Cai et al., 2017
Cai et al., 2017

Tiny Prehistoric Beetle Was First to Mooch off Termites

Cai et al., 2017
Cai et al., 2017

Why buy the cow when you can get the termite hole for free? The insects known as termitophiles make themselves right at home in termites’ cozy nests. Now scientists say they may have found the first enterprising moocher to move in—99 million years ago. They published their findings in the journal Current Biology.

The amber mines of Myanmar have yielded some incredible discoveries. Last year, paleontologists reported finding both dinosaur wings and tail feathers in amber markets. The latest discovery, of minuscule, horseshoe-crab-like beetles, may be less flashy, but is no less important in the history of life on this planet.

Cai et al., 2017

With a body length of just 0.03 inches, the new specimens may look itsy-bitsy to us, but they’re actually pretty big compared to the rest of their family. Modern rove beetles in the Trichopseniini tribe are all tiny, and they all perform the insect equivalent of couch-surfing, setting up shop in termites’ nests and snacking on the fungi inside without bothering anybody. 

Scientists previously believed that Trichopseniini and other moochers made their first foray into termite nests around 19 million years ago. Yet the newly discovered specimens (named Cretotrichopsenius burmiticus after the Burmese mine where they’d been hanging out) are at least 80 million years older than that.

“The fossil reveals a richer ecology within early insect societies during the Cretaceous,” the authors note, “and a lengthy period of co-evolution between termites, the first of all social insects, and their numerous arthropod associates.”

This Is the Age When Puppies Reach 'Peak Cuteness'

All puppies are cute, but at some point in a young dog's life, it goes from "It's so cute I could squeeze it to death" to merely regular cute. But when? According to one recent study in the journal Anthrozoös, peak cuteness hits between 6 and 8 weeks old for many dogs, The Washington Post reports.

Finding out when puppies reach their peak attractiveness to humans may give us insights into how domestic dogs evolved. Researchers from the University of Florida asked 51 students at the school to look at 39 black-and-white images of dogs, who belonged to three different breeds and whose ages ranged from birth to 8 months. The viewers then rated them on a sliding scale of squishability.

The results will sound familiar to dog lovers. Puppies aren't entirely adorable immediately after they're born—they can look a little rat-like—and the participants rated them accordingly. As dogs get older, as much as we might love them, their squee-worthy cuteness declines, as the attractiveness scores reflected. The sweet spot, it turns out, is right around when puppies are being weaned, or between 6 and 8 weeks old.

The participants tended to rate dogs as most attractive when the pups were within the first 10 weeks of their lives. According to the results, Cane Corsos were at their cutest around 6.3 weeks old, Jack Russell terriers at 7.7 weeks old, and white shepherds at 8.3 weeks.

The study only used still photos of a few breeds, and it's possible that with a more diverse sample, the time of peak cuteness might vary a bit. Certain puppies might be cuter at an older age, and certain puppies might be cuter when they're even younger. But weaning age happens to coincide with the time when puppies are no longer getting as much support from their mothers, and are thus at a high risk of mortality. By evolving to attract human support at a time when they're most vulnerable, puppies might have boosted their chance at survival until they were old enough to completely take care of themselves.

[h/t The Washington Post]

Martin Wittfooth
The Cat Art Show Is Coming Back to Los Angeles in June
Martin Wittfooth
Martin Wittfooth

After dazzling cat and art lovers alike in 2014 and again in 2016, the Cat Art Show is ready to land in Los Angeles for a third time. The June exhibition, dubbed Cat Art Show 3: The Sequel Returns Again, will feature feline-centric works from such artists as Mark Ryden, Ellen von Unwerth, and Marion Peck.

Like past shows, this one will explore cats through a variety of themes and media. “The enigmatic feline has been a source of artistic inspiration for thousands of years,” the show's creator and curator Susan Michals said in a press release. “One moment they can be a best friend, the next, an antagonist. They are the perfect subject matter, and works of art, all by themselves.”

While some artists have chosen straightforward interpretations of the starring subject, others are using cats as a springboard into topics like gender, politics, and social media. The sculpture, paintings, and photographs on display will be available to purchase, with prices ranging from $300 to $150,000.

Over 9000 visitors are expected to stop into the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles during the show's run from June 14 to June 24. Tickets to the show normally cost $5, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting a cat charity, and admission will be free for everyone on Wednesday, June 20. Check out a few of the works below.

Man in Garfield mask holding cat.
Tiffany Sage

Painting of kitten.
Brandi Milne

Art work of cat in tree.
Kathy Taselitz

Painting of white cat.
Rose Freymuth-Frazier

A cat with no eyes.
Rich Hardcastle

Painting of a cat on a stool.
Vanessa Stockard

Sculpture of pink cat.
Scott Hove

Painting of cat.
Yael Hoenig


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