Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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Welcome to our page! Please feel free to share thoughts about our posts, ask us questions, or tell us about your visit. We hope you’ll contribute to this interactive forum and to our ongoing conversation about the work we do to further the Smithsonian's mission to increase and diffuse knowledge. While on-topic discussion is encouraged, we ask that you express yourself in a civil manner an

Operating as usual

09/15/2021
#CriticalDistance

This #WhaleWednesday we're excited to announce a new augmented reality experience that will open September 29 at the @smithsoniannmnh. #CriticalDistance will immerse visitors in a holographic orca pod and allow them to witness this endangered species’ daily obstacles.

Produced by Vision3, Vulcan Productions, and Microsoft #CriticalDistance highlights a pod of 24 endangered southern resident orcas struggling to survive in the Pacific Ocean’s Salish Sea. Visitors will see firsthand how the orcas, including 6-year-old Kiki, must overcome marine noise pollution and vessel disturbances to effectively hunt for food—and, ultimately, survive.

https://www.si.edu/newsdesk/releases/new-augmented-reality-experience-spotlights-human-connection-oceans

Don't be seduced by the beauty of this polished and varnished shell. Gussied up to attract a tourist's eye and pocketboo...
09/14/2021

Don't be seduced by the beauty of this polished and varnished shell. Gussied up to attract a tourist's eye and pocketbook, this shell of an endangered hawksbill sea turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata, was confiscated by law enforcement. Hawksbill shells, "tortoiseshell," were used for hair combs, glasses, and other baubles prior to the advent of plastics.

Don't be seduced by the beauty of this polished and varnished shell. Gussied up to attract a tourist's eye and pocketbook, this shell of an endangered hawksbill sea turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata, was confiscated by law enforcement. Hawksbill shells, "tortoiseshell," were used for hair combs, glasses, and other baubles prior to the advent of plastics.

The Amazon basin is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, but its freshwater ecosystems are under enormous pre...
09/13/2021

The Amazon basin is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, but its freshwater ecosystems are under enormous pressure from human activity. @Smithsoniannmnh research associate David de Santana’s mission is to explore and understand the Amazon’s fishes to help conserve the rainforest.

“We’re working to survey, discover, and preserve biodiversity," says de Santana. "The research that I work on is more than a professional duty, it’s a personal mission. The Amazon is the place where I have spent a good portion of my life. It’s part of who I am, it is my home.”

To preserve biodiversity, scientists need to understand an ecosystem’s species and their lifestyles. De Santana has found that >80 species of electric fishes live in the Amazon and that the electric eel is three different species of fishes that can even hunt in groups.

Recently, De Santana teamed up with a group of fish scientists to develop new, easier ways to survey the Amazon’s fish biodiversity using environmental DNA. The team used this method to count over 200 species using small samples of water from less explored areas of the Amazon.

eDNA surveys could be a promising new way for scientists to survey and monitor the health of the Amazon easily and reliably, but eDNA methods are still a work in progress. De Santana and the team think natural history museum collections could help eDNA reach its potential.

Our doors may be open, but our programs are still online! Check out our upcoming virtual programs that you can enjoy fro...
09/13/2021
Four Natural History Programs Streaming for Free This Month

Our doors may be open, but our programs are still online! Check out our upcoming virtual programs that you can enjoy from the comfort of your home. #StreamingInSeptember

Join scientists, artists and educators from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History for virtual natural history crash courses throughout September.

A new study co-authored by Smithsonian paleontologist Brian Huber and published in the journal Global Planetary Change, ...
09/10/2021

A new study co-authored by Smithsonian paleontologist Brian Huber and published in the journal Global Planetary Change, gives further evidence of the connection between increases in atmospheric CO2 and the warming of the planet, specifically the ocean. “There's no denying the link between CO2 and global warming,” says Huber.

The study’s primary focus explored what happened to ocean temperature and microscopic plankton across the onset of a hothouse period 94 million years ago. That’s a period in #DeepTime when massive volcanic activity released large amounts of CO2 and increased the ocean’s surface temperature by ~7°F, reaching ~75°F (which is about 40°F warmer than today).

It is estimated that at the peak of this warming, CO2 was 4 to 6 times higher than today’s concentrations. The high CO2 also caused increased acidity and loss of oxygen across wide areas of the world’s ocean.

By studying microscopic fossils called foraminifera that were extracted from cores of ocean sediment drilled in a location southwest of Australia, Huber and his colleagues time traveled layer-by-layer back to this hothouse period. They found that the foraminifera shells had completely dissolved during a ~600,000 year period of acidification, when several species became extinct. It’s an extreme “case study” of the fragility of shelled marine organisms, which play an important role in food webs.

The cores Huber’s team extracted back in 2017 are part of a network of samples stored by the International Ocean Discovery Program. Huber says the cores still have much to teach us about past climate change events. His lab is already onto the next layer of analysis. #FossilFriday #GlobalWarming #ClimateChange #OceanAcidification

One researcher's quest to understand everything about eels leads to the discovery of a deep-sea species new to science.
09/09/2021
The Revealing Nature of Eel Faces

One researcher's quest to understand everything about eels leads to the discovery of a deep-sea species new to science.

Article The Revealing Nature of Eel Faces This is one of about 200 species of moray eels that live in tropical and subtropical coral reefs. (Wolcott Henry) by Danielle Hall Eels have an endearing smile. For Dr. Vinicius Espíndola their smile is the center of his world. Specifically, it is the fasci...

This #FashionWeek, we're reading about sustainable fish leather—past, present, and future.
09/08/2021
Does Fish Skin Have a Future in Fashion?

This #FashionWeek, we're reading about sustainable fish leather—past, present, and future.

To promote sustainability in the industry, designer Elisa Palomino-Perez is embracing the traditional Indigenous practice of crafting with fish leather

"There have been huge discoveries over the last three decades. We didn’t have a great understanding of these animals, bu...
09/08/2021
What We've Discovered About the 'Tyrant Lizard King' Since the Nation's T. rex was Unearthed

"There have been huge discoveries over the last three decades. We didn’t have a great understanding of these animals, but now, for any topic we might want to explore in dinosaurs, there’s somebody who has already thought about studying it in a T. rex.” -- Matthew Carrano, Smithsonian paleontologist and curator of Dinosauria

#DeepTime

Paleontologists continue to use the species to find out more about tyrannosaurs and dinosaurs in general

So far this week, our #BackyardNature guide and science writer intern Cypress Hansen has tasted sage nectar 🍯 and identi...
09/03/2021

So far this week, our #BackyardNature guide and science writer intern Cypress Hansen has tasted sage nectar 🍯 and identified blackberries 🌹. On the final day of her takeover, she explores “smellable” plants!


PSA: Remember it’s best practice to ask before picking anything from someone else's yard ✅, smelling is usually okay though. 😉 #SidewalksWithCypress

It's (almost) all roses here today. 🌹🌹🌹Click the photos to go on another #BackyardNature trek with our science writer in...
09/02/2021

It's (almost) all roses here today. 🌹🌹🌹

Click the photos to go on another #BackyardNature trek with our science writer intern Cypress Hansen. #SidewalksWithCypress

This fall let the museum come to you! Educators, whether instructing students in person or remotely, you can take advant...
09/02/2021
Sign Your Students Up for a Natural History Crash Course This Fall

This fall let the museum come to you! Educators, whether instructing students in person or remotely, you can take advantage of a suite of live and interactive lessons designed to develop students’ core science skills and encourage curious, creative, and critical thinking. #SmithsonianEdu

Educators can take advantage of a suite of live and interactive lessons designed to develop students’ core science skills.

"Strolling around midday in a densely populated area in central California, I saw mostly bugs this time.🧐 But on my shor...
09/01/2021

"Strolling around midday in a densely populated area in central California, I saw mostly bugs this time.🧐 But on my short walk I added two✨new✨species to my list and saw some unique 🐝 behavior! All it takes is a closer look!" - Cypress Hansen, Science Writing Intern Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History #BackyardNature

Click the photos for the full #SidewalksWithCypress tour!

Hey there! I’m Cypress, here to take over Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's feed for a few days. I’m a sc...
08/31/2021

Hey there! I’m Cypress, here to take over Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's feed for a few days. I’m a science writer interning for the museum's Public Affairs Office and I 💚 connecting people to their environments. Here’s me with a Monterey cypress, a native of the central CA coast.

This week, I’ll be exploring different ways we can enjoy and learn about the plants we might see on neighborhood walks where unexpected beauty, like this tenacious California poppy, is right around the corner.

It may look like caramel 🍫 but we can assure you that taking a bite into a piece of heulandite would be less than pleasa...
08/30/2021

It may look like caramel 🍫 but we can assure you that taking a bite into a piece of heulandite would be less than pleasant. 🤕

This mineral specimen collected in the Kilpatrick Hills of Strathclyde, Scotland stands out because it is an unusual caramel color. Heulandite is typically white to colorless, can be found worldwide, and is a member of the zeolite group. #MineralMonday #MineralScience

It's not technically over, but summer is fleeting! We hope you got in at least one outdoor adventure; and that you're al...
08/27/2021

It's not technically over, but summer is fleeting! We hope you got in at least one outdoor adventure; and that you're already penciling in your fall #birding, camping, and hiking plans. 🍂🍁. Thanks to museum specialist and ornithologist Jacob Saucier for sharing his bird-filled summer road trip (and playlist) with us this week!

It's not technically over, but summer is fleeting! We hope you got in at least one outdoor adventure; and that you're already penciling in your fall #birding, camping, and hiking plans. 🍂🍁. Thanks to museum specialist and ornithologist Jacob Saucier for sharing his bird-filled summer road trip (and playlist) with us this week!

08/27/2021
Common Nighthawk Bird Sound

“The Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) typically gives a nasal 'peent' in flight, but during the breeding season the males will make this unearthly 'booming' noise (@ 12s in the recording).

The sound is entirely mechanical, made by flexing the wings in a steep dive and forcing air through the wing feathers. This display is mostly done to impress females, but sometimes also to intimidate intruders (me in this case).” – Jacob Saucier, Division of Birds #SummerRoadTrip #Playlist

08/26/2021
Ruddy Duck Bird Sound

"One of my favorite North American breeding bird displays. The Ruddy Duck clacks its bill against its chest, like a folk musician playing the spoons. All while making an adorable belching sound."– Jacob Saucer, Division of Birds #SummerRoadTrip #Playlist

08/25/2021
Northern Harrier Bird Sound

"Here's a PSA: don't get too close to that harrier nest! Northern Harrier dads can be fiercely protective. I apparently got too close to this one’s nest, and he made a show of swooping and fussing as I hiked by. Luckily, I had my recorder and camera to document the attack 😉." – Jacob Saucier, Division of Birds #SummerRoadTrip #Playlist

Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius) ♂️, recorded at Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming on June 18, 2021

You can't understand the impacts of #ClimateChange without looking back in #DeepTime at other "hothouse" periods, that's...
08/24/2021
Fossil leaves may reveal climate in last era of dinosaurs

You can't understand the impacts of #ClimateChange without looking back in #DeepTime at other "hothouse" periods, that's just what our Fossil Atmospheres team is doing.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Richard Barclay opens a metal drawer in archives of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum containing fossils that are nearly 100 million years old. Despite their age, these rocks aren’t fragile.

08/24/2021
Pinyon Jay Bird Sound

”Pinyon Jay. Social/nomadic/inquisitive. Sadly, sharply declining in population. I was privileged to spend time observing a large flock of them near Moab. The nasal calls of these flocks can be heard from a considerable distance as they rove the desert searching for patches of trees with the seeds and berries that they like to eat.” – Jacob Saucier, Division of Birds #SummerRoadTrip #Playlist

08/23/2021
Black-throated Sparrow Bird Song | Summer #RoadTrip Playlist

“I only brought the essentials on this trip. Better believe that included my recorder. Flashback to the beautiful Southwest, where the bouncy, jingling song of the Black-throated Sparrow is a critical part of the soundtrack.” – Jacob Saucier, Division of Birds #SummerRoadTrip #Playlist

It’s okay to be jealous of this camping set-up, we were. So much so that we asked the photographer – museum specialist a...
08/23/2021

It’s okay to be jealous of this camping set-up, we were. So much so that we asked the photographer – museum specialist and researcher Jacob Saucier if we could share it. Saucier works in our Division of Birds and took an epic trip out west earlier in the year. This week he’s helping us mark the end of summer with a #RoadTrip #playlist from his trek that only an ornithologist could make. Get ready for some bird content!! 🐦🐤🦉🦅

“We have been grossly underestimating the diversity of mosquitoes. The number of new species that we find everywhere we ...
08/20/2021
The Secret Lives of Mosquitoes, the World’s Most Hated Insects

“We have been grossly underestimating the diversity of mosquitoes. The number of new species that we find everywhere we go is phenomenal.” - Yvonne-Marie Linton, curator of the Smithsonian's National Mosquito Collection and research director at the Department of Defense’s Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit (WRBU) #WorldMosquitoDay

While some are a nuisance, others working as nighttime pollinators may be critically important to a functioning ecosystem

Here's a fun finding for the middle of your week! After reviewing 40 years of data about acorn woodpeckers, scientists d...
08/18/2021
Study Finds Polygamy Helps Male Acorn Woodpeckers Thrive

Here's a fun finding for the middle of your week!

After reviewing 40 years of data about acorn woodpeckers, scientists discovered that polygamous males produced more offspring over the course of their lives and bred for a few years longer on average than monogamous males.

“Acorn woodpeckers have some of the most complicated social systems of any organism,” said ornithologist and lead author Sahas Barve. “These findings help us understand how this social system might have evolved.”

The study was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The findings could help scientists learn more about how social behaviors evolved in other animals

This ferocious-looking skull is just 8cm long and from a Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum), a lizard species found in t...
08/17/2021

This ferocious-looking skull is just 8cm long and from a Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum), a lizard species found in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. The bony k***s on its skull, called osteoderms, provide protection like armor.

These fascinating lizards have venom glands in their lower jaws, as opposed to snakes that house them in the upper jaws. Also unlike snakes, they do not inject the venom. Rather, they chew on their prey and the venom runs up grooves in their teeth by capillary action to mix in with their saliva. Nom nom nom! But don't worry, although reported to be very painful in humans, bites are not fatal.

This ferocious-looking skull is just 8cm long and from a Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum), a lizard species found in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. The bony k***s on its skull, called osteoderms, provide protection like armor.

These fascinating lizards have venom glands in their lower jaws, as opposed to snakes that house them in the upper jaws. Also unlike snakes, they do not inject the venom. Rather, they chew on their prey and the venom runs up grooves in their teeth by capillary action to mix in with their saliva. Nom nom nom! But don't worry, although reported to be very painful in humans, bites are not fatal.

Go ahead, challenge yourself to a gemstone logic puzzle and other fun, all-ages games in the latest #SmithsonianEdu acti...
08/16/2021

Go ahead, challenge yourself to a gemstone logic puzzle and other fun, all-ages games in the latest #SmithsonianEdu activity guide, made in collaboration with USA Today. #Smithsonian175 https://learninglab.si.edu/news/celebrating-175-years-of-history

Go ahead, challenge yourself to a gemstone logic puzzle and other fun, all-ages games in the latest #SmithsonianEdu activity guide, made in collaboration with USA Today. #Smithsonian175 https://learninglab.si.edu/news/celebrating-175-years-of-history

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