Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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Although founded in 1848, the U.S. National Herbarium houses plants 🌱🌸🌼🌿🍁 collected from centuries ago to today. Most of...
05/12/2021

Although founded in 1848, the U.S. National Herbarium houses plants 🌱🌸🌼🌿🍁 collected from centuries ago to today. Most of these specimens have been pressed and placed in systematized folders for botanists to continue to study throughout time.

“These are preserved snapshots of the past. They are proof of the way things were,” says Erika Gardner, a botanist on the Herbarium’s collections management team. “Without having that physical information, what we know would all be hearsay.”

When museum scientists began adding to the herbarium roughly 200 years ago, they made careful notes of plants’ physical characteristics and habitat ranges. Today, botanists can look back in time to see how these notes correspond to increases in greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

Although founded in 1848, the U.S. National Herbarium houses plants 🌱🌸🌼🌿🍁 collected from centuries ago to today. Most of these specimens have been pressed and placed in systematized folders for botanists to continue to study throughout time.

“These are preserved snapshots of the past. They are proof of the way things were,” says Erika Gardner, a botanist on the Herbarium’s collections management team. “Without having that physical information, what we know would all be hearsay.”

When museum scientists began adding to the herbarium roughly 200 years ago, they made careful notes of plants’ physical characteristics and habitat ranges. Today, botanists can look back in time to see how these notes correspond to increases in greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

There are 15 active geographic Broods of Periodical Cicadas, each numbered with a Roman numeral. This year's visitors go...
05/11/2021

There are 15 active geographic Broods of Periodical Cicadas, each numbered with a Roman numeral. This year's visitors go by the name Brood X, that's "ten". If you've been saying "X" like the letter, you're not alone. That does make them seem a bit mysterious and alien, like the sound that the males make. But cicadas are totally harmless!

Have you seen any in your neighborhood? If so where?

There are 15 active geographic Broods of Periodical Cicadas, each numbered with a Roman numeral. This year's visitors go by the name Brood X, that's "ten". If you've been saying "X" like the letter, you're not alone. That does make them seem a bit mysterious and alien, like the sound that the males make. But cicadas are totally harmless!

Have you seen any in your neighborhood? If so where?

You're probably familiar with frogs and salamanders, but did you know there is a third group of amphibians called caecil...
05/10/2021

You're probably familiar with frogs and salamanders, but did you know there is a third group of amphibians called caecilians? These limbless animals are tropical and most species live underground, so they are less well-known but just as loveable (c'mon, look at that face!).

Smithsonian scientists and fellows have been studying caecilians found on the island of São Tomé in the Gulf of Guinea, on the west coast of central Africa. São Tomé caecilians are locally known as “cobra bobo” and can only be found on the island.

For more than a century, scientists have been debating whether the São Tomé caecilians represent one or more species. Now, through fieldwork on the island and genetic research in the lab, NMNH scientists have found that the island caecilians represent two different species.

The team also determined that the two species likely became isolated on different parts of the island due to past volcanic activity. More recently, the species began to mingle and hybridize with each other at the boundaries of the historic volcanic flows.

Catching evolution in action on a small, oceanic island can help us better understand the ways diverse, wondrous forms of life originate. The new data, published today in the journal Molecular Ecology, will also help with conservation of São Tomé’s natural heritage.

Photos 1 & 2: Andrew Stanbridge
Photo 3: Dong Lin

“I think any entomologist would be really excited by finding these things. I’m a beetle person, and this would still be ...
05/08/2021
This Moth Is Huge in Australia

“I think any entomologist would be really excited by finding these things. I’m a beetle person, and this would still be super exciting to me.” - Floyd Shockley, Department of Entomology, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution

A giant wood moth, the heaviest of all known moths, appeared on the side of a school building in Queensland, Australia, enthralling students who are used to diverse wildlife.

If you see baby gators, odds are their mother is not far away, even if you don’t see her. In fact, you could call the Am...
05/07/2021

If you see baby gators, odds are their mother is not far away, even if you don’t see her. In fact, you could call the American alligator the original helicopter mom. She uses crypsis—the ability to avoid detection—to watch over her pod (see all the little ones outlined in purple!). Many females of this species also guard their terrestrial nests; dig out nest mounds to help hatchlings make it to the surface; and, carrying hatchlings in their jaws, transport them from the nest to water. Many will even gently break open an egg that hasn’t hatched yet. The amount of parental care from females differs individually (like humans), or even between populations. 🐊

Have a safe and enjoyable weekend and Happy Mother’s Day! ❣️

This summer's going to be a scorcher! ☀️Plants need their fair share of sun to grow, but climate change is affecting muc...
05/07/2021
Why Plants are Seeding Climate Studies

This summer's going to be a scorcher! ☀️

Plants need their fair share of sun to grow, but climate change is affecting much more than flowering and growth rates. 🌱

The National Museum of Natural History’s herbarium is helping botanists research climate-driven changes in plants, their biology and their abundance

Fall-fruiting plants are an important food source for migratory birds, allowing them to store energy for migration. Aron...
05/07/2021

Fall-fruiting plants are an important food source for migratory birds, allowing them to store energy for migration. Aronia arbutifolia (red chokeberry) has bright red fruits that ripen in the fall and persist on the shrub well into winter.

Botany curator Vicki Funk snapped these pictures and collected this specimen of red chokeberry in October 2015 in the Smithsonian Garden's Urban Bird Habitat located Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. #LiveBirdFriendly

North America 🇺🇸 has lost 29% of its breeding birds since 1970. Adding native plants to yards provides shelter, food, an...
05/07/2021

North America 🇺🇸 has lost 29% of its breeding birds since 1970. Adding native plants to yards provides shelter, food, and nesting areas for birds. 🦜

Aquilegia canadensis (eastern red columbine) has bell-shaped red flowers that contain nectar, greatly attracting hummingbirds, butterflies, and other long-tongued insects.

G.A. Cooper snapped this picture at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. L.F. Ward collected this specimen of columbine in 1879 in the District. #LiveBirdFriendly

Kalanchoe daigremontiana is commonly called mother of thousands. This succulent plant 🌱 is native to Madagascar. It prod...
05/06/2021

Kalanchoe daigremontiana is commonly called mother of thousands. This succulent plant 🌱 is native to Madagascar. It produces plantlets on its leaf margins allowing the plant to propagate vegetatively. It grows in rocky and dry places. The specimen of Kalanchoe daigremontiana was collected in 2000 from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands by Smithsonian botany curator Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez.

Despite a reputation for being voracious, selfish, blood-suckers, one group of leeches (Family Glossiphoniidae) exhibit ...
05/06/2021

Despite a reputation for being voracious, selfish, blood-suckers, one group of leeches (Family Glossiphoniidae) exhibit parental care. Adult glossiphoniids brood their egg clutches and hatchlings (protecting them from predators) and take the young to their first meal or transfer nutrients across their body wall to developing young. One species, Marsupiobdella africana, even keeps their eggs and young in a marsupial-like pouch. There is no division of labor with adult glossiphoniids as they are hermaphrodites with both male and female reproductive structures.

Despite a reputation for being voracious, selfish, blood-suckers, one group of leeches (Family Glossiphoniidae) exhibit parental care. Adult glossiphoniids brood their egg clutches and hatchlings (protecting them from predators) and take the young to their first meal or transfer nutrients across their body wall to developing young. One species, Marsupiobdella africana, even keeps their eggs and young in a marsupial-like pouch. There is no division of labor with adult glossiphoniids as they are hermaphrodites with both male and female reproductive structures.

Birds aren't the only moms that raise their children in a nest! They may not be as elaborate as those of birds, but the ...
05/06/2021

Birds aren't the only moms that raise their children in a nest!

They may not be as elaborate as those of birds, but the nests built by Cricetid mice 🐭 are constructed from cozy grasses, and are well hidden to keep their litters warm, dry, and safe.

Snot and feces are bodily fluids most would prefer to avoid. For marine ecologists like Cheryl Ames, they have become a ...
05/05/2021

Snot and feces are bodily fluids most would prefer to avoid. For marine ecologists like Cheryl Ames, they have become a magical key to seeing the unseen. Any animal living in the ocean will inevitably leave behind traces of themselves. Luckily all these contain the creature’s DNA.

Now, a single water sample collected from the ocean can be run through DNA sequencing technology to reveal the species living in an area—and for the first time the entire process can be completed remotely, beyond the walls of a lab. Recently, scientists successfully tested this portable technology to identify jellyfish, like Cassiopea, in the waters surrounding the Florida Keys.

"This is an opportunity to influence a whole new generation of changemakers. To be able to work with these amazing, earl...
05/04/2021
Meet the Smithsonian Natural History Museum's New Head of Education, Outreach and Visitor Experience

"This is an opportunity to influence a whole new generation of changemakers. To be able to work with these amazing, early career scientists who are going to change the world — to be able to work with them and give them opportunities — that is really inspiring." - Carla Easter, the museum’s new Broh-Kahn Weil Director of Education

Welcome to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Carla! 🎉

Carla Easter to champion widespread community engagement and accessible scientific outreach as the museum’s new Broh-Kahn Weil Director of Education.

We 💚 botanists. So we were excited to read this profile of renowned ethnobotanist Isabella Aiona Abbott (1919-2010), aut...
05/03/2021
Marine Botanist Isabella Aiona Abbott and More Women to Know this Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

We 💚 botanists. So we were excited to read this profile of renowned ethnobotanist Isabella Aiona Abbott (1919-2010), author of many publications, including "Lāʻau Hawai‘i: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants." We're fortunate to preserve some of the specimens that Abbott gathered and researched in our scientific collections. #BecauseOfHerStory

By Healoha Johnston of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and Sara Cohen of Because of Her Story

Enjoy the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History content that you love from home!Stay up to date on upcoming eve...
05/03/2021
Science Education | Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Enjoy the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History content that you love from home!

Stay up to date on upcoming events and check out programs that you may have missed in our video archives. #SmithsonianEdu

Learn about science education programs for K-12 students, families, and adults. Get science education online resources and distance learning info.

It's the last day of April. Time to plan for May! Check out the programs coming to the Smithsonian National Museum of Na...
04/30/2021
Eight Free Natural History Programs Streaming in May

It's the last day of April. Time to plan for May! Check out the programs coming to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History next month.

Stream these free programs and more this May through the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History

A #FossilFriday congratulations to Smithsonian paleobiologist Kay Behrensmeyer on her election to the American Philosoph...
04/30/2021

A #FossilFriday congratulations to Smithsonian paleobiologist Kay Behrensmeyer on her election to the American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the US. Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743, the society carries out its mission of "promoting useful knowledge" through research, fellowships, and public outreach. Among her many achievements, Behrensmeyer pioneered the study of how animals become fossils, a field known as taphonomy. She’s also focused her research on the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems over time and has mentored many students.

Photo: Paul Fettters for the Smithsonian

A #FossilFriday congratulations to Smithsonian paleobiologist Kay Behrensmeyer on her election to the American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the US. Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743, the society carries out its mission of "promoting useful knowledge" through research, fellowships, and public outreach. Among her many achievements, Behrensmeyer pioneered the study of how animals become fossils, a field known as taphonomy. She’s also focused her research on the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems over time and has mentored many students.

Photo: Paul Fettters for the Smithsonian

We are saddened to report that Smithsonian Senior Research Scientist Emeritus and former director of the Smithsonian Mar...
04/30/2021

We are saddened to report that Smithsonian Senior Research Scientist Emeritus and former director of the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, Dr. Mary Esther Rice, passed away yesterday at the age of 94.

Having joined our staff in 1966, Mary was one of the first female research scientists and curators in our Department of Invertebrate Zoology and she was the founding director of what is now the Smithsonian Marine Station at Ft. Pierce, Florida. This latter achievement brought to fruition her vision of establishing of a facility where scientists from the Smithsonian and beyond would acquire hands-on access to marine life and the means to pursue their specialized areas of interest.

Mary had a long-standing interest in the life histories of marine invertebrates with a special focus and passion for sipunculan worms which carried on well into her retirement.

Mary’s vision and commitment to mentoring has enabled multiple generations of scientists to pursue knowledge and provide invaluable contributions toward a better understanding of our natural world.

We are saddened to report that Smithsonian Senior Research Scientist Emeritus and former director of the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, Dr. Mary Esther Rice, passed away yesterday at the age of 94.

Having joined our staff in 1966, Mary was one of the first female research scientists and curators in our Department of Invertebrate Zoology and she was the founding director of what is now the Smithsonian Marine Station at Ft. Pierce, Florida. This latter achievement brought to fruition her vision of establishing of a facility where scientists from the Smithsonian and beyond would acquire hands-on access to marine life and the means to pursue their specialized areas of interest.

Mary had a long-standing interest in the life histories of marine invertebrates with a special focus and passion for sipunculan worms which carried on well into her retirement.

Mary’s vision and commitment to mentoring has enabled multiple generations of scientists to pursue knowledge and provide invaluable contributions toward a better understanding of our natural world.

Happy #WorldRobberFlyDay! As aerial hunters of insects, assassin flies or robber flies play an important role in the bal...
04/30/2021

Happy #WorldRobberFlyDay!

As aerial hunters of insects, assassin flies or robber flies play an important role in the balance of biodiversity. Our collection actively supports research on the more than 7,500 species known worldwide.

“If we can interpret plants’ changes over time, we can get a sense of what past climates were like and how they changed....
04/29/2021
What Fossil Plants Reveal About Climate Change

“If we can interpret plants’ changes over time, we can get a sense of what past climates were like and how they changed.” - Rich Barclay, research geologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Paleobiologists use fossil plants to reconstruct Earth’s past climate and inform climate change research today.

Salamanders perform their spring breeding in a less exhibitionist fashion than male frogs and toads. Some species may re...
04/28/2021

Salamanders perform their spring breeding in a less exhibitionist fashion than male frogs and toads. Some species may reward individuals savvy to their behaviors with sightings of gooey egg masses (photo one) or spermatophores—special delivery!

Male salamanders of many species neatly package their sperm into spermatophores that the females then pick up with cloacal lips for internal fertilization. Look closely at the second photo and you can see five of them appearing as white mounds on the twig.

Photos: Spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum), spermatophores and egg masses. By Steve W. Gotte

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