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狩野文浩, Youtube

Watch the First-Ever Horror Movies Made Just for Apes

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狩野文浩, Youtube

Japan-based researcher and comparative psychologist Fumihiro Kano is also a unique filmmaker—he makes movies specifically for animals. Kano, who specializes in the study of ape behavior, recently released two short “horror movies” for apes. 

The films, designed to be unsettling and entertaining to apes, feature a few simple examples of ape and human aggression—for instance, an ape fighting with a human. Dialogue free, just over a minute long, and featuring what is clearly a human in an ape costume, Kano’s films are unlikely to be popular with a human audience. But to apes, they’re absolutely captivating. 

They also serve an important scientific purpose. According to Smithsonian, the films are more than just entertainment. Kano and his collaborator Satoshi Hirata are using them to study long-term memory in apes.

Smithsonian explains that testing memory in animals has always been extremely challenging for scientists. Since animals are non-verbal, researchers have to come up with creative ways of discerning whether—and what—their animal subjects are remembering. One of their primary strategies is conditioning, and observing reactions to repeated exposure to specific stimuli can help show how they remember recurring events. Figuring out how apes remember single events, however, is much more difficult. 

Kano and Hirata had previously observed apes watching human movies. Though the animals were, for the most part, bored by the films, they always perked up when they saw violence or aggression. They began to wonder if, like humans, apes would remember and anticipate their “favorite” movie moments upon re-watching. 

So Kano and Hirata decided to produce two short films that feature behaviors they knew apes would respond to. They followed their ape subjects using an eye tracker, which charted the animals’ eye movement as they viewed the films. After recording their subjects’ eye movement while viewing the film once, and then again 24 hours later, they found that the second time around, the apes’ eyes would move in advance of an anticipated action. That is, upon second viewing, the apes’ eyes moved before actions occurred—like an ape attacking, or a human grabbing a weapon—showing that the apes were remembering the events in the film. 

So far, Kano and Hirata have just used their eye-tracking films to study ape memory, but they believe the technique could be usefully applied to a range of cognitive abilities, such as the study of beliefs and intentions. Though the study has received plenty of positive attention in the scientific community, Kano has yet to receive any recognition for his filmmaking abilities; he told Smithsonian he’s still waiting for his “Ape Oscar.”

[h/t: Smithsonian]

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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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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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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