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World's Oldest Manatee Recognized By Guinness World Records

On July 21, Snooty—formally known as "Baby Snoots"—will turn 67. That's a perfectly fine age for a person, but for a manatee like Snooty, it's record-setting: So in addition to a birthday bash the weekend before Snooty hits the big 6-7, the manatee will be inducted into the Guinness World Records.

Wild manatees typically live into their 50s, but boats and environmental hazards often cut their lives even shorter. Snooty, however, was born in captivity on July 21, 1948, after his pregnant mother was captured and brought to the Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company. Mother and son were separated because the owners' permit only allowed them to retain one manatee, so Snooty bounced around before settling in at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, Fla. the following year, where he has lived ever since.

For the most part, Snooty has lived a solitary life in Florida. In 1973, the passing of the Endangered Species Act required that manatees only be kept in captivity "for rehabilitation or because they have permanent injuries that would preclude their survival in the wild," according to Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation for Save the Manatee Club. "Manatees aren't kept for just display or bred for display in the U.S."

Because he'd spent his whole life in the aquarium he was unsuited to hacking it in the wild, so Snooty was grandfathered in. He gets the occasional visitor when a rehabbing wild manatee stops by, like several have even just earlier this week:

But according to the aquarium staff, "he's definitely more interested in people than other manatees. He doesn't really seem to form bonds with other manatees, but doesn't seem to mind them. He really likes people," South Florida Museum spokeswoman Jessica Schubick told Huffington Post.

What's Snooty's secret to longevity? Twice-yearly comprehensive veterinary checkups and a strict diet: 70 pounds of romaine lettuce, plus another 10 pounds of kale, broccoli, carrots, and other vegetables—with the occasional piece of fruit thrown in—every single day.

[h/t Huffington Post]

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Animals
Where Do Birds Get Their Songs?
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iStock

Birds display some of the most impressive vocal abilities in the animal kingdom. They can be heard across great distances, mimic human speech, and even sing using distinct dialects and syntax. The most complex songs take some practice to learn, but as TED-Ed explains, the urge to sing is woven into songbirds' DNA.

Like humans, baby birds learn to communicate from their parents. Adult zebra finches will even speak in the equivalent of "baby talk" when teaching chicks their songs. After hearing the same expressions repeated so many times and trying them out firsthand, the offspring are able to use the same songs as adults.

But nurture isn't the only factor driving this behavior. Even when they grow up without any parents teaching them how to vocalize, birds will start singing on their own. These innate songs are less refined than the ones that are taught, but when they're passed down through multiple generations and shaped over time, they start to sound similar to the learned songs sung by other members of their species.

This suggests that the drive to sing as well as the specific structures of the songs themselves have been ingrained in the animals' genetic code by evolution. You can watch the full story from TED-Ed below, then head over here for a sample of the diverse songs produced by birds.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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