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Adriaen van de Venne via Wikimedia // Public Domain

A Rare Dodo Skeleton Is Coming Up for Auction

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Adriaen van de Venne via Wikimedia // Public Domain

Here’s your chance to own an unusually rare specimen—and a symbol of humanity’s devastation upon the natural world. The Associated Press reports that Summers Place Auctions in Sussex, England, will auction off a composite skeleton of a dodo this November. According to the Independent, few remains of the hapless, flightless bird—once native to the Indian Island of Mauritius—exist today, and the last time a dodo skeleton came up for auction was more than a hundred years ago.

This composite skeleton is 95% complete, according to the BBC, missing only a part of its skull and one set of claws. (The missing pieces have been cast in resin and added to the skeleton, says the Daily Mail.) It took the unnamed collector who assembled the skeleton about 40 years to make his creation, Gizmodo says; he used bits and pieces of bone from private collections and other auctions, most originally taken from the Mare aux Songes swamp in southeastern Mauritius.

Europeans discovered the dodo in 1598 and drove the birds to extinction less than a hundred years later—perhaps partly due to hunting, but in larger measure to the dogs, cats, rats, and other animals Europeans introduced to the area. Today, there’s only one dodo skeleton in the world that’s made up of the bones of a single animal—it’s on display in Port Louis, Mauritius. The country has since banned exports of the bones. In part because so few complete specimens of the bird exist, little is understood about its evolutionary history, although recent DNA research has shown it is related to pigeons.

The auction will take place November 22, although Summers Place says the deadline for entries is September 30. The skeleton is expected to fetch six figures.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Focus Features
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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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iStock
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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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