10 Crazy New Species Discovered in 2015: Dracula Ants, Shape-Shifting Frogs, and Dwarf Dragons

KS Strange ScienceI live in San Francisco and the California Academy of Sciences is one of my favorite places to visit! Who doesn’t love penguins, rainforests, albino alligators, and a rad planetarium all under one roof??

In 2015, researchers at the Academy added 102 new plant and animal species to our family tree. The new species include two frogs, 23 ants, three beetles, eight wasps, 11 spiders, 26 fishes, nine sea slugs, two corals, nine plants, one water bear, and eight new viruses.

Given that we have found less than 10% of the species on our planet, the Academy has inspired me to share ten of my favorite wild new species discovered in 2015. Meet the hog-nosed shrew rat, sparklemuffin spider, and water bear. Happy New Year! 🎉


Festo’s New Robotic Ants, Butterflies, and Chameleon Tongue Will Make You Do a Double Take

KS Technology

Festo has unveiled a slew of new animal-inspired robotic creatures you need to see to believe.

I’d like to introduce you to  Festo’s BionicANTs, eMotionButterflies, and FlexShapeGripper!

BionicANTs – ‘Highly integrated individual systems to solve a common task’

Festo - BionicANTs

The BionicANTs not only mimic the delicate anatomy of ants, but also their cooperative behavior. BionicANTs actually work together, under a clear set of rules, to coordinate their actions and movements. They even know when to branch off and use their ‘antennae’ to re-charge at the edge of their work space.

By pushing and pulling together, the ants are able to move an object across a defined area. This way, they are able to move loads that a single ant could not move alone. This technology seems playful, but it could greatly impact factories and production lines in the future.

Why ants? Ants are tough industrious workers that can carry a hundred times their own body weight. They live in big colonies with clear rankings and set rules. Ants know which tasks they need to fulfill, and they can work together to complete them.

eMotionButterflies – ‘Ultralight flying objects with collective behavior’

Festo - eMotionButterflies

These might be the most beautiful robots I’ve ever seen! You have to admit they look real. Except for the large ‘Festo’ logo printed on their wings 🙂

These artificial butterflies feature highly integrated on-board electronics, allowing them to activate their wings individually with precision. No human pilot is required to control the eMotionButterflies. Thanks to indoor GPS and a complicated camera system, the bionic insects know where to fly and how to avoid collisions.

The wings are curved out of wafer-thin carbon rods and covered with an elastic capacitor film, which helps keep the eMotionButterfly’s weight as low as possible and its flight as natural as possible.

Why butterflies? Butterflies begin the world as caterpillars and later emerge as colorful flying creatures. They have large wings and slim bodies, making them light and aerodynamic.

FlexShapeGripper – ‘Gripping modelled on a chameleon’s tongue’

Festo - FlexShapeGripper

Gripping applications have always played a key role in production, which explains Festo’s interest in the chameleon’s highly specialized tongue. The chameleon has the ability to shoot its tongue out light a rubber band and wrap around objects like a suction cup.

The FlexShapeGripper’s water-filled silicone cap allows it to wrap itself around various items in a flexible and form-fitting manner, much like a chameleon!

Why a chameleon? Chameleons can more their eyes independently of each other and change the color of their skin depending on their mood and temperature. Their unique tongues help them attack and retract prey as quick as lightening

All three of these ‘biomimetic’ devices will be on display at the industry trade show Hannover Messe in April.