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Mantis Shrimp: The Quickest Killers in the Animal Kingdom

The mantis shrimp is an interesting creature: It flaunts a whole rainbow of colors, has some of the best working eyes in the animal kingdom, and ruthlessly kills its prey with extreme precision and power. There are over 550 species of the ocean dweller, but of those hundreds, the formidable crustaceans have just two primary methods for maiming their prey: smashing or spearing.

As PBS's Deep Look series explains in the video above, smashers have a strong club, which they use to literally punch animals to death (or bust open a shell). Their tiny boxing glove moves through the water at 50 mph—faster than a .22-caliber bullet. These clobberers also have a simple spear that's sharp enough to jab their enemies in turf battles, but pro spearers have an advanced harpoon with a serrated blade. They hide in the sand and wait for an unsuspecting fish to pass by so they can leap out and attack before dragging the unsuspecting animal to its death. Yikes.

The mantis shrimp combines this pure power with an incredible sense of sight. While humans have two pupils and three color receptors, the mantis shrimp has six pseudopupils and 12 receptors to better destroy their enemies. As the video explains, "Mantis shrimp can perceive the most elusive attribute of light from the human standpoint: polarization. Polarization refers to the angle that light travels through space. Though it’s invisible to the human eye, many animals see this quality of light, especially underwater."

This skill is great for more than just killing dinner: The special vision lets mantis shrimp communicate with each other and stake out territory. Scientists have even borrowed this technique to find injuries and even cancer with polarized light. Just another example of how Mother Nature can be both beautiful and terrifying. 

[h/t SPLOID]

Images: iStock

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
Listen to the Impossibly Adorable Sounds of a Baby Sloth
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RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/GettyImages

Sometimes baby sloths seem almost too adorable to be real. But the little muppet-faced treasures don't just look cute—turns out they sound cute, too. We know what you're thinking: How could you have gone your whole life without knowing what these precious creatures sound like? Well, fear not: Just in time for International Sloth Day (today), we have some footage of how the tiny mammals express themselves—and it's a lot of squeaking. (Or maybe that's you squealing?)

The sloths featured in the heart-obliterating video below come from the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. The institution rescues orphaned sloths, rehabilitates them, and gets them ready to be released back into the wild.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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