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Watch This Waterlily Beetle 'Ski' Across the Water

Waterlily beetles are the extreme water-sport champions of the insect world. When foraging for food, the bugs can skim across a pond, lake, or stream at about 1 mph. That would be equivalent to a human reaching a blistering 300 mph on water skis. Thanks to high-speed video captured by scientists at Stanford University, we can now watch the maneuvers required to pull off such an impressive feat, Science News reports.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers analyzed the mechanics behind the water-skimming flight of the waterlily beetle (Galerucella nymphaeae). The scientists discovered that when preparing to jet across the water's surface, the beetles lift each leg and set them back down. Then, when they're ready for takeoff, they plant their front legs, raise their middle pair of legs above their head, and stand upright like a miniature surfer hanging-ten. As they flap their wings in a rapid figure-eight motion, they propel their bodies forward while using their curved back claws like skis to balance themselves. Significant surface tension keeps the lightweight creatures from sinking. Like its fellow water-walking insect the water strider, the waterlily beetle also uses microscopic hairs on its legs to trap air bubbles and make it more buoyant. 

Though this aquatic stunt requires more energy than the beetles would expend by simply flying, researchers believe it has its benefits. Moving at such high speeds might make them a harder catch for predators lurking beneath the surface. 

Header/banner images courtesy of Science News via YouTube.

[h/t Science News]

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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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