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5 Monstrous Facts About Pike Eels 

STUFF OF NIGHTMARES: A picture of a sea monster is causing a stir online, after Newcastle man Ethan Tipper snapped it at...

Posted by NBN Television on Monday, February 15, 2016


Earlier this week, Australian Facebook user Ethan Tippa caught the Internet’s attention by posting a photo of a mysterious creature that had washed onto the shore of Lake Macquarie in New South Wales. Though it’s been compared to everything from a deformed crocodile to the Loch Ness Monster, the specimen was ultimately identified as a nocturnal pike eel by marine biologist Julian Pepperell. Little is known about the creatures, even though they’re fairly common to the waters of Australia and Southeast Asia. They may not be giant, mythical, or man-eating, but there are still plenty of reasons you wouldn’t want to bump into one of these guys on a midnight swim.

1. THEY’VE BEEN KNOWN TO FRIGHTEN FISHERMEN.

It’s uncertain how this recently discovered pike eel met its end, but Pepperell told the Newcastle Herald that it could have been accidentally caught in a fishing net. According to him, the eels are commonly caught by fishermen who get the "fright of their lives" after hauling up the thrashing predator, which has razor-sharp teeth that are "geared towards inflicting slashing wounds."

2. THEY CAN GROW NEARLY 6 FEET LONG.

Some pike eels grow longer than adult humans, with an average maximum length for the species reaching 5.9 feet from nose to tail. While impressive, the creature still isn’t quite as large as many have guessed from looking at the photo above. The eel that’s pictured is estimated to have been 4.5 feet long, and while some commenters accused the image of being Photoshopped, the perspective is merely the result of a clever camera angle.

3. THEY’RE PREDATORY.

Fortunately for anyone who goes swimming in Indo-Pacific waters on a regular basis, pike eels don’t have a taste for human flesh. They prefer crustaceans and benthic fish that dwell near the soft floors of estuaries and coastal waters. The eels have been known to swim nearly 330 feet beneath the surface when hunting for their prey.

4. THEY COVER A LARGE AREA.

Pike eels are most commonly spotted off the coasts of Australia and Southeast Asia, but they can be found throughout the Indian Ocean. The creatures have turned up as far west as Africa's southern coast.

5. THEY’RE A LOCAL DELICACY.

Despite their intimidating appearance, pike eels are perfectly safe to eat. They're sold alive and freshly killed in food markets throughout Southeast Asia, and are usually served in soup or prepared grilled with mushrooms, eggplant, or seaweed. They were even featured as a secret ingredient in an episode of the original Iron Chef series.

Header image courtesy of Ethan Tippa via Facebook.

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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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