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"Going with the flow: schooling to avoid a predator," Claudia Pogoreutz, Germany. Category winner: Behaviour. // Royal Society Publishing

Here Are the Winners of the Royal Society Publishing Photo Contest

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"Going with the flow: schooling to avoid a predator," Claudia Pogoreutz, Germany. Category winner: Behaviour. // Royal Society Publishing

The Royal Society recently held the first photography competition in its long history. The London-based fellowship of scientists—which prides itself on being the "oldest scientific academy in continuous existence"—invited readers and authors of the group's journal, Royal Society Publishing, to submit images that relate to biological principles in three categories: Behavior, Ecology and Environmental Science, and Evolutionary Biology. The winners of the contest were officially announced this week.

A Belgium-based biologist named Bert Willaert took the title of overall winner and also earned the top honors (and cash prize of £500) for his image in the Ecology and Environmental Science category. His photograph, titled Tadpoles overhead, was shot from a very unusual angle: the bottom of a pond, beneath an army of common toad tadpoles.

"Clear water is hard to come across in the part of Belgium where I live, as a consequence of eutrophication," Willaert explained in a press release shared by Royal Society Publishing. "Algae grows from the nutrients flushed down the drains in detergents and sewage, clouding the waters and suffocating other oxygen-dependent life. When I noticed these common toad tadpoles in the crystal clear canal I wanted to capture the chance encounter from their perspective."

"Tadpoles overhead," Bert Willaert, Belgium
Overall winner
Category winner: Ecology and Environmental Science
Royal Society Publishing

The other category winners: Ulrike Bauer in the Evolutionary Biology category for a macro image of a fern holding a droplet of water on its hydrophilic leaves (below), and Claudia Pogoreutz in the Behavior category for a photo of a school of fish avoiding a young black-tip reef shark (lead story image). Their images will be on display at the Life through a lens: Celebrating science photography exhibit, which opens at The Royal Society on November 26.

 

"Fern with a drysuit," Ulrike Bauer, UK
Category winner: Evolutionary Biology
Royal Society Publishing 

There were also several runner-ups and special commendations selected in the competition, a few of which are included in the gallery below. Click through to The Royal Society to see all of the images and to learn more about the fellowship and the contest.

"Ancestry. Dominance. Endangered," Martha M. Robbins, Germany

Runner up: Ecology and Environmental Science
Royal Society Publishing

"Smashing," Luca Antonio Marino, Italy
Runner up: Behavior
Royal Society Publishing

 

"Sand has scales," Fabio Pupin, Italy
Runner up: Evolutionary Biology
Royal Society Publishing


"Caribbean brain coral,"Evan D'Alessandro, USA
Special commendation: Proceedings B Publisher’s choice
Royal Society Publishing 

 

"A baboon gets lost in his thoughts,"Davide Gaglio, South Africa
Special commendation
Royal Society Publishing 

 

"Runs at Dawn,"Jose Juan Hernandez Martinez, Spain
Special commendation: Biology Letters Publisher’s choice
Royal Society Publishing 


"Fish louse,"Steve Gschmeissner, UK
Special commendation
Royal Society Publishing 

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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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