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Triclops200 via Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0
Triclops200 via Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0

Alien ‘Dragon Boogers’ Are Clogging Californian Waters

Triclops200 via Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0
Triclops200 via Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0

The waters of California’s San Joaquin River Delta are currently suffering from an alien invasion. Fortunately, the creatures don’t come from outer space, although looks can be deceiving. Over the past several weeks, local boaters and beach-goers have been finding gelatinous brown blobs known as magnificent bryozoans (Pectinatella magnifica)—although people also call them moss animals or dragon’s boogers.

The bryozoans, which are actually colonies of tiny organisms called zooids joined together, aren’t supposed to be west of the Mississippi, as the Stockton Record reports. It’s not clear how long the alien species has been in California, or exactly how they got there. However, in 2012 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also noted an increase in magnificent byrozoans in the Pacific Northwest, perhaps because of climate change. (Magnificent bryozoans need waters over 60 °F to survive.)

Locals residents and boaters have been alarmed by the creatures, which cling to docks and weeds throughout the Delta. But while their appearance might be disgusting, they won’t actually harm you. At least, not immediately. Since the bryozoans are an invasive species, as CBS Sacramento notes, they may be disrupting habitat for other creatures. Only time will tell what kind of effect they’ll have, but for now, at least we know they’re not from Mars.

You can learn more—and see the "dragon boogers" up-close—in the CBS video below:

[h/t: Stockton Record]

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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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