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Cloud of Birds Startled by Earthquake Shows up on the National Weather Service Radar

KTLX Birds Taking Flight, 19 Nov 2015 EarthquakeNot only did the earthquake overnight near Cherokee wake up people, it shook the birds from their roosts!

Posted by US National Weather Service Norman Oklahoma on Thursday, November 19, 2015

Early Thursday morning, an especially strong quake rocked the earth near Cherokee, Oklahoma. The magnitude 4.7 earthquake wasn’t intense enough to cause any serious damage, but it did startle enough birds for a flock of them to appear on the National Weather Service’s Doppler Radar.

The technology is primarily used for tracking storms, but large clouds of birds and insects have been detected by such systems in the past. This instance was especially remarkable in that it was the direct result of a seismic event. 

Earthquakes have been occurring in Oklahoma with increasing frequency and intensity in the past few years. In 2014, the state saw 585 magnitude 3.0 or higher quakes compared to the 109 recorded in 2013. This month, Oklahoma has experienced more magnitude 4.0 or greater earthquakes than any other month on record in the state, and Thursday’s event was the strongest seen since 2011. 

A study published earlier this year in the journal Science [PDF] suggests that many of these earthquakes have been the result of increased oil and gas drilling in Oklahoma. Another study from the Oklahoma Geological Survey [PDF] found that earthquakes are occurring at about 600 times the normal frequency that’s expected in the state. At that rate, Oklahoma's bird population may not be as surprised by the next one.

[h/t: Mashable]

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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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