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Reconstructed megalodon skeleton in Maryland // CC BY-SA 3.0

Megalodon Shark Tooth Discovered in Croatia

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Reconstructed megalodon skeleton in Maryland // CC BY-SA 3.0

The megalodon shark occupies a shadowy realm between fact and fiction. The massive prehistoric fish, thought to reach lengths up to 60 feet, really did exist millions of years ago; it even has an official Latin name: Carcharodon/Carcharocles megalodon (which translates appropriately to “big tooth”). However, despite the Discovery Channel specials that coyly suggest the megalodon may still roam the underwater depths, scientists agree that the gargantuan predator is extinct today. That makes Stjepan Sucec’s discovery of a 14-inch shark tooth in Croatia’s Kupa River all the more exciting, because it’s almost certainly a remnant straight from a megolodon’s mouth.

Sucec, a resident of Pokupsko, a small village in central Croatia, was only out to gather shells when he made his big discovery. Although the waters of the Kupa are shallow enough to wade in some areas, the space was previously occupied by the Pannonian Sea—a body of water well suited to serve as the habitat of giant sharks. Compared to the teeth of great white sharks, thought to be the megalodon’s nearest living descendant, Sucec’s find seems comically oversize, dwarfing the two- to three-inch specimens. The purported megalodon tooth is also a glossy black, compared to a dull white—further evidence of its incredibly advanced age.

According to geologist Drazen Japundzic at Zagreb’s Natural History Museum, it’s a safe bet that the tooth really is one of the only existing bits of fossilized evidence that corroborates the megalodon’s existence. Being made primarily of cartilage, not many parts of the megalodon have survived the many millions of years between their time and ours; fossilized teeth are nearly all scientists have to go on. For now, Sucec’s lucky discovery remains in safe storage: a terrifying reminder of the enormous predators that once swam in the oceans, and a comforting assurance that such creatures are long gone.

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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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technology
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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