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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

World’s Oldest Known Wild Bird, Wisdom the Albatross, Is a Mother Again

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The world's oldest known wild bird, a Laysan albatross named Wisdom, just added a new member to her family. At age 65, that's more than a little impressive.

The chick was born at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, and was first seen emerging from its shell on February 1. Staff named the chick Kūkini—the Hawaiian word for messenger—a few days later, and announced the new chick on February 8.

Laysan albatrosses spend much of the year at sea, coasting hundreds of miles each day over the Pacific Ocean. Each mating season, the birds return to the remote atoll, which is known in Hawaiian as Pihemanu, or “loud bird noises” for the millions of seabirds that nest there. Female albatrosses lay a single egg per season, but that single egg is a huge commitment. Incubation alone lasts 130 days, and raising the chick to flight readiness can take another few months.

An ornithologist working with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) first banded Wisdom in 1956, when she was about five years old. In the last six decades, Wisdom has raised as many as 40 chicks. Most albatrosses mate for life, but Wisdom has likely outlived her first mate and has found another. Monument staff are currently holding a contest to name her mate, who is unofficially known as "Goo" or "Gooo," a reference to his band number of 6,000, according to NPR.

“In the face of dramatic seabird population decreases worldwide—a 70 percent drop since the 1950s when Wisdom was first banded—Wisdom has become a symbol of hope and inspiration,” refuge manager Dan Clark said in an earlier press releaseWildlife officials say Wisdom is also breaking longevity records for previously known banded birds by "at least a decade."

According to a press release from the monument, Wisdom’s voyages across the ocean and back since she was first tagged could add up to three million miles total—that's six trips to the Moon and back again. 


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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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