1. Fieldwork Journal: Reporting from Inner Mongolia

    Jack Tseng and Camille Grohe, postdoctoral fellows in the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, are blogging from the field during an expedition to Inner Mongolia. Their expedition aims to find fossils of extinct mammals that lived between 20 and 6 million years ago.

    In Jack’s first blog post, he discusses the area of Inner Mongolia (not to be confused with Mongolia) where the expedition is taking place and Museum’s historic Central Asiatic Expeditions of the 1920’s. 

    Read the full Fieldwork Journal on the Museum blog. 

  2. Golden Orb-Web Spider - Nephila pilipes
Walking through the Southeast Asian rainforest, you might glimpse this large spider, with its bright yellow markings and its large orb web. The spider sits in this strong web day and night, feeding whenever prey gets caught.
Check me out: My first pair of legs is long—reaching roughly twice the length of my body.
Species range: From northern Australia through Southeast Asia, eastern India and parts of China and Japan.
Habitat: Terrestrial; from rainforest trees to gardens, with webs even attached to buildings at times.
Should you worry? No. This spider is not aggressive and very rarely bites humans. Even if it did, the venom is harmless.
Fun fact: Spiders of the genus Nephila, like the one on display here, are sometimes called “golden orb spiders,” for their giant webs tend to gleam yellow in the sun. Why? Females of some Nephila species use silks containing yellow pigments in their constructions. Because flowers and new leaves are often yellow, some scientists think the color in a web may help attract insects that either pollinate or feed on plants. 
See this and other arachnid species in the exhibition, Spiders Alive! open now. 

    Golden Orb-Web SpiderNephila pilipes

    Walking through the Southeast Asian rainforest, you might glimpse this large spider, with its bright yellow markings and its large orb web. The spider sits in this strong web day and night, feeding whenever prey gets caught.

    Check me out: My first pair of legs is long—reaching roughly twice the length of my body.

    Species range: From northern Australia through Southeast Asia, eastern India and parts of China and Japan.

    Habitat: Terrestrial; from rainforest trees to gardens, with webs even attached to buildings at times.

    Should you worry? No. This spider is not aggressive and very rarely bites humans. Even if it did, the venom is harmless.

    Fun fact: Spiders of the genus Nephila, like the one on display here, are sometimes called “golden orb spiders,” for their giant webs tend to gleam yellow in the sun. Why? Females of some Nephila species use silks containing yellow pigments in their constructions. Because flowers and new leaves are often yellow, some scientists think the color in a web may help attract insects that either pollinate or feed on plants. 

    See this and other arachnid species in the exhibition, Spiders Alive! open now. 

  3. This #MuseumMonday, we’re featuring the Ellsworth Corridor. 
This area on the Museum’s first floor just off the Grand Gallery celebrates a relatively unsung hero of polar exploration: the American Lincoln Ellsworth. His bust graces the back wall of the narrow hallway, while the display cases on either side contain artifacts detailing Ellsworth’s efforts to become the first man to fly across both polar continents, a feat he accomplished in 1935 when he crossed the Antarctic in his plane Polar Star. Ten years earlier, Ellsworth’s first attempt to fly over the North Pole teamed him with Norwegian Roald Amundsen, whose earlier overland competition with British Royal Navy Captain Robert Falcon Scott to reach the South Pole is chronicled in the Museum’s traveling exhibition Race to the End of the Earth. Through the special relationship between Amundsen and Ellsworth, the Museum Library’s Memorabilia Collection came to possess items the Norwegian explorer carried with him on his quest to reach the South Pole, including a sledge, chronometer, binoculars, shotgun, and a tin cup from the ship Fram, which are featured in the corridor.
Explore other halls on this #MuseumMonday!

    This #MuseumMonday, we’re featuring the Ellsworth Corridor. 

    This area on the Museum’s first floor just off the Grand Gallery celebrates a relatively unsung hero of polar exploration: the American Lincoln Ellsworth. His bust graces the back wall of the narrow hallway, while the display cases on either side contain artifacts detailing Ellsworth’s efforts to become the first man to fly across both polar continents, a feat he accomplished in 1935 when he crossed the Antarctic in his plane Polar Star. Ten years earlier, Ellsworth’s first attempt to fly over the North Pole teamed him with Norwegian Roald Amundsen, whose earlier overland competition with British Royal Navy Captain Robert Falcon Scott to reach the South Pole is chronicled in the Museum’s traveling exhibition Race to the End of the Earth. Through the special relationship between Amundsen and Ellsworth, the Museum Library’s Memorabilia Collection came to possess items the Norwegian explorer carried with him on his quest to reach the South Pole, including a sledge, chronometer, binoculars, shotgun, and a tin cup from the ship Fram, which are featured in the corridor.

    Explore other halls on this #MuseumMonday!

  4. Sewellel (Mountain Beaver) - August Morning, Mount Rainier, Washington
Neither a beaver nor a high-mountain dweller, the sewellel is a rather singular animal. It’s the last living member of a once-successful family of rodents called the Aplodontiidae. The sewellel is a “living fossil,” showing primitive skeletal features that other rodents have lost. Its kidneys are also unusual: they are inefficient at maintaining the body’s water balance. Thus the sewellel needs to live close to water so it can drink a lot—a third of its weight in water per day. 
This diorama is located in the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals.

    Sewellel (Mountain Beaver)August Morning, Mount Rainier, Washington

    Neither a beaver nor a high-mountain dweller, the sewellel is a rather singular animal. It’s the last living member of a once-successful family of rodents called the Aplodontiidae. The sewellel is a “living fossil,” showing primitive skeletal features that other rodents have lost. Its kidneys are also unusual: they are inefficient at maintaining the body’s water balance. Thus the sewellel needs to live close to water so it can drink a lot—a third of its weight in water per day. 

    This diorama is located in the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals.

  5. In November 2013 a group of Museum scientists including Curators James Webster and George Harlow traveled to Mogok, a historic city in northern Myanmar (Burma), to study the region’s complex geological evolution.
Read part 2 of the expedition to “Ruby Land.”

    In November 2013 a group of Museum scientists including Curators James Webster and George Harlow traveled to Mogok, a historic city in northern Myanmar (Burma), to study the region’s complex geological evolution.

    Read part 2 of the expedition to “Ruby Land.”

  6. How about a whole bunch of shark teeth for #fossilfriday? 
Sharks produce hundreds or even thousands of teeth in their lifetime. Fossilized shark teeth are among the most common vertebrate fossils. It has been estimated that many sharks produce between 10,000 and 15,000 teeth in their lifetime. In this Museum display in the Hall of Vertebrate Origins, roughly 12,000 fossil bull-shark teeth are shown, dating to Miocene, collected in North Carolina. 

    How about a whole bunch of shark teeth for #fossilfriday? 

    Sharks produce hundreds or even thousands of teeth in their lifetime. Fossilized shark teeth are among the most common vertebrate fossils. It has been estimated that many sharks produce between 10,000 and 15,000 teeth in their lifetime. In this Museum display in the Hall of Vertebrate Origins, roughly 12,000 fossil bull-shark teeth are shown, dating to Miocene, collected in North Carolina. 

  7. We’re welcoming the weekend with sharks! If you want to experience the spectacular world of sharks, look no further than the halls of the Museum. Find sharks in fossils, dioramas, and even in IMAX and 3D

    Here are some cool links from the past week:

    • Read part 1 and part 2 of Museum geologist’s expedition to “Ruby Land”
    • Did you see the Supermoon? There were actually four super moons in August!
    • New research gives insight into the long-puzzling question of scorpion tail development.
    • Robert Hooke’s illustration of his own frozen urine, from 1667.
    • See a video of Dr. Samuel Wang’s lecture on autism
    • The Aztec Sun Stone was a centerpiece of the original Hayden Planetarium, in 1935.

    Have a great weekend!

  8. 


Frozen Urine
Micrographia (1667), the first book in English to illustrate the microscopic world, was popular in part because it presented an enormous range of subjects. The meticulous illustrations of a flea and other minute creatures, foretold a new chapter in natural history, in which organisms could be classified according to precisely detailed descriptions of their anatomy—even the tiniest. 
This image, by author and illustrator Robert Hooke, depicts geometric formations in frozen urine (presumably his own).
See this and other illustrations from the Museum’s Rare Book Collection in Natural Histories: 400 Years of Scientific Illustration from the Museum’s Library.

    Frozen Urine

    Micrographia (1667), the first book in English to illustrate the microscopic world, was popular in part because it presented an enormous range of subjects. The meticulous illustrations of a flea and other minute creatures, foretold a new chapter in natural history, in which organisms could be classified according to precisely detailed descriptions of their anatomy—even the tiniest. 

    This image, by author and illustrator Robert Hooke, depicts geometric formations in frozen urine (presumably his own).

    See this and other illustrations from the Museum’s Rare Book Collection in Natural Histories: 400 Years of Scientific Illustration from the Museum’s Library.

  9. New Research Gives Insight Into the Long-Puzzling Question of Scorpion Tail Development.

    A new study led by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History reveals the genetic blueprint behind the patterning of scorpion tails. Scientists have long been puzzled by the development of scorpion tails—which in addition to venom-producing glands also have light-sensing capabilities—because there weren’t enough known genes to code for their many segments. But the new research, which was published today in Proceedings of The Royal Society B, reveals that scorpions have more “body-planning” genes than previously thought, potentially solving the scorpion tail mystery.

    “Scorpions have six segment-types in the back-end of their body, almost double the number seen in their closest relatives. They also are the only arthropods to have a group of segments exclusively dedicated to prey capture and defense,” says Prashant Sharma, a postdoctoral researcher in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology and lead author of the paper. “The question is how to pattern this kind of complexity.” 

    Read more on the Museum blog.

  10. Mogok, an historic city in northern Myanmar (Burma), lies in a valley 50 miles west of the snaking Irrawaddy River, about 3,500 feet above sea level. 

    Mogok is best known for its gemstones, including ruby, sapphire, spinel, peridot, and moonstone. For centuries, the Mogok Stone Tract’s hills were legendary for such amazing abundance that locals were said to come upon gems just glinting in the grass in their gardens. The area is still world-famous for gems: A sign along the highway reads “Welcome to Ruby Land,” as about 1,000 working mines and diggings are found there today; most of the world’s finest gem rubies come from Myanmar, most of these from Mogok.

    In November 2013, a group of Museum geologists finally got a long-awaited opportunity: to travel to Mogok to study the complex geological evolution of “Ruby Land.” Why was it that the region was so rich in gem-quality minerals, which are, by definition, rare?

    Read part 1 of this expedition story on the Museum blog.

  11. The popular definition of a Super Moon is that they occur when the Moon is less than 224,851 miles from Earth. By this measure, August has four Super Moons, and tonight is the last!
On Monday, August 11, Moonrise in New York City is 8:25 pm. The Moon’s distance when it rises: 222,759 miles (<224,851 miles), SUPER!
Learn more about the Super Moon phenomenon. 

    The popular definition of a Super Moon is that they occur when the Moon is less than 224,851 miles from Earth. By this measure, August has four Super Moons, and tonight is the last!

    On Monday, August 11, Moonrise in New York City is 8:25 pm. The Moon’s distance when it rises: 222,759 miles (<224,851 miles), SUPER!

    Learn more about the Super Moon phenomenon

  12. On this #MuseumMonday we’re taking a look at the inlay representing the face of the Aztec Sun Stone. Visitors who enter through the Weston Pavilion Entrance (Columbus Ave. and 79th St.) are greeted by this beautiful piece set in the floor. The Aztec Sun Stone was a centerpiece of the Hall of the Sun in the original Hayden Planetarium, built in 1935 (pictured above). 

    The original stone is a 25-ton monolith, which represents the fifth sun, or age, which began with the accession of King Itzcoatl (1427-1440). It is on view at the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, and a full-size cast stands in the Hall of Mexico and Central America.

    The central image depicts Tonatiuh, the Aztec sun god and principal deity during the fifth sun, and Aztec cycle that relates to time and politics. Four icons - jaguar, wind, rain, and water - represent the four previous suns, or ages, when the world was repeatedly created and destroyed. The twenty central signs belong to the 13 cycles in the 260-day Aztec ritual calendar. Two fire serpents encircle the mosaic, their heads face each other at the bottom and tails meet at the top.

    Learn more about the Inlay Aztec Sun Stone.

    Archival image: AMNH/327132

  13. In this week’s edition of the Expedition Report, Assistant Curator Estefanía Rodríguez travels to Antarctica to study sea anemones on a ship that serves as a floating field station – and, on which, sometimes getting there is half the adventure.

    Dr. Rodríguez studies the diversity and evolutionary history of sea anemones, primarily those that are found in deep waters. She uses her studies in taxonomy to build an understanding of the ecology of sea anemones, and how they got to such harsh environments as Antarctica in the first place.

  14. For more than three billion years, the Earth harbored only single-celled organisms. At some point, multi-cellular life appeared, in the form of jellyfish, worms, and sponges. But these early animals, being soft-bodied, left few fossil traces. About 560 million years ago, animals with shells formed, and their skeletal remains left markers in the sediments. Within tens of millions of years, most groups of organisms that we recognize today had appeared, in what is known as the Cambrian explosion.

    Learn more about this explosion of life

  15. Mountain Goat - August, Tongass National Forest, Southern Alaska
No mammal is more sure-footed on steep peaks than the mountain goat. Its agility and traction surpasses even that of wild sheep. Among the goat’s advantages are muscular forelimbs to help brake on downhills and race upslope.  This climber can gain 75 feet (23 meters) of altitude in only a minute. 
In fact, a young mountain goat can climb anywhere its mother can within a week after birth.   The kid in this scene is about three months old  and was probably born on a high cliff.  

This diorama is located in the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals.

    Mountain GoatAugust, Tongass National Forest, Southern Alaska

    No mammal is more sure-footed on steep peaks than the mountain goat. Its agility and traction surpasses even that of wild sheep. Among the goat’s advantages are muscular forelimbs to help brake on downhills and race upslope.  This climber can gain 75 feet (23 meters) of altitude in only a minute. 

    In fact, a young mountain goat can climb anywhere its mother can within a week after birth.   The kid in this scene is about three months old  and was probably born on a high cliff.  

    This diorama is located in the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals.