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This Fossil Found in Texas Suggests Pterosaurs Could Fly Really Far

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Paleontologists have dug up a 94-million-year-old pterosaur fossil in Texas—the first of its kind discovered in North America. A paper recently published in the Journal of Vertebrae Paleontology reports that the species' closest relative is a pterosaur that was native to what would have been England today, indicating that the creatures were capable of flying extreme distances.

There were other pterosaurs known to have lived in the area at the time, but it was rare for them to have teeth like the newly discovered Cimoliopterus dunni did. Paleontologists believe that its closest relative wasn't among the pterosaurs of North America or South America but the Cimoliopterus cuvieri of Europe. And even though the continents of the Cretaceous period weren’t yet as spread out as they are today, the Atlantic was still progressively widening. The discovery of this species in Texas shows that the creatures were stronger and more comfortable with cross-ocean flights than paleontologists had previously believed. 

The lack of toothed pterosaur fossils discovered in the Americas suggests that traveling between the continents was still quite a journey for the ancient pterosaurs. That makes the Texas C. dunni's transatlantic flight an impressive achievement, even 94 million years later. 

[h/t: Gizmodo]

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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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