Discovered: Population of man's rarest best friend dwindles; hermit crabs are terrible friends; the song of the sand; candy corn is social media's favorite candy.
Ethiopian wolves not long for this world. With fewer than 500 of these majestic animals left (and only 72 running free in the wild), the Ethiopian wolf has the dubious honor of being the world's rarest dog. And the breed is becoming ever more diluted, according to the results from a 12-year study carried out by European conservationists in the Ethiopian highlands. Gene flow between the remaining groups is weak, and these lone-wolfs aren't keen on mixing their genetics with other canine groups. The Ethiopian wolf branched off from its wolf ancestors 100,000 years ago and has since evolved to live 3,000 meters above sea level and feed on rodents. They're very susceptible to rabies, which decimated some populations by up to 75 percent recently. "It may be necessary in the near future to artificially increase population size and restore gene flow between nearby populations," write researchers from Zoological Society of London. [BBC News]
Never trust a hermit crab. Hermit crabs seem pretty cute at first. They're a popular pet, because who doesn't like a critter that wears its home on its back? But really, the terrestrials types of hermit crab are scheming like backstabbers, according to biologist Mark Laidre from the University of California, Berkeley. They don't want just any old abandoned shell on their backs—they trick out their shells by digging everything out of them and incorporating other remodeling work. So when they see another hermit crab with a better shell, they get jealous. And when they get jealous, they get deceptively friendly. When they all congregate in a hermit crab, they typically gang up on the crab with the best shell, prying his home away from him and competing over it. "The one that gets yanked out of its shell is often left with the smallest shell, which it can’t really protect itself with" says Professor Laidre. "Then it’s liable to be eaten by anything. For hermit crabs, it’s really their sociality that drives predation." [UC Berkeley]