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Technology

Amazing photo of weasel and woodpecker rocks Internet

Forget #TheDress, social networkers are obsessing over a new photo. And unlike last week's perplexing polychrome frock, the latest viral sensation is brought to us care of Mother Nature.

You've probably seen the photo by now. But in case you haven't checked your twitter stream in the last 24 hours, believe us: this viral sensation is legitimately amazing, and not an optical illusion like last week's dress.

The spectacular photo of a weasel hitchhiking a flight on the back of a woodpecker is photoshop-free – all the better for inspiring an endless stream of memes across social media and launching a discussion about whether the ride was consensual.

Untouched nature

For the discerning eyes of millions of twitterers, the photograph first shared by @Jayward7 on March 2 was nearly too good to be believed. That initial post has been retweeted some 10,000 times as social networkers obsess over whether the scene was manipulated.

But amateur photographer Martin Le-May has assured the media that he captured the shot as seen on site while walking in his local park in East London. He has additional photos to back him up.

Experts also seem to think the photo is legitimate. According to Hany Farid, a professor and expert on digital forensics at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire, the low resolution of the image makes detailed analysis difficult, but it would also be extremely challenging for anyone to fake such a photo. In an interview with National Geographic, Farid said he doesn't "see any evidence that the photo is not real."

So is the weasel the Buzz Lightyear of the animal kingdom, or is it actually an attempt to attack and kill the woodpecker?

In an interview with Nicholas Lund, who writes for ornithological website The Birdist, Le-May said he heard "distressed squawking" and trained his binoculars on what has now been identified as a European green woodpecker flapping around in the grass. When he focused his lenses, he saw a baby least weasel had jumped on the bird's back just as it took off in flight.

Since least weasels are known for their ferocious behavior and carnivorous appetite, it's unlikely the ride was a friendly form of carpooling.

Photoshop field day

But that didn't stop twitter users from having a field day with the picture. The list of montages depicting animals, politicians and celebrities riding the woodpecker has taken a flight of fantasy. Chief among them is the bare-chested Vladimir Putin.

And here is the ultimate montage combining the top viral trends of the new year:

The list of #weaselpecker memes is endless - or at least until the next new thing rocks the Internet.

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