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Julie Larsen Maher

Fairy Penguins Take the Bronx Zoo by Storm

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Julie Larsen Maher

Fairy penguins, also known as little penguins, are the smallest birds in the penguin family. They only grow to be about 13 inches tall and weigh two to three pounds. If you're a New Yorker—or planning a visit—and have a strong desire to see these impossibly small birds in real life (as I do), you're in luck. Fairy penguins will now be on exhibit at the Bronx Zoo, making it one of only four facilities in the United States to house them. The cute little guys were hatched at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia and brought to the Bronx as part of a breeding program.

“International partnerships and breeding programs like that of the little penguin are vital to ensuring the survival of the species in the wild through education, awareness, and connecting people to nature in a way that can only be accomplished through close, in-person encounters,” explains Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President and General Director of the WCS Zoos and Aquarium. So far, Breheny notes, the fairy penguins “are acclimating well to their new home and are quite a sight to see.” 

In the wild, you can find little penguins feasting on fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans off the coast of New Zealand and Australia. They fall into the "least concern" category on the UCN Red List, but they're still threatened by humans and climate change. The Bronx Zoo also supports Taronga Zoo's conservation programs in Sydney Harbor, which include monitoring, awareness campaigns, rescue and rehabilitation, and breeding programs.

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Focus Features
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Animals
25 Shelter Dogs Who Made It Big
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Focus Features

If you’ve been thinking of adding a four-legged friend to your brood and are deciding whether a shelter dog is right for you, consider this: Some of history’s most amazing pooches—from four-legged movie stars to heroic rescue dogs—were found in animal shelters. In honor of Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, here are 25 shelter dogs who made it big.

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This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus
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iStock

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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