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These Baby Dinosaurs Were Born With Adult-Like Proportions

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UA 9998 and friends. Image credit: D. Vital

Newly recovered fossils from a baby titanosaur suggest that the dinosaur would stay the same shape throughout its life, even as it grew to the size of a bus. These findings are reported in the journal Science.

Titanosaurs like Rapetosaurus krausei were the biggest land animals to ever walk the Earth. Multiple fossils from the 50-foot-long adults have been recovered and studied, but until recently we knew very little about hatchlings and juveniles. Then, paleontologists recovered the remains of an itsy-bitsy R. krausei from a rock formation in Madagascar. They found bones from the dinosaur’s hips, front legs, back legs, spine, and tail—all tiny. Of course, tiny is relative. The baby, which the researchers named UA 9998, appears to have been just a few weeks old, 88 pounds, and just over a foot tall when it died—and yet it was a mere speck compared with its mother.

Mom and baby, with shadowy human for scale. Image credit: Raul Martin and Kristina Curry Rogers

And the researchers did compare UA 9998 with adults like its mother. They cut slices from one of the baby dinosaur’s leg bones and examined them under the microscope. They also scanned all the bones using X-ray computed tomography.

Image credit: K. Curry Rogers, M. Whitney, M. D'Emic, and B. Bagley

The researchers found that aside from their diminutive scale, the baby’s bones were astonishingly like those of full-grown adults. Young though it was, the baby had sturdy bones and would have been independent enough to run around on its own. UA 9998 was proportioned and built exactly like an adult. Had it lived, it would have expanded. Compare that to, say, baby birds, or even human infants—floppy, dependent creatures that bear only a passing resemblance to their parents.

You might not guess it to look at them, but other dinosaurs like theropods and ornithischians had parent-offspring relationship more like ours. The sturdy little remains of UA 9998 suggest to paleontologists that titanosaur parents might have been a little less involved. 

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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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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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