Pet Scoop: 300 Sharks Now on Twitter, Study Finds Kids Prefer Dogs Over Cats

Jan. 3, 2014: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.

Australian Sharks Tweet Their Location

Thanks to Australian government researchers who tagged 338 sharks with acoustic transmitters, beachgoers can now be alerted to a shark’s location via Twitter. When a tagged shark swims within half a mile of the beach, it triggers a computer alert, which tweets out a message on the Surf Life Saving Western Australia Twitter feed, noting the shark's size, breed and approximate location. Officials are hopeful this warning system can help prevent fatal shark attacks — the country has had six since 2011, more than any other country. "This kind of innovative thinking is exactly what we need more of when it comes to finding solutions to human-wildlife conflict," said Alison Kock, research manager of the Shark Spotters program in South Africa. — Read it at NPR

Study: Dogs Have a “Butt Compass”

Turns out, there’s a scientific reason your dog spins around before doing his business in the yard. According to researchers at Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, dogs are sensitive to the Earth’s magnetism and prefer to poop with their bodies aligned along the North/South axis. The two-year study measured the direction of the body axis of 70 dogs, representing 37 different breeds, as they were doing their deeds, and found that they were more likely to line up under “calm” magnetic field conditions, which is about 20 percent of the time in the daylight hours. — Read it at The Week

Lizards Feed Their Babies Feces

In other strange poop news, a new study from Oklahoma State University found that a Chilean iguana — the Liolaemus leopardinus — leaves feces for her newborns to munch on, before abandoning them to fend for themselves. Scientists say it’s a remarkable discovery, considering lizards as a group generally don’t care for their young at all. In the spring, the lizard babies may then use odor cues from the offering to sniff out and reunite with their mothers, which makes the poop present seem a little more “awww” than “ewww.”— Read it at National Geographic

Puppy and Kitten

Are Cats an Acquired Taste?

Italian researchers found that the majority of children aged 3 to 6 show a preference for dogs over cats — regardless of their familiarity with each species. When the kids were asked to choose the animal with the facial features that appealed to them the most, “they preferred dogs over cats in every comparison,” said the study's co-author, Marta Borgi of the Istituto Superiore di Sanita in Italy. The study did, however, show an increased appreciation for cats in older children, suggesting that cats are, perhaps, an acquired taste. "The appreciation of less-popular animals like cats probably needs time to develop, and appears more dependent on their physical appeal and on our contacts with them," Borgi said. The researchers hope their results will have implications for helping choose ideal companion animals for autistic children or other kids whose social development may benefit from interaction with pets. — Read it at Paw Nation

Today Reveals Top Animal Story of 2013

After more than 60,000 votes, revealed the top animal story of 2013: Figo, the K-9 who mourned his slain cop partner. The picture that went viral in May 2013 captures Figo placing a paw on the casket of officer Jason Ellis, who was killed in an ambush in Kentucky. — Read it at Today

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