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Science Bulletins: The Roots of Human Language

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The landscape of human language is complex, and tracing the origins of the 7,000 known modern languages has been a significant challenge for scientists. An analysis by a researcher at the University of Auckland in New Zealand points to a familiar place: Africa, the birthplace of our species.

This fall, examine the biology of language in a five-part adult course, the Sackler Brain Bench program "Is Your Brain Wired For Language?" 


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language in the brain

Science Bulletins: Language in the Brain

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Why is it that humans can speak but chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, cannot? The human brain is uniquely wired to produce language. Untangling this wiring is a major frontier of brain research. Peer into the mental machinery behind language with this Science Bulletins feature, which visits a brain-scanning laboratory, Columbia University's Program for Imaging and Cognitive Sciences (PICS). Columbia neuroscientist Joy Hirsch and New York University psychologist Gary Marcus explain what researchers have learned about how our brain tackles language—and what's left to learn.

This fall, examine the biology of language in a five-part adult course, the Sackler Brain Bench program "Is Your Brain Wired For Language?" 


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Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Reopens October 27

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On October 27, Theodore Roosevelt’s 154th birthday, the Museum will officially reopen the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial and the Hall of North American Mammals, launching a year-long celebration of Roosevelt’s love of nature and his instrumental role in the American conservation movement, both inspired by his lifelong association with the Museum. 


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Sea Turtles Solomon Island

A Summer's Work in the Solomon Islands

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In the Solomon Islands, an archipelago of some 1,000 islands east of Papua New Guinea, the Museum is partnering with indigenous communities to improve biodiversity conservation within ancient customary lands. This summer, Michael Esbach, Pacific Programs manager in the Museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC), travelled to three of these islands with CBC Pacific Programs Director Christopher Filardi and CBC Director Eleanor Sterling.

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Blind cave fish

Eyeless Australian Cave Fishes' Closest Relatives in Madagascar

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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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