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© AMNH/R. Mickens
© AMNH/R. Mickens

10 Things We Learned About Crocs From AMNH's New Exhibition

© AMNH/R. Mickens
© AMNH/R. Mickens

Crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gharials are in the spotlight in the American Museum of Natural History’s latest exhibition, “Crocs: Ancient Predators in a Modern World.” In addition to exploring the evolutionary history of these prehistoric-looking beasts, the exhibition tackles crocodilian myths, analyzes threats to their survival, and features live animals (including the adorable alligator hatchlings you can see on the live stream below). mental_floss attended a preview of the exhibition, which opens tomorrow; here are a few things we learned.

1. There were many, many prehistoric crocodylomorphs, and they were a diverse bunch. Some were entirely marine animals; others, like Hoplosuchus kayi, were small and lived entirely on land. But some were huge: One of the biggest, Sarcosuchus imperator, was at least 35 feet long, and T. rex bones have been found with teeth marks from Deinosuchus, a giant croc that lived 80 to 73 million years ago.

2. Their blood contains special proteins that help make crocs—which spend their time in swampy water—immune to things that cause infection. Needless to say, scientists are pretty interested in whether or not we could use those proteins in human medicine.

3. Want to tell alligators and crocodiles apart? Look at their teeth: When gators close their jaws, they have an overbite—only the top teeth are visible. Crocs have a much toothier close-jawed grin; their top and bottom teeth interlock.

4. Crocs make a wide range of noises, a behavior that begins before they even hatch. (Being noisy in the egg allows the babies to synchronize when they’ll hatch.)

5. Croc skin might look tough—and, OK, it is tough—but it’s also more sensitive than the human fingertip.

6. Saltwater crocodiles are the largest living crocodilians; they can tip the scales at 2000 pounds. Dwarf caimans, which can grow up to 5 feet long, are the smallest.

7. Even big crocs can vanish in under a foot of water.

8. Ever notice how crocodilians hang out in the Sun with their mouths open? Doing so helps them keep regulate brain temperature: Water in their mouths evaporates and keeps their brains cool even while the rest of their bodies get nice and toasty.

9. Crocs have a little something in common with cats: A layer in the eye called the tapetum that reflects light. It’s why both animals’ eyes glow at night when exposed to a flashlight.

10. Seven species of crocodilian are critically endangered thanks to things like hunting, pollution, and habitat loss.

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Courtesy of The National Aviary
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Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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