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San Diego Natural History Museum

Researchers Discover New Species of Giant Spider

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San Diego Natural History Museum

Tiny, dainty spiders no bigger than a Tic-Tac probably won’t send your blood pressure rising. But the 4-inch-long, red-fanged Sierra Cacachilas wandering spider (Califorctenus cacachilensis), recently named by researchers at the San Diego Natural History Museum and Mexico's Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste, is another story.

The species was first located in 2013 in a mountain range in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Researchers, including field entomologist Jim Berrian, came across evidence of an “abnormally big” shed exoskeleton in a cave. The eye pattern led them to believe it was potentially part of a group of wandering spiders from the Ctenidae family.

Knowing Ctenidae are nocturnal, the researchers returned to the cave at night, where they spotted a living specimen. The team confirmed it was a previously unidentified species, with the findings published in Zootaxa in March.

The cave-dwelling wandering spider is related to the Brazilian wandering spider, known to be highly venomous. Although researchers haven’t fully examined the consequences of a bite from the Sierra Cacachilas, informal research indicates it probably won’t kill you. “I got bit while handling a live specimen of Califorctenus cacachilensis, and I’m still alive,” Berrian said.

All images courtesy of San Diego Natural History Museum.

[h/t Telegraph]

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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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