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Dinosaurs Evolved Faster Than We Thought

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Paleontologists have long believed that dinosaurs evolved from their early ancestors into the creatures we’re familiar with over the course of at least 10 million years. Now, a recent study suggests that this process may have occurred much faster than we thoughtwithin a period of less than 5 million years.

The paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, illustrates how Randall Irmis of the Natural History Museum of Utah and his colleagues used radioactive dating to analyze the rocks found around some of the earliest fossils of these ancient relatives to the dinosaur. The dating put the sediments somewhere between 234 million and 236 million years old, which would make the fossils the same age. 

The main differences between the dinosaurs and their predecessors were the dinosaurs' ball-and-socket hip joints and extra vertebrae at the end of their spines, which helped to strengthen their hips. Their early ancestors, which are part of the broad dinosauromorph group along with dinosaurs, have been dated by scientists before using a technique called biostratigraphy. The method employed in this most recent study is much more accurate, which is why the early dinosauromorphs have been found to live 5 to 10 million years earlier than paleontologists previously believed. These new findings suggest that the evolution of dinosaurs spanned a much shorter timeline.

According to the researchers, although the dinosaurs's emergence was rapid, their eventual domination over paleo-Earth progressed at a much slower pace. "You don't seem to see dinosaurs showing up and immediately taking over," Irmis told LiveScience. "It really emphasizes that there wasn't much special about the first dinosaurs. They were pretty similar to their early dinosauromorph relatives and probably doing very similar things." If that was indeed the case, a new question for scientists to explore would be what exactly caused the early dinosauromorphs to die out while dinosaurs grew stronger. 

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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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technology
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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