Some Deep-Sea Squid Moms Hold Their Eggs in Their Arms

Making babies is a complicated yet essential endeavor for every animal species on Earth. And many animals—especially those in extreme environments like deserts, glaciers, or the deep sea—have gotten pretty creative about the way they pass on their genes. The female squid shown in the video above from the Monterey Bay Area Research Institute (MBARI) laid a bubble wrap-like sheet of eggs and is carrying it with her.

Spotting this behavior was a big deal for MBARI biologists. Reproduction in cephalopods (a family that includes octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish) varies quite a bit from species to species. Many octopus mothers lay their eggs in a den or cave and stay there to guard them, blowing fresh water over the young to keep them clean and safe. During this time, the female octopus will not eat, and protecting her offspring like this may be last thing she does.

Squid are much less careful with their babies—or so scientists believed. Shallow-water species typically glue their eggs to something sturdy on the sea floor, then take off. Farther out to sea, with no obvious receptacle for offspring, open-water squid parents just squirt their young directly into the water column, hoping that the sheer quantity of babies ensures that a few make it past the jaws of predators.

Very little is known about the reproduction of deep-sea squid, mostly because very little is known about the deep sea, period. Until the last few decades, it’s been impossible for people to get down there to check it out. Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) have made exploration possible, and much of what we’ve found has been pretty amazing.

Just look at the Bathyteuthis berryi in the above video. After mating, this wallet-sized squid lays a sheet of babies, with each squid kid safe in its own little capsule. She is literally putting all of her eggs in one blanket and carrying it with her.

B. berryi is only the second known deep-sea species to behave this way, but we still have a lot more to learn.

Header image from YouTube // MBARI

Slow Motion Is the Only Way to Appreciate a Chameleon’s Lightning-Fast Tongue

From the unusual way they walk, to their ability to change color, the evolutionary adaptations of chameleons are pretty bizarre, and some of them remain mysterious even to scientists. Their super-powered tongues, for instance, can dart out so quickly that the movement can barely be seen with the naked eye. But modern high-speed cameras have enabled researchers at the University of South Dakota to observe this appendage at work like never before. The video below, shared over at The Kid Should See This, includes some of that groundbreaking footage, and it's pretty amazing to watch.

Shooting at 3000 frames per second, the camera was able to capture every split-second aspect of the chameleon's tongue strike. Slowed down, the video allows you to see how every component of the process works in harmony: First, muscles in the lizard’s tongue contract like the string of a bow. Then, when that tension is released, the bony base of the tongue shoots forward, pushing the sticky, elastic part toward the chameleon’s prey.

According to Christopher Anderson, one of the scientists who conducted the high-speed camera research, larger chameleons can catapult their tongues forward at distances of one to two times their body length. For smaller chameleons, this distance can reach up to two and a half times their body length. “Small chameleons need to be able to eat more food for their body size than large chameleons,” he tells bioGraphic in the video, “and so by being able to project their tongues proportionately further than these large species, they basically are opening up additional feeding opportunities to themselves that they wouldn’t have if they had a shorter tongue.”

To see one of nature’s greatest hunting tools in action, check out the full video below.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

There May Be an Ancient Reason Why Your Dog Eats Poop

Dogs aren't known for their picky taste in food, but some pups go beyond the normal trash hunting and start rooting around in poop, whether it be their own or a friend's. Just why dogs exhibit this behavior is a scientific mystery. Only some dogs do it, and researchers aren't quite sure where the impulse comes from. But if your dog is a poop eater, it's nearly impossible to steer them away from their favorite feces.

A new study in the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science, spotted by The Washington Post, presents a new theory for what scientists call "canine conspecific coprophagy," or dogs eating dog poop.

In online surveys about domestic dogs' poop-eating habits completed by thousands of pet owners, the researchers found no link between eating poop and a dog's sex, house training, compulsive behavior, or the style of mothering they received as puppies. However, they did find one common link between the poop eaters. Most tended to eat only poop that was less than two days old. According to their data, 85 percent of poop-eaters only go for the fresh stuff.

That timeline is important because it tracks with the lifespan of parasites. And this led the researchers to the following hypothesis: that eating poop is a holdover behavior from domestic dogs' ancestors, who may have had a decent reason to tuck into their friends' poop.

Since their poop has a high chance of containing intestinal parasites, wolves poop far from their dens. But if a sick wolf doesn't quite make it out of the den in time, they might do their business too close to home. A healthier wolf might eat this poop, but the parasite eggs wouldn't have hatched within the first day or two of the feces being dropped. Thus, the healthy wolf would carry the risk of infection away from the den, depositing the eggs they had consumed away in their own, subsequent bowel movements at an appropriate distance before the eggs had the chance to hatch into larvae and transmit the parasite to the pack.

Domestic dogs may just be enacting this behavior instinctively—only for them, there isn't as much danger of them picking up a parasite at home. However, the theory isn't foolproof. The surveys also found that so-called "greedy eaters" were more likely to eat feces than dogs who aren't quite so intense about food. So yes, it could still be about a poop-loving palate.

But really, it's much more pleasant to think about the behavior as a parasite-protection measure than our best pals foraging for a delicious fecal snack. 

[h/t The Washington Post]


More from mental floss studios