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Roland Edler/Duisburg Zoo via Peer J

Scientists Capture First Underwater Footage of Rare Beaked Whales

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Roland Edler/Duisburg Zoo via Peer J

There’s a lot waiting to be discovered about the True’s beaked whale. The migration habits, social behaviors, and population size of the rare species still remain a mystery to scientists. Until recently, the creature had never been caught on tape swimming underwater. The footage below, reported by Discover, provides a never-before-seen look at the animals in the wild.

The video was recorded by science students in 2013. During an educational field cruise off the Azores, a pod of three True’s beaked whales congregated at the surface near their inflatable boat. The whales stuck around for close to 10 minutes, giving those on board enough time to deploy an underwater camera. The observations published by a team of international scientists in the journal Peer J are among a handful of live True’s beaked whale sightings reported in scientific literature.

In addition to the first-ever underwater footage of the whales in their natural habitat, the study authors published the first close-up photo taken of a True’s beaked whale calf. The paper also reports the discovery of tissue samples collected from beached whale specimens in the Azores and Canary Islands. Based on the sightings and the stranded specimens, scientists now believe the whales perform coordinated dives and sometimes brandish certain color patterns that hadn’t been observed in the species previously.

Beaked whales are some of the ocean’s most elusive mammals. They spend most of their time deep beneath the water's surface, and when they do come up for air they do little to draw attention to themselves. Three new species have been discovered in the past 20 years, including a new type of beaked whale identified last year with the help of a display skeleton from an Alaska high school. True’s beaked whales are distinguished by pale streaks stretching across the tops of their heads. Scientists now believe the Azores and Canary Islands hold potential for future sightings.

[h/t Discover]

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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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