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Animals Assemble for Annual Weigh-In at London Zoo

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On Wednesday, ZSL London Zoo held its annual weigh-in to assess the growth of its 17,000 furry, scaly, feathered and slimy animal residents.

The audit, for creatures of all sizes and species, is also useful for detecting pregnancies, monitoring eating habits, and creating records that are sent out to other zoos for comparison.

While some critters, like penguins, get weighed frequently and do so with relative ease, others are a bit trickier. Monkeys pose one of the greatest hurdles and require some clever corralling.

"We have to use quite ingenious tactics to measure some of the animals," London Zoo press officer Rebecca Blanchard told the International Business Times. "We have to trick some of the animals into being weighed. For example, [for] the Galapagos tortoises, we disguise the scales as a patch of grass underneath the main lawn in their paddock."

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For more dangerous animals, scales are built into their exhibits to get stats without putting the zookeepers in danger. For very small animals like snails, specialty devices are used to register their miniscule heft.

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To see some of the weigh-ins in action—including a 1500 pound camel—watch the video below.

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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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