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Muhammad Mahdi Karim via Wikimedia Commons

This Tiny Dragonfly Routinely Travels a Record-Breaking 4400 Miles

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Muhammad Mahdi Karim via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most well-traveled creatures on Earth is no bigger than the length of your thumb. The Pantala flavescens dragonfly, also known the globe skimmer and wandering glider, surpasses the monarch butterfly for the longest migratory flights in the insect class, Newsweek reports.

The findings were recently reported in the Journal PLOS One by a team led by Rutgers University biologist Jessica Ware. At less than 2 inches long, these dragonflies are too tiny to support GPS tracking devices. Instead, the researchers looked at the genes of Pantala flavescens samples from North America, South America, and Asia. What they found was that dragonflies as far apart as Texas and India have strikingly similar genetic profiles. This suggests they are all part of a global panmictic (or interbreeding) population, which is rare among animals, the researchers note.

In a worldwide species like P. flavescens, which can be found on every continent except for Antarctica, genetic similarities are often concentrated in geographic "neighborhoods" of individuals living close together. Wandering gliders are different in that they're flying across the globe to mate with one another. They're now estimated to migrate distances of 4400 miles or more, putting them way ahead of monarch butterflies, which held the previous insect migration record of 2500 miles. (The arctic tern holds the all-time record of 44,000 miles covered per year.)

To complete these epic journeys, the wandering gliders hitch a ride on the breeze when their wings need a break from flapping. Even though the trip is perilous for many individual dragonflies, it's good for the species overall because it allows them to find fresh water to mate and lay their eggs any time of year.

[h/t Newsweek]

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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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