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Dallas Zoo
Dallas Zoo

Look at the Dallas Zoo’s New Baby Elephant

Dallas Zoo
Dallas Zoo

There’s no smoking allowed at the Dallas Zoo, but if there were, it would be time to pass out cigars: Mlilo the African elephant gave birth to a healthy, if small, male calf earlier this month. 

Mlilo (pronounced “ma-LEE-lo”) is herself quite new to the zoo. The 14-year-old elephant was brought to Dallas this spring as part of a rescue effort from drought- and poaching-stricken Swaziland. At the time of her transport, zoo officials believed she might be pregnant, but it seemed unlikely, since the bull elephants in her home territory had all undergone vasectomies. Moving any animal can cause it stress, but the risks are increased when that animal is pregnant. Ultimately, the zoo decided to bring her to Texas, where they could ensure that she at least had enough food and water. 

Once Mlilo arrived, zoo staff treated her and the other new arrivals from Swaziland with extra-special care, ensuring that they had everything they needed to be healthy. The TLC paid off; all five newcomers are doing well. And at 10:15 p.m. on May 14, Mlilo brought her calf into the world. 

At 175 pounds, the new baby—who has yet to be named—is on the small end of the healthy birth weight range (of 150 to 300 pounds), but he seems to be doing fine. “He is doing well; playing hard and nursing often,” Lynn Kramer, the zoo’s vice president of Animal Operations and Welfare, said in a press statement. “And Mlilo is proving to be a very attentive and patient mother.” 

Image Credit: Dallas Zoo

For now, the baby will enjoy private time to bond with his mother and the rest of the herd, out of public view.

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science
Why Can Parrots Talk and Other Birds Can't?
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If you've ever seen a pirate movie (or had the privilege of listening to this avian-fronted metal band), you're aware that parrots have the gift of human-sounding gab. Their brains—not their beaks—might be behind the birds' ability to produce mock-human voices, the Sci Show's latest video explains below.

While parrots do have articulate tongues, they also appear to be hardwired to mimic other species, and to create new vocalizations. The only other birds that are capable of vocal learning are hummingbirds and songbirds. While examining the brains of these avians, researchers noted that their brains contain clusters of neurons, which they've dubbed song nuclei. Since other birds don't possess song nuclei, they think that these structures probably play a key role in vocal learning.

Parrots might be better at mimicry than hummingbirds and songbirds thanks to a variation in these neurons: a special shell layer that surrounds each one. Birds with larger shell regions appear to be better at imitating other creatures, although it's still unclear why.

Learn more about parrot speech below (after you're done jamming out to Hatebeak).

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paleontology
Extinct Penguin Species Was the Size of an Adult Human
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iStock

A penguin that waddled across the ice 60 million years ago would have dwarfed the king and emperor penguins of today, according to the Associated Press. As indicated by fossils recently uncovered in New Zealand, the extinct species measured 5 feet 10 inches while swimming, surpassing the height of an average adult man.

The discovery, which the authors say is the most complete skeleton of a penguin this size to date, is laid out in a study recently published in Nature Communications. When standing on land, the penguin would have measured 5 feet 3 inches, still a foot taller than today’s largest penguins at their maximum height. Researchers estimated its weight to have been about 223 pounds.

Kumimanu biceae, a name that comes from Maori words for “monster" and "bird” and the name of one researcher's mother, last walked the Earth between 56 million and 60 million years ago. That puts it among the earliest ancient penguins, which began appearing shortly after large aquatic reptiles—along with the dinosaurs—went extinct, leaving room for flightless carnivorous birds to enter the sea.

The prehistoric penguin was a giant, even compared to other penguin species of the age, but it may not have been the biggest penguin to ever live. A few years ago, paleontologists discovered 40-million-year-old fossils they claimed belonged to a penguin that was 6 feet 5 inches long from beak to tail. But that estimate was based on just a couple bones, so its actual size may have varied.

[h/t AP]

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