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Feb. 19, 2014: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.
What are friends for? A new study shows that Asian elephants notice when a member of their herd is upset, touching each other with their trunks and chirping in sympathy. The researchers observed 26 captive elephants in Thailand, and noticed that when something stressful occurred, the members of the herd would move toward the upset elephant, offering gentle caresses. Other nearby elephants would rumble and vocalize reassurances, and sometimes form a protective circle around the animal in distress. "They get distressed when they see others in distress, reaching out to calm them down, not unlike the way chimpanzees or humans embrace someone who is upset,” said Joshua Plotnik, a behavioral ecologist and founder of the nonprofit Think Elephants International. "I was surprised at how consistent the elephants' consolation behavior was.” The study was published in the journal PeerJ. — Read it at National Geographic
Researchers have found that cats, dogs and some other animals can detect ultraviolet light, allowing them to see psychedelic stripes on flowers and flashy patterns on birds that we don’t see. "There are many examples of things that reflect UV, which UV sensitive animals could see that humans can't," said co-author Ronald Douglas of City University London. "Examples are patterns on flowers that indicate where nectar is, urine trails that lead to prey, and reindeer could see polar bears as snow reflects UV, but white fur does not." He said this ability might also explain why cats become so interested in unusual objects, like sheets of paper, which sometimes have optical brighteners added to them. The study was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. — Read it at Discovery News
Wildlife biologists in Montana have discovered some good news about bear populations that have been divided by highways and other manmade barriers. New evidence shows that wildlife crossings, which bridge barriers like highways, have helped 47 percent of black bears and 27 percent of grizzlies that used them to breed successfully. "It is clear that male and female individuals using crossing structures are successfully migrating, breeding and moving genes across the roadway," the researchers wrote in a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. — Read it at Live Science
After sad news at the start of the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, about the treatment of stray dogs, some of the pups are winning big. Lindsey Jacobellis, a snowboard cross competitor from Vermont, had a heartbreaking fall on the course over the weekend in Sochi, knocking her out of medal contention. But it looks like she found comfort in the form of a homeless puppy. "This Sochi Stray scored a one way ticket to the USA with [Lindsey]," Tweeted Jacobellis's teammate, Holly Brooks, on Monday, with this photo. She’s the second U.S. Olympian who’s fallen for a Sochi dog. Last week, we told you about Gus Kenworthy, who won silver in men’s slopestyle skiing and planned to take four puppies and their mom back home with him to Colorado. He’s found that it’s not all that easy, though. He was due to return home on Monday, but he’s been delayed waiting for paperwork to be done that will allow him to travel back with his new pack. — Read it at People Pets
A woman visiting Japan’s Rabbit Island, Okunoshima, started a bunny stampede when she offered some of the adorable animals food. And the scene was caught on a video that’s now gone viral. The 2.5-mile wide island was used by the Japanese Imperial Army as a secret base for a lethal gas operation during World War II. But since then, it’s been known for much sweeter reasons. The island is overrun by wild rabbits, and tourists flock there to feed and pet them. There are differing accounts on how the rabbits wound up there, but they seem to be quite happy to greet visitors. — Watch it at the U.K.’s Daily Mail
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