I had coffee yesterday with a friend who is a senior newsroom leader at a major Canadian news organization. We were lamenting about the phenomenon known as “news avoidance” – media outlets have seen their viewership numbers drop over the last couple of years as people turn away from stories about politics, the pandemic, wars and other tough topics.

That discussion over coffee brought to mind an email exchange I had recently with one of our loyal readers about a story we once published on the social lives of squirrels. She mentioned that it was a welcome relief from some of the heavier stories we publish on a regular basis. And of course, yesterday was Groundhog Day – the one day on the calendar dedicated to an animal. In Canada, Wiarton Willie, Shubenacadie Sam and Fred la marmotte all predicted an early spring. So did Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania.

For your weekend reading, I’ve assembled a collection of animal stories – including some archive pieces on Groundhog Day and a story we published this week on new research about an ancient fish with a bad overbite.

If the groundhogs are right, maybe we’re a bit closer to those hot and hazy dog days of summer. Until then, stay warm. We’ll be back in your Inbox on Monday.

Scott White

CEO | Editor-in-Chief

Weekend Reads: Animal Stories

Groundhog Day: the truth about these furry forecasters

Mike Jeffries, Northumbria University, Newcastle

Are they really the animal kingdom’s very own Nostradamus?

The pleasure and pain of cinephilia: what happened when I watched Groundhog Day every day for a year

Adam Daniel, Western Sydney University

On a Monday morning in September of 2021, I sat down on my couch and hit play.

A 365-million-year-old fish with an extreme underbite showcases vertebrate diversity

Melina Jobbins, University of Zurich; Christian Klug, University of Zurich; Martin Rücklin, Leiden University

What paleontologists had believed to be spiny fins turned out to be elongated jaws. New examination of fossils that were 365 million years old revealed a fish with a remarkable lower jaw.

Mutton, an Indigenous woolly dog, died in 1859 − new analysis confirms precolonial lineage of this extinct breed, once kept for their wool

Audrey T. Lin, Smithsonian Institution; Chris Stantis, University of Utah; Logan Kistler, Smithsonian Institution

Dogs have lived with Indigenous Americans since before they came to the continent together 10,000 years ago. A new analysis reveals the lineage of one 1800s ‘woolly dog’ from the Pacific Northwest.

Fowl language: AI is learning to analyze chicken communications to help us understand what all the clucking’s about

Suresh Neethirajan, Dalhousie University

Artificial intelligence can process large amounts of chicken vocalizations, identifying patterns in the birds’ communications.

Toxic diets: Canadian orcas face high risks of pollution-related health effects

Anaïs Remili, McGill University

The accumulation of synthetic pollutants found in the blubber of killer whales is impacting the marine mammals’ health. Urgent action is needed to tackle the issue.

Polar bears may struggle to produce milk for their cubs as climate change melts sea ice

Louise Archer, University of Toronto

Climate change has affected food availability for polar bears, which can impact polar bear mothers’ ability to lactate.

Climate change is affecting bears, and humans need to learn more to avoid conflicts

Douglas Clark, University of Saskatchewan

We need to understand how bears are affected by climate change, and how those stresses might create new risks for humans.

News Quiz: Test your knowledge

The Conversation weekly news quiz

Fritz Holznagel, The Conversation

Test your knowledge with a weekly quiz drawn from some of our favorite stories.

Weekend Listening: The Conversation Weekly Podcast

Rogue taxonomists, competing lists and accusations of anarchy: the complicated journey toward a list of all life on Earth

Gemma Ware, The Conversation

Stephen Garnett takes us inside a scientific spat about how to govern the naming of new species. Listen to The Conversation Weekly podcast.