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Jon Sullivan via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Museum Asks Los Angeles Residents to Instagram Their Snails

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Jon Sullivan via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Hey, Angelenos: Do you know any snails that are waiting for their big break? The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles might be able to help. The organization is currently soliciting Instagram photos for their #SnailBlitz.

Los Angeles is experiencing an unusually damp season thanks to El Niño, and damp weather is snail weather. This is great news for the museum’s Snails and Slugs Living in Metropolitan Environments (SLIME) program, which aims to measure the health of Los Angeles land-mollusk populations.

It's also good news for residents. The well-being of the squishy critters is relevant to all of us, malacologist (snail scientist) Jann Vendetti tells L.A. Weekly. “They’re an indicator of a healthy environment. They’re kind of like a canary in a coal mine.”

Social media monitoring of the city’s slimiest citizens will also help scientists figure out where and how quickly invasive species are spreading. Already, Vendetti tells L.A. Weekly, she’s seen species she can’t identify. For example, the subject of one citizen scientist’s #SnailBlitz photo turned out to be a snail never seen in the city before. Because of that, the photographer will earn a spot in a scientific journal.

And that's just one of a few honors available to those who join the efforts. The museum will be offering prizes for best photos, best snail meme, and rarest species. SLIME hopes to collect at least 1000 photos by April 14.

Want to join the blitz? You can email your snail snapshots to slime@nhm.org, add them to iNaturalist, or you can upload them to Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook using #SnailBlitz.

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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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iStock
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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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