VIDEO: Fire Ant Towers

Did you know that fire ants have the ability to pile up on one another to form impressively high towers if they ever need to escape a container? David Hu, a professor of biology and mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, has been studying how fire ants create their tall swirling ant structures.

Watch a video about Hu’s fire ant tower research from the New York Times:

You can also listen to an interview with Hu on PRI’s “Science Friday” hosted by Ira Flatow:

Read more about fire ant towers on PRI.org.

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Giraffes Now Vulnerable of Extinction

Giraffe

Film still from “Last of the Longnecks.” Courtesy of Iniosante Studios.

The IUCN has recently reclassified giraffes from a species of least concern to one vulnerable of extinction. Giraffe populations in Africa have declined 40% since 1985. All nine subspecies of giraffe are officially in trouble.

Iniosante Studios has spent the last three years documenting the situation in their film, “Last of the Longnecks,” which has helped bring global awareness to the plight of giraffes and instigated a reclassification by the IUCN. To obtain accurate figures for the IUCN, more than a dozen researchers combed the savannas in trucks, wandered trails on foot, flown in aircraft, and studied remote cameras.

“We’ve been working alongside the researchers in our film for the past three years to sound the alarm,” said Ashley Scott Davison, the film’s director. “Until recently, few people were even aware of the situation facing giraffes. This reclassification by the IUCN is pivotal to get the public to take action for our planet’s tallest animal.”

Watch a trailer of “Last of the Longnecks” below:

To learn more, see the website for “Last of the Longnecks.”

To learn more about giraffes, read our giraffe facts article.

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BBC’s Planet Earth II Sneak Peek

Ten years ago, the BBC debuted it’s amazing series, Planet Earth, which documents beautiful, intriguing, and rare moments of life on Earth. Planet Earth II promises to capture even more amazing moments, taking advantage of significant advances in filming technology.  Similar to the original series, Sir David Attenborough will narrate.

Watch the full trailer below:

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Bison Officially Named America’s National Mammal

American bison

President Obama signed a law on Monday declaring the bison as America’s national mammal. For those bald eagle fans, don’t worry! The bald eagle remains the national animal (and national bird) of the United States.

Bison-National-Mammal-SealThe new law, called the National Bison Legacy Act, creates an additional designation for a special native mammal in America. Animals are classified as mammals when:

  • they are warm blooded vertebrates
  • they possess hair or fur, and
  • they nourish their young with milk produced by mammary glands

The bison is an excellent choice for the honor of national mammal. Bison once numbered in the millions in the United States. Their range stretched from Canada to Mexico.

Many Native American tribes relied heavily on bison as a source of food and clothing, and they considered it of great spiritual significance. When white settlers spread into the Great Plains, they decimated the bison population, and the bison nearly went extinct.

Due to conservationist efforts starting in the early 20th century, the bison was saved from extinction. But they are still classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN. You can help in their preservation by adopting a bison via the Defenders of Wildlife or donating toward the purchase of prairie land for reserves at the American Prairie Foundation.

To learn more about bison, see our American bison facts article.

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Double Cuteness: Two Baby Sloths at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Baby sloths

Meet the newest baby sloths at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Daisy’s baby (left) and Grizzly’s baby (right). Photo by Busch Gardens.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay recently welcomed two baby sloths!

A Hoffman’s two-toed sloth was born on March 24 to mother Grizzly and father Teddy. The little one only weighed 186 grams (6.6 ounces) at birth and wasn’t nursing regularly. So the animal care team at Busch Gardens decided to hand-nurse the baby via syringe every two hours. Currently, the baby is healthy and under 24-hour watch.

Baby sloth being hand-fed.

The animal care team feeds Grizzly’s baby by syringe. Photo by Busch Gardens.

A Linne’s two-toed sloth was born on April 2 to mother Daisy and father Mario. Weighing 550 grams (19.4 ounces) at birth, the baby is currently healthy and being cared for by its mother. The animal care team is monitoring closely.

Linne's sloth baby

The animal care team checks Daisy’s baby, who is still under her daily care.

Watch a video below of the two baby sloths:

One interesting fact about two-toed sloths is that they actually have three toes. (All sloths have three toes per foot.) But two-toed sloths have only two claws per foot. For more interesting sloth facts, see our article about the brown-throated three-toed sloth.

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Watch Baby Eagles Hatch Live on DC Eagle Cam

Eaglets are on the way! You can witness live and up close the moment the chicks hatch on the D.C. Eagle Cam. The nest (and camera) is located in the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. The eagle parents have been named Mr. President and the First Lady in honor of their location.

If you want to try and guess the hatch dates/times of the eggs, use hashtag #dceaglecam on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook with your prediction (Eastern Standard Time). For more information, visit Eagles.org.

Learn more about eagles at our bald eagle facts page.

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UPDATE 1: The first eaglet started hatching around 7:30pm EST on March 16.

Screen shot captured by Sue Greeley/American Eagle Foundation

Screen shot captured by Sue Greeley/American Eagle Foundation

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UPDATE 2: In case you were wondering what bald eagles look like when they sleep…

baldeagle2

A still from American Eagle Foundation’s live web cam at 12:25am EST on March 18, 2016 demonstrates that even eagle parents get sleepy sometimes. Screen shot captured by Animal Fact Guide.

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UPDATE 3: The first eaglet hatched at 8:27am on March 18!

eaglet

A still from American Eagle Foundation’s live web cam at 12:57pm EST on March 18, 2016 shows the first eaglet fully emerged from its shell. Screen shot captured by Animal Fact Guide.

All images © American Eagle Foundation.

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Hungry Sea Lion Visits Restaurant

A hungry sea lion pup made her way from the beach all the way inside a fancy restaurant in San Diego. Plopping herself into a booth, the young sea lion had a prime location near a window.

Executive chef Bernard Guillas posted photos of the pup on Facebook:

Photo by Bernard Guillas.

Photo by Bernard Guillas.

Photo by Bernard Guillas.

Photo by Bernard Guillas.

The sea lion was eventually rescued by SeaWorld San Diego’s Animal Rescue team. They observed that the pup was very small for her age.

“It was also a little bit shocking to see how small the pup was,” said Jody Westberg, one of SeaWorld’s animal coordinators, who went to the rescue. “A micro-pup. Very small in body length, and very malnourished.”

The animal care team is now working to rehydrate the pup and get her back in the water.

For more info, see: NY Times.

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VIDEO: Baby Sea Otter Sleeping on Mother’s Belly

The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California caught an adorable moment on camera: a mother otter with her newborn pup sleeping on her belly.

Mama otter is actually a wild otter who ventured into the protected basin of the Great Tide Pool area of the aquarium to rest from the winter storms. She gave birth to her pup on December 20.

Learn more at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Tumblr page.

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