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A Member of Parliament Wants Hedgehogs as the UK's National Species

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Over the past couple years, Internet-famous hedgehogs like Darcy and Marutaro have given the spiny mammals a boost in popularity almost as big as Sonic did in the early to mid 1990s. Though still illegal in some places, the animals are quickly becoming one of the most popular pets in the United States, according to some reports. News from across the Atlantic Ocean suggests that hedgehog love is not confined to this country, though, because a member of the British Parliament is now seriously pushing for the cute creatures to become the first-ever national species of the UK.

The BBC reports that Conservative MP Oliver Colvile recently nominated the hedgehog as a national symbol to raise awareness of the species' declining numbers due to habitat loss. "Likely factors in the hedgehog’s demise are the loss of permanent grasslands, larger field sizes, the use of pesticides and herbicides and a reduction in hedgerow quality," Colvile said. However, Environment Minister Rory Stewart questioned whether the hedgehog was worthy to represent Britain:

"Do we want to have as our national symbol an animal which when confronted with danger rolls over into a little ball and puts its spikes up? Do we want to have as our national symbol an animal that sleeps for six months of the year, or would we rather return to the animal that is already our national symbol? I refer, of course, to the lion, which is majestic, courageous and proud."

Hilary Hanson of The Huffington Post writes that Stewart's argument against the hedgehog and in favor of the lion is flawed. "First of all, if your argument is that hedgehogs sleep too much, a lion is not a good alternative," Hanson says. "Male lions can sleep 18–20 hours per day, which translates to way more than half the year." She adds that it is "silly to make your national symbol an animal that doesn’t even live in the wild anywhere near your region. Making the lion the symbol of the UK would be like making the zebra the national symbol of the U.S. or the platypus the national symbol of Norway."

In his response to Colvile's plan, Stewart also noted that Parliament has probably not discussed hedgehogs since 1566. While maintaining that the lion would be a better fit, he also made a point of showing hedgehogs the respect that he feels they deserve as a species and a "symbol of innocence." After quoting Shakespeare and providing historical information about hedgehogs, Stewart spoke at length about the importance of helping and studying hedgehogs, reminded his colleagues that it was "used by Saatchi & Saatchi in an advertising campaign for the Conservative party in 1992 general election," and ended with a quote by poet and novelist Thomas Hardy. First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means, Eleanor Laing, said Stewart's hedgehog speech was "one of the best speeches I have ever heard in this House." 

To read the full transcript from the House of Commons debate, click through here.

[h/t: Huffington Post]

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Animals
25 Shelter Dogs Who Made It Big
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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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