The curiosities of nature are entertainment gold. There are chimpanzees who practice tree rituals, creatures with strange features, and even unidentified animals. Apart from such curiosities, the darker side of nature has a lot to offer. From bloody and unsettled beach attacks to panda pregnancies that never end, here are the top ten scratches for today.
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10 A pink manta ray
In 2020 Kristian Laine dived near the Great Barrier Reef and took pictures of manta rays. When they came out pink on some of the photos, Laine thought his camera was malfunctioning. The truth emerged after he posted the snapshots on social media.
The "incorrect" recordings showed the same individual. Biologists have known this man since 2015 and he was indeed pink. They named him Inspector Clouseau after the quirky investigator from "The Pink Panther" films.
Despite his fair skin, Clouseau was seen less than ten times. A skin test put the theories into bed that the color of the manta came from meals with red pigment or a skin infection. Tests showed that it was more of a genetic mutation, possibly erythrism. This condition gives the animals a boost of red pigment.
Clouseau is 3.3 meters long. This is a survival in itself considering that manta rays are black and white to avoid predators and stalk prey. 
9 15,000 additional holes that nobody knew about
When the location of a wind farm off the coast near California was selected, a problem occurred. There were over 5,200 holes on the sea floor. Known to the maritime community for years (thanks, ship's radar), the dents were large, but not really the problem. Instead, there was a nervous suspicion that they were formed by underground gas.
In 2019, robots dived into the ocean to search for methane. The investigation showed no gas. If methane was behind the so-called pox scars, the last activity was about 50,000 years ago. The bots also saw something that has so far been overlooked by every ship sonar – an additional 15,000 holes.
The shovels were not baby pox scars. Not only were they much smaller and younger, they also had steeper sides and sandy tails that swung in the same direction. One theory pointed to fish living in objects sitting on the ocean floor. The animals throw up dust that is carried away by the currents. This sinks the object deeper and forms a hole. Fish lived in the garbage in some of the newly discovered holes, but that didn't explain why the majority were empty. 
8 Unprecedented Whale Pile
When a research ship crossed the South African coast, it encountered something never seen before with humpback whales. When these mammals gather, they rarely count more than four whales. In this case, the water swirled with 200 whales in an area the size of a soccer field.
The timing was also wrong. Humpback whales visit South Africa in winter to hunt plankton and shrimp. But this party arrived in the spring. It wasn't a one-time deal either. The first meeting took place in 2011, then in 2014 and 2015.
The animals feasted, indicating that a prey bloom had attracted them. Your migration patterns may change or this is normal behavior. If the latter is true, the gatherings will likely have disappeared after hunters have killed 90 percent of the species (their population is now stable). It is difficult to say which theory explains the densely packed clusters. 
7 The Indigirka creature
A puppy died in Siberia about 18,000 years ago. The body landed in permafrost and remained undisturbed until 2018, when it was found near the Indigirka River in Russia. The icy grave kept the puppy in pristine condition. The mummy still had eyelashes, fur, whiskers, nails, and paw pads. The jaws were also lined with milk teeth, suggesting that the puppy never saw his eighth week of life.
The resemblance to a wolf was obvious. However, wolves and dogs went their separate ways around 40,000 years ago. This meant that the puppy could also be a dog or a transition dog between the two species. The secret is a sticky wicket. The usual techniques, including genetic testing, could only determine that the puppy was male. There was nothing definite about which side of the fence this boy belongs to. 
6 Bridget's Mini-Mane
The Oklahoma City Zoo had a bearded woman. The 18-year-old lioness named Bridget suddenly got a mane-like ruffle. The hair bloomed under her chin rather than a full hair like a man's. Captive Bridget looked normal for most of her life. Her sister Tia, who was born in the same litter, also remained hairless, while Brigette sprouted her beard from March to November 2017.
A hairy woman in South Africa gave a hint. She had a deformity in her ovaries that released the male hormone testosterone. This possibility was excluded after blood tests showed that the sisters had the same testosterone level. However, Bridget had more adrenal hormones and androstenedione. The latter promotes male traits. The discovery led experts to theorize that one of their adrenal glands probably had a harmless tumor that produced the androstenedione. 
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5 The Oddly Tough Teufel
Tasmanian devils are marsupials on the edge. An illness wiped out 85 percent of the species. The contagious cancer, known as Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD), jumps in the fight between the devils. The rapid infections drove the animals to extinction.
Enter the West Pencil Pine Devils. This group lives in northwestern Tasmania and has kept its population growth stable. Fewer people become infected with DFTD and those with tumors live longer than they should. What makes them different is the key to saving the species.
The discovery that they are genetically diverse brought hope. Genes are a big problem with devils. Their diversity is so low that they all have the same MHC (histocompatibility complex) genes as the tumors. This could be the reason why your immune system cannot recognize cancer as a disease. Logically, devils have a better chance if some have genes that are not too similar to the disease. Like the pencil patch.
Tests brought bad news. Yes, their genes are less tumor-like. No, that didn't reduce their chances of getting DFTD. As daunting as that was, it also deepened the riddle of why they were better off than the others. 
4 Pandas never complete pregnancy
At birth, a giant panda cub is 900 times smaller than its mother. The researchers wanted to know why, but things weren't as easy as putting a baby panda on a scale. Newborns are rare in captivity and well protected by mothers.
The leading theory was that the boys were tiny due to an evolutionary remnant. Like all bear species, pandas have shortened their pregnancies to avoid hibernation. While today's pandas are no longer hibernating, this explains why they are only four weeks pregnant. Perhaps this was just enough time for little boys to fully develop.
The chance to study newborn pandas finally came when a litter was born in Washington, DC, but died the same day. They were scanned and compared to other newborn bears and animals. The rest had the sturdy skeletons you would expect from a completed pregnancy. But the bones of the pandas, born in the usual four weeks, were so underdeveloped that they were comparable to a 7-month-old human fetus. This has torn theory apart. Panda pregnancies are not short, long-term events. For unknown reasons, they are more like ovens that ring before the bread is ready. 
3 The unicorn puppy
In 2019, the mission of the Mac animal shelter faltered. The puppy was about 10 weeks old and had to be treated for frozen toes and worms. However, the staff and the vet probably only had eyes for the tail that grew out of his forehead.
This required a special name, so they named the dachshund mixture "Narwhal" after the whales with a tusk. But after he became a viral sensation, the media called him the "unicorn puppy".
Aside from the cuteness, Narwhal underwent tests to determine if the attachment could cause problems. In this case, it had to work. X-rays found no bones inside and the whole thing was basically just skin. When the shelter found out that the head tail would not bother Narwhal, they decided not to amputate.
The birth defect was unique, but also mysterious. It is unclear why the puppy sprouted a tail at each end. One explanation is that Narwhal has adopted his own identical twin. In humans, they are known as parasitic twins and appear as additional limbs or organs attached to the surviving sibling. This is unknown in dogs because they rarely give birth to identical twins. 
2 A mysterious beach attack
In 2017 a shocking attack occurred on a beach in Australia. Sam Kanizay was hospitalized after the 16-year-old left the water bloody. He told the doctors that he was standing in the sea, but no pain told him that he was bleeding heavily around the ankles.
Sea lice were the main suspect. The tiny crustaceans are parasites and a large number can seriously injure fish. But they only give people a slight rash. Sam's father found something else. Using meat and a net, he searched the place where his son was injured and caught sea fleas. Unlike sea lice, they are not crustaceans and some species only eat plants. Even those who love blood are not parasitic.
Experts cannot agree who the culprit is, what put them on, or why the victim bleed so heavily. A similar incident occurred on the same beach two years earlier. A father and son left the water only to find that they were bleeding. They noticed tadpole-like things. Since some species look like this, this indicated that the parasitic sea lice are behind both attacks. 
1 Chimpanzee-specific trees
A strange scene goes down in West Africa. Chimpanzees stroll to a tree, scream loudly and then hurl a stone. Sometimes two. Then they go away. Nobody knows why they're doing this, except that it's probably not a laugh. Chimpanzees like spontaneous games and throwing stones has a distinctive ritual feel. Only certain types of trees are thrown, and among them individual trees are so stoned that stones are stacked around the base.
Researchers wondered if the wood qualities made the chimpanzees happy. Maybe it produced the right sounds for Busch telegrams? A kind of musical instrument? There was only one way to find out. A team went into the forest, found pockmarked trees, and turned on the recorder. Then they went to monkeys and threw stones.
Software combed the beats and found that communication theory was geared towards something. In order to cover a good distance, the noise must be quiet and constant. Sure enough, the trees hummed deeply. The frequencies were amplified by the large base and pulled out through the wood.
But a single throw (or two) is hardly a message worth sending. The chimpanzees' deep cry in advance does the same thing first. So why send a pebble note at all? A good question, but for now the two-step ritual remains a mystery. 
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