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May 4, 2016: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.
Owners of Labrador Retrievers might not be surprised to hear their lovable dogs are hardwired to be more obsessed with food than other breeds. Researchers found Labs sometimes have a mutation of the POMC gene, which leads to more food-motivated behaviors like begging and scavenging for food. In studying lean versus overweight Labs, they found many of the heavier dogs had a POMC gene that looked “scrambled at the end,” hindering the dog’s ability to produce compounds to switch off hunger after a meal. Not all of the 310 Labs in the study who had the DNA variation were obese, and some who didn’t have the mutation were obese, but the mutation was associated with greater weight. The good news is that these food-motivated dogs might be easier to train, since they respond well to food rewards. In fact, of the 81 assistance Labs in the study, 76 of them had the POMC deletion. “You can keep a dog with this mutation slim, but you have to be a lot more on-the-ball … you have to be more resistant to your dog giving you the big brown eyes,” said study co-author Eleanor Raffan, a veterinary surgeon and geneticist at the University of Cambridge. The study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism. — Read it at Discovery News
Keepers at the Taronga Zoo in Australia were delighted to see an endangered brush-tailed rock wallaby joey peeking out of its mom’s pouch, more than a year after its father had left the zoo. “We weren’t planning for another joey, so it was quite a shock when we started seeing something moving inside the pouch,” said keeper Tony Britt-Lewis. The birth is the result of embryonic diapause, a phenomenon that enables some mammals to extend their gestation period and time the birth of their young. The joey appears to be healthy and about 6 months old, but the keepers don’t yet know its gender. — See photos at Zooborns
A new study finds that the population of the cheetah stronghold in Maasai Mara, Kenya, is lower than previously thought. The authors say current estimates on the number of cheetahs in the wild are “guesswork” given the difficulty of counting them accurately. A team of scientists has now developed a new method to count them. During a three-month period, the researchers extensively covered the area and photographed each cheetah they saw to identify them based on their unique coat. As a result, their estimate for the number of cheetahs in the Maasai Mara was about half of previous estimates. They argue that accurate numbers are vital to conservation efforts. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE. — Read it at Science Daily
In March, police in Kirtland, Ohio, found a stray dog and “tried to find the owner of this marvelous animal to no avail,” the police department wrote on Facebook. They didn’t want to send the dog elsewhere to be adopted — and now they’ve decided to give him a permanent home themselves. “With the permission of the Chief and the Mayor, JD has been adopted by the Kirtland Police Association but they also share the warmth this stoic animal has brought with City Hall and the Fire Department,” the post reads. JD, short for John Doe Dog, “fit into the environment as though he were here always. We are happy to have him in our department and our lives. He loves everyone and we love him.” — Read it at People Pets
JD isn’t the only animal to find a new home thanks to law enforcement. In Spartanburg, South Carolina, a police officer with a soft spot for animals has made a tiny kitten his partner. “Another officer had found her in the rain under a trash dumpster and brought her into the department,” said Officer Cody Garrett, 28. “I offered to take her because I have another rescue at home who is currently nursing her four kittens.” Now, a selfie Garrett shared on Instagram of Squirt perched on his shoulder in his patrol car — with the two sporting matching mustaches — has gone viral. Squirt joined seven other pets at the animal-loving officer’s home. — Read it at ABC News
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