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Over a Third of North American Bird Species Are in Danger, Study Finds

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In a comprehensive survey of native bird species in the continental United States, Canada, and Mexico, experts have labeled 37 percent as “at a risk of extinction without significant action,” reports Scientific American.

The 2016 State of North America’s Birds was created with data from tens of thousands of citizen scientists and organizations in all three countries for The North American Bird Conservation Initiative.

The species on the list belong to nine major habitat types [PDF], and each was given a “Concern Score.” Any bird species with a score of 14 or higher made the Watch List, as did species with a 13 concern score paired with a sharply declining population. (A whopping 432 of the 1154 total native species earned the Watch List designation.) Along with the concern score, the full list includes the bird’s scientific name, primary breeding habitat, and the main region in which migratory species spend the winter.

The future of birds in ocean and tropical forest environments were found to be of greatest concern. As Scientific American notes, if subspecies and areas like Hawaii and Guam had been included, the number of species on the Watch List would have been even higher. And though it's a disconcerting assessment, the report serves to bring attention to avian population problems while we still have a chance to do something about them.

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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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