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Dec. 17, 2015: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.
There’s still a month to go until the National Zoo’s panda cub meets the public, but he got a taste of the limelight this week, when he made appearances for the media. The 4-month-old Bei Bei’s keepers call him a little “tank.” At 17.5 pounds, the muscular cub is described as a miniature version of the 275-pound adult he’ll become. “The cubs are very dense and heavy,” said zoo biologist Laurie Thompson. “They’re not fragile, at all.” Still, the baby bear hasn’t yet been outdoors, he nurses several times a day from mom Mei Xiang and it takes some work for him to get his little legs under himself to walk. He didn’t seem to mind all the attention he was getting this week, and promptly fell asleep with cameras clicking, reported the AP. — Read it at the Washington Post
Scientists studying at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History have determined that 15-million-year-old fossils that had previously been identified as an extinct walrus were actually those of a new species of sperm whale. The study co-authors made their identification by comparing the fossils to those of modern sperm whales. The researchers named the newly discovered branch of the sperm whale family Albicetus, or “white whale,” because of the ashen white color of the fossils, and in honor of the famous whale from Herman Melville’s book "Moby-Dick." Their findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE. — Read it at ABC News
A new study reports that several members of a captive population of greater vasa parrots use tools to make their own calcium powder. Researchers said the method, which involved novel tool use, was completely self-initiated — and represents the first time any non-human has been observed creating a nutritional supplement to satisfy its own needs. "Without witnessing the first tool using event, it's difficult to know how this behavior started, but the social system of these birds, and the fact that they share tools, would certainly support a scenario where tool use was transmitted socially after observing one innovative individual," said lead author Megan Lambert of the University of York's Department of Psychology. The study was published in the journal Biology Letters. — Read it at Discovery News
A tiny kitten is alive thanks to a worker at a California recycling plant, who spotted her on a conveyor belt Tuesday and saved her just in time. “It was just surrounded by a bunch of debris and material, it was hard to see it,” said Tony Miranda. “It’s a lucky cat.” The kitten had already survived a ride in a dump truck before being pushed onto one of two conveyor belts by a tractor. Miranda’s shift supervisor, Heather Garcia, heard about the rescued kitten when there was an announcement over the loudspeaker at the plant, and went to see it. She quickly fell in love, and decided to give the kitten a home. “It’s just so cute, I mean, why wouldn’t you take it home?” she said. She’s named the kitten Murphy, in reference to the acronym for the Material Recycling Facility (MRF) where she was found. — Read it at the Los Angeles Times
A week before their around-the-world flight, the president of the American Veterinary Medical Association has examined Santa’s fleet of reindeer at the North Pole and declared them ready for travel. “Santa’s reindeer need to be in tip-top shape to complete their Christmas Eve flight on time, so it’s vital that they receive a pre-trip veterinary exam to make sure they are free of any injuries that might slow them down,” said Dr. Joe Kinnarney. Kinnarney said the reindeer are healthy and up-to-date on vaccinations, and they aren't carrying any infectious diseases that might spread to other animals on their trip. — Read it at the San Antonio Express-News
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