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Death by Anteater

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With their long snouts, bushy tails, and beautifully patterned coats, giant anteaters are cute—in a weird sort of way. And their babies ride around on their moms' backs for their first year, which is adorable. But if you’re ever tempted to try and snuggle one or throw a leash on it and take it for a stroll, though, a recent case study in the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine shows that getting in an anteater’s face is a very bad idea. 

In their report, researchers from Brazil document the case of a giant anteater that attacked and killed a human hunter in self-defense. The man, a 47-year-old Brazilian, was hunting with his two sons in the forest when their dogs cornered an adult anteater, which reared up on its hind legs in a defensive position sometimes known as “an anteater’s hug” (here’s a different species, the collared anteater, in a similar stance). While the men were armed with rifles, they didn’t want to shoot their dogs by accident, so the man drew his knife and approached the anteater. 

When he got close, the animal lashed out at him with its four-inch claws, which the animals normally use to dig up anthills and termite nests, but which can also be devastating weapons. The anteater scratched and bruised the man’s neck and right leg, and punctured his left arm twice and his left leg eight times. While his sons managed to free him and shoot the anteater, the animal's claws had damaged the man's femoral artery, and he bled out and died at the scene. 

“The tragic case described here was first and foremost an accident,” the researchers say. Giant anteaters prefer to avoid humans or retreat from them, but that’s not always an option because of their poor vision and hearing. Defensive attacks are rare, and happen only when someone corners the animals or makes them feel trapped. The consequences of doing that are plain in this incident, which, the researchers say, “should serve as a warning to respect the boundaries between wildlife and humans, especially when they co-inhabit a given area.”

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Animals
Watch a School of Humpback Whales 'Fish' Using Nets Made of Bubbles 

Just like humans, humpback whales catch many fish at once by using nets—but instead of being woven from fibers, their nets are made of bubbles.

Unique to humpbacks, the behavior known as bubble-net feeding was recently captured in a dramatic drone video that was created by GoPro and spotted by Smithsonian. The footage features a school of whales swimming off Maskelyne Island in British Columbia, Canada, in pursuit of food. The whales dive down, and a large circle of bubbles forms on the water's surface. Then, the marine mammals burst into the air, like circus animals jumping through a ring, and appear to swallow their meal.

The video offers a phenomenal aerial view of the feeding whales, but it only captures part of the underwater ritual. It begins with the group's leader, who locates schools of fish and krill and homes in on them. Then, it spirals to the water's surface while expelling air from its blowhole. This action creates the bubble ring, which works like a net to contain the prey.

Another whale emits a loud "trumpeting feeding call," which may stun and frighten the fish into forming tighter schools. Then, the rest of the whales herd the fish upwards and burst forth from the water, their mouths open wide to receive the fruits of their labor.

Watch the intricate—and beautiful—feeding process below:

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Big Questions
Why Do Dogs Love to Dig?
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Dog owners with green thumbs beware: It's likely just a matter of time before Fido turns your azalea bed into a graveyard of forgotten chew toys. When dogs aren't digging up your prized garden, they can be found digging elsewhere in your yard, at the beach, and even between your couch cushions at home. But what exactly is behind your dog's drive to turn every soft surface he or she sees into an excavation site?

According to Dr. Emma Grigg, an animal behaviorist and co-author of The Science Behind a Happy Dog, this behavior is completely normal. "When people say 'why do dogs dig,' the first thing that always comes to mind is 'well, because they're dogs,'" she tells Mental Floss. The instinct first appeared in dogs' wolf ancestors, then it was amplified in certain breeds through artificial selection. That's why dogs that were bred to hunt rodents, like beagles and terriers, are especially compelled to dig in places where such animals might make their homes.

But this tendency isn't limited to just a few specific breeds. No matter their original roles, dogs of all breeds have been known to kick up some dirt on occasion. Beyond predatory urges, Dr. Grigg says there are two main reasons a dog may want to dig. The first is to cool off on a hot day. When stuck on an open lawn with little to no shade, unearthing a fresh layer of dirt untouched by the sun is a quick way to beat the heat.

The second reason is to stash away goodies. Imagine your dog gets bored with chewing his favorite bone but knows he wants to come back for it later. Instead of leaving it out in the open where anyone can snatch it up, he decides to bury it in a secret place where only he'll be able to find it. Whether or not he'll actually go back for it is a different story. "There's a disconnect with modern dogs: They know the burying part but they don't always know to dig it up," Dr. Grigg says.

Because digging is part of a dog's DNA, punishing your pet for doing so isn't super effective. But that doesn't mean you should stand idly by as your yard gets turned inside-out. When faced with this behavior in your own dog, one option is to redirect it. This can mean allowing him to dig in a designated corner of the yard while keeping other parts off-limits, or setting up a raised flowerbed or sandbox especially to satisfy that urge. "You can get him interested in the area by burying a couple bones or some interesting things in there for him to dig," Dr. Grigg says. "I like the idea of buried treasure."

If your dog's motive for digging is more destructive than practical, he may have an energy problem. Dogs require a certain amount of stimulation each day, and when their humans don't provide it for them they find their own ways to occupy themselves. Sometimes it's by chewing up shoes, toppling trash cans, or digging ditches the perfect size for twisting ankles. Fortunately, this is nothing more walks and playtime can't improve.

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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