampoo to mask the scent of decay. But as recent seizures in South Africa suggest, Chinese trafficking networks within the nation are now concealing the coveted product by shaping horns into beads, disks, bangles, necklaces, and other objects, like bowls and cups. The protrusions are also ground into powder and stored in bags along with horn bits and shavings.

"It's very worrying," Julian Rademeyer, a project leader with TRAFFIC, told BBC News. "Because if someone's walking through the airport wearing a necklace made of rhino horn, who is going to stop them? Police are looking for a piece of horn and whole horns."

Rhino horn is a hot commodity in Asia. The keratin parts have traditionally been ground up and used to make medicines for illnesses like rheumatism or cancer, although there's no scientific evidence that these treatments work. And in recent years, horn objects have become status symbols among wealthy men in countries like Vietnam.

"A large number of people prefer the powder, but there are those who use it for lucky charms,” Melville Saayman, a professor at South Africa's North-West University who studies the rhino horn trade, told ABC News. “So they would like a piece of the horn."

According to TRAFFIC, at least 1249 rhino horns—together weighing more than five tons—were seized globally between 2010 and June 2017. The majority of these rhino horn shipments originated in southern Africa, with the greatest demand coming from Vietnam and China. The product is mostly smuggled by air, but routes change and shift depending on border controls and law enforcement resources.

Conservationists warn that this booming illegal trade has led to a precipitous decline in Africa's rhinoceros population: At least 7100 of the nation's rhinos have been killed over the past decade, according to one estimate, and only around 25,000 remain today. Meanwhile, Save the Rhino International, a UK-based conservation charity, told BBC News that if current poaching trends continue, rhinos could go extinct in the wild within the next 10 years.

[h/t BBC News]

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Big Questions
Do Cats Fart?
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Certain philosophical questions can invade even the most disciplined of minds. Do aliens exist? Can a soul ever be measured? Do cats fart?

While the latter may not have weighed heavily on some of history’s great brains, it’s certainly no less deserving of an answer. And in contrast to existential queries, there’s a pretty definitive response: Yes, they do. We just don’t really hear it.

According to veterinarians who have realized their job sometimes involves answering inane questions about animals passing gas, cats have all the biological hardware necessary for a fart: a gastrointestinal system and an anus. When excess air builds up as a result of gulping breaths or gut bacteria, a pungent cloud will be released from their rear ends. Smell a kitten’s butt sometime and you’ll walk away convinced that cats fart.

The discretion, or lack of audible farts, is probably due to the fact that cats don’t gulp their food like dogs do, leading to less air accumulating in their digestive tract.

So, yes, cats do fart. But they do it with the same grace and stealth they use to approach everything else. Think about that the next time you blame the dog.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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