What would you say is the cutest animal? What would you say is the cutest baby animal? Well, a group of scientists decided to use Twitter to decide what animals should be crowned the winner. Much adorableness ensued, all tagged #CuteOff.
There are a number of reasons why this is an excellent idea. First, it’s a great way to show off how squee-worthy some of the less charismatic creatures can be, from bugs to fish. "I don't generally think of fish as cute,” Anne Hilborn, a doctoral student who helped launch the hashtag, told LiveScience. “But there were some alarmingly cute fish.” Generally speaking, proving the cuteness of less-obvious critters is a good way to bring attention to them, and demonstrate their merit for conservation and study. Herpetologists were particularly active participants, sharing everything from lizards and frogs posed on pennies, to tiny tiny turtles that fit in the palm of your hand.
Secondly, it’s a great opportunity to think about what makes something adorable. Small scale? Fuzziness? Being young? Big ears? Clearly, some combination of these things are good start, and it does seem that mammals have something of an advantage.
Big eyes can be a particularly big factor in making a creature cute. A recent study showed that both dogs and their owner experience a notable boost in oxytocin (the “cuddle hormone”) from gazing into each other eyes.
Thirdly, it was a super fun way to find out about animals you might not even know existed, like mouse lemurs. How freakin’ cute are mouse lemurs!?
And finally, the whole thing is brilliant because the internet loves all things adorable. So, really we all win the battle of the #CuteOff. Here’s a whole bunch more really cute things: