Fun Fact: Otters Love to Juggle, But Scientists Aren't Sure Why

Otters continue to baffle scientists while remaining adorable.
Otters continue to baffle scientists while remaining adorable.
BlueBarronPhoto/iStock via Getty Images

For people fascinated by animal behavior, otters have long been a source of curiosity. Their poop (called spraint) has a somewhat pleasant smell and can be used to communicate sex, age, and other information to other otters who take a whiff. Female otters can “adopt” orphan otters as their own. And they can even use tools, wielding rocks to smash open food like clams.

Now, scientists are trying to decipher why these cute creatures are so fond of a peculiar pastime. They like to juggle pebbles.

In a study published in the Royal Society Open Alliance journal, researchers at the University of Exeter took a closer look at 48 otters scattered across three wildlife parks and zoos in the UK. Two species, the Asian small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea) and the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata), were involved. The otters were observed lazing around on their backs, tossing pebbles around. (For an otter, “juggling” means moving a stone around their chest, hands, and mouth.) While clearly adorable, the question for scientists was whether this was a form of play or a behavior tied to something else.

It could be an expression of hunger, as the otters tended to juggle more when they hadn’t eaten for two or more hours—the otter version of banging silverware on the table. It’s also possible the otters were playing with the rocks because it mimics the effort of foraging. The Asian small-clawed otter uses dexterity to find shellfish, while the smooth-coated otter eats fish. Both were observed to juggle, however. And after being given food in containers that needed to be tampered with, it didn’t appear that the otters were using the same skills exhibited in the rock-tossing.

It’s possible the otters are driven to juggle instinctively to help develop necessary motor skills early in life and to stave off cognitive decline later in life. (Both younger and older otters were observed to engage in the practice.)

Another explanation: otters get fidgety and bored and want something to do. Further research is needed to tease out why these playful creatures behave the way they do.

[h/t The Guardian]

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Dress Up Your Guinea Pig for Halloween With Mini Costumes From PetSmart

PetSmart
PetSmart

Guinea pigs love socialization, so make sure to include them in your Halloween festivities this month. They can even dress up for the holiday: As Cosmopolitan reports, PetSmart has a line of cute and funny Halloween costumes designed to fit your tiny pet.

For several years, PetSmart has offered seasonal outfits for guinea pigs, including pumpkin, witch, and superhero costumes. The costumes featured in their Thrills & Chills collection for 2020 include a unicorn, a mermaid, and a hot dog. The ensembles are available to purchase in stores and online, and each one costs $7. You can shop for the perfect costume for your pet today at PetSmart.com.

PetSmart

PetSmart

No matter what kind of furry friend you have at home, there's a Halloween outfit out there for them. The costume options for cats and dogs are almost as diverse as they are for their human owners. From Wonder Woman to Darth Vader, here are some of the most adorable pet costumes to shop for this Halloween.

[h/t Cosmopolitan]

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