American Museum of Natural History

American Museum of Natural History The Museum showcases its amazing treasures in the exhibit halls, and behind the scenes more than 200 scientists are at work making new discoveries.

Since its founding in 1869, the American Museum of Natural History has collected more than 33 million specimens relating to the natural world and human cultures. Millions of people from around the world visit the Museum each year.

Is that a lil’ dinosaur? Nope, it’s just the black spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura similis)! Growing up to 4 ft (1.2 m) ...
01/10/2024

Is that a lil’ dinosaur? Nope, it’s just the black spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura similis)! Growing up to 4 ft (1.2 m) long, this jumbo reptile can be found in parts of Mexico, Central America, and Florida. It’s a cautious critter that typically avoids contact with humans. When threatened, it can dash into its burrow or climb rapidly to make an escape. Iguanas of this species can survive for more than 60 years in the wild.

Photo: William Warby, CC BY 2.0, flickr

It’s Wednesday, so hang in there like the bank vole (Myodes glareolus)! Though it resembles a mouse, this species is dis...
01/10/2024

It’s Wednesday, so hang in there like the bank vole (Myodes glareolus)! Though it resembles a mouse, this species is distinguished by a shorter tail and stockier build. Mostly herbivorous, it’s a proficient climber that uses acrobatic skill to reach seeds and fruits. Its diet also includes moss, fungi, and nuts. Weighing up to 1.27 oz (36 g), this diminutive critter can be found across most of Europe as well as parts of Asia.

Photo: Sue Cro, CC BY-NC 2.0, flickr

Feast your eyes on one dazzling bird: the Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus)! Males of the species have an eye-poppin...
01/09/2024

Feast your eyes on one dazzling bird: the Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus)! Males of the species have an eye-popping array of plumage that includes a golden-yellow crest, a bright red belly, and patches of green and blue throughout their bodies. Although it's capable of short trips through the air, this bird isn’t a strong flier and tends to stay grounded. It can be found in the mountainous forests of western China, where it spends most of its time in the shaded forest floor, which helps protect its vibrant colors from fading in the sunlight.

Photo: roylesafaris, CC BY-NC 4.0, iNaturalist

It’s time for another Trilobite Tuesday! Science is continuously evolving based on the latest discoveries. While this 2-...
01/09/2024

It’s time for another Trilobite Tuesday! Science is continuously evolving based on the latest discoveries. While this 2-in- (5-cm-) long Ceraurus mantranseris is currently part of the Ordovician Cheiruridae family, its scientific name could change due in part to ongoing research focused on this group of trilobites. This well-preserved specimen was found in southern Ontario.

Behold the caracal (Caracal caracal) and its stylish ear tassels! Some scientists think that this cat twitches its tufts...
01/08/2024

Behold the caracal (Caracal caracal) and its stylish ear tassels! Some scientists think that this cat twitches its tufts to communicate with others (in addition to meowing, purring, hissing, and other feline vocalizations). It’s the fastest cat of its size, running up to 50 mph (80.5 km/h), and can jump as high as 10 ft (3 m)! In fact, this hunter has a reputation for jumping up to swat birds out of the air for a meal. Other prey include small mammals like hyraxes and hares. This species can be found in arid habitats in parts of Africa and Asia.

Photo: Tambako The Jaguar, CC BY-ND 2.0, flickr

Have you ever heard of a shell-less turtle that can grow up to 6 ft (1.8 m) long? Meet the Asian giant softshell turtle ...
01/08/2024

Have you ever heard of a shell-less turtle that can grow up to 6 ft (1.8 m) long? Meet the Asian giant softshell turtle (Pelochelys cantorii). Unlike many of its relatives, it has no exterior shell—just a layer of thick rubbery skin covering wide-spanning, fused ribs that protect its internal organs. Its frog-like face adds to its unusual appearance. This reptile can be found in freshwater habitats where it burrows beneath the sand with only its snout poking out. Unfortunately, the species is threatened by loss of its riverine and coastal habitats, as well as by being hunted for its meat and eggs.

Photo: Dementia, CC BY-SA 2.0, flickr

Every rose has its thorn. But how about its thorn bug (Umbonia crassicornis)? 🤯 Named for its striking resemblance to a ...
01/07/2024

Every rose has its thorn. But how about its thorn bug (Umbonia crassicornis)? 🤯 Named for its striking resemblance to a sharp thorn, this critter is a sucking insect that feeds by piercing plant tissue and draining the sap inside. Mothers of this species are attentive, laying their eggs in the bark of twigs and then keeping a close watch over their brood. When her young are threatened by predators like wasps, a mom can deliver powerful kicks with her hind legs. This species can be found throughout South and Central America, Mexico, and parts of the United States including southern Florida.

Want to learn more about insects? Visit the Museum’s Solomon Family Insectarium in the Gilder Center!

Photo: Judy Gallagher, CC-BY-2.0, flickr

If not friend, then why friend shaped? 🤔The bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) is a small predator that can be found in r...
01/07/2024

If not friend, then why friend shaped? 🤔The bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) is a small predator that can be found in regions of eastern and southern Africa. On average, it weighs only 7-12 lbs (3-5 kg). Unlike most canids, it specializes in hunting the tiniest of prey: insects. And where are insects often found? P**p!

The bat-eared fox enjoys munching on dung beetles, and dung beetles lay their eggs in the p**p of ungulates like zebras and antelope. Using its oversized ears, this animal can even hear beetle larvae hatching in dung, which probably sounds a lot like a dinner bell to this wily critter. In fact, dung beetles and termites make up about 80 percent of this species’ diet, and a single bat-eared fox can eat up to 1.15 million termites each year!

Photo: Wroninka, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

As its name implies, the sarcastic fringehead (Neoclinus blanchardi) has no time for nonsense. Though it’s typically les...
01/06/2024

As its name implies, the sarcastic fringehead (Neoclinus blanchardi) has no time for nonsense. Though it’s typically less than 10 in (25 cm) long, this fish will snap its jaws and charge at anything that invades its personal space… including humans! It can chomp down on foes with razor-sharp teeth, which are housed inside a mouth that expands four times in size when opened. This territorial species can be found in the northeast Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.

Photo: arheyman01, CC0 1.0, iNaturalist

For today’s Exhibit of the Day, let’s visit one of the finest large mineral crystals ever found. This is the Tarugo, a d...
01/06/2024

For today’s Exhibit of the Day, let’s visit one of the finest large mineral crystals ever found. This is the Tarugo, a dazzling elbaite tourmaline. This large gem measures 33.5 inches (85 cm) in length and weighs 180 pounds (82 kg)! The Tarugo is notable for its exceptional quality and unique cranberry color.

See it up close in the Museum’s Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals!

Photo: © AMNH

What’s the world’s largest pinniped? A male elephant seal (Mirounga leonina). Reaching lengths of 19 ft (5.8 m) and weig...
01/05/2024

What’s the world’s largest pinniped? A male elephant seal (Mirounga leonina). Reaching lengths of 19 ft (5.8 m) and weights of up to 8,157 lbs (3,700 kg), these giants can be more than ten times the size of females! They also sport a massive inflatable proboscis, which resembles an elephant’s trunk. When inflated, it amplifies battle cries meant to ward off competition during mating season.

Photo: jeaneeem, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, flickr

It’s Fossil Friday! Let’s swim back in time about 85 million years to the Late Cretaceous Period to meet Xiphactinus, a ...
01/05/2024

It’s Fossil Friday! Let’s swim back in time about 85 million years to the Late Cretaceous Period to meet Xiphactinus, a gigantic predatory fish. This species could reach lengths of 17 ft (5.2 m) and was capable of swallowing a 6-ft- (2-m-) long fish whole!

The Museum’s Xiphactinus fossils come from Logan County, Kansas, which is home to 70-ft- (21.3 m-) tall sedimentary formations. Though that might not sound like an ideal home for an ocean-dweller, the entire area was covered by a vast inland sea during the Cretaceous.

Photo: Image no. ptc-6634 © AMNH (taken 1996)

Can you spot the pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti) in this photo? At a mere 0.8 in (2 cm) long, this diminutive sp...
01/04/2024

Can you spot the pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti) in this photo? At a mere 0.8 in (2 cm) long, this diminutive species is easy to miss! This critter is a master of camouflage, and can most often be found clinging to gorgonian coral with its prehensile tail. As an added disguise, this species also adopts the color of the coral where it lives!

Photo: pl_stenger, CC BY-NC 4.0, iNaturalist

Happy birthday to Sir Isaac Newton, born on this day in 1642 (according to the Gregorian calendar)! Many historians cons...
01/04/2024

Happy birthday to Sir Isaac Newton, born on this day in 1642 (according to the Gregorian calendar)! Many historians consider him to be the first modern physicist. He explained how gravity affects objects on Earth and in space with his three laws of motion. Newton showed that these laws apply to everything in the universe, from galaxies to grains of sand. He also invented the reflecting telescope.

Image: Image: Isaac Newton Institute, PD, Wikimedia Commons

Which insect can grow larger than a mouse and has mandibles strong enough to snap a pencil in half? That would be the ti...
01/03/2024

Which insect can grow larger than a mouse and has mandibles strong enough to snap a pencil in half? That would be the titan beetle (Titanus giganteus)! Growing up to 6.5 in (16.5 cm) long, this enormous insect can be found in tropical rainforests in parts of South America. Experts think this critter is about as big as a beetle can get. Why? In insects, the oxygen to keep cells alive isn’t forcefully delivered by lungs and heart. Instead, it seeps through the body largely by diffusion. That passive method means not enough oxygen could get to the inside of a truly gigantic beetle.

Photo: andre_ambrozio, CC BY-NC 4.0, iNaturalist

Just how tiny is the Virgin Islands dwarf sphaero (Sphaerodactylus parthenopion)? This critter only grows about 1 in (2....
01/03/2024

Just how tiny is the Virgin Islands dwarf sphaero (Sphaerodactylus parthenopion)? This critter only grows about 1 in (2.5 cm) long, making it one of the world’s smallest terrestrial vertebrates. It’s part of a diverse group of reptiles called squamates that includes nearly 8,000 legged and legless reptile species. By comparison, the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), one of the largest living squamates, has been known to reach about 10 feet (3 meters) in length and weigh more than 350 pounds (158.8 kilograms)!

Photo: Alejandro Sánchez, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Meet the Caribbean reef octopus (Octopus briareus)! This reef-inhabiting cephalopod lives in warm shallow waters, spanni...
01/02/2024

Meet the Caribbean reef octopus (Octopus briareus)! This reef-inhabiting cephalopod lives in warm shallow waters, spanning southern Florida to the Caribbean, through to South America’s northern coast. It’s distinguished by its eye-catching blue coloring, but this master of disguise can change its looks in an instant. Like other octopuses, it uses pigmented cells in its skin, called chromatophores, to alter its appearance. When confronted by a foe, such as a shark, it may emit a cloud of unpleasant-tasting ink to deter its enemy from further pursuit.

Photo: francoislibert, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0, iNaturalist

It’s Trilobite Tuesday! The star of this week’s feature is an Isotelus trilobite, one of the most recognized trilobites ...
01/02/2024

It’s Trilobite Tuesday! The star of this week’s feature is an Isotelus trilobite, one of the most recognized trilobites in the world. Prime examples of this streamlined Ordovician genus can be found in New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, Indiana, Ontario, and Scotland. This large 7-in- (17.8 cm-) example is from New York's famed Walcott-Rust Quarry. Look closely: Beneath the Isotelus, a small partially exposed Amphilichas trilobite is visible!

“New Year, new me!” It’s time to shed the old year and welcome the new one. Meet the green anole (Anolis carolinensis), ...
01/02/2024

“New Year, new me!” It’s time to shed the old year and welcome the new one. Meet the green anole (Anolis carolinensis), a small lizard found throughout much of the southeastern United States. Did you know that as an anole grows, it sheds its old skin? This process, called ecdysis, helps the lizard get rid of damaged or infected skin and allows for new healthy skin to replace it. In fact, most reptiles (including turtles and snakes) shed their skin as they grow.

Photo: Outdoor Alabama, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, flickr

Here’s something to think about as you kick off 2024: We are all stardust. Every atom of oxygen in our lungs, of carbon ...
01/01/2024

Here’s something to think about as you kick off 2024: We are all stardust. Every atom of oxygen in our lungs, of carbon in our muscles, of calcium in our bones, of iron in our blood—was created inside a star before Earth was born. Hydrogen and helium, the lightest elements, were produced in the Big Bang. Almost all of the other, heavier, elements were produced inside stars. Stars forge heavy elements by fusion in their cores. In a star of intermediate mass, these elements can mix into the star’s atmosphere and be spread into space through stellar winds.

Image: European Space Agency, CC BY 2.0, flickr

🦋It’s time to shed 2023 and start anew, like a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly! The most dramatic part of me...
12/31/2023

🦋It’s time to shed 2023 and start anew, like a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly! The most dramatic part of metamorphosis takes place inside the skin of the pupa, or the chrysalis. During this stage of metamorphosis, which can take from two weeks to several months, the larval tissues completely break down and reorganize. The outlines of adult features—the wings, eyes, tongue, antennae, and body segments—can be seen on the surface of the pupal skin. When fully formed, the pupal case splits, and the butterfly emerges. The butterfly first expels its meconium, metabolic waste products that have accumulated during the pupal stage. It then expands its shriveled wings—by pumping them full of blood—before flying off. Cheers to new beginnings and spreading your wings!

Photo: Sid Mosdell, CC BY 2.0, flickr
Alt: A photo of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. The butterfly’s wings are orange in color with patterning of black and white.

Have you ever looked up at the night sky to find a view like this? Aurora, also known as the Northern or Southern Lights...
12/31/2023

Have you ever looked up at the night sky to find a view like this? Aurora, also known as the Northern or Southern Lights, are most often seen in regions around the Arctic and Antarctic. These spectacular displays are caused by collisions between charged particles from solar wind and oxygen and nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere. As the oxygen and nitrogen molecules revert to their normal state, they release photons, or small bursts of energy in the form of light—which is what we see on the ground below. The color of these hypnotizing displays is determined by what’s colliding: oxygen produces yellows and greens, while nitrogen is responsible for reds, violets, and blues.

Photo: MoneLoe, CC BY-SA 2.0, flickr

Cool worm, right? Well, it’s actually an amphibian. Meet Microcaecilia dermatophaga, a species belonging to a group of l...
12/30/2023

Cool worm, right? Well, it’s actually an amphibian. Meet Microcaecilia dermatophaga, a species belonging to a group of limbless amphibians called caecilians. This critter can be found in parts of northeastern South America, where it inhabits sandy loam on the forest floor. As an adult, it munches on termites, ants, and earthworms. And as a juvenile? It feeds on its mother’s skin! Don’t worry: As her children begin to feed on live prey, the mother eventually regains the mass she lost to her hungry offspring.

Photo: Wilkinson M, Sherratt E, Starace F, Gower DJ (2013) A New Species of Skin-Feeding Caecilian and the First Report of Reproductive Mode in Microcaecilia (Amphibia: Gymnophiona: Siphonopidae). PLoS ONE 8(3): e57756

Jelly-ve it or not, the lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) is one of the world’s longest animals. This jumbo-sized...
12/30/2023

Jelly-ve it or not, the lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) is one of the world’s longest animals. This jumbo-sized jelly trails a “mane” of more than 800 stinging tentacles that are covered in cells with venom that stun prey, including other jellyfish, small crustaceans, and zooplankton. Just how long is the lion’s mane jellyfish? Well, its tentacles can grow more than 100 feet (30 meters) long! In fact, the longest examples of this species—which inhabit the Arctic Ocean—are even longer than the longest known blue whale. Come see a life-size model of one at the Museum’s Hall of Biodiversity!

Photo: R. Mickens/ © AMNH

Behold the dazzling Australian Rufous Fantail (Rhipidura rufifrons)! Found in parts of southern and eastern Australia, t...
12/30/2023

Behold the dazzling Australian Rufous Fantail (Rhipidura rufifrons)! Found in parts of southern and eastern Australia, this bird can be spotted in woodlands, rainforests, and wetlands. It’s an insectivore that darts rapidly through the air to catch fast-moving prey. It’s easily recognizable thanks to its signature tail fan, which is found on males and females and grows more vibrant in color as the bird matures.

Photo: doggy48, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, iNaturalist

Have you ever heard of Centrosaurus apertus? This dinosaur lived during the Late Cretaceous, about 75 million years ago....
12/29/2023

Have you ever heard of Centrosaurus apertus? This dinosaur lived during the Late Cretaceous, about 75 million years ago. Unlike Triceratops, it had one large horn over its nose, small horns over the eyes, and a relatively short frill. This specimen was uncovered by famed Museum fossil hunter Barnum Brown in 1914. He considered it to be the most complete specimen he had ever found, “in all details from the tip of the tail to the end of the nose.” Brown and his crew discovered the skeleton in the badlands along the Red Deer River in Canada. You can see it up close in the Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs!

Photo: Image no. 324095 / © AMNH Library (circa 1956)

Imagine a pregnancy so short that within just 12 days, there’s a bouncing baby in your arms… or in this case, your pouch...
12/28/2023

Imagine a pregnancy so short that within just 12 days, there’s a bouncing baby in your arms… or in this case, your pouch! If that sounds unbelievable, meet the eastern bandicoot (Perameles gunnii). Found in southeast Australia, this marsupial has one of the shortest gestation periods of any mammal—typically giving birth in just 12 days! Afterwards, a mom uses her pouch to carry offspring for another 55 days. There can be as many as four babies in a litter and females can carry four litters per breeding season.

Photo: isaacclarey, CC-BY-NC, iNaturalist

Feeling hungry? Well, look for your filet of fish elsewhere, because this critter is actually the red triangle slug (Tri...
12/28/2023

Feeling hungry? Well, look for your filet of fish elsewhere, because this critter is actually the red triangle slug (Triboniophorus graeffei)! This Australian inhabitant lives in forests and woodlands, where it might be spotted on the bark of a eucalyptus tree feeding on microscopic algae. Its namesake red triangle is where you’ll find its breathing pore. Hungry predators may want to reconsider taking a bite out of this slug because it has a unique and effective defense mechanism. When in danger, it can “superglue” foes to a surface by emitting a sticky mucus! This sticky substance can stop threats in their tracks, so please… just order takeout.

Photo: craigwelden, CC BY-NC 4.0, iNaturalist

Meet the Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica). Males can weigh as much as 660 lbs (299 kg) and reach lengths of 10 ft (3...
12/27/2023

Meet the Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica). Males can weigh as much as 660 lbs (299 kg) and reach lengths of 10 ft (3 m) from head to tail, making this cat one of the largest in the world. It has thicker fur than other tigers to help keep it warm in the harsh conditions of its cold habitat. It also has extra neck fur, which acts like a built-in scarf! Unfortunately, this subspecies is being threatened by the effects of climate change. Rising temperatures and intense wildfires are reshaping this big cat’s home and threatening its food supply, as pine forests that provide dense coverage and abundant prey give way to a less hospitable habitat.

Photo: Tambako The Jaguar, CC BY-ND 2.0, iNaturalist

On this day in 1831, 22-year-old Charles Darwin set sail on the HMS Beagle for a trip around the world. For most of the ...
12/27/2023

On this day in 1831, 22-year-old Charles Darwin set sail on the HMS Beagle for a trip around the world. For most of the next five years, the Beagle surveyed the coast of South America, leaving Darwin free to explore the continent and islands, including the Galápagos. He filled dozens of notebooks with careful observations on animals, plants, and geology, and collected thousands of specimens, which he sent home for further study. Darwin later called the Beagle voyage "by far the most important event in my life," saying it "determined my whole career."

Photo: Julius Jääskeläinen, CC BY 2.0, flickr (colorized)

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Since its founding in 1869, the American Museum of Natural History has collected more than 34 million specimens relating to the natural world and human cultures. The Museum showcases its amazing treasures in the exhibit halls, and behind the scenes more than 200 scientists are at work making new discoveries. Millions of people from around the world visit the Museum each year.

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