CLOSE
Original image
© AMNH/R. Mickens

10 Things We Learned About Crocs From AMNH's New Exhibition

Original image
© AMNH/R. Mickens

Crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gharials are in the spotlight in the American Museum of Natural History’s latest exhibition, “Crocs: Ancient Predators in a Modern World.” In addition to exploring the evolutionary history of these prehistoric-looking beasts, the exhibition tackles crocodilian myths, analyzes threats to their survival, and features live animals (including the adorable alligator hatchlings you can see on the live stream below). mental_floss attended a preview of the exhibition, which opens tomorrow; here are a few things we learned.

1. There were many, many prehistoric crocodylomorphs, and they were a diverse bunch. Some were entirely marine animals; others, like Hoplosuchus kayi, were small and lived entirely on land. But some were huge: One of the biggest, Sarcosuchus imperator, was at least 35 feet long, and T. rex bones have been found with teeth marks from Deinosuchus, a giant croc that lived 80 to 73 million years ago.

2. Their blood contains special proteins that help make crocs—which spend their time in swampy water—immune to things that cause infection. Needless to say, scientists are pretty interested in whether or not we could use those proteins in human medicine.

3. Want to tell alligators and crocodiles apart? Look at their teeth: When gators close their jaws, they have an overbite—only the top teeth are visible. Crocs have a much toothier close-jawed grin; their top and bottom teeth interlock.

4. Crocs make a wide range of noises, a behavior that begins before they even hatch. (Being noisy in the egg allows the babies to synchronize when they’ll hatch.)

5. Croc skin might look tough—and, OK, it is tough—but it’s also more sensitive than the human fingertip.

6. Saltwater crocodiles are the largest living crocodilians; they can tip the scales at 2000 pounds. Dwarf caimans, which can grow up to 5 feet long, are the smallest.

7. Even big crocs can vanish in under a foot of water.

8. Ever notice how crocodilians hang out in the Sun with their mouths open? Doing so helps them keep regulate brain temperature: Water in their mouths evaporates and keeps their brains cool even while the rest of their bodies get nice and toasty.

9. Crocs have a little something in common with cats: A layer in the eye called the tapetum that reflects light. It’s why both animals’ eyes glow at night when exposed to a flashlight.

10. Seven species of crocodilian are critically endangered thanks to things like hunting, pollution, and habitat loss.

Original image
Focus Features
arrow
Animals
25 Shelter Dogs Who Made It Big
Original image
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.

Original image
iStock
arrow
technology
This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus
Original image
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]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios