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Rare 'Vampire' Squirrel Caught on Video for the First Time

Scientists believe they’ve captured the first-ever footage of one of the rarest and most unusual squirrels on earth. 

The Bornean tufted ground squirrel is native to the forests of Borneo, an island in southeast Asia. They’re most notable for sporting the fluffiest tails of any animal. These bushy appendages are an impressive 130 percent the size of their bodies, which are already twice as large as most tree squirrels. 

Other than that, little else is known about thIs elusive creature. Few photographs of it exist, and this new footage could mark the first time it’s ever been captured on video. The clip is the result of an effort from researchers studying the ecology of the island’s Gunung Palung National Park. Thirty-five motion-sensitive cameras were installed throughout the reserve, one of which recorded a Bornean tufted ground squirrel sniffing around the forest floor. 

Though the cameras do film in color, they switch to infrared in low light, as was the case with this black-and-white footage. What looks cute at first turns creepy fast within the context of the folklore surrounding the animal. According to local hunters, the squirrels skulk in trees waiting for a deer to pass by, which they then attack, ripping out its jugular vein before finally disemboweling the lifeless corpse. 

This has earned it the nickname “vampire squirrel,” though scientists are skeptical of accounts of such bloodthirsty behavior. The squirrel has so far been known to mostly eat giant, rock-hard acorns, though how it’s able to gnaw through them still remains a mystery (with razor-sharp, vampire teeth perhaps?). Scientists hope that the additional cameras they’ve installed will reveal the answer to this question and more.

[h/t: Science]

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Why Can Parrots Talk and Other Birds Can't?
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If you've ever seen a pirate movie (or had the privilege of listening to this avian-fronted metal band), you're aware that parrots have the gift of human-sounding gab. Their brains—not their beaks—might be behind the birds' ability to produce mock-human voices, the Sci Show's latest video explains below.

While parrots do have articulate tongues, they also appear to be hardwired to mimic other species, and to create new vocalizations. The only other birds that are capable of vocal learning are hummingbirds and songbirds. While examining the brains of these avians, researchers noted that their brains contain clusters of neurons, which they've dubbed song nuclei. Since other birds don't possess song nuclei, they think that these structures probably play a key role in vocal learning.

Parrots might be better at mimicry than hummingbirds and songbirds thanks to a variation in these neurons: a special shell layer that surrounds each one. Birds with larger shell regions appear to be better at imitating other creatures, although it's still unclear why.

Learn more about parrot speech below (after you're done jamming out to Hatebeak).

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Extinct Penguin Species Was the Size of an Adult Human
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A penguin that waddled across the ice 60 million years ago would have dwarfed the king and emperor penguins of today, according to the Associated Press. As indicated by fossils recently uncovered in New Zealand, the extinct species measured 5 feet 10 inches while swimming, surpassing the height of an average adult man.

The discovery, which the authors say is the most complete skeleton of a penguin this size to date, is laid out in a study recently published in Nature Communications. When standing on land, the penguin would have measured 5 feet 3 inches, still a foot taller than today’s largest penguins at their maximum height. Researchers estimated its weight to have been about 223 pounds.

Kumimanu biceae, a name that comes from Maori words for “monster" and "bird” and the name of one researcher's mother, last walked the Earth between 56 million and 60 million years ago. That puts it among the earliest ancient penguins, which began appearing shortly after large aquatic reptiles—along with the dinosaurs—went extinct, leaving room for flightless carnivorous birds to enter the sea.

The prehistoric penguin was a giant, even compared to other penguin species of the age, but it may not have been the biggest penguin to ever live. A few years ago, paleontologists discovered 40-million-year-old fossils they claimed belonged to a penguin that was 6 feet 5 inches long from beak to tail. But that estimate was based on just a couple bones, so its actual size may have varied.

[h/t AP]

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