Australian Zoo Says Fruit Is Now Too Sugary for Its Animals

iStock.com/joel-t
iStock.com/joel-t

Monkeys at Australia's Melbourne Zoo have been put on a banana-free diet because selective breeding of the fruit has made it too sugary, the zoo's head vet told The Sydney Morning Herald. It's not just the monkeys that are being restricted, either. Other animals at the zoo were becoming obese and suffering from rotted teeth, and ultra-sweet fruit was identified as the culprit.

"The issue is, the cultivated fruits have been genetically modified to be much higher in sugar content than their natural, ancestral fruits," head vet Michael Lynch tells the Morning Herald.

Some fruits, like plums, have nearly doubled their soluble sugar content in the last two decades, food scientist Senaka Ranadheera told the Morning Herald. Some wild bananas have large seeds, but the cultivated variety that we eat has been genetically modified to the point that it's unrecognizable from its less-palatable counterpart. In addition, "wild apples are smaller and more bitter than modern cultivated varieties," Ranadheera said. Fruit with a higher sugar content simply tastes better to humans as well as animals.

At Melbourne Zoo, the primates and red pandas have developed quite a sweet tooth. It's not unusual for the animals to eat all of their fruit while leaving other foods untouched. In an attempt to introduce a healthier diet, zookeepers have started feeding the red pandas bits of pear mixed with "panda pellets" containing all the nutrients and minerals they need. Other animals have had their fruit swapped out for leafy greens.

The Australian zoo isn't the first one to take fruit off the menu, though. In England, the Paignton Zoo tracked the health of its monkeys from 2003 to 2010 and ultimately decided to eliminate fruit, bread, eggs, and seeds from the animals' diets. Instead, they are fed foods rich in protein and fiber, including pellets, fresh vegetables, dog biscuits, and cooked brown rice. "Resultant health benefits have been improved dental health and weight loss in some previously overweight individuals," Dr. Amy Plowman at the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust wrote in her 2013 research paper.

[h/t Newsweek]

A Dracula Ant's Jaws Snap at 200 Mph—Making It the Fastest Animal Appendage on the Planet

Ant Lab, YouTube
Ant Lab, YouTube

As if Florida’s “skull-collecting” ants weren’t terrifying enough, we’re now going to be having nightmares about Dracula ants. A new study in the journal Royal Society Open Science reveals that a species of Dracula ant (Mystrium camillae), which is found in Australia and Southeast Asia, can snap its jaws shut at speeds of 90 meters per second—or the rough equivalent of 200 mph. This makes their jaws the fastest part of any animal on the planet, researchers said in a statement.

These findings come from a team of three researchers that includes Adrian Smith, who has also studied the gruesome ways that the skull-collecting ants (Formica archboldi) dismember trap-jaw ants, which were previously considered to be the fastest ants on record. But with jaw speeds of just over 100 miles per hour, they’re no match for this Dracula ant. (Fun fact: The Dracula ant subfamily is named after their habit of drinking the blood of their young through a process called "nondestructive cannibalism." Yikes.)

Senior author Andrew Suarez, of the University of Illinois, said the anatomy of this Dracula ant’s jaw is unusual. Instead of closing their jaws from an open position, which is what trap-jaw ants do, they use a spring-loading technique. The ants “press the tips of their mandibles together to build potential energy that is released when one mandible slides across the other, similar to a human finger snap,” researchers write.

They use this maneuver to smack other arthropods or push them away. Once they’re stunned, they can be dragged back to the Dracula ant’s nest, where the unlucky victims will be fed to Dracula ant larvae, Suarez said.

Researchers used X-ray imaging to observe the ants’ anatomy in three dimensions. High-speed cameras were also used to record their jaws snapping at remarkable speeds, which measure 5000 times faster than the blink of a human eye. Check out the ants in slow-motion in the video below.

Plano, Texas Is Now Home to a Dog-Friendly Movie Theater

K9 Cinemas
K9 Cinemas

For dog owners in Plano, Texas, movie night with Fido no longer just means cuddling on the couch and browsing Netflix. The newly opened K9 Cinemas invites moviegoers—both human and canine—to watch classic films on the big screen.

The theater operates as a pop-up (or perhaps pup-up?) in a private event space near Custer Road and 15th Street in Plano. On the weekends, patrons can pay $5 for dogs, $9 for kids, and $12.50 for adults to see popular movies in the 50-seat space. Snacks—both the pet and people kind—are available for $2 apiece. Dogs are limited to two per person, and just 25 human seats are sold per showing to leave room for the furry guests.

Pet owners are asked follow a few rules in order to take advantage of what the theater has to offer. Dogs must be up-to-date on all their shots, and owners can submit veterinary records online or bring a hard copy to the theater to verify their pooch's health status. Once inside, owners are responsible for taking their dog out for potty breaks and cleaning up after any accidents that happen (thankfully the floors are concrete and easy to wipe down).

K9 Cinemas is currently showing Elf (2003) and Home Alone (1990) for the holiday season. Dog and movie enthusiasts can buy tickets online now, or wait until January when the theater upgrades from padded chairs to couches for optimized puppy snuggle time.

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