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Vienna Zoo's Giant Panda Gives Birth to Surprise Second Cub

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On Sunday, August 7, the Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna, Austria announced that its female giant panda, Yang Yang, had given birth to a single cub. Now, the zoo has twice the cause for celebration: According to The Guardian, Yang Yang actually delivered twins—but animal keepers didn’t spot the second baby until days later, and confirmed on Friday, August 12.

The Schönbrunn Zoo relies on natural breeding, so they didn’t intervene during Yang Yang’s birthing process. Instead, they monitored her progress via camera. Pictures only showed one baby, ABC News reports, so the zoo initially assumed that Yang Yang— who’s also the mother of three other pandas, Fu Long, Fu Hu and Fu Bao—hadn’t produced additional offspring. 

Animal keepers suspected there might be another cub after they heard extra squeaks coming from the breeding box. However, the twin’s presence wasn’t officially verified until later on, when the camera captured Yang Yang cuddling the two infants, a zoo news release states.

The next few weeks are pivotal for the babies' survival. Female giant pandas give birth to twins around 50 percent of the time—but often, only one survives. (Experts think this is because the mother chooses to care for the stronger baby.) Plus, a baby panda’s survival rate for its first few years of life is only 50 percent. To play it safe, Schönbrunn Zoo officials say they’ll follow Chinese tradition, and won’t name the panda twins until after they’ve lived for more than 100 days.

In the meantime, the zoo says, the newborns are doing well. "Both pups have little fat bellies, and mother panda Yang Yang is very relaxed,” zoologist Eveline Dungl said in the zoo's news release. Yang Yang reportedly warms the babies between her paws, and they’re already sprouting their signature black-and-white fluff.

Members of the public will be able to visit the twins once they’re about four months old, the zoo says. Until then, you can watch the Associated Press’s video of the adorable newborns below. 

[h/t ABC News]

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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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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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