Why did scientists give a mirror to these weird fish? We have 5 ideas.

"Mirror, mirror, under waves — who's the fairest manta ray?"

Presumably, that's what's on this guy's mind:



GIF via Csilla Ari, Ph.D./New Scientist.

That ray, you see, is circling around a mirror placed in its tank by Csilla Ari, a researcher at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Ari filmed a pair of these aquatic blanket-creatures on two separate occasions: once with a mirror in their tank and once without. She observed a noticeable difference in the behaviors of these typically antisocial animals in the presence of their own reflections.

They would blow bubbles while facing the mirror, for example, or wave their fins around and swim circles past the looking glass, like in the GIF above. But as fun as it is to spend an afternoon watching fish act funny, this strange little experiment still begged the question: Why would a manta ray care about a mirror?

It turns out, there are actually a few possibilities:

Science fact: Rays love dancing. GIF via Cheezburger.

1. They were just making sure they're not a vampire or monster.

It's a commonly accepted scientific fact that evil mystical folk creatures don't have reflections — and once upon a time, people treated the so-called "devil ray" like monsters. There were stories of these flappy fish using their prodigious size to sink ships, and they gained a (completely fabricated) reputation for attacking humans. They even starred in a couple of monster movies, like "The Sea Bat (1930)" and "Devil Monster (1936)" — though sadly, none of them left their fin-prints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

While manta rays can get pretty big — some are more than 20 feet across — they're not actually that dangerous in real life (and they're definitely not demonic).

"Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my closeup." GIF from "Devil Monster."

2. Or they were checking to see if they had anything in their teeth.

So if manta rays aren't man-eating monsters, what do they eat? It turns out, they're really into those teeny tiny floating plants and animals we call plankton — so basically the opposite of human flesh. In fact, the ray's iconic horns are actually fins on the sides of their head that help them funnel plankton into their mouths!

Nom nom nom nom nom. GIF from GoPro/YouTube.

3. Perhaps they wanted to admire how smart they look.

Manta rays have the biggest brains for their bodies of any fish. There are even some stories of rays coordinating and cooperating with each other (even though they generally keep to themselves).

Intelligence is beautiful, so maybe these rays were just taking in the sights?

Woohoo! We're smart! Let's have a flap party about it! GIF from BBC Earth.

4. They could have also been looking for gray hairs.

The manta ray as we know it today has been around for about 5 million years, and its relatives date back around 20 million years. And they're not just an old family either — individual rays can live to be 50 years old! (Which is, like, really old for a fish.)

"Get off my lawn." GIF via Imgur.

5. Or maybe, just maybe, these manta rays got so excited by the mirror because their advanced intelligence make them self-aware.

The mirror test is a kind-of-vaguely-defined lowest-bar litmus test for determining if animals possess a higher consciousness like humans. The basic idea is that if an animal can recognize itself in a mirror (instead of, say, confusing its own reflection for another member of its species), then that animal must be at least somewhat aware of its own identity.

Other animals that have passed the mirror test include dolphins, chimpanzees, elephants, and magpies. It's only a tentative step, and it may not work for nonvisual animals like octopuses, for example (which lots of us already recognize as a vastly superior alien race). But if the manta rays in the experiment above did actually recognize their own reflections, it would make them the first fish to demonstrate self-awareness.

YAY I'M SELF-AWARE UR SELF-AWARE LET'S BE BFFL.

Of course, we can't exactly prove these manta rays are really as vain as we think they are ... at least, not yet.

But if this research checks out, it has the potential to be an ocean-sized milestone in our larger understanding of consciousness and evolution. Which means we're one step closer to being able to swim up to a manta and say, "Hey, who's that handsome devil ray in the mirror?"

And I think we're all agreed: That would be awesome.

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I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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