A Pair of Loons in Wisconsin Adopted a Baby Mallard Duck—and the Result Is As Adorable As Expected

Ian Fox/iStock via Getty Images
Ian Fox/iStock via Getty Images

It might be an exaggeration to say that loons and mallards are the Montagues and Capulets of the bird world, but they’re definitely not friends. According to Walter Piper, director of the Loon Project, which monitors loon behavior in northern Wisconsin, loons will chase away any mallards they see on their turf. So it’s all the more surprising that two loon parents have adopted an orphaned baby mallard duck in Oneida County’s Long Lake, reports Smithsonian.com.

Upon investigation, researchers discovered a nearby loon nest with broken shell remnants, suggesting that the loons’ own chick didn’t survive. Loons are traditionally very doting parents, so instinct likely prompted them to turn their parental impulses toward anything they could find as a replacement. Piper says it’s usually a loon orphan, but these empty nesters must have found the mallard first.

Baby mallard rides on the back of its loon parent
Photo by Linda Grenzer

Though loons and mallards have plenty in common, there are several ways in which this oddball family is deviating from the norm. For one, mallards mainly feed on plants and small invertebrates, while loons eat fish. The mallard adoptee has been seen accepting small fish from its mother, but its duck instincts seem to be working, too: It rejects larger fish offered by the male loon. And, as Piper told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, mallard babies don’t usually reap the benefits of two exceedingly attentive parents. Mallard mothers don’t feed their children directly, and mallard fathers don’t really parent at all. The mallard chick is also enjoying sailing around the lake on the backs of its new parents, though at this point it has grown enough to be a pretty heavy burden.

Perhaps the most problematic behavioral difference the mallard duck has exhibited thus far is its lack of instinct when it comes to helping protect the territory from loon intruders. During late summer, single loons hunt for ideal breeding territories and mates. They consider it a good sign if they see a lake with a happy loon couple and a chick, and sometimes they’ll even fight one of the parents so they can take over the family. To prevent this scenario, loon babies will either hide underwater or on the shore when another loon appears overhead, leaving their parents to feign childlessness. The mallard baby, however, basically did the opposite when it spotted another loon above: It swam into the middle of the lake and made a ton of noise. Nothing bad happened right then, but it’s possible that the intruder loon will bookmark the territory and return to usurp the adoptive parents next summer.

A baby mallard duck rides on loon's back
Photo by Linda Grenzer

By the end of this summer, though, the baby mallard will have mostly grown up, and it’s likely that it will soon figure out that it’s not a loon. When that happens, says Lori Naumann from the Nongame Wildlife Program of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, it will probably search for (and hopefully find) other mallards and assimilate into their habitat and lifestyle. In the meantime, we’ll patiently wait for Disney to turn the story into a heartwarming family film.

[h/t Smithsonian.com]

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which is available on Indiegogo and dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port.

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 crowdfunding goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100 if you pledge now. You can purchase the ChopBox on Indiegogo here.

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A Prehistoric Great White Shark Nursery Has Been Discovered in Chile

Great white sharks used prehistoric nurseries to protect their young.
Great white sharks used prehistoric nurseries to protect their young.
solarseven/iStock via Getty Images

Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) may be one of the most formidable and frightening apex predators on the planet today, but life for them isn’t as easy as horror movies would suggest. Due to a slow growth rate and the fact that they produce few offspring, the species is listed as vulnerable to extinction.

There is a way these sharks ensure survival, and that is by creating nurseries—a designated place where great white shark babies (called pups) are protected from other predators. Now, researchers at the University of Vienna and colleagues have discovered these nurseries occurred in prehistoric times.

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, Jamie A. Villafaña from the university’s Institute of Palaeontology describes a fossilized nursery found in Coquimbo, Chile. Researchers were examining a collection of fossilized great white shark teeth between 5 and 2 million years old along the Pacific coast of Chile and Peru when they noticed a disproportionate number of young shark teeth in Coquimbo. There was also a total lack of sexually mature animals' teeth, which suggests the site was used primarily by pups and juveniles as a nursery.

Though modern great whites are known to guard their young in designated areas, the researchers say this is the first example of a paleo-nursery. Because the climate was much warmer when the paleo-nursery was in use, the researchers think these protective environments can deepen our understanding of how great white sharks can survive global warming trends.