Marine scientists spotted a ‘real-life’ SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star near an underwater mountain in the Atlantic

sea sponge
A sea sponge and sea star on the Retriever seamount, one mile deep in the Atlantic Ocean, July 27, 2021

SpongeBob SquarePants may wear classy garb, but real-life sea sponges obviously don’t wear pants. Sea stars like SpongeBob’s partner-in-crime, Patrick, don’t wear swim trunks, either.

Nevertheless, marine scientist Christopher Mah quickly spotted the resemblance between the Nickelodeon cartoon characters and a real-life yellow sponge and pink sea star found deep under the Atlantic waves. A remotely operated deep-sea vehicle spotted the colorful duo on Tuesday on the side of an underwater mountain called Retriever seamount, which is located 200 miles east of New York City.

“I normally avoid these refs… but WOW. REAL LIFE SpongeBob and Patrick!” Mah, a researcher affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, tweeted.

As part of its newest deep-sea expedition, NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer ship is sending remotely-operated vehicles like the one that found the sponge and star more than a mile below the Atlantic’s surface. The ROVs, as they’re known, explore submarine habitats, livestream their journeys, and capture images of denizens in the deep.

Soleimani SpongeBob
SpongeBob SquarePants.

“I thought it would be funny to make the comparison, which for once was actually kind of comparable to the iconic images/colors of the cartoon characters,” Mah told Insider via email. “As a biologist who specializes in sea stars, most depictions of Patrick and Spongebob are incorrect.”

Comparing SpongeBob and Patrick to their real-life counterparts

There are more than 8,500 species of sponges, and the creatures have been living in the ocean for the last 600 million years. Their shapes and textures vary depending on whether they live on soft sand or hard, rocky surfaces.

Very few of them resemble SpongeBob’s boxy shape.

SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star.

But the SpongeBob-like sponge in the image, Mah said, belongs to the genus Hertwigia. He was surprised by its bright yellow color, which is unusual for the deep sea. That far down, most things are orange or white to help them camouflage in the dimly lit environment.

sea star
A Chondraster grandis sea star in the North Atlantic in 2014 .

The sea star nearby, known as Chondraster, has five arms covered with tiny suckers. Those allow it to creep across the ocean floor and attach itself to rocks and other organisms. Chondraster stars can be dark pink, light pink, or white.

This star’s color “was a bright pink that strongly evoked Patrick,” Mah said.

Sea stars are carnivores. Once one clings to a clam, oyster, or snail, the animal extends its stomach out through its mouth then uses enzymes to break down and digest its prey.

Sea sponges, in fact, are a preferred menu item for Chondraster stars, Mah said. So the pink Patrick-like creature scooting close to the sponge likely had food, not friendship, in mind.

The image below, taken last week as part of the same NOAA expedition, shows a white sea star, likely a Chondraster, preying on a sponge.

sea sponge
A sea star, likely a Chondraster, eating a sea sponge on the Macgregor seamount in the Atlantic Ocean.

These creatures’ deep-sea habitat is freezing; no sunlight penetrates.

They live “in the true abyss of the ocean,” Mah said, “well below the depth we think of where cartoon SpongeBob and Patrick live.”

Sharing images from the deep

sponges and coral
Sea sponges and coral in the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian Islands in 2015.

Mah, an expert in sea stars who works at the Smithsonian Museum, hopes to use footage from the Okeanos ROVs to identify new star species.

Since 2010, the program has helped researchers explore the depths below the Hawaiian Islands, the US Pacific Island territories, the Gulf of Mexico, and “all up and down the East Coast,” Mah said. NOAA’s ROVs can traverse deep-sea canyons, sea mounts, and other habitats.

“We have investigated up to 4,600-meter depths [15,000 feet, or almost 3 miles] and seen a wide range of never-before-seen ocean life, including huge deep-sea corals, many deep-sea fish, starfishes, sponges of which many are undescribed species and thus new to science,” Mah said.

He added: “Some of it is very alien and in some cases bizarre.”

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How to generate a Spotify ‘Pet Playlist’ with music that both you and your pet will love

Spotify's Pet Playlist page, showing cartoons of a dog, cat, hamster, bird, and iguana.
Spotify’s Pet Playlists aren’t just for you – they’re for your pets, too.

  • Spotify’s Pet Playlist feature creates a playlist of music that you’ll like, based on your pet’s personality.
  • You’ll need to tell Spotify what kind of pet you have; you can pick a dog, cat, iguana, hamster, or bird.
  • Spotify says they consulted with a musicologist to pick songs that your specific pet is likely to enjoy.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Every year, Spotify releases a few special playlists that auto-generate based on your tastes. They’re fun extras that let you share your unique tastes with friends and even discover new tracks.

Related Article Module: How to find and use Spotify’s new ‘Only You’ feature to get a musical astrology reading and see your unique tastes

One of the most popular of these playlists is the Pet Playlist. Based on musicology research and a pet-focused survey that Spotify conducted, the Pet Playlist generates a list of songs that you’ll enjoy, and your pet might too. The playlist’s songs are picked according to what kind of pet you have and their personality.

Here’s how to make a Spotify Pet Playlist, and get jamming with your small friends.

How to make a Spotify Pet Playlist

You can do this on your computer or phone, but it doesn’t use the actual Spotify app.

1. In an internet browser, head to Spotify’s Pet Playlist homepage and click Let’s Go. If you haven’t already, you’ll be asked to log into your Spotify account.

2. Pick what kind of pet you have, and then click Next. You can choose a dog, cat, iguana, hamster, or bird.

Spotify's Pet Playlist page, featuring cartoon versions of a dog, cat, hamster, bird, and iguana.
There are five options to choose from here.

3. Use the sliders to describe your pet’s personality. You’ll have to pick between Relaxed or Energetic, Shy or Friendly, and Apathetic or Curious.

A cartoon cat dances on top of a slider that goes from "Relaxed" to "Energetic."
Use the sliders to describe your pet’s personality.

6. Finally, type in your pet’s name and – if you like – upload a picture of them.

7. Spotify will take a moment to generate your playlist. Once it’s done, click Listen Now to start playing it. You can also click the Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram icons to share a preview of your playlist on social media.

A Spotify Pet Playlist preview, with various bands listed on it.
You’ll be given a preview of your Pet Playlist, listing the first few artists featured on it.

Once you click Listen Now, the playlist will be saved to your Spotify Library so you can easily find it again.

How to use Spotify on your Apple Watch to play music or control playbackHow to download music from Spotify and listen to your favorite songs offlineHow to change a playlist’s picture in the Spotify app on your iPhoneHow much does Spotify pay per stream? What you’ll earn per song, and how to get paid more for your music

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Sharks are among a group of animals with a 6th sense that humans don’t have – they use Earth’s magnetic field to navigate

bonnetheads sharks
Bryan Keller holding a bonnethead shark.

Shark species have an uncanny ability to find their way back to the same feeding grounds every year – even areas thousands of miles away.

According to a study published Thursday, that’s because sharks have a superior navigational tool at their disposal: They can orient themselves using Earth’s magnetic field.

They’re far from the only animals to do so. Birds, whales, and many other species use the same sixth sense to plot their migrations.

Bryan Keller, a biologist at Florida State University who co-authored the new study, likens this sense to “having an ‘internal GPS.'”

“This is, in my opinion, the best explanation for how migratory sharks successfully navigate during long-distance movements,” Keller told Insider.

‘Sharks garner map-like information from the magnetic field’

Earth's Magnetic Field
An illustration of Earth’s magnetic field.

Nearly 2,000 miles below Earth’s surface, swirling iron in the planet’s outer core conducts electricity that generates a magnetic field. This field stretches all the way from the planet’s interior to the space surrounding the Earth. It’s what protects the world from deadly solar radiation.

But the direction that the electromagnetic energy flows, as well as the strength of the resulting protective sheath, depends on where on the planet’s surface you are. So animals that use the magnetic field to orient themselves do so by detecting these differences in field strength and flow. They then use that information to figure out where they are and where to go.

Scientists long suspected sharks could navigate using the field, since the animals can sense electromagnetic fields in general. But that hypothesis had been difficult to confirm until Keller’s study.

His team examined the bonnethead shark, known as Sphyrna tiburo, because the species exhibits site fidelity – meaning it returns to the same estuary habitats each season.

“This means the sharks have the capability to remember a specific location and to navigate back to it,” he said.

bonnetheads sharks
An overhead shot of bonnethead sharks in a holding tank.

The team captured 20 bonnetheads off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico, then placed the sharks in a 10-by-10-foot tank. They generated a tiny magnetic field within a 3-square-foot area of that tank. (Bonnetheads only reach 4 feet in length, which made them an ideal species to study in such a small pool, Keller said.)

The team then tweaked that localized magnetic field to mimic the electromagnetic conditions of various locations hundreds of miles away from where they’d caught the sharks. If the animals were truly relying on magnetic-field cues to navigate, the thinking went, then the bonnetheads would try to reorient themselves and start swimming in the direction they thought would lead to the Florida coast. That’s exactly what happened.

When the researchers mimicked the conditions of the magnetic field on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the animals exhibited no preference in which direction they were swimming – suggesting they assumed they were already in the right place.

“I’m not surprised that sharks garner map-like information from the magnetic field, because it makes perfect sense,” Keller said.

Many animals use the magnetic field for navigation

Even though the new study was done on bonnetheads, Keller said the findings likely apply to other shark species as well.

Great White Shark
A great white shark heads near the Neptune Islands, Australia, in June 2014.

How else could a great white, for example, migrate from South Africa to Australia – a distance of more than 12,400 miles – then return to the exact same chunk of ocean nine months later?

“En route to Australia, the animal exhibited an incredibly straight swimming trajectory,” Keller said of great whites. “Given that the magnetic field is perhaps the only constant and ubiquitous cue available to these migratory sharks, it is sensible that magnetic-based navigation is responsible for facilitating these incredible navigational successes.”

Other navigational cues do exist, including currents and tides, but Keller said the magnetic field “is likely more useful than these other aids because it remains relatively constant.”

Biologists still aren’t sure how sharks detect the field, but a 2017 study suggested that the animals’ magnetic receptors are probably located in their noses.

The ability to detect and orient using the magnetic field is fairly common in the animal kingdom overall, according to Keller. Scientists have observed that type of behavior in bacteria, algae, mud snails, lobsters, eels, stingrays, honey bees, mole rats, newts, birds, fish like tuna and salmon, dolphins, and whales.

Sea turtles, too, rely on magnetic cues when they migrate thousands of miles to lay eggs on the same beaches where they hatched.

Two wire-haired Fox Terriers.

Dogs, meanwhile, can find their way home both using their impressive sense of smell and by orienting themselves using the magnetic field, according to a June study.

“The magnetic field may provide dogs with a ‘universal’ reference frame, which is essential for long-distance navigation,” that study said.

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Polar bear and grizzly bear hybrids, known as ‘pizzly bears,’ could become more common because of the climate crisis

pizzly bear polar grizzly hybrid animal
A pizzly bear, or grolar bear, bred in captivity at a zoo in Germany.

  • When polar bears and grizzly bears mate, the hybrid is called a pizzly bear, or a grolar bear.
  • Pizzlies are becoming more common in the Arctic and the climate crisis is likely playing a role.
  • As grizzly bears move further north with warmer temperatures, they’re more likely to meet polar bears.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Pizzly bears, sometimes called grolar bears, are a bear hybrid that could become more common in the Arctic as a result of the climate crisis.

The pizzly bear is the result of polar bears and grizzly bears breeding, according to Larisa DeSantis, a biology professor at Vanderbilt University.

“We’ve known about pizzlies for quite some time, but their occurrence may be more common with ongoing Arctic warming,” DeSantis said.

Read more: Amazon, FedEx, and UPS have grand goals to slash emissions. Cashing in on the pandemic e-commerce boom suddenly made them much harder to reach.

A pizzly was first discovered in the wild in 2006, when a hunter in Canada’s far north killed a bear with white fur and brown patches as well as the humped back and long claws characteristic of a grizzly bear. DNA testing confirmed the bear was a hybrid, The Associated Press reported at the time.

pizzly bear polar grizzly hybrid
Pizzly bear and grolar bear are both unofficial terms for the animal.

Since then, sightings of pizzlies in the wild have become more common. A 2017 study published in the journal Arctic documented eight pizzlies who were the offspring of one female polar bear that had mated with two separate grizzly bears.

According to DeSantis, grizzly bears are moving further north as temperatures rise. Meanwhile, “polar bears are increasingly having to search for other food sources, when hunting seals from sea ice become untenable,” she said.

Polar bears typically rely on sea ice to hunt for seals, which make up the vast majority of their diet. A 2018 study published in Science found as sea ice continues to decline, “polar bears are likely to experience increasingly stressful conditions and higher mortality rates.” And arctic sea ice is declining rapidly, as the Arctic experiences higher rates of warming than the rest of the globe, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

pizzly bear grolar polar grizzly hybrid animal
A pizzly bear, pictured here in captivity, was first discovered in the wild in 2006.

DeSantis said polar bears and grizzly bears have been observed near whale carcasses, prompting them to “engage in opportunistic mating.” Since polar bears and grizzlies only diverged about 500,000 to 600,000 years ago, she said, their offspring are able to produce offspring as well.

But it will take time and additional research to know how well suited these hybrids are to survival.

“Most of the time, hybrids are not more vigorous than either of the two species,” DeSantis said, adding that individual species generally have adaptations best suited for their habitat. But she said there have been some instances where hybrids are more vigorous, “particularly if that environment is deviating from what it once was.”

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at

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Puppy protection: A new bill would require breeders to quit stacking caged dogs on top of each other

Members of the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society of Charlotte assisted Rutherford County, N.C. Sheriff’s Office during the 20th puppy mill bust in three years in the state of North Carolina Thursday, June 12, 2014 at an undisclosed location in Rutherford County, N.C.

  • The Puppy Protection Action would establish new requirements for dog breeders.
  • It calls for puppies to be given room to stand up in their cages and time to socialize with humans.
  • The American Kennel Club has opposed similar measures, saying they impose “arbitrary requirements.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

One upside to the pandemic for many this past year was adding a new, four-legged member to their home. People love their dogs, and dogs love them. But new legislation addresses some practices seen as inhumane to pups waiting for a home.

The Puppy Protection Act, introduced this week by a dozen Democrats in the US Senate, aims to improve the conditions in which so many animals are produced: in so-called puppy mills, where caged dogs, one on top of the other, are often deprived of socialization, fresh air, and good hygiene.

Sen. Dick Durbin, a member of Democratic leadership from Illinois, said Tuesday his goal is to protect such animals “from neglectful breeders who have evaded proper oversight and inspection in the past.”

There are at least 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, with over 213,000 dogs kept solely to breed, according to the Humane Society. On average, each mother produces about nine babies a year, coming out to more than 13 million puppies to be sold annually.

But only about 2,000 commercial breeders are subject to regulation by the US Department of Agriculture. And that regulation – the subject of this bill – allows for conditions that animal rights advocates see as deplorable, such as permitting dogs to be kept in cramped cages, stacked on top of each other, in overcrowded rooms.

“We’ve seen animals never leave those stacked cages,” Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, told Insider. “How on Earth is man’s best friend supposed to be socialized and interactive with us if they don’t even have the opportunity to put their feet on grass?”

The bill introduced this week would establish new standards for cage sizes and prohibit their stacking; require that dogs over 12 weeks have unrestricted access to an outdoor play area; mandate 30 minutes a day of socialization with humans and other dogs; and ensure veterinary screening prior to each breeding attempt, limiting mothers to two litters every 18 months and six over their lifetime.

Breeders would also have to make reasonable attempts to find a new home for mothers who no longer produce puppies. Currently, many of these dogs are euthanized.

Sens. Cory Booker, of New Jersey, and Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, have also signed on; a companion bill, with bipartisan support, has been introduced in the House.

Puppies as commodities

Almost 50 million households in the United States have a dog, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. That number has surely risen during the pandemic, when shelters and breeders alike reported a surge in demand for furry companions amid the need for social distancing.

As with any business, the incentive of those involved is to make money. And one way to make more money from selling dogs is to have more dogs to sell. Accordingly, The Washington Post reported last year, “breeders were investing more heavily than usual in puppies they could raise into breeding age dogs,” with pet stores buying whole litters of puppies that were not yet born.

With minimal standards in place – and, generally, those who breed fewer than five female dogs are exempt from USDA oversight altogether, federal regulators treating what could be a $50,000 business as a hobby – the boom has meant some breeders have increased their capacity to churn out puppies to the detriment of they and their mothers’ quality of life.

“It’s been our experience with consumers that the rise in complaints about breeders and pet stores is very much tied to the fact that there is this increased pressure to generate more and more of these puppies,” Amundson told Insider.

Stacking animals’ cages helps disreputable breeders multiply their supply of product – living, breathing animals – and leads to some of the worst scenes at puppy mills. With wire cages, waste from one dog simply falls on the canine below, with the concentration of urine that results from storing too many puppies in one room producing not just a foul smell but potentially dangerous ammonia fumes.

Some states have gone beyond federal standards to address the worst of the worst. But advocates say the Puppy Protection Act provides an opportunity to improve conditions across the board. “Whether puppies are sold in pet stores or sold over the internet, they’re sentient beings,” Amundson said. “We want to know that these animals have been treated appropriately, from conception through their homecoming.”

But not everyone supports tighter regulation.

The American Kennel Club, which puts on the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dug Show and represents thousands of breeders, has opposed similar measures in the past.

When lawmakers tried to push a “Puppy Protection Act” last year, the group described its provisions – such as ensuring caged animals have enough room to stand on their hind legs without impediment and have enough space outdoors “to extend to full stride” – as “arbitrary requirements” that would prevent its members from advancing “the art and science of responsible dog breeding.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter:

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What’s inside a wasp’s nest?

    • Wasp’s nests are nurseries.
    • The queen wasp builds the first structure alone, then males add on to it.
    • The nest has special adaptations for maintaining temperature and cells for larvae.
    • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Michael Mills: This is a wasp nest. In the wild, some of these nests are built underground using clay or mud. But you might be most familiar with the paper nests — the ones built out of saliva and pulp, typically found attached to buildings or trees. And these guys can get big. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest wasp nest was 12 feet long and 18 feet all around. Now, we’re all accustomed to avoiding these nests, because, obviously, wasps are scary, but today we’re going to go inside one, because there are a lot of fascinating factors that make these nests work for wasps and their babies. So, let’s cut into one. Pretty easy to cut through this. The hardest part was definitely here at the top, where you can tell the cells are more dense and wider. If I can give you a scale for how big this is, I mean, like, look at it next to my head. This is like a brick cellphone from the ’90s. The key to this type of nest is the pedicel, or the root. It’s the foundation that the entire nest is built off of. These are the cells. Wasps are like butterflies. They’re what’s called holometabolous insects, meaning they go through a metamorphosis before they become adults, and these cells are basically their cribs.

Petrovicheva: The cells are open when they first are produced. The queen will lay their egg in there, and then it’ll get sealed off.

Mills: They’re shaped similar to a hollow cylinder, or like a regular lead school pencil, and there’s a reason why.

Petrovicheva: The walls of the hexagon hold the other cells. Also, they’re a compact space, so you can get a lot of these cells in very, very small space while still having a very strong structure.

Mills: They’re also perfectly sized to fit both the larva and its roommates.

Petrovicheva: Oftentimes there’s some food laid in with the egg, so when it hatches it has the food in there already. The drones move from cell to cell in a circular motion, making sure that each larva has food. Some wasp species tear up insects for the babies, but other wasps take things further. Mason wasps drop off whole caterpillars for their children to eat alive, while tarantula hawk wasps lay their eggs on tarantulas they sting and paralyze as a birthday feast. Other species lay their eggs inside their prey, and once the larvae hatch, they have a meal waiting for them to chew their way out of.

Petrovicheva: Once the larva is ready to metamorphose, it’ll become a pupa inside the cell still, and then it’ll hatch as an adult.

Mills: Since the cells are both the crib and the cocoon for these wasp babies, the nest must maintain a stable temperature with high humidity. This means as much insulation as possible. For these types of nests, the domes are almost always made of salivary secretions, plant material, or paper or cardboard.

Petrovicheva: So, they take wood, they chew it up, and they mix it with saliva to make a glue, and then they lay it in thin layers. The denser the layers, the stronger and more sturdy the structure. After building the core structure, the queen wraps the entire nest in an envelope — these thin sheets of macerated pulp.

Mills: This layer basically protects the comb, or each layer of cells, limiting the entrance to one tiny little hole. Scientists think this helps to maintain the internal temperature and humidity of the structure. And more cones can be added on with more pedicels, sort of like expanding a mansion with tiny little staircases that the wasps can use to get from one area to another. So, now I know the question on some of your minds is, “Is there honey in a wasp nest?” And the answer is no. While both bees and wasps pollinate flowers, bees actually farm nectar to turn it into honey, the food source for their larvae. Most wasps, on the other hand, are meat eaters and prefer a diet of freshly chewed insects, meaning you won’t find honey in their nests, but you might find a lot of dead bugs. So, the next time you see one of these nests and you’re tempted to knock it down, maybe back off. Those wasps put a lot of effort into building this crib for their babies. We don’t want to tick them off.

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Unlike the Easter Bunny, these rabbits can’t hop. Scientists have solved the mystery of the ‘hand-standing’ bunnies.

Sauteur d'Alfort rabbits hopping
The typical posture of a Sauteur d’Alfort rabbit when walking.

  • Sauteur d’Alfort rabbits walk on their front legs, as opposed to hopping on their hind legs.
  • Scientists finally have an explanation as to why this species has such a peculiar gait.
  • The ‘hand-standing’ rabbits walk on their forelegs because of a genetic mutation, a PLoS study found.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sauteur d’Alfort rabbits, also known as Alfort jumping rabbits, have a peculiar way of moving.

Instead of hopping on their hind legs, like other bunnies, the Sauteur d’Alfort rabbits lift their back legs from the ground and ‘hand-stand’ on their forelegs.

They then scurry forward on their front paws, maintaining their balance.

Read more: Here are 10 companies hoping to cash in on the boom in edible worms and crickets

Ever since the species was first discovered in 1935, scientists have been baffled as to why the furry creatures are unable to hop or jump like most other rabbits.

Academics from PLoS Genetics– a peer-reviewed scientific journal – now have an explanation, Gizmodo reported.

The unusual gait can be explained by a genetic mutation, the study found.

This species has a warped RORB gene, BBC Newsround said. “This was the only mutation that stood out as really striking,” Miguel Carneiro, an academic at the University of Porto, told the media outlet.

A mutation in the RORB gene can result in the loss of spinal cord interneurons.

“When you move, these neurons fire all the time, they coordinate muscle contractions and know if the other limbs are in balance,” Leif Andersson, a co-author of the study, told Gizmodo. “This coordination of muscle contraction is not correct in these rabbits.”

In the Sauteur D’Alfort rabbits, these interneurons were either less abundant or totally absent, the study said. This, in turn, results in the loss of saltatorial locomotion – the ability to jump or hop.

The hand-standing is a result of the rabbits working around their inability to travel like other species, the study said.

Baby rabbits of this species learn, after a few months, to walk solely on their front legs to compensate for the genetic mutation and consequent spinal defects, the New Scientist said.

It’s unlikely that the quirky gait causes the animals any pain, Gizmodo reported.

The team of 12 scientists solved the mystery of the hand-standing rabbits after an experiment involving the breeding of a Sauteur d’Alfort rabbit with another species that can hop and jump normally, Slate reported.

The scientists then sequenced the DNA of the 50 or so descendants, the Smithsonian Magazine said.

Some of the baby rabbits had hand-standing gaits and scientists were able to identify the mutation in the code at the RORB gene in these animals, the magazine added.

Previous studies have shown that RORB mutations in other animals, such as mice, can interfere with normal movement. RORB-deficient mice waddle like ducks, the PLoS study said.

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A ‘wormnado’ appeared on a New Jersey sidewalk and scientists are divided over what caused it

Worms form a tornado-like shape on a sidewalk in Hoboken, New Jersey.

  • A spiral of worms was found on a sidewalk in Hoboken, New Jersey.
  • Locals are now referring to the phenomenon as a “wormnado” or “worm tornado.”
  • Scientists are puzzled by the formation.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A New Jersey resident stumbled upon a bizarre formation of worms while taking a morning walk last Thursday, LiveScience first reported.

Hundreds of worms formed a tornado-like shape on the surface of a sidewalk in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Tiffanie Fisher, a local councilperson, shared the images to her social media.

“This is something I’ve never seen,” she wrote on both her Facebook and Twitter.

Read more: Here are 10 companies hoping to cash in on the boom in edible worms and crickets

The images of what is now being called a “wormnado,” or worm tornado, horrified locals.

“Looks like a portal out of a horror movie,” one commented on Facebook.

“Clearly a sign of the end of days,” wrote another.

Others expressed curiosity over what might have caused the intriguing formation.

Kevin Butt, a soil ecology expert at the University of Central Lancashire, said that he believes it can be attributed to a combination of heavy rain and the sidewalks being a hard surface.

“In short, worms have likely come to the soil surface due to excess rainwater, have been unable to burrow down due to movement on to a hard surface and the shape seen may well be a function of the water draining away, rather than specific behavior of the earthworms,” Butt told Insider.

Kyungsoo Yoo, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, agrees that it is possible that worms might have come to the surface due to rainfall.

Yoo also suggested that vibrations, potentially from moles burrowing, could have caused the creatures’ emergence.

The tornado shape, however, is mysterious to him.

“I have never seen this behavior,” Yoo wrote in an email. “This tornado shape is really interesting.”

Rhonda Sherman, the director of the Compost Learning Lab at North Carolina State University, said that she doesn’t believe there is enough information to explain the puzzling formation.

“Earthworms cluster together when there is an environmental threat,” she told Insider. “Looking at the photo of the spiral of worms does not provide enough information about the environmental conditions that could be causing the worms to cluster together.”

A few hours after the worm formation was spotted, it vanished. “The bulk of it was gone – I’m not sure where they went,” the Hoboken resident told LiveScience.

And so, the mystery of the wormnado continues.

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A newly discovered nano-chameleon with exceptionally large genitals is the world’s smallest known reptile

nano chameleon
The male nano-chameleon (Brookesia nana) is the smallest adult reptile that has ever been found.

  • Researchers discovered a chameleon less than an inch long in northern Madagascar.
  • In a new study, herpetologists suggest this “nano-chameleon” is the world’s smallest known reptile.
  • A male nano-chameleon is well-endowed: Its genitals are almost 20% as long as the rest of its body.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The world’s tiniest reptile is a male chameleon less than an inch long from nose tip to tail. It fits comfortably on a finger tip.

In a recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers described finding a single male and female member of the new species, nicknamed “the nano-chameleon,” in the mountains of northern Madagascar nine years ago.

Take out the tail, and the nano-chameleon’s body is even more minuscule – the male is less than half an inch (1.35 centimeters) in length – “making it the smallest known male of the roughly 11,500 known non-avian reptiles,” Frank Glaw, herpetologist at the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology and a co-author of the new study, said in a press release.

But the male nano-chameleon, as known as Brookesia nana, isn’t just unique because of its size – it’s also well-endowed, according to the study authors.

The reptile’s genitals are almost 20% as long as its body is, they found.

Exceptionally large genitals

nano chameleon
The Malagasy nano-chameleon’s body is less than half an inch long, researchers found.

Male chameleons, like snakes and other lizards, have an internal sex organ called a hemipenis. A pair of hemipenes are exposed when it’s time for chameleon hanky panky, and the nano-chameleon’s hemipenes are exceptionally large, Glaw’s team found.

The researchers compared the nano-chameleon’s genital size to the other 51 chameleon species living on Madagascar, and found that the animal has the fifth largest genitals on the island, relative to its body size. (They found one chameleon that had hemipenes about one-third of its body size.)

Male nano-chameleons may need such large sex organs, the study authors said, because they’re smaller than their female counterparts.

The female nano-chameleon they found measured about 1.1 inches from tip to tail.

“Extremely miniaturized males” need larger genitals in order to “successfully mate with the larger females,” Miguel Vences, another study co-author, said in a press release.

Tiny chameleons in danger

Researchers have documented other tiny chameleons in Madagascar, including Brookesia micra, a similarly wee reptile that Glaw announced to the world in 2012. (The new nano-chameleon edges out Brookesia micra for the honor of smallest reptile by a few millimeters.)

Yet despite their best efforts, Glaw’s team was only able to find two nano-chameleons in the Sorata massif, a mountainous rainforest region at the north end of the island where they were searching for new species.

Lowland rainforest in northeastern Madagascar’s Masoala National Park.

Dwarf chameleon species like this one typically have commensurately tiny habitat ranges; sometimes an entire species fits into an area less than 10 acres in size.

The team predicts every member of the nano-chameleon species fits into an area less than 40-square miles in size. Given that estimate, and the fact that the Sorata forests are declining in size, the study authors suggest the newly discovered reptile be designated as a critically endangered species.

“Unfortunately, the habitat of the nano-chameleon is under heavy pressure from deforestation, but the area has recently been designated as a protected area, and hopefully that will enable this tiny new chameleon to survive,” Oliver Hawlitschek, a third study co-author, said in a press release.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Dirty Ways to Make Money in 2021

Reading Time: 6 mins

Finding a job in the current climate can be tough, but getting your hands dirty might help. Here’s a list of dirty ways to make money if you don’t mind getting a bit messy.

Minds out of the gutter please – although cleaning gutters might be a good starting point!

  1. Dirty Ways to Make Money Working with Animals
  2. Dirty Ways to Make Money Through Cleaning
  3. Waste Disposal Jobs
  4. Make Money Doing Maintenance Jobs
  5. Other Ways to make money

Dirty ways to make money working with animals

Dairy farming is one of the dirty ways to make money

Animals are great – but also messy! Here’s how to make money with the mucky jobs related to animals.

Dairy farmer

The main jobs for a dairy farmer are milking cows, clearing excrement and barn maintenance. Working in unhygienic environments and extreme conditions often make this job unpleasant. You also need to like early mornings to get by as a dairy farmer – days can start as early as 4am!

Horse groomer

This is one for horse lovers, as you’ll be required to work early mornings, evenings and weekends, looking after horses.

Groomers will have to muck out stables, groom the horses and clean tacks, among other responsibilities.

You’ll only be paid between £10,000 and £16,000 a year, but you may also be given accommodation, food, and riding lessons as part of the package.


If you love baby animals, this could be the job for you. Essentially, you help deliver lambs as they’re born. The hours can be long and it can get very cold, but you will be rewarded with cuddles from the lambs. You’ll need to be on call throughout lambing season – you never know when they decide to arrive!

Beware though, the pay isn’t always great, as a lot of the jobs are taken by students looking to gain experience for their veterinary degrees.

Veterinary surgeon

While most of us may think veterinary surgeons spend their days cuddling cute puppies, the reality is quite different. They regularly get covered in all kinds of animal waste and mud always makes an appearance when they have to venture onto farms.

A veterinary degree takes 5 years, so it may not be the quickest way to start making money. But, it’s a great career option for animal lovers.

Dirty ways to make money through cleaning

A crime scene cleaner is one of the dirty ways to make money

Pool cleaner

This is a career a lot of us were introduced to via TikTok this year. We were mesmerised by videos of pool transformations – turning green, rotting pits into sparkling pools, we want to jump straight in. One account has even amassed 3 million followers.

But it’s dirty work cleaning the pools and the cleaners are often required to wade in waste deep to tackle the most stubborn stains. Job adverts suggest you can earn about £10 an hour as a pool cleaner.

Rodent exterminator

Pest control removal specialists enjoy a messy job that requires dealing with pesky insects, reptiles and smelly pests.

These specialists must operate with extreme caution because their jobs involve setting traps, spraying chemicals, using poisonous substances in uncomfortable spaces such as attics, barns and farms.


Whether it’s people’s houses, schools, venues or offices, there’s always work for cleaners. But, it can be very dirty work and you may have to clean up some unpleasant messes.

You can expect to earn between £10 and £15 an hour as a cleaner.

Crime scene cleaner

Crime scene cleaners are routinely called in to deal with the sorts of messes the rest of us don’t even want to think about.

While it may seem as simple as arriving with a mop and bucket to scrub away a few unsightly stains, the job is actually incredibly technical, requiring skills as diverse as the safe removal of bio-hazardous material, assisting in trauma counselling of survivors/family members/witnesses and knowing the rules of police investigations inside out.

If blood, guts, awful smells and being on call at unexpected hours doesn’t scare you, this might just be for you. Salaries range from £26,000 to £60,000 a year.

Road kill cleaners

Roadkill is a serious problem and happens far more often that we would like to admit. The reason that it’s not more visible is because it’s someone’s job to clear up the carcasses.

Roadkill collectors find, remove and dispose of the motorway’s unlucky victims and provide a service to the more squeamish among us. They have to enjoy driving as they spend the majority of their days combing roads for collisions.

While some cleaners are paid per hour they work, others are paid per animal removed.

Dog pooper scooper

These workers will clean up your garden. They will also sanitise and deodorise the area where pets have been making a mess. If you love dogs and you like getting down and dirty with nature, then this could be the job for you.

Dog poop is a breeding ground for nasty diseases such as Salmonellosis, and is also a nightmare to clean off the carpet. It is one of those services that will never go out of business.

As reported by the Express in 2014, setting your own prices can pay off. Tim Stone, 54, managed to earn an incredible £56,000 a year by charging £28 per month for four visits!

waste Disposal Jobs

We create a LOT of waste as humans, in a wide range of ways. Here’s how to make money from that!

Refuse collector

Refuse collectors’ main responsibility is to collect residential and business refuse and recycling. But, you may also be required to work at a waste recycling centre and operate waste compactors.

The National Careers Service warns: ‘Your working environment may be dirty, physically demanding and outdoors in all weathers.’

While starting salaries are low – around £15,000 a year – more experienced refuse workers can earn in excess of £30,000 each year.

Sewage inspector

Though most sewerage is cleaned using pumps, the process still can be an unpleasant experience for sewage inspectors. Discarded products and even tree roots can cause clogging, and the result could be backed up raw sewage.

Dirty ways to make money through maintenance work

Become a sewer inspector as a dirty way to make money

From large corporate contracts to being a self-employed trader, maintenance work can be a mucky way to make money.


Everyone needs a plumber from time to time, so you’re unlikely to find yourself out of work once you’ve trained up.

It could get messy, though. You’ll be dealing with bathrooms, drainage systems and pipes.

In 2018, it was widely reported that one self-employed plumber was making £210,000 a year.

Oil rig technician

A dangerous and difficult job, which is done in an off track location in the world with oil raining on a successful day is not everyone’s cup of tea.
The job often requires 12-hour shifts and the ability to do heavy physical work in cramped spaces.

Septic tank technician

They are primarily responsible for repairing and cleaning septic tanks and sewer lines. This can involve repairing any leaks that have developed or patching a wall within the tank. Septic tank technicians will also need to install a new tank in some circumstances.

Salaries vary, but on average you’ll earn about £26,000.

Other dirty ways to make money

The list doesn’t stop there!


Having to deal with digestive systems and associated problems, gastroenterologists often encounter obnoxious odours and human waste while examining their patients. They also must work with embarrassing parts of the human body.

You will need a medical degree for this one though, so it’s not for everyone!

Health and safety inspector

Health and safety inspectors ensure employers comply with all aspects of health and safety laws, and that workplaces are not the cause of ill health, injury or death.

They do this by inspecting business premises, advising employers and investigating accidents, and through enforcement of the law. You will also have to inspect machinery, management systems, working methods, and the use and storage of dangerous substances.

Starting salaries for trainee inspectors begin at £26,500.

Coal miner

Coal excavations are messy and black and highly hazardous to the lungs. Considered among the most dangerous jobs in the world, coal mining requires working in claustrophobic dark spaces, deep down tunnels and under hot and humid conditions.


Often the job requires dealing with harmful cleaning chemicals and possible infections that are carried by the dead body. Embalmers regularly come in contact with body fluids, blood and possibly infectious diseases. Embalmers prepare the body neatly to make it look presentable for funeral services and to meet legal requirements.


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