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"What'd I miss?" via ROBERT TIZARD/WCS

A Bird Thought to Be Extinct Has Been Rediscovered

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"What'd I miss?" via ROBERT TIZARD/WCS

It's not often that animals thought to be extinct are rediscovered, but you can put the Jerdon's babbler (Chrysomma altirostre) on that short list. The small bird, last spotted in the grasslands of Myitkyo, Bago Region near the Sittaung River in 1941, was recently rediscovered by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society, Myanmar's Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division—MOECAF, and National University of Singapore (NUS).

The team was surveying an abandoned agricultural station in Myanmar when they heard the bird's elusive call. After they played the call back, a babbler paid the scientists a visit. For the next two days, the team found several of the birds hanging out in the area. The scientists took blood samples and photographs; the findings were published in the magazine, Birding Asia.

The Jerdon's babbler was first described in 1862 by British naturalist T. C. Jerdon. They were common in the grasslands of Ayeyarwady and Yangon until agriculture and civilization replaced the undeveloped land. It's believed that this change of environment led to the "extinction" of the bird due to the lack of habitat.

The Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science will be doing extensive DNA research to see if the Jerdon's babblers in Myanmar should be considered a full species (rather than a subspecies). If so, the birds will be considered of very high conservation concern.

"Our sound recordings indicate that there may be pronounced bioacoustic differences between the Myanmar subspecies and those further west, and genetic data may well confirm the distinctness of the Myanmar population," said Frank Rheindt, field team member and leader of the genetic analysis.

[h/t: ScienceDaily.com]

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This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus
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Octopuses can do some pretty amazing things with their skin, like “see” light, resist the pull of their own sticky suction cups, and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. That last part now has the U.S. Army interested, as Co.Design reports. The military branch’s research office has funded the development a new type of morphing material that works like an octopus’s dynamic skin.

The skin of an octopus is covered in small, muscular bumps called papillae that allow them to change textures in a fraction of a second. Using this mechanism, octopuses can mimic coral, rocks, and even other animals. The new government-funded research—conducted by scientists at Cornell University—produced a device that works using a similar principle.

“Technologies that use stretchable materials are increasingly important, yet we are unable to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons,” the scientists write in their study, recently published in the journal Science. “Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces.”

The membrane of the stretchy, silicone material lays flat most of the time, but when it’s inflated with air, it can morph to form almost any 3D shape. So far, the technology has been used to imitate rocks and plants.

You can see the synthetic skin transform from a two-dimensional pad to 3D models of objects in the video below:

It’s easy to see how this feature could be used in military gear. A soldier’s suit made from material like this could theoretically provide custom camouflage for any environment in an instant. Like a lot of military technology, it could also be useful in civilian life down the road. Co.Design writer Jesus Diaz brings up examples like buttons that appear on a car's dashboard only when you need them, or a mixing bowl that rises from the surface of the kitchen counter while you're cooking.

Even if we can mimic the camouflage capabilities of cephalopods, though, other impressive superpowers, like controlling thousands of powerful suction cups or squeezing through spaces the size of a cherry tomato, are still the sole domain of the octopus. For now.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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