African Wild Dogs Cast a Vote by Sneezing

Derek Keats, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Derek Keats, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Animals may not be able to talk it out or cast ballots when making important group decisions, but that doesn't mean they don't have their own ways of communicating. Take African wild dogs: Before mobilizing to hunt, the animals reach a consensus by sneezing, according to observations from researchers.

As The New York Times reports, the new theory appears in a paper published by British, Australian, and American scientists in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Their data is based on packs of African wild dogs they studied in Botswana. The carnivores hunt in groups of six to 20, and teamwork is essential when taking down large prey like wildebeests. Hunts begin when one pack member starts rousing or "rallying" other dogs who are either sleeping or relaxing. Sometimes this works, and the whole team gets excited and sets off in search of food. But often it doesn't, and instead of staying energized, the pack settles down and resumes its rest.

The researchers wanted to know how African wild dogs choose when to act on a call to hunt and when to stay put. After observing them closely, the paper's lead author, Neil R. Jordan of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, suspected the deciding factor may be sneezes.

"Preliminary observations during rallies indicated that audible, abrupt exhalations of air through the nose, ‘sneezes,' appeared to be frequent during rallies and may serve as a pre-departure cue or signal," the paper reads.

The hard data the team gathered supports this theory. The more dogs that sneeze while assembling, the more likely the whole pack will actually go through with the hunt. This pattern changed when the dog starting the rally was a dominant member of the pack; in this case fewer sneezes from others were needed to initiate the hunt, indicating that the animals' voting system isn't 100 percent democratic.

Unlike human sneezes, African wild dog sneezes are less of a build-up and release than a forceful puff through the nose. It's possible that these sneezes are a voluntary means of communication rather than a spontaneous bodily function, but scientists don't know for sure. Another common theory is that canines sneeze when they're excited, which is something pet owners can observe in their dogs at home. But the jury's out on whether Fido sneezes when he's ready to hunt like his wild dog cousins.

[h/t The New York Times]

The New Apple Watch SE Is Now Available on Amazon

Apple/Amazon
Apple/Amazon

Apple products are notorious for their high price tags. From AirPods to iPads to MacBooks, it can be difficult to find the perfect piece of tech on sale when you are ready to buy. Luckily, for those who have had their eye on a new Apple Watch, the Apple Watch SE is designed with all the features users want but at a lower starting price of $279— and they're available on Amazon right now.

The SE exists as a more affordable option when compared to Apple's new Series 6 line of watches. This less expensive version has many of the same functions of its pricier brethren, except for certain features like the blood oxygen sensor and electrical heart sensor. To make up for the truncated bells and whistles, the SE comes in at least $120 cheaper than the Series 6, which starts at $400 and goes up to $800. The SE comes with technical improvements on previous models as well, such as the fall detection, a faster processor, a larger screen, water resistance, and more.

Now available in 40mm ($279) and 44mm ($309), both SE models offer a variety of colors to choose from, such as sliver, space gray, and pink. If you want cellular connection, you’ll have to pay a bit more for the 40mm ($329) and the 44mm ($359).

For more, head to Amazon to see the full list of offerings from Apple.

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The Queen’s Guard May Have to Give Up Their Iconic Bearskin Hats

Can you tell that this is real bear fur?
Can you tell that this is real bear fur?
Defence Images, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) has given its leaders the chance to negotiate new trade deals and maybe even ban the sale of certain products—like fur. It’s something animal rights activists have long been pushing for, and a recently publicized letter from UK environment secretary George Eustice suggests that the government will indeed investigate the possibility.

As The Independent reports, Eustice wrote to the chief executive of the British Fur Trade Association that “once the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU has been established, there will be an opportunity to consider further steps it could take in relation to fur sales.” It’s far from a definitive proclamation, but since Eustice has seemed open to banning fur in the past, the letter has been taken as a positive sign for the anti-fur movement.

If the UK does eventually prohibit the sale of fur, this could mean the end of the authentic bearskin hats worn by the Queen’s Guard, who are most often seen stationed outside Buckingham Palace. According to Londonist, the 18-inch hats are created with fur from black bears killed during Canada’s annual black bear cull—a large-scale hunt that helps keep the population under control—and the UK Ministry of Defence purchases up to 100 new hats for the famously unflappable infantrymen each year.

The tradition of donning such eccentric headgear dates back to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when Napoleon’s Imperial Guard wore similar hats to make them seem taller and more intimidating. After the French were defeated by the Duke of Wellington and his British army, Britain adopted the hats as a symbol of victory.

But even if the UK does prohibit fur in the future, the Queen’s Guard could still keep the custom going. After all, there are plenty of convincing kinds of fake fur on the market these days. And as for what Queen Elizabeth II might think about the shift, we’re guessing she’d condone it; she herself gave up wearing fur products in 2019.

[h/t The Independent]