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Starrett et al. via ZooKeys

New 'Monster' Daddy Longlegs Discovered in Oregon

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Starrett et al. via ZooKeys

Don't let the name fool you: this newly discovered species of arachnid is not the monster it pretends to be. In an article recently published in the journal ZooKeys, scientists from the University of California Riverside and San Diego State University reveal the discovery of Cryptomaster behemoth—a "new monster" from southwestern Oregon. While larger than most arachnids in its suborder, the so-called behemoth is only about four to five millimeters long.

The species in the daddy longlegs order (Opiliones) are arachnids, not spiders. The researchers told CNN that Cryptomaster behemoth is not a threat to humans. Until this discovery, Phys.org reports there was only one other known species in the genus, Cryptomaster leviathan. The team was able to tell the two apart by comparing DNA strands and locating differences in their genes. "If you were to hold the two in your hand, you might not be able to tell them apart," lead researcher James Starrett told CNN. 

The discovery has given scientists hope that other species of arachnids are waiting to be discovered in the region. In the paper, they call southern Oregon a "hotspot for endemic animal species." 

A. Male Cryptomaster leviathan, B. Holotype male Cryptomaster behemoth, C. Female Crytomaster leviathan, D. Allotype female Cryptomaster behemoth. Image credit: Starett et al. via ZooKeys

[h/t CNN]

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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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