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Researchers from the American Museum of Natural History and Louisiana State University have discovered that two groups of blind cave fishes now separated by about 6,000 miles of open ocean are each other’s closest relatives. These eyeless fishes, one group from Madagascar and the other from Australia, descended from a common ancestor before being separated by continental drift nearly 100 million years ago, the scientists say. Their study, which was published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, also identifies new species that add to existing biological proof for the existence of Gondwana, a prehistoric supercontinent that was part of Pangaea and contained all of today’s southern continents.
The cave fishes, of the genus Typhleotris in Madagascar and Milyeringa in Australia, are small—less than 100 millimeters long—and usually lack pigment, a substance that gives an organism its color and also provides protection from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. These characteristics, coupled with a lack of eyes and enhanced sensory capabilities, are common in many cave organisms.
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Preserved for 230 million years in droplets of amber just millimeters long, two newly named species of mites and a fly have set a record. They are the oldest arthropods – invertebrate animals that include insects, arachnids, and crustaceans – ever found in amber, the name typically given to globules of fossilized resin. The results, published by an international team of researchers in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciencestoday, pave the way for a better evolutionary understanding of the most diverse group of organisms in the world.
“Amber is an extremely valuable tool for paleontologists because it preserves specimens with microscopic fidelity, allowing uniquely accurate estimates of the amount of evolutionary change over millions of years,” said corresponding author David Grimaldi, a curator in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology and a world authority on amber and fossil arthropods.
Even though arthropods are more than 400 million years old, until now, the oldest record of the animals in amber only dates to about 130 million years. The newly discovered specimens are about 100 million years older, the first amber arthropods ever found from the Triassic Period.
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Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity has been tested with ever-increasing precision since its publication in 1905. One of its key predictions is that only light itself can travel at the speed of light. While the theory does not forbid particles from moving faster, such particles must be traveling backward in time.
In this podcast from the spring, join Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson and six of the world's leading voices in this scientific debate for the 2012 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, “Faster Than the Speed of Light.” This year’s debate pitted some of the experimentalists who claimed to have discovered faster-than-light neutrinos against their strongest critics, and explored the ways that modern physicists are testing the fundamental laws of nature.
The Panelists included:
- Dr. David Cline, Department of Physics and Astronomy, UCLA
- Dr. Gian Giudice, Theoretical Physics Division, CERN
- Dr. Sheldon Glashow, Department of Physics, Boston University
- Dr. Chris Hegarty, MITRE’s Center for Advanced Aviation System Development
- Dr. Laura Patrizii, Department of Physics, University of Bologna
- Dr. Gabriela González, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Louisiana State University
The debate was recorded at the Museum on March 20, 2012. Watch a video of the full program on AMNH.tv.
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Of the many Museum programs designed just for Members, behind-the-scenes tours are consistently among the most popular. These tours, which are offered to Members from October through May, provide a glimpse of what’s not usually visible in the public halls: scientists at work, research laboratories, and vast collections of artifacts and specimens from around the world that have not been exhibited.
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Scientists have developed a new comprehensive index designed to assess humanity’s benefit from healthy oceans. The Ocean Health Index, developed by collaborators from nearly 20 institutions, including the American Museum of Natural History, was used to evaluate the ecological, social, economic, and political conditions for every coastal country in the world. The findings, published in the journalNature, show that the global ocean overall scores 60 out of 100 on the Index. Individual country scores range widely, from 36 to 86. The highest-scoring locations included both densely populated, highly developed nations such as Germany (73), as well as uninhabited islands, such as Jarvis Island in the Pacific (86).
The Index, the development of which was led by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and Conservation International, is the first broad, quantitative assessment that includes people as part of the ocean ecosystem. It scientifically compares and combines key elements from all dimensions of the ocean’s health so that decision-makers can promote an increasingly beneficial future for all ocean life, including humans.