We here at Slate tend to have strong opinions about things, and that includes animals. Boss-man David Plotz is opposed to pandas. Technology columnist Farhad Manjoo would like you to get your dog out of his face. And I say lock up your cats, because they are ecologically evil. We defend brown recluse spiders and condemn dolphins. Controversial opinions aside, some of our loveliest, funniest, and most surprising stories this year have been about animals. We ran a special issue in February about how various species are likely to fare as the climate changes, and we launched a new blog called Wild Things. Here, in no particular order, are some of our favorite animals stories of the year.
1. “What the State Birds Should Be”
By Nicholas Lund, May 17
Seven cardinals are on the list of state birds—but no hawks? Come on, states. Here’s how you can do better.
2. “The Worst Marine Invasion Ever”
By Christie Wilcox, July 1
A marine biologist could not believe what she found inside a lionfish.
3. “The Great ‘Do Bears Hibernate?’ Debate”
By Jason Bittel, Feb. 15
Their sleeping patterns are weird. Their sex is weirder.
4. “Sea Otters Are Jerks. So Are Dolphins, Penguins, and Other Adorable Animals.”
By Brian Switek, Oct. 28
It’s true—some of the cutest species engage in some of the most shocking behavior.
5. “Don’t Call it a Monster”
By Constance Casey, April 26
Gila monsters are venomous, have two penises, and can kill a man. But who are we to call them monsters?
6. “No, Mermaids Do Not Exist”
By David Shiffman, May 30
A marine biologist’s blood boils at Animal Planet’s fake documentary. Here’s what’s really cool about the ocean, and it doesn’t involve fake flippers.
7. “Save the Ugly Animals!”
By Sarah Zielinski, Nov. 20
Conservation decisions are being driven by the desires of a bunch of toddlers. It’s time to stand up for Tasmanian devils and aye-ayes rather than cheetahs and pandas.
8. “No, I Do Not Want to Pet Your Dog”
By Farhad Manjoo, May 9
They’re in our gyms, offices, and cafes. It’s time to take America back from the slobbering, sniffing, snapping beasts.
9. “Penguins Investigate Antarctica’s Artist-in-Residence”
By Jynne Dilling Martin, Dec. 12
The National Science Foundation sent a poet to Antarctica, and she’s sending back the most delightful dispatches. There’s pretty much nothing more adorable than a googly-eyed penguin, especially when it’s tugging on your shoelaces.
10. “Namibia’s Most Fascinating Wildlife”
By Mark Vanhoenacker, Feb. 13
Forget the cheetahs, giraffes, and rhinos. Behold the armored ground cricket.
11. “Swimming in Sperm and Eggs”
By Michelle Nijhuis, Feb. 26
Coral sex is explosive, exquisitely timed, and really funky.
12. “Fishing With Dolphins”
By Joe Roman, Jan. 31
It’s not a myth—fishermen and dolphins really do cooperate to catch fish off a beach in Brazil.
13. “Do Animals Know When They Are Dying?”
By Jessica Winter, Nov. 4
The most touching story you will ever read about a sick cat.
14. “Everything You Wanted to Know About Quokkas, Courtesy of a Quokka”
By Katy Waldman, Feb. 6
Is this the world’s most adorable creature? Yes. The answer is yes.
*Update, Dec. 23, 2013: We forgot our friend the Florida panther. Sneaky Florida panther!
15. “Heroic Measures to Save Florida’s Panthers, Including Mouth-to-Mouth Resuscitation”
By Craig Pittman, July 17
Conservation biologists hatched a desperate plan to save Florida’s panthers—but what about their habitat?