Barbara J. King

On a sunny Spring day last week, I met two Northern River Otters called Moe and Molly at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, a few towns over from where I live.

They were introduced to me by George Mathews, curatorial director of the VLM — and friend, especially, to Moe.

At a point during human prehistory, hunters' reliance on the spear-thrower, or atlatl, shifted to another kind of weapon — the

A coalition of animal-rescue organizations led by the Best Friends Animal Society based in Kanab, Utah, is aiming to bring the nation to "no kill" status for shelter cats and dogs by the year 2025.

Next week, a new pet adoption center will open in Soho in New York City to intensify no-kill efforts in that city and to bring attention to the national initiative.

The word polyamory, according to this FAQ page maintained by writer and sex educator Franklin Veaux, "is based on the Greek and Latin for 'many loves' (literally, poly many + amor love). A polyamorous person is someone who has or is open to having more than one romantic relationship at a time, with the knowledge and consent of all their partners."

(Polyamory, then, isn't to be confused with polygyny, when one man has several wives, or polyandry, when one woman has several husbands.)

The following are two edited excerpts from Barbara J. King's new book Personalities on the Plate: The Lives & Minds of Animals We Eat.

We Homo sapiens have been artists throughout much of our prehistory, creating paintings, engravings and statues, often representing animals.

Now, a team of researchers has described a new discovery from the rock shelter Abri Blanchard in the Dordogne region of France that features a striking image of an aurochs engraved on a limestone slab.

The average American eats more than 33 pounds of cheese a year.

This is according to Neal Barnard, physician and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. And that's a problem, he says, because it's helping to make us overweight and sick.

You know that voice we tend to use when speaking to babies?

It's a sing-song voice, one with higher pitch, shorter phrases with simpler grammar, slower speech rate, more repetitions, and greater contrast in our vowels. It's called "motherese" or, more accurately, IDS (for infant-directed speech).

Three stories beneath the streets of Washington, DC, I stood on the bottom level of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture — for just a moment alone — as people flowed in all around me.

In front of me stood a stone block. Dating from the 19th century, the block, made of marble, once could be found in Hagerstown, Md. On it, enslaved people brought to the U.S. from Africa were sold at auction.

During a 10-year span, a team of primatologists witnessed 15 daytime births in wild gelada monkeys residing in the grasslands of high-altitude Ethiopia.

Testosterone Rex is extinct.

That's the central conclusion of a fascinating new book by University of Melbourne psychologist Cordelia Fine. Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society hit the bookstores Tuesday.

Many in the science community have expressed concern about the lack of science literacy demonstrated by the new Trump administration.

A look at the administration's statements and actions related to five key issues that are informed by science — anthropogenic climate change, vaccines, evolution taught in public schools, environmental science and protection of public lands, and human rights — bolsters that concern.

Dogs are celebrated everywhere these days for the clever things they and their brains can do, and the science of dog cognition continues to soar in popularity.

As a cat person, I can't help but add that cats, too, show off their savviness for science.

Murmuration refers to the phenomenon that results when hundreds, sometimes thousands, of starlings fly in swooping, intricately coordinated patterns through the sky.

Maybe you've seen a murmuration video before. But this one is especially beautiful. It was shot earlier this month in Wales, at Cosmeston Lakes in the Vale of Glamorgan, and posted on Facebook by the BBC Cymru Wales.

Why do I love this short video so much?

Ever lived overseas or traveled internationally? If so, you might being feeling empathy for the panda sisters Mei Lun and Mei Huan.

In November, these 3-year-old twins were sent from their birthplace at Zoo Atlanta to China. And they have been dealing with culture shock ever since. They especially miss their favorite foods — and they don't respond to the unfamiliar language as they did to sentences directed to them in English.

For 13 minutes last Friday, I was entranced listening to the Moth Radio Hour when attorney, husband and father Chris Gilbert spoke about his son Brody. (Gilbert's segment starts at about 36:30.)

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Imagine this scene: Inside a cave in Spain, a group of people gather around the grave of a toddler. Hearths with lit fires, marked by 30 horns of animals including bison and red deer, surround the grave. A rhinoceros skull is nearby.

At a conference this fall, archaeologist Enrique Baquedano and his colleagues described this scene as a probable funeral ritual held 40,000 years ago by Neanderthals.

Birdsong is music to human ears.

It has inspired famous composers. For the rest of us, it may uplift the spirit and improve attention or simply be a source of delight, fun and learning.

But have you ever wondered what birds themselves hear when they sing?

On this day of giving thanks, I've put together a list of animal-related things for which I'm grateful. Here they are in no particular order:

10. This half-minute duck-chases-dog video. It brings a smile every time I watch. Don't miss the moment when the chase reverses direction!

When I give public talks about animal intelligence and emotion around the U.S., I'm struck by one thing: a big audience response to the behavior of octopuses.

A friend posted a query on Facebook: "Please name some movies/TV shows that make you feel more optimistic/positive about life."

Immediate resonance! I've never been one for dark, broody and violent visual arts. During my husband's avid watching of TV shows like Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead, I flee the room.

Last month, Australian surfer Jade Fitzpatrick sustained three bite wounds to his thigh from a great white shark as he waited for a wave on his surfboard off the north coast of New South Wales.

As the Guardian newspaper reported, he was helped out of the water by a friend, received medical treatment and planned to surf again in the same waters within 10 days.

When you're trapped in an airport, relax and have some fun.

That's one possible takeaway from this small bird filmed earlier this year, riding the handrails of an airport's moving walkway.

The bird swoops in the air, lands on the handrail and repeats the whole sequence. Doesn't that look playful? Play isn't an outlandish explanation, in fact, because animal-behavior scientists agree that different species of birds do play in a variety of ways.

Some 56 years after Jane Goodall began long-term research on wild chimpanzees at Gombe, Tanzania, primatologists are still uncovering fascinating new facts about these closest living relatives of ours.

What lurks beneath?

Beneath the water, we find luminescent vampire squid and weighty blue whales. We find super-heated hydrothermal chimneys, sonar-pinging submarines and scientists who roam the watery terrain in submersibles.

Beneath the ground, we find a realm of geysers, volcanoes and tectonic plates. Here also dwell giant earthworms, warthogs and deep roots of wild fig and camel thorn trees. In the subsurface world, humans mine and tunnel and excavate to unleash bones and fossils.

Are free-ranging cats pint-size murderers who need to be removed from the landscape because they critically decrease bird and small-mammal populations?

Or is the estimation of free-ranging cats' impact on birds exaggerated, so that we'd do better to rein in the anti-cat hype and to focus on our own actions toward wildlife?

Are these the only two possible positions? Or is this dichotomy itself a kind of hype?

Last week, The New York Times described "a new category of Digital Detox trips in which participants pledge, in writing, to swear off all digital devices including cellphones and cameras" for 8 to 10 days of travel.

If you sign up, you get a notebook to record memories. Travel leaders will even send email updates to your family, if you'd like.

Sounds virtuous, doesn't it? Shouldn't we all be disconnecting more, especially on vacation?

In England's Northumberland area, at the Alnwick Castle, you can tour a locked patch of ground where killers reside.

This is the section of Alnwick Gardens dedicated to poisonous or narcotic plants. Once you find a garden keeper to let you through the locked gates, plants — some so toxic they are caged — come into view. They range from strychnine to poppies and hallucinogenic mushrooms.

The Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe is book situated at the intersection of inflammatory and ignorant.

Best known for his novels — perhaps especially for The Right Stuff and Bonfire of the Vanities, both made into major films — Wolfe offers his readers a non-fiction account of the evolution of speech in his latest book — or rather, its non-evolution, because Wolfe denies that speech has evolved.

Pages