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Researchers Identify a New Species of Beaked Whale

Scientists are constantly discovering new species of sea life, but rarely do they come across something the size of a whale. According to National Oceanic And Atmospheric Association (NOAA), a team of researchers has identified a new species of beaked whale native to the Pacific Ocean.

The scientists detailed their discovery in a recent paper in Marine Mammal Science [PDF]. After analyzing DNA from 178 beaked whale specimens around the Pacific Rim, they found eight that matched the new species. The whale has yet to be seen alive by experts: The specimens researchers used to identify it included a skeleton on a display at an Alaska high school (below), meat from a Japanese fish market, and a rotting carcass that washed up on an Alaskan island.

In the past, most remains recovered from the mysterious species had been attributed to the Baird’s beaked whale. Like the Baird’s whale, the new species has a dolphin-like snout and can reach great depths while diving. The most dramatic difference is size. Baird’s whales can grow up to 42 feet, while the new species appears to top out at 25 feet. Baird’s whales are also lighter in color. The unnamed whale species’s black hue earned it the nickname karasu or “raven” among Japanese whalers.

Baird's beaked whale. Image credit: Junko Kimura / Getty

Of all the whales that inhabit the ocean, beaked whales are some of the most mysterious. Choosing a name for this new species will be the easy part for scientists. After that, the focus will be on conservation. As study co-author Erich Hoyt told NOAA, “Discovering a new species of whale in 2016 is exciting but it also reveals how little we know and how much more work we have to do to truly understand these species.”

[h/t NOAA]

Header/banner images: Don Graves/NOAA via Twitter

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Animals
25 Shelter Dogs Who Made It Big
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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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technology
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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