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Octopus's Blind Date Gets Canceled Due to Cannibalism Concerns

Think your Valentine’s Day was rough? At least you aren't Kong, a giant Pacific octopus at the Seattle Aquarium whose romantic tête–à–tête was canceled because staff members feared he’d eat his date.

Each February 14, the Seattle Aquarium celebrates undersea love by inviting visitors to watch two octopuses mate. This year’s star was the 70-pound Kong, whose romp was intended to give curious guests a glimpse into the mating rituals of the eight-legged animal. However, KOMO News reports that the aquarium scrapped Kong’s blind date at the last minute because the colossal creature was too big for the aquarium’s lady octopuses.

Since the females weighed only 30 to 40 pounds each, officials feared that Kong would choose cannibalization over consummation and devour his new girlfriend. “Even if we put a 30 or 45-pound female out there, there’s a chance he would see her as food,” Tim Carpenter, the Seattle Aquarium’s curator of fish and invertebrates, told Crosscut.com. “We were looking for an animal of at least 60, 65 pounds.”

Instead of watching as Kong got it on, visitors were instead treated to a “one-of-a-kind, up-close look at the world’s largest octopus species” as divers swam with Kong in the aquarium’s Window on Washington Waters exhibit. On Monday, divers released Kong back into the waters of his native Puget Sound.

The bachelor octopus might want to hold off on finding a similarly sized local companion. Giant Pacific octopuses like Kong live between three to five years, mate only once, and die several months after doing the deed. Kong’s lonely Valentine’s Day might have ended up prolonging his life, CNN points out—a way better consolation prize than a pint of Ben & Jerry's and Netflix.

All images courtesy of iStock.

[h/t CNN]

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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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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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