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Researchers Identify a New Species of Beaked Whale

Scientists are constantly discovering new species of sea life, but rarely do they come across something the size of a whale. According to National Oceanic And Atmospheric Association (NOAA), a team of researchers has identified a new species of beaked whale native to the Pacific Ocean.

The scientists detailed their discovery in a recent paper in Marine Mammal Science [PDF]. After analyzing DNA from 178 beaked whale specimens around the Pacific Rim, they found eight that matched the new species. The whale has yet to be seen alive by experts: The specimens researchers used to identify it included a skeleton on a display at an Alaska high school (below), meat from a Japanese fish market, and a rotting carcass that washed up on an Alaskan island.

In the past, most remains recovered from the mysterious species had been attributed to the Baird’s beaked whale. Like the Baird’s whale, the new species has a dolphin-like snout and can reach great depths while diving. The most dramatic difference is size. Baird’s whales can grow up to 42 feet, while the new species appears to top out at 25 feet. Baird’s whales are also lighter in color. The unnamed whale species’s black hue earned it the nickname karasu or “raven” among Japanese whalers.

Baird's beaked whale. Image credit: Junko Kimura / Getty

Of all the whales that inhabit the ocean, beaked whales are some of the most mysterious. Choosing a name for this new species will be the easy part for scientists. After that, the focus will be on conservation. As study co-author Erich Hoyt told NOAA, “Discovering a new species of whale in 2016 is exciting but it also reveals how little we know and how much more work we have to do to truly understand these species.”

[h/t NOAA]

Header/banner images: Don Graves/NOAA via Twitter

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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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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Animals
If You Want Your Cat to Poop Out More Hairballs, Try Feeding It Beets
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Have you ever wondered if there’s a way to get your cat to poop out its hairballs instead of hacking them up? If so, you’re likely a seasoned cat owner whose tolerance for gross stuff has reached the point of no return. Luckily, there may be an easy way to get your cat to dispose of hairballs in the litter box instead of on your carpet, according to one study.

The paper, published in the Journal of Physiology and Animal Nutrition, followed the diets of 18 mixed-breed short-haired cats over a month. Some cats were fed straight kibble, while others were given helpings of beet pulp along with their regular meals. The researchers suspected that beets, a good source of fiber, would help move any ingested hair through the cats’ digestive systems, thus preventing it from coming back up the way it went in. Following the experiment, they found that the cats with the beet diet did indeed poop more.

The scientists didn’t measure how many hairballs the cats were coughing up during this period, so it's possible that pooping out more of them didn’t stop cats from puking them up at the same rate. But considering hairballs are a matter of digestive health, more regular bowel movements likely reduced the chance that cats would barf them up. The cat body is equipped to process large amounts of hair: According to experts, healthy cats should only be hacking hairballs once or twice a year.

If you find them around your home more frequently than that, it's a good idea to up your cat's fiber intake. Raw beet pulp is just one way to introduce fiber into your pet's diet; certain supplements for cats work just as well and actually contain beet pulp as a fiber source. Stephanie Liff, a veterinarian at Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York, recommends psyllium powder to her patients. Another option for dealing with hairballs is the vegetable-oil based digestive lubricant Laxatone: According to Dr. Liff, this can "help to move hairballs in the correct direction."

[h/t Discover]

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