Pet Scoop: New Study Reveals Talking Whale, Cat Finds Ancient Roman Tomb

Oct. 23, 2012: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.

NOC, a beluga who died five years ago, was recorded "talking" in the 1980s.
NOC, a beluga who died five years ago, was recorded "talking" in the 1980s.

Beluga Mimicked Human Voices

Say what? A new study suggests that NOC, a beluga whale who lived for 30 years at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego and died in 2007, was capable of imitating human speech. In the 1980s, a diver in NOC’s tank thought he heard a person telling him to get out. It turned out that it was the white whale, repeatedly saying something that sounded like the word “out.” Study co-author Sam Ridgway of the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program and his team later recorded the white whale’s chattering, and his findings are just now being released in the journal Current Biology. "The speech-like sounds were several octaves lower in frequency than the whale's usual sounds," Ridgway told National Geographic News. NOC stopped making the noises after about four years in the late 1980s, after he reached sexual maturity. — Hear audio on YouTube and read it at National Geographic News

Male Orangutans Travel to Find Mates

While female Sumatran orangutans always settle close to their mothers, males will travel across rivers and mountainous areas to mate with females outside of their local populations, reveals new research published in The Journal of HeredityThe knowledge is key to preserving the endangered species, who now live in only a few forest patches on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Illegal deforestation could cut off the corridors connecting the small populations, preventing males from traveling to mate and leading to their further decline. “It is important that all Sumatran orangutans act like a large population for future survival,” said the study’s lead author, Alexander Nater, of the University of Zurich. — Read it at The New York Times

Stray Cat Helps Discover Ancient Roman Catacombs

It took a curious cat to uncover a 2,000-year-old tomb in Rome. Two humans saw the stray cat slip through a cave entrance that had been blocked by rocks until heavy rain caused them to fall away last week. Mirko Curti and his friend followed the kitty inside and found ancient human bones and Roman funeral urns. Archaeologists who were called to the scene said the tomb dates to some time between the first century B.C. and the second century A.D. — Read it at the New York Daily News

Owen Howkins plays his guitar alongside his three-legged canine companion.
Owen Howkins plays his guitar alongside his three-legged canine companion.

Three-Legged Dog Helps Boy With Rare Condition Overcome His Fears

Seven-year-old Owen Howkins suffers from Schwartz-Jampel syndrome, which means his muscles are always tense. When he realized his rare genetic condition made him different from other kids, he became withdrawn and anxious, never wanting to leave his house. And then his family adopted Haatchi, an Anatolian Shepherd with three legs, and everything changed. "As soon as they met, the effect Haatchi had on Owen was incredible," said Owen's mom, Colleen. "Owen used to be scared of strangers, but now he wants to talk to everyone about Haatchi and wants to go out all the time to dog shows. The difference we see in him can't be put into words." — Read it at the Daily Mail

California Governor’s Dog Hits the Campaign Trail

With two weeks to go until Election Day, Gov. Jerry Brown’s Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Sutter, is being put to work. The Democratic governor’s dog —who has nearly 7,000 fans on Facebook  has plans to make 30 stops in the coming days to greet volunteers working to promote Proposition 30, a ballot measure to raise taxes in the state. In a press release announcing Sutter’s tour, Democrats called him their “cutest and cuddliest secret weapon.” — Read it at the San Francisco Chronicle


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