New research by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History suggests that polar bears in the warming Arctic are turning to alternate food sources. As Arctic sea ice melts earlier and freezes later each year, polar bears have a limited amount of time to hunt their historically preferred prey—ringed seal pups—and must spend more time on land.
Lonesome George, the world-famous Pinta Island tortoise who was the last of his kind when he died in June 2012, will be preserved in consultation with scientists from the American Museum of Natural History and by the same expert taxidermy and conservation team that worked on the acclaimed renovation of the Museum’s Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals.
An icon for biodiversity conservation, Lonesome George will be on display at the Museum for a limited time starting this winter before he is returned to the Galápagos. As reported today in The New York Times, the Museum is working closely with the Galápagos National Park Service, SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, and the Galápagos Conservancy to prepare Lonesome George’s body and spread awareness of the importance of conservation.
Watch a video about Lonesome George and his preservation here.
While much of the Eastern seaboard is getting prepared for the coming of the 17-year periodical cicadas, Manhattanites may miss the show. (These cicadas have virtually never been recorded on this urban island.)
But starting Wednesday, May 22, you can see periodical cicadas on the Upper West Side, here at the Museum. A newly restored display, first exhibited in 1912, will be on view in the Hall of Biodiversity, on the Museum’s first floor.
Outside of Manhattan, cicadas are likely to make real-life appearances in New York City’s other boroughs, says Museum entomologist Lou Sorkin, who has been keeping up with the local emergences. “There have been reports from Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and of course Staten Island in recent weeks,” he reports.
Rising temperatures will lead to a massive “greening” of the Arctic by mid-century as a result of striking increases in plant cover, according to new research led by the American Museum of Natural History.
Scientists have revealed new models projecting that wooded areas in the Arctic could increase by as much as 50 percent over the next few decades. This greening could also have a multiplier effect on warming at a rate greater than previously expected.
Read the full story here.
Observed distribution (left) and predicted distribution of vegetation under a climate-warming scenario for the 2050s (right)
Fly 128 light years away from Earth to the location of the star HR 8799. Astronomers have determined the chemical fingerprints, or spectra, of all four planets surrounding HR 8799. They found them to be unlike any other known object in the universe.
Astronomers have conducted a remote reconnaissance of a distant solar system with a new telescope imaging system that sifts through the blinding light of stars. Using a suite of high-tech instrumentation and software called Project 1640, the scientists collected the first chemical fingerprints, or spectra, of this system’s four red exoplanets, which orbit a star, called HR8799, 128 light years away from Earth.
“An image is worth a thousand words, but a spectrum is worth a million,” said Ben R. Oppenheimer, principal investigator for Project 1640 and chair of the Astrophysics Department at the American Museum of Natural History.
Read the full story.
How do researchers track asteroids? And how often have asteroids collided with Earth? (Hint: far more than the number of impact craters on our planet would suggest.)
For more on the odds and potential hazards of asteroid impacts, and the process of tracking the orbits of near-Earth asteroids, check out this video.
Image: Paul Chodas
News reports of a meteor breaking up in the Siberian sky are pouring in. Today, another space rock—asteroid 2012 DA14—is flying by Earth more closely than any asteroid whose orbit astrophysicists have calculated beforehand.
So, what’s the difference between a meteor, a meteorite, and an asteroid? Find out.
Tomorrow night, a small asteroid will travel nearer Earth than any space rock astronomers have identified beforehand. “It’s the closest that we’ve seen ahead of time,” says Denton S. Ebel, curator in the Museum’s Division of Physical Sciences (Earth and Planetary Sciences).
The Moon is nearly 240,000 miles from Earth, but this asteroid, called 2012 DA14, will travel as close as about 17,200 miles from the planet, over Indonesia. This GIF was created in 2012, after the asteroid was first observed moving across the sky.
In a new study published today, a team of international scientists has found that a small, furry-tailed, insect-eating creature was the earliest ancestor of all placental mammals—a widely diverse group of animals ranging from bats to humans.
The researchers analyzed the world’s largest dataset of genetic and physical traits to find that placental mammals diversified into present-day lineages much later than is commonly thought: after the extinction event 65 million years ago that eliminated non-avian dinosaurs.
Get the full story here.
Pictured: An artist’s rendering of the hypothetical placental ancestor (by Carl Buell)
Before the first footage of a giant squid in its deepwater habitat airs tomorrow, get a closer look at our giant squid, one of the few specimens housed in a museum in North America.
It was brought to the Museum, frozen, in 1998, after commercial fisherman accidentally caught it in a fishing net off the coast of New Zealand. At 25 feet long, the squid is stored behind the scenes in a large steel tank. Read on here.
As reported in a heart-warming story from National Geographic, researchers were surprised to find a pod of sperm whales had “adopted” a lone dolphin with a deformed spine.
Scientists have also found that recent encounters between humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins reveal a playful side to interspecies interaction. In two different locations in Hawaii, scientists watched as dolphins “rode” the heads of whales: the whales lifted the dolphins up and out of the water, and then the dolphins slid back down. Watch the video for more.
Top photo: Alexander Wilson and Aquatic Mammals
Bottom: AMNH Science Bulletins
Meteorites that fell from an asteroid impact that lit up the skies over California and Nevada in April are showing scientists just how complex an asteroid surface can be.
A new study reports that these space rocks are unusual examples from a rare group known as carbonaceous chondrites, which contain some of the oldest material in the solar system. The study of these meteorites and others like them could hold answers to unsolved mysteries about the origin of life on Earth as they contain molecules such as water and amino acids.
Image: NASA/E. James
Hurricane Sandy and climate change: is there a link?
Because climate is enormously complex, no particular storm can be attributed to climate change. We can, however, say that the storm fits a general pattern in North America, and around the world, toward more extreme weather—a pattern which, increasingly, can be attributed to climate change.
Read the full story here: Sandy and Climate Change