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rusinga-team

From the Field: Wrapping Up a Terrific Season

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Nairobi, Kenya, July 19, 2011

So we’re finally back in Nairobi, having packed up camp and driven back the 300-odd miles from Rusinga to the nation’s capital. It was a terrific field season, in many ways the best we’ve had. We had a really fun and motivated field crew and found a lot of wonderful fossils. What more could one ask?

Now begins the hard work of sorting out everything we found. In our case this means working in the National Museums of Kenya’s exquisite paleontology collections in Nairobi. Any fossils found in the country are reposited here, making it an ideal place to conduct comparative work. We’ve been here about a week, and it is still an overwhelming task. I’m not complaining though. It’s a fine position to be in; I’d rather we had too many than too few fossils.

Tags: From the Field, Paleontology

Podcast

Podcast: Exoplanets Revealed with Emily Rice

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Planets orbiting stars other than the Sun—called exoplanets—were first discovered in 1995. Since then, astronomers have pushed the limits of technology to produce images of exoplanets. In this podcast, Emily Rice, a research scientist in the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics, leads a tour of hundreds of extrasolar planets.

Dr. Rice’s talk was recorded at the Hayden Planetarium Space Theater on April 26, 2011.

Podcast: Download | RSS | iTunes ( 1 hour, 5 mins, 79 MB)

Tags: Podcasts

chocolate-pot

Curious Collections: Chocolate Pots from Chaco Canyon

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More than 100 years after joining the Museum’s archaeological collection, a remarkable set of 11th-century pottery excavated in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon is at the center of a delicious discovery.

Found at Pueblo Bonito, one of the great ceremonial complexes of the Ancestral Pueblo peoples, the rare ceramics were collected for the Museum by George Pepper at the turn of last century. Only recently, however, have researchers looked to the set to search for chemical traces of the vessels’ long-lost contents. The results were electrifying: tests revealed the presence of theobromine, the biomarker for cacao, confirming the earliest known use of chocolate north of the Mexican border.

Tags: Anthropology

taswolf

A Vanished Species: Thylacinus cynocephalus

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Thylacinus cynocephalus goes by many common names: Tasmanian wolf, Tasmanian tiger, zebra dog, pouched wolf, and marsupial dog, among others. A quick look at the animal explains the confusion. Shaped like a dog, striped like a tiger or zebra, pouched like an opossum, and reputed to behave like a wolf, it became many different creatures in the popular imagination.

But the thylacine is, or was, a unique species. Now considered extinct, the thylacine was a carnivorous marsupial that lived in Tasmania and fed primarily on kangaroos, wallabies, small mammals, and birds. Nocturnal and shy, it was seldom seen by humans. Nonetheless, beginning in the 19th century, settlers believed the animals threatened their livestock and, spurred on by a bounty offered by the government, hunted them relentlessly. Despite numerous unconfirmed reports of sightings in recent decades, no definitive sightings have occurred since the 1930s.

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