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Humans and Dogs Have Been Best Friends For Way Longer Than We Thought

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Dogs have long been our animal BFFs, but how far back can our companionship be traced? According to a new study, further back than we thought.

Previous studies have suggested that dogs became domesticated roughly 11,0000 to 16,000 years ago as companions to hunter-gatherers. But a new study published in Current Biology found that dogs were likely domesticated a staggering 27,000 to 40,000 years ago. Using the genome of a 35,000-year-old wolf, the researchers attempted to distinguish when exactly dogs split from wolves.

The remains used for testing—a rib found trapped in ice on Russia’s Taimyr Peninsula—likely belonged to a wolf that roamed the Eurasian steppe tundra during the Ice Age. Researchers compared the DNA of this ancient canine to that of contemporary wolves and dogs, then used an assumed rate of mutation to estimate when dogs broke off from wolves. 

Swedish Museum of Natural History geneticist Love Dalén says that the rate of mutation was much slower than originally expected, meaning that domestication had to have happened much earlier. "One scenario is that wolves started following humans around and domesticated themselves," she told the BBC. "Another is that early humans simply caught wolf cubs and kept them as pets, and this gradually led to these wild wolves being domesticated.”

[h/t: Yahoo.com, Quartz.com]

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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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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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