Toughie the frog, likely the last of his species, dies

Toughie the frog (Atlanta Botanical Garden).

Toughie the frog (Atlanta Botanical Garden).

A frog named Toughie, likely the last of his species, died quietly in his enclosure at the Atlanta Botanical Garden this week, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“He will be missed by Garden staff and visitors alike,” the Garden posted onFacebook. The Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog wasn’t even discovered until 2005 when scientists were attempting to rescue specimens of any amphibian they could before a deadly chytrid fungal infection hit Panama.

According to National Geographic, Toughie made it out of Panama, but it’s estimated that the chytrid fungus killed up to 85 percent of all amphibians left behind in his natural habitat.

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He had lived in isolation at the Garden since 2008. A cause of death is unknown, but Toughie was believed to be at least 12 years old.

In his final years, Toughie became a “symbol of the extinction crisis.” His photo was projected onto St. Peter’s Basilica, and he was visited by film directors and race car drivers.

“A lot of people were moved to tears when they saw him,” a photographer who worked with Toughie says. “When you have the very last of something it’s a special deal.” While some scientists are holding out hope for the Rabbs’ tree frog, it’s likely Toughie was the last, Scientific American reports. His species hasn’t been seen in the wild since 2007. It’s rare for humans to actually witness an extinction when it happens and not just learn about it years later. (For the first time, bees have been put on the endangered species list.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Toughie the Frog, Likely the Last of His Species, Dies

Montana hiker survives 2 attacks by the same bear, sheriff says

 (AP Photo/Jim Urquhart, File)

A hiker in Montana managed to survive a “Revenant”-style series of attacks — apparently by the same bear — and even drove himself to the hospital for treatment over the weekend, investigators said.

Todd Orr recorded video of himself after the mauling and posted it online. With gashes on his arms and blood streaming down his face, the 50-year-old survivor told the camera: “Yeah, life sucks in bear country… be safe out there.”

Warning: Video is graphic!

The first attack unfolded Saturday morning not far from the man’s home in Bozeman, Madison County Sheriff Roger Thompson confirmed. Orr said he unleashed bear spray and rolled into a ball to play dead as the bear chewed on him. He said it looked like a grizzly bear protecting two cubs.

The man headed back to the trailhead — but was attacked again. After the second attack, the bear wandered away and the man escaped.

“It’s like being struck by lightning twice in the same day; you don’t get attacked by the same bear in one day,” Thompson said. “I think he should go out and buy a lottery ticket now.”

Bleeding all over, Orr drove himself 17 miles to the Madison Valley Medical Center in Ennis. He called the sheriff’s office to report the attacks.

“He did everything he was supposed to do,” said Thompson. “He got a small fracture in his left forearm when the bear jumped on him.”

Despite the gruesome injuries, doctors say they expect Orr to survive.

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks will determine what will happen to the bear, the Montana Standard reported.

In the Oscar-winning 2015 movie “The Revenant,” Leonardo DiCaprio’s character barely survives a mauling by a bear in the 19th century American wilderness.

Bozeman is about 90 miles southeast of Helena.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This new superyacht looks like a UFO on the water

Glider Yachts

Glider Yachts

If zooming over the waves in a sleek high-end vessel that looks right out of a science-fiction movie is your idea of fun, then London-based firm Glider Yachts has the answer: the Super Sports 18, a futuristic-looking luxury craft that can reach speeds of up to 64 miles per hour.

The high-performance sports day boat—as the company describes it—boasts a striking minimalist design, with an open cockpit with room for five atop a pair of innovative hulls devised to cut smoothly through the water, even at high speeds. The 60-foot-long hand-built boat, powered by four 270-horsepower supercharged engines, is capable of traveling from Monaco to Saint-Tropez or Miami to the Bahamas in just 45 minutes.

“We are absolutely thrilled to finally show off the first Glider to the world,” Glider Yachts managing director Robert McCall said in a statement. “The SS18 is unlike any other yacht seen in the market today, with unparalleled design and technological capabilities—we’re sure she is going to be a real game-changer.”

Along with its streamlined exterior, the SS18 features a smart tailored interior anchored by custom-made luxury leather sports seats by Corbeau and chrome detailing, adding to the overall polished feel.

The yacht, fitted with a specially engineered audio system by JL Audio and a bespoke Garmin dashboard with a state-of-the-art navigation system, is priced around $1.3 million. For more information, visit glideryachts.com/supersports/

A new combat vehicle that swims for the Marine Corps

(BAE Systems)

(BAE Systems)

A nearly 34-ton armored fighting vehicle– that swims? Marines will have a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle to storm the beaches in future battles.

Unveiled this week at the Modern Day Marine, the Amphibious Combat Vehicle, or the ACV 1.1, was created by BAE Systems and IVECO Defence. The vehicle combines a high degree of protection with amphibious and land capabilities.

The new armored assault vehicle can launch from a ship at sea and then travel by water, ready to launch attacks on the shore. Once it reaches ground, it can chase enemy forces at 70 miles per hour and unleash some serious firepower.

Currently, the Marines use options like the AAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicle to move from ship to shore. The AAV-7A1 has been in service for about 45 years, and has undergone upgrades, but there is room for improvement and a new vehicle to meet the current and future requirements of today’s Marine Corps.

The ACV 1.1 could join the Marine Corps’ Assault Amphibious Vehicle fleet in the future.

What can it do?

Based on a platform developed by IVECO Defence Vehicles, the ACV 1.1 leverages a new 6-cylinder, 700HP power pack. This approach aims to equip the Marines with even more power than the current Assault Amphibious Vehicle.

The ACV 1.1 is big enough to carry 13 Marines plus a crew of three. It’s about 29 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 9 feet high.

In practice that would mean that it could launch from a ship and “swim” about 12 nautical miles through the ocean to reach the shore. While out on the water, it can reach speeds of six knots. Once on land, it could travel about 250 miles at a maximum speed of about 70 mph. It has a total range of approximately 350 miles.

Surf? Not a problem for this vehicle. The ACV 1.1 can continue to charge forward in spite of nine-foot plunging surf.

On land

A ship-to-shore assault force often encounters tough conditions like surf, wet sand, soft soil, and steep inclines among others. Helpful in tackling these sorts of challenges, this 8×8 leverages all-wheel drive for traction, more power and torque for the land and surf areas.  It also uses 16R20 tires, a type used on other Marine Corps’ vehicles.

There is a special H-drive system on this vehicle. You won’t find any axles– instead on each side there are three drive shafts.

In response to feedback from Marines, BAE System also built more stowage and enhanced seating into the design. The instrument panel for the driver was also adapted for better ease of use. For the gunner, the controls will incorporate advances like enhanced automation with easy push-button approaches.

Protection

The ACV 1.1 aims to provide Marines with far better protection against IEDs and mines beneath the vehicle, as well as protection from threats above.

The design for this assault vehicle includes integrated armor for MRAP-level protection.

For further enhanced safety, there are energy-absorbing seats in addition to an optimized blast-resistant hull.

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Background

Last year, the U.S. Marine Corps awarded two contracts to BAE Systems and SAIC for the Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development phase of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle 1.1 program. SAIC is working on their version, called the Terrex 1.

During this current phase, BAE Systems will produce 16 prototypes that the Marine Corps will test. The Marine Corps will decide whether to proceed with the ACV 1.1 or the Terrex 1 in 2018. Within two years after the decision, the goal is to have more than 200 of the new amphibious assault vehicles to join the force.

Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book “Future Weapons: Access Granted”  covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.

Neanderthals fashioned ‘jewelry’ out of animal teeth and shells

The Chtelperronian body ornaments and bone points archaeologists discovered at the Grotte du Renne in Arcy-sur-Cure, France.

The Chtelperronian body ornaments and bone points archaeologists discovered at the Grotte du Renne in Arcy-sur-Cure, France.  (Marian Vanhaeren)

About 42,000 years ago, the Neanderthals — the stocky cousins of modern humans — fashioned tiny jewelry beads from animal teeth, shells and ivory, a new study finds.

The finding is momentous, as it suggests that Neanderthals could engage in symbolic expression — the ability to make art — before they went extinct about 30,000 years ago, the researchers said.

“We now know that some of the last Neanderthals in Europe made artifacts that we do not see in Neanderthal material culture before that time,” said Frido Welker, the study’s lead researcher and a doctoral student of human evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. [In Photos: Neanderthal Burials Uncovered]

The discovery is based on the artifacts and bony remains found in the Grotte du Renne cave in Arcy-sur-Cure, an area located about 125 miles southeast of Paris. After the cave was discovered in 1949, its contents were dated to about 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, a period during which modern humans were sweeping across Europe and displacing the Neanderthals, the researchers said.

At first, anthropologists credited the beads to the Neanderthals, but the prevailing view of Neanderthals was that they didn’t have the brainpower to craft such items. That prompted many experts to wonder whether the excavation team had made a mistake in attributing the beads to Neanderthals, when perhaps modern humans had made the ornaments, according to Phys.org.

The researchers on the new study set out to answer that question once and for all.

“We wanted to know whether an archaeological culture called the Châtelperronian was made by Neanderthals or modern humans,” Welker told Live Science in an email. “If they were modern humans, they would be some of the earliest modern humans on the European continent, and might have played a role in Neanderthal extinction.”

Protein investigation

The ancient bone fragments in the cave did not have enough preserved DNA for a thorough analysis, so the researchers turned to another identifying factor: proteins.

They used several mass-spectrometry techniques to study the proteins preserved in about 200 ancient bone specimens from the cave, Welker said. The mass-spectrometry methods were key to the experiment, he added. That’s because proteins are made out of amino acids, which are joined together on a string.

Each amino acid has a different weight, or mass. “By using massspectrometry, we can establish the different sequences of amino acids in our sample and compare that with existing protein databases,” Welker said.

They found that, although the majority of the bone fragments belonged to horses or aurochs (wild cattle), some were clearly hominin, a group consisting of modern and extinct human species, Welker said. Moreover, the researchers identified an amino-acid sequence that was unique to Neanderthals, proving that the bones did not belong to modern humans or the Denisovans, an extinct human relative, he said. [The 10 Biggest Mysteries of the First Humans]

Results from additional testing methods, such as direct radiocarbon dating and ancient mitochondrial DNA analysis, also hinted that the bones belonged to Neanderthals, he said.

“Very young infant”

One of the proteins found in the Neanderthal bones was a type of collagen found only in growing bones. In addition, the specimen had a high proportion of a certain kind of nitrogen isotope (a variation of an element, but with a different number of neutrons) that is associated with breast-fed infants.

“We identified ancient proteins in these Neanderthal bone specimens that indicated they belong to a very young infant, probably around the age of 1 year old,” Welker said.

The baby likely lived around the same time when the Neanderthals crafted the 1.2- to 2.4-inch-long beads, the researchers said. However, they added that they “don’t know if they [the beads] belong to a single ‘necklace’ or were worn in different ways, and they were found in different areas of the Grotte du Renne,” Welker said.

“It is now up to the archaeologists to try and explain how this happened,” Welker said. “Did they learn [bead making] from modern humans? We know they interacted, as there is genetic interbreeding between Neanderthals in modern humans in our DNA. Or maybe they imitated, or invented such artifacts themselves, independently?”

It’s also possible that the Neanderthals got the beads from modern humans, possibly as a courtship gift, according to Phys.org.

The findings were published online Sept. 16 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Stephen Hawking is still afraid of aliens

Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking views a CGI alien civilization on the exoplanet Gliese 832c in this still from the new documentary "Stephen Hawking's Favorite Places."

Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking views a CGI alien civilization on the exoplanet Gliese 832c in this still from the new documentary “Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places.”  (“Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places”/CuriosityStream)

Humanity should be wary of seeking out contact with alien civilizations, Stephen Hawking has warned once again.

In 2010, the famed astrophysicist said that intelligent aliens may be rapacious marauders, roaming the cosmos in search of resources to plunder and planets to conquer and colonize. He reiterates that basic concern in “Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places,” a new documentary streaming now on the CuriosityStream video service.

“One day, we might receive a signal from a planet like this,” Hawking says in the documentary, referring to a potentially habitable alien world known as Gliese 832c. “But we should be wary of answering back. Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well.”

For what it’s worth, some other astronomers believe Hawking’s caution is unwarranted. Any alien civilization advanced enough to come to Earth would surely already know of humans’ existence via the radio and TV signals that humanity has been sending out into space since 1900 or so, this line of thinking goes.

The alien musings are just a small part of “Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places.” The 26-minute documentary shows the scientist zooming through the cosmos on a souped-up CGI spaceship called the “S.S. Hawking,” making five separate stops.

Hawking observes the Big Bang that created the universe, visits the monster black hole at the center of the Milky Way, journeys to Gliese 832c and tours Saturn in Earth’s own solar system. Then, he makes a final stop in Santa Barbara, California, which Hawking calls “my home away from home.”

“In 1974, Caltech [the California Institute of Technology] offered me a job in California,” the Englishman Hawking says in the documentary. “I jumped at the opportunity. In the sun with my young family, it was a world away from the gray skies of Cambridge, [England]. I’ve traveled the globe, but I’ve never found anywhere quite like this.”

You can watch a preview of “Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places,” and learn how to subscribe to CuriosityStream, at the video service’s website:www.curiositystream.com.

New clues emerge about ill-fated British Arctic expedition

NOW PLAYINGLong-lost HMS Terror finally discovered

The question of what happened to the 129 crew members of the ill-fated 1845 “Franklin Expedition” that was lost in the Canadian Arctic has long fascinated historians. However, researchers at the University of Glasgow may have unearthed clues to help solve the mystery.

The British Royal Navy expedition consisted of the vessels HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, led by Rear Admiral Sir John Franklin. The ships were last seen entering the Arctic in 1845 as they attempted to navigate the final part of the Northwest Passage.

The disappearance sparked a huge search-and-rescue mission, which unearthed a handful of clues. In 1850, three ice-preserved corpses were found in the north Arctic. In 1859, the remains of the rest of the crew were discovered further south on the Canadian mainland along with a single-page document stating the ships were stuck in pack ice in 1846 and deserted in 1848.

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The Erebus was discovered by Parks Canada in 2014, and on Sept. 3 of this year, the Arctic Research Foundation announced it had found the Terror in “pristine condition.” Researchers believe the discovery of both ships will give better insight into what contributed to the disaster, which has become the stuff of legend.

Often, scurvy, lead poisoning and tuberculosis were culprits on expeditions, yet, over time, but have been difficult to prove because the journals or “sick books” that recorded illness on board have never been discovered. Instead, Glasgow University researchers used records from “sick books” aboard other search ships to reconstruct the conditions the Franklin expedition endured and now believe some deaths may have occurred from respiratory, cardiovascular and tubercular conditions.

The team also proposed that the disproportionate number of deaths of Franklin’s officers was probably a result of non-medical factors such as accidents and injuries while hunting and navigating the rough terrain on foot.

“We understand from our colleagues in Parks Canada that if any of the expedition’s written records were stored securely on board then the underwater conditions are such that they may remain in a legible condition,” said Professor Keith Millar, a researcher with the project, on the university’s website. “If a ‘sick book’ has survived on one of these ships it may record the events that led to the failure of the expedition and put an end to further speculation, including our own.”

Could massive white cliffs be forming beneath Antarctica’s ocean?

 Coccolithophores are tiny algae that form calcium carbonate shells.

Coccolithophores are tiny algae that form calcium carbonate shells.  (<a href=”http://www.plosbiology.org/article/browseIssue.action?issue=info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fissue.pbio.v09.i06 “>PLoS Biology, June 2011</a>)

The White Cliffs of Dover, the steep, chalky cliffs that fringe England’s southeastern coastline, formed about 100 million years ago thanks to a “Goldilocks” set of ocean conditions, new research suggests.

What’s more, a massive new set of cliffs could be forming right now in theSouthern Ocean near Antarctica as tiny algae shed their calcium-laden shells. However, depositing enough of that mineral, called calcite, to form similar cliffs could take millions of years.

“While we don’t have the great cliffs of the Southern Ocean, there is solid evidence that the calcite is making it to the seafloor,” William Balch, a biological oceanographer at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine, and lead author of the new study, said in a statement. [Photos: The Strangest Places on Earth]

White cliff formation

The White Cliffs of Dover, which overlook the English Channel, formed from the chalky detritus of single-celled algae called coccolithopohores. Looked at under a microscope, coccolithopores form a kaleidoscope-like set of intricate, interlocking shapes, thanks to outer shells made up of overlapping wheel-like plates of calcite. When the coccolithophores die, their calcite plates sink to ocean depths, accumulating in heaps on the seafloor. Over millions of years, the shells were squashed as more shells accumulated, the heaps rose, and the cliffs of Dover eventually emerged from the sea.

While researchers already knew that England’s iconic cliffs formed about 100 million years ago, they didn’t know exactly what caused the prolonged coccolithophore bloom in the first place.

Shimmering belt of water

To answer that question, the team decided to analyze coccolithophores in their natural habitat. They traveled to the remote reaches of the Southern Ocean, where a ring of blinding-bright blue and green water pops out in satellite imagery. This shiny circle of water forms the Calcite Belt, and it gets its brilliant shimmer because the water is teeming with tiny coccolithophores whose chalky armor reflects sunlight, brightening the water’s hue.

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“If you take the Earth and look at it upside down, it looks like a bullseye,” Marlon Lewis, an oceanographer at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia who was not involved with the study, said in a statement.

The team then did a detailed analysis of the water conditions that allow the Calcite Belt to thrive. It turned out that coccolithophores bloomed when conditions simultaneously allowed them to grow quickly, while starving out ecosystem competitors such as diatoms, another type of algae.

For instance, coccolithophores bloomed with high nitrate levels, while iron levels had to be too low for diatoms to bloom but high enough for coccolithophore needs. Since diatoms use silicate, the coccolithophores did best when silicate concentrations were low, preventing their competitors from thriving, the researchers reported Aug. 10 in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles.

The coccolithophores also seemed to do well at the nexus of ocean currents, where upwelling brings nutrients and minerals from the deep.

“These regions can be oases of fertilizer coming up to the surface for these plants,” Balch said.

Original article on Live Science.

‘Last shipwreck’ from WWI’s Battle of Jutland found near Norway

The HMS Warrior was one of 151 British warships in the North Sea on May 31 and June 1, 1916, when a German fleet of 99 warships attempted to break out from the British naval blockade of the German coast.

The HMS Warrior was one of 151 British warships in the North Sea on May 31 and June 1, 1916, when a German fleet of 99 warships attempted to break out from the British naval blockade of the German coast.  (Public domain)

The wreck of the British warship HMS Warrior — the “last shipwreck” from the Battle of Jutland during World War I — has been discovered near Norway. The marine exploration team that found the shipwreck also recently located the wreck of a World War II-era British submarine in the same region.

The HMS Warrior is the last of the Jutland wrecks to be located, out of 14 British and 11 German warships that were sunk on May 31 and June 1, 1916, as the Imperial German High Seas Fleet tried to break out from the Royal Navy blockade of the North Sea.

“It’s the only wreck left from the Battle of Jutland that we can categorically say is completely unspoiled,” said Innes McCartney, a marine archeologist at Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom. [See Photos of the Search for the WWI-Era HMS Warrior]

“It’s completely upside down, and it sank down into an area of very soft seabed, right to the level of the upper deck — so everything inside it is completely sealed in,” McCartney told Live Science.

More than 250 warships took part in the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval engagement of World War I, and more than 8,500 men were killed, according to British and German wartime records.

McCartney said the HMS Warrior, an armored cruiser, was heavily damaged during the battle by gunfire from the German cruiser SMS Derfflinger, but it had attempted to make its way back to Britain.

When the ship’s engines failed, the Warrior was towed throughout the night by aBritish aircraft carrier, the HMS Engadine. By morning, however, the Warrior had filled with water, and it was abandoned after its surviving crew of around 700 were taken off, McCartney said.

He added that the final resting place of the Warrior was unknown until the wreck was discovered on Aug. 25, using sonar scans and a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) equipped with video cameras.

Submarine find

The Warrior is the second major shipwreck found in the area within a few months by McCartney and Danish marine exploration firm JD-Contractor AS, which operates the survey ship Vina. The survey is sponsored by the Sea War Museum Jutland at Thyboron in Denmark.

In March, the team reported the discovery of the wreck of the HMS Tarpon, a British submarine from World War II that sank with around 59 crewmembers aboard after a battle with an armed German merchant ship in 1940.

“The survey was initially aimed at Jutland, but there were 25 ships sunk in that battle, and we’ve found 10 times that number,” McCartney said. “In the case of Tarpon, it was simply a matter that the direction that we left harbor took us past a potential location for this sub, so I requested we stop and do a survey there. And within about an hour or so we found it.” [Sunken Treasures: The Curious Science of 7 Famous Shipwrecks]

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Last week, a Danish TV channel broadcast live video from the wreck of the Tarpon as divers from the exploration team were visiting the site.

The submarine is now lying on the seafloor at a depth of about 130 feet, located about 50 miles off the north coast of Denmark.

McCartney said the sub had been heavily damaged by the depth charges that sank it 76 years ago, and that two of the submarine’s torpedo tubes are empty, which suggests the Tarpon had fired twice at the enemy ship.

Wrecks in ruins

Although the wrecks of the Tarpon and the Warrior are legally protected as war graves, McCartney said all war wrecks in the area are threatened by illegal salvage operators, who plunder them for the valuable metals inside.

He said the most valuable items are the bronze condensers that were used in many wartime ships’ engines, which are worth tens of thousands of dollars as bronze scrap when melted down.

“We estimate that in the last 10 years, anything up to 1.5 million pounds worth of bronze has been ripped out of these [Jutland] wrecks,” McCartney said. “And the majority of those wrecks are also the graves of the sailors who died in the battle, and so it’s just wrong that they should be doing this.”

McCartney said that salvaging naval vessels without permission from the owning navy is illegal under international law, but very little has been done to protect the wrecks.

“There are millions of shipwrecks on the bottom of the ocean — it’s the world’s largest museum. And at the moment it’s being trashed just for a want of people standing up to their responsibilities,” he said.

He said the authorities in Europe, in particular, should track salvage ships and monitor their whereabouts.

“And when they’re stopping over wrecks that they’re not allowed to be on, then they need to be [inspected] when they get back into harbor,” McCartney said.

Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Armed MUTTs: Self-driving vehicles could boost the military’s arsenal

NOW PLAYINGSelf-driving car? How about a self-driving machine gun

Self-driving cars are grabbing headlines lately, and the military is also making inroads with similar tech— but these vehicles are mounted with weapons like machine guns.

General Dynamics created MUTT, aka Multi-Utility Tactical Transport, to help dismounted small units. This is a smart robot designed to help lighten the load for Marines and other warfighters.

MUTT looks like a futuristic spin on the sort of quad you might have fun driving around your farm. Rectangular shaped, it is 5 feet long and 4.5 feet wide and weighs 750 pounds.

The vehicle drives on tracks or wheels, and there are two wheeled variants: 8×8 and 6×6. War zones are unlikely to provide convenient flat, easy surfaces, so MUTT is designed for high performance mobility in tough terrain like mud, sand and steep inclines.

And MUTTs can also be amphibious. They tackle water with gusto.

Weapons

What sort of weapons can it carry? The robot can be mounted with a range of different machine guns on top. One option is a Browning M2 .50 caliber machine gun that weighs about 84 pounds. In this scenario, forces can harness the power of this weapon without having to lug around the weight themselves.

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Other options could include the belt-fed fully automatic FN Hershel 240B medium machine gun and the classic SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon M249). Beyond machine guns, they’ve also been successfully kitted out with options like 60mm mortars.

Rather than warfighters having to deal with the weight, MUTT can carry heavy weapons that provide even more serious firepower.

Lightening the load

What else can MUTT do? It can carry about 600 pounds, so that U.S. warfighters don’t have to carry that weight themselves. It’s handy for forces on the move, as carrying less weight means warfighters can move faster while reducing fatigue and improving force protection.

There’s a platform on top to load gear, which could be 600 pounds worth of ammunition, supplies, gear, communications equipment, weapons, counter-IED tech, micro UAVs, batteries and more.

In the event of a firefight, MUTT can also help evacuate wounded warfighters.

Teams can harness MUTT as a travelling source of power and to recharge batteries. This is another way that it can help lighten the load for dismounted forces, since batteries are not light.

How do they work?

To travel directly into a warzone, MUTTs can hitch rides on aircraft like the MV-22 Osprey. Once there, they can be powered by an electric hybrid fuel cell.

How does it drive? MUTT isn’t a one trick pony. It can be operated by a remote control up to about 100 meters.

It can also obey a leash. That’s right, this robot has a sort of robot leash. Instead of relying entirely on sensors and computers to navigate, there’s a tether built into the robot to connect it to its human.

MUTT’s master takes the tether and can attach it to his or her belt, rucksack or wherever is convenient. By hooking it up, the tether becomes hands-free, which is very important for ensuring that soldiers’ hands are available for weapons and other tasks.

Once the tether is pulled out to two meters, MUTT will automatically begin to follow its human.

There’s also a wagon mode – think Conestoga wagons—  where a MUTT can follow vehicle tracks in front of it, or reverse and follow its own tracks to its last rally point – all by itself.

Or you can instruct them to be a convoy. You can link them up and the MUTTs will follow each other as a convoy.

Testing

Last month, MUTTs were part of the US Army Pacific Manned-Unmanned Initiative that tested new advances in robotics to see how they integrated into missions. The 25th Infantry Division put various tech including the MUTT through its paces.

Also a few weeks ago, the Marine Corps included MUTTs in an exercise in California to try out new gear in consideration for potential future use. Next week, MUTTs will be making a guest appearance at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia at an event where more Marines can check out the MUTTs.

Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book “Future Weapons: Access Granted”  covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.