Scientists Share Their Most Adorable Animal Photos With #Cuteoff

If there’s anything Twitter hashtags are good for it’s sharing cute animal pictures. Over a week ago, the scientists of Twitter started an informal competition to see who could post the most impressive photos of animal junk. #Junkoff was followed by the much less alarming #cuteoff, which encouraged scientists to share their most squee-worthy animal images. As was the case with #junkoff, the hashtag yielded a diverse group of creatures, from huge rodents to lichen-loving micro-organisms. One thing these pictures show is that cuteness knows no bounds.

Infant Sooty Mangabey // Erin Kane, Ohio State

Breviceps // Ambika Kamath, Jonathan B. Losos Lab at Harvard

Eastern Red-Backed Salamander // Rosemary Mosco, Bird and Moon

Mouse Lemurs // James Pitt, Harvard HEB Graduate

Nudibranch // Milana Featherbottom, UT Austin

Pteromys Momonga // Benjamin Burger, Utah State University 

Eoperipatus Totoros // Gwen Pearson, WIRED Science

Gray Bee Fly // Erica McAllister, Natural History Museum (London)

Brown Antechinus // Parks Australia

Least Tern Chick // Kelsi Hunt, VT Shorebird Program 

Tardigrade // American Museum of Natural History

Coast Horned Lizard // U.S. Fish and Wildlife

Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit // Oregon Zoo

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These Deep-Sea Worms Could Live More Than a Thousand Years

Plunge below the sparkling surface of the Gulf of Mexico, head down into the depths, and there you'll find the ancient ones, growing in clusters of drab tubes like piles of construction equipment. Scientists writing in the journal The Science of Nature report that some of these worms could be more than 1000 years old.

When it comes to marine organisms, the deeper you go, the slower and older life gets. Biologists have found an octopus that guarded her eggs for four and a half years. They've seen clams born during the Ming dynasty and sharks older than the United States. They've seen communities of coral that have been around for millennia.

Previous studies have shown that some species of tube worm can live to be 250 years old. To find out if the same was true for other species—in this case, the Gulf of Mexico's Escarpia laminata—researchers spent years watching them grow. They used a long-lasting dye called Acid Blue to mark six clusters of worms, then let them to go about their wormy business. A year later, they collected all 356 blue-stained tubes and brought them back to the lab to measure their growth.

By calculating the speed of the worms' growth and comparing it to the size of the largest individuals, the scientists could devise a pretty good estimate of the oldest worms' age.

And boy, are they old. The researchers' worm-growth simulation suggested that the most ancient individuals could be more than 9000 years old. This seems incredible, even for tough old tube worms, so the scientists calculated a more conservative maximum age: a mere 1000 years.

A millennium-long lifespan is an extreme and not the average, the paper authors note. "There may indeed be large E. laminata over 1000 years old in nature, but given our research, we are more confident reporting a life span of at least 250 to 300 years," lead author Alanna Durkin of Temple University told New Scientist.

Still, Durkin says, "E. laminata is pushing the bounds of what we thought was possible for longevity."

She's excited by the prospect of finding older creatures yet.

"It's possible that new record-breaking life spans will be discovered in the deep sea,” she says, “since we are finding new species and new habitats almost every time we send down a submersible.”


[h/t New Scientist]

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Watch as Hummingbirds Fly, Drink, and Flap Their Tiny Wings in Slow Motion
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Hummingbirds have more feathers per inch than nearly any other bird, but it’s hard to fully appreciate their luminescent colors when they beat their wings between 70 to 200 times per second.

For the enjoyment of birders everywhere, National Geographic photographer Anand Varma teamed up with bird biologists and used a high-speed, high-resolution camera to capture the tiny creatures in slow motion as they flew through wind tunnels, drank artificial nectar from a glass vessel, and shook water from their magnificent plumage.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]


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