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woodpecker

Sightings and Specimens: Campephilus principalis

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Six years ago this spring, an announcement sent waves of excitement among birders and wildlife enthusiasts: an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Campephilus principalis, generally thought to be extinct, had been sighted in an Arkansas swamp by a team of investigators. A blurry video of the large bird in flight seemed to provide supporting evidence.

Still, proof of the bird’s existence was not airtight. Subsequent visits, as well as audio and video recordings in the area, yielded no definitive results. The video showed an image that might have been that of a similar species, the Pileated Woodpecker. Both species have black and white wings, but with different patterns that are visible when the wings are extended in flight. While researchers fanned out to look for evidence in Arkansas, at the Museum, ornithologists turned to the collections to examine the wings.

Tags: Birds

Last Chance: Butterfly Conservatory Closes May 30

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Catch The Butterfly Conservatory: Tropical Butterflies Alive in Winter, a live-animal exhibition where visitors can mingle with up to 500 butterflies among tropical flowers and vegetation, before it closes on Monday, May 30.

Watch as Hazel Davies, manager of Living Exhibits at the Museum, and Whitney Doreen Ortiz walk through the vivarium and interact with butterflies from around the world, including blue morphos, striking scarlet swallowtails, and large owl butterflies.

Tags: Butterflies

jarodmiller

Sundays Under the Whale: Jarod Miller

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On Sunday, May 15, zoologist and TV host Jarod Miller will bring a menagerie of extra-large animals to the Museum for the Milstein Science Series’ Sundays Under the Whale: Living Large program. Below, Miller answers a few questions about what it takes to live large.

You’re bringing several animals—a reticulated python, a mandrill, a jaguar, and an Eagle Owl. What are some of the factors that allowed these animals to become so large?

There are many factors that allow animals to grow large. Space, resources, available prey, and environmental conditions all contribute to an animal’s need and ability to grow big, compete, and evolve in a specific habitat. In the case of reptiles, climate plays a very important role because they are exothermic, or cold-blooded. Crocodiles,pythons, and Komodo dragons all live in regions with hot climates, which provide the ideal environment for growth.

Tags: Children's Programs

Inside View: The World's Largest Dinosaurs

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The World’s Largest Dinosaurs, a new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, goes beyond traditional fossil shows to reveal how dinosaurs actually lived by taking visitors into the amazing biology of a uniquely super-sized group of dinosaurs: the long-necked and long-tailed sauropods, which ranged in size from 15 to 150 feet long.

In this video, go behind the scenes with The World’s Largest Dinosaurs curators Mark Norell and Martin Sander and as they explain the science behind the exhibition. Learn how dinosaur fossils are stored and cataloged from Carl Mehling, a scientific assistant at the Museum.

Tags: Dinosaurs, Paleontology

stenoonops

Spinning Goblin Spider: Stenoops peckorum

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This posterior lateral spinneret, a silk-spinning organ of a spider, features frond-like setae and whorls of exoskeleton. It belongs to a female Stenoops peckorum, a newly discovered species of goblin spider from southern Florida.

This species was among 17 new species of goblin spider discovered in 2010 by Norman Platnick, the Peter J. Solomon Family curator emeritus in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History.

Despite their fearsome name, goblin spiders are tiny. They tend to be less than 2 millimeters in length. The spinneret pictured above is approximately 30 micrometers across, roughly the diameter of a thin strand of hair.

The five protrusions at the center of the spinneret are spigots that produce a single type of spider silk. The silk, sometimes in combination with silk from other spinnerets, can be used in any number of ways, including reproduction or navigation, but not for a conventional prey-trapping spider web.

“All spiders do make silk, they just don’t always use it to catch food,” says Platnick. Instead, goblin spiders hunt down and devour whatever small insects they can catch.

Tags: Spiders

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