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Mehrotra et. al, Coral Reefs (2015)

Watch Coral Devour a Sea Slug

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Mehrotra et. al, Coral Reefs (2015)

Coral may not be the most active or cuddly creatures, but they are animals, and some of them are predatory. For the first time, a group of researchers caught mushroom coral gulping down a sea slug of the genus Plakobranchus on camera, publishing the images in the journal Coral Reefs.

The scientists from the New Heaven Reef Conservation Program in Thailand and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands witnessed the sea slug evisceration while surveying a reef off an island in the Gulf of Thailand. While evidence of coral eating fairly large animals like salps and jellyfish exists, the sea slug is perhaps the most complicated animal yet preyed on by coral under the watchful eyes of scientists.

The researchers watched the mushroom coral slowly pull the sea slug into its mouth (unlike some other mushroom corals, Pleuractis paumotensis corals only have one mouth) over the course of 20 minutes. The scientists speculate that the slug probably crawled up next to the coral and was hooked by its tentacles. They didn't hang around long enough to see the slug completely devoured, so there's a slight chance that it miraculously survived the encounter. Then again, it probably didn't.

Goodbye forever, doomed sea slug! 

[h/t: Hakai Magazine]

All images from Mehrotra et. al, Coral Reefs (2015)

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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iStock

Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

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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RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/GettyImages
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Animals
Listen to the Impossibly Adorable Sounds of a Baby Sloth
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RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/GettyImages

Sometimes baby sloths seem almost too adorable to be real. But the little muppet-faced treasures don't just look cute—turns out they sound cute, too. We know what you're thinking: How could you have gone your whole life without knowing what these precious creatures sound like? Well, fear not: Just in time for International Sloth Day (today), we have some footage of how the tiny mammals express themselves—and it's a lot of squeaking. (Or maybe that's you squealing?)

The sloths featured in the heart-obliterating video below come from the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. The institution rescues orphaned sloths, rehabilitates them, and gets them ready to be released back into the wild.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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