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Gary Chang via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Mother Beetles Release Unattractive Pheromones to Turn Off Frisky Males

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Gary Chang via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

New burying beetle moms have a lot on their plates. The last thing they want to deal with is unwanted sexual advances from their male counterparts, and thanks to a neat evolutionary trick they don't have to.

According to a study recently published in Nature Communications [PDF], female burying beetles raising larvae release particularly unappealing pheromones in order to suppress sexual impulses in males. Not only does this save the mother some hassle, but it's good for the whole family as well.

Burying beetles are exceptional in that both males and females raise their young together. The mother's chemical form of rejection allows the two parents to focus on caring for the offspring without any needless distractions. This same pheromone is also a signal that the beetle has paused her egg production, so any copulation that did still take place would be pointless.

The discovery was made by researchers at universities in Germany by attracting beetles with mouse carcasses left in the woods near the school. In addition to using the mouse as a food source, it also acts as a vessel for the beetle's nest. The insect is part of a larger family of corpse-inhabiting creatures known as carrion beetles.

[h/t The Verge]

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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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