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July 15, 2014: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.
The first set of panda twins to be born in the United States, Mei Lun and Mei Huan, mark their first birthday today at Zoo Atlanta. They were successfully reared using a twin-swapping tactic, where one cub was kept in the nursery while the other was with her mom, and then they would switch places. A year later, their keepers have been working hard to create cakes for each of the cubs with pieces of fruit and ice shaped in the number one and featuring each of their initials. They’ll be allowed into their outdoor habitat at 10:45 a.m. to eat their cakes — without their mom, Lun Lun, who ate the girls’ birthday treats herself during a birthday week kickoff Saturday. At 2:30 p.m., the zoo’s panda keepers will share their favorite memories from the twins’ first year with fans from around the world in a special Google + Hangout. — Read it at Zoo Atlanta
A new study published in the journal Genetics finds that animals who are bred for tameness often have floppy ears, white patches of fur, "juvenile faces" and small jaws, among other characteristics. Researchers say the features are tied to “domestication syndrome” and can be found in dogs, pigs, horses, sheep and rabbits — and some of the traits can even be found in domesticated birds and fish. They theorize that breeding for tameness leads to genetic alterations that can affect a group of embryonic stem cells called the neural crest. "When humans bred these animals for tameness, they may have inadvertently selected those with mild neural crest deficits, resulting in smaller or slow-maturing adrenal glands," said co-author Adam Wilkins from Humboldt University of Berlin. "So, these animals were less fearful." — Read it at Discovery News
Although you might be trying to help wild birds when feeding them white bread and crackers, the poor nutrition that those foods provide can lead to potentially fatal problems with wing development. A new message from the Fund for Animals warns that the foods fill the birds’ stomachs but don’t allow their bones to develop properly. The birds can get a condition called Angel Wing, in which their wings stick out instead of lying close to their bodies, leaving them unable to fly. Angel Wing can be prevented, in part, by not feeding the birds bread, crackers or other similar foods. — Watch it at Live Science
Over the next few days, eggs in a loggerhead sea turtle nest in the Florida Keys are expected to hatch, and environmental enthusiasts from around the world will have the chance to see it live via a turtle webcam positioned on the beach. The nest can be viewed in natural light during the day and with infrared lighting at night to avoid disturbing the turtles. A female sea turtle typically lays about 100 eggs and covers them in sand before returning to the water. When they hatch two months later, the tiny turtles struggle to free themselves from the sand and rush toward the ocean. Loggerhead sea turtles are an endangered species. The cam is part of an effort to raise awareness of the protection that the turtles need. — Watch it at the Florida Keys Turtle Cam
California real estate attorney Brian Russell Kirchoff, who loved his own cats, left $800,000 to the Marin Humane Society when he died of a heart attack last year. In his handwritten will, he said the funds are “for the express benefit and use of their cat fund for the benefit of all the cats which come into their care." Kirchoff’s own cats, Chelsea and Tarka, now reside at a Santa Rosa animal sanctuary, which received $20,000 to care for them. — Read it at People Pets
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