For the First Time, Scientists Find Jellyfish-Like Animal With ‘Transient’ Anus

SaskiaAcht/iStock.com
SaskiaAcht/iStock.com

Compared to other parts of anatomy, the anus is underappreciated—but without a way to expel waste from the body, all the work that takes places at other stages of digestion wouldn't be good for much. Now scientists may have a better understanding of how the anus evolved after identifying the first "transient" anus in jellyfish, New Scientist reports.

As biologist Sidney L. Tamm reports in the journal Invertebrate Biology, the warty comb jelly (which is really a type of ctenophore, not a cnidarian like true jellyfish) doesn't have a visible anus most of the time. While studying the comb jelly, he discovered it forms one only when it needs to defecate. When waste builds up, the creature's gut or gastrodermis expands until it touches the outer layer known as the epidermis. At this point, the gastrodermis and the epidermis fuse together and form an orifice where there wasn't one before. Waste is disposed of through the newly opened anus, and once the jelly has finished its business, the hole closes up again and the gut and the epidermis go back to being two separate layers.

These two components each consist of a single cell layer, so the anal opening forms quickly. Mature warty comb jellies have to grow a new anus every hour or so, while their larvae do it about once every 10 minutes.

Jellyfish and comb jellies are simple organisms, with one inner tract instead of a more complex system of organs. Some jellies have one opening in their gastrodermis they use for eating, expelling waste, and exchanging reproductive materials. The discovery of the warty comb jelly's transient anus shows how this one-orifice system may have evolved into a tract with a permanent anus millions of years ago.

Comb jellies are some of the oldest animals on Earth, with ancestors appearing as far back as 700 million years ago. Scientists believe they helped set the evolutionary groundwork for systems that are essential to complex life today, such as the nervous system and digestive tract.

[h/t New Scientist]

How to Keep a Cat Out of Your Christmas Tree

MW47/iStock via Getty Images
MW47/iStock via Getty Images

You may be able to resist poking around the Christmas tree until December 25, but your cat has different plans. The tree you spent hours decorating is nothing more than an oversized toy to the feline in your home. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to dissuade your pet from swatting away all your hard work.

As Lifehacker reports, an elaborate skirt is the key to a cat-friendly tree. If a cat loves the soft, fluffy material beneath the tree, it may lose interest in the branches overhead. A different approach is to use the skirt as an opportunity to create an uninviting barrier between your cat and the tree. It's hard to mess with ornaments when they're hanging above a layer of tape laid out sticky-side up, or even a bed of pinecones if you want something that looks more natural.

Some curious cats can't be deterred by a few obstacles in their way. For these cases, PetCareRx recommends using a safe cat repellent. There are many smells cats can't stand, like bitter apple, citronella, potpourri, and even Vicks VapoRub. You can either spray pine cones or cotton balls with these scents and tuck them around the tree, or spray them directly onto the branches. Your cat will suddenly be repulsed by the shiny new object in the living room, plus your tree will smell a little more festive—especially if it's fake.

Even after taking these precautions, it helps to have a few more safeguards in place. Limiting ornaments to the top half of the tree where they'll be out of kitty's reach, and securing them with strings instead of wire hooks, means they're less likely to end up on the ground or in your pet's paws. Location is also crucial—setting up your tree right next to a sofa or another piece of furniture your cat likes to climb on is like inviting him to use it as a launchpad.

If you're thinking of skipping the traditional tree altogether this year, here are some regional alternatives.

[h/t Lifehacker]

Treat Your Achy Back to a Cozy, Vibrating Sloth Pillow This Winter

Smoko
Smoko

Battling your way through the biting winds of winter just to get to your office or run a simple errand—even if you’re just dashing a few yards to and from your car—can make your body feel like it’s been through an actual battle. And while cold weather definitely justifies curling up on the couch under a weighted blanket for hours on end, sometimes a regular throw pillow just isn’t enough to soothe your stiff muscles.

Smoko’s plush boo pillow from Urban Outfitters ($49), however, just might do the trick. Not only does it have a fleece exterior, it also vibrates: Just press the power button on the right arm, and the pillow will give you a subtle, relaxing massage to sink into while you binge-watch whatever television series your friends won’t stop talking about. According to PopSugar, it comes with three AA batteries, so you don’t have to worry about bundling back up for a last-minute trip to the convenience store after you realize the only batteries you have are in your TV remote.

The smiling sloth face on the front gives you the impression that you’re being hugged by the world’s cutest, coziest arboreal mammal. There’s also a handle on the top of the pillow, so you can easily relocate from the couch to your bed whenever you feel like it.

In short, the sloth-themed pillow might make you actually look forward to hearing your local meteorologist drop the term “wintry mix” in the forecast. And, at $49, it’s an ideal gift for anyone on your list who loves sloths and/or enjoys indulging in sloth-like behavior.

You can get one (or more) from Urban Outfitters here—and, for the full effect, why not pair it with a nice ugly Christmas sweater? Here are our 11 favorites.

[h/t PopSugar]

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