Dr. Hopkins is working to unlock the history of the evolution of animals over vast stretches of geologic time. For her, the key is trilobites—extinct arthropods that lived for almost 300 million years until 250 million years ago, when Earth experienced the largest mass extinction in its history. Her research takes her out into the field but also into the Museum’s collections, which include an estimated 400,000 specimens and where new discoveries wait to be made.
Tomorrow night the Museum is hosting its first ever grown-up sleepover. The event sold out in less than a day, but you can still join in the fun! Just follow us on Instagram or Twitter @amnh for live updates, and see what a real night at the museum looks like: http://instagram.com/amnh
Part of the Museum’s Lantern Slide Collection, “Mrs. Burns showing horned toad to class, Nature Room, American Museum of Natural History” was photographed in 1928.
To expand the Museum’s educational mission beyond its walls, a lantern slide lending library was created and formed the basis of the Natural Science Study Collections which the Museum delivered to New York schools.
In 1869, the year the Museum was incorporated, the Trustees turned to the critical task of building its collections. Within a few months, they sent Daniel Giraud Elliot, a noted ornithologist and naturalist, and Museum Trustee William T. Blodgett to negotiate the purchase of “certain collections of specimens in Natural History” in Europe.
Elliot and Blodgett ultimately purchased the collection of Prince Maximilian zu Wied (1782–1867), an explorer from the German principality of Wied-Neuwied. Prince Maximilian’s collection “is regarded as one of the most important private collections in Europe, and has long been consulted by the scientific world,” wrote Blodgett in his report. It was a fantastic opportunity for the nascent Museum to acquire specimens that would form the nucleus of its holdings.
The value of the Maximilian collection lay largely in its diversity and the rarity of its specimens, containing 4,000 mounted birds, 600 mounted mammals, and about 2,000 fishes and reptiles, either mounted or in alcohol. Researchers at the Museum still study these today.
Dunkleosteusterrelli boasted a 20-foot-long body covered with bony plates of armor. Fossil records indicate that this huge fish, one of the first large jawed vertebrates in the ocean, was an aggressive predator.
The razor-sharp edges of bones in this animal’s jaws served as cutters. As they rubbed against each other, the opposing jaw blades acted like self-sharpening shears. These bones continued to grow as they were worn down by use.
Dimetrodon was one of the earliest relatives of mammals. The large “sail” on its back may have been used for temperature regulation, to attract mates, or to frighten off other animals.
Dimetrodon is a member of a group called synapsids. Behind the eye socket in its skull is the synapsid opening. Its function is uncertain, but it may have been a passage for jaw muscles that helped Dimetrodon and other synapsids chew.
Congratulations to Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, a curator in the American Museum of Natural History’s Department of Astrophysics, on receiving a Humboldt Research Prize!
Mac Low is a leading expert on the formation of planets, stars, and galaxies, and of the structure of interstellar gas. Working with students and colleagues, the astrophysicist runs supercomputer simulations at multiple physical scales to attack the question of why stars form from interstellar gas in some parts of galaxies but not others.
Each year, the Museum’s blue whale model gets spruced up, and this year we live streamed the festivities! In case you missed our live #WhaleWash event on Monday, watch this unadulterated hour of extreme vacuuming, and pop-up whale facts.
Ernst Haeckel in his work Kunstformen der Natur (1899-1904), grouped together these specimens, including trilobites (which are extinct) and horseshoe crabs, so the viewer could clearly see similarities that point to the evolutionary process.
This flag, which hangs on the Museum’s 4th floor, is a veteran of the Museum’s 1920s Central Asiatic Expeditions to the Gobi Desert, where important finds included numerous fossils of ancient reptiles, and the first discovery of dinosaur eggs. Expedition leader Roy Chapman Andrews introduced motor vehicles for the long hauls across the desert, and the flag was placed on the lead truck. Its tattered condition resulted from a fierce sandstorm.
Since 1990, new expeditions to the Gobi by the Museum with the Mongolian Academy of Sciences have made further important scientific finds, most notably a fossil embryo preserved in a dinosaur egg. The Andrews flag can be taken as a symbol not only of the Museum’s return to the Gobi but of its pioneering expeditions to the many places explored during its 145-year efforts to broaden scientific knowledge.
Found in 1873 near Solnhofen, Germany, this was the first fossil to show the complete wings of a pterosaur. Unearthed from a bed of limestone, this remarkably well-preserved skeleton belonged to Rhamphorhynchus muensteri, a long-tailed, dagger-toothed pterosaur from the Late Jurassic. The fine sediment fossilized not just the bones, but the tissues that formed the wing surface. The animal’s wings were partly folded, forming wrinkles that can still be seen.