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SpidersAlive Collection

The Arachnid Collection Behind Spiders Alive!

Research posts

A visitor to the Museum’s Spiders Alive! exhibition, which showcases live examples of approximately 20 spider species, might not realize that upstairs, out of public view, is the world’s largest spider collection. The Museum’s research collection contains more than 1 million spiders preserved in ethanol—a growing resource for scientists worldwide.

“Almost every important paper on spider systematics relies on specimens borrowed from our collection,” said Norman Platnick, curator of Spiders Alive! and curator emeritus in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology. “At any given time, we have many thousands of specimens on loan to dozens of researchers all around the globe.”

Tags: Spiders

SEM Scanning Electron Microscope Goblin Spider

Seeking Out Spiders

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The Museum is home to the largest collection of spiders in the world, one that is still growing through the fieldwork of scientists such as Norman Platnick, Curator Emeritus in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology. Platnick, who has discovered and described more than 1,600 new spider species, says there are many more to find.

“Collections are the only way we can document the plants and animals with which we share this planet,” says Platnick. “For groups that are as poorly known as spiders, there are many areas in the world where they have not been collected at all.”

One of his recent collecting efforts, in late 2010, took Platnick and his team on a month-long expedition into the cloud forests of northeastern Ecuador. Science Bulletins, the Museum’s multimedia program that covers current science, followed the researchers as they worked day and night seeking out spiders from the forest floor to the high canopy.

Tags: Science Bulletins, Spiders

Science Bulletins Explores a Chronology of Climate Change

News posts

Analysis of Earth's geologic record can reveal how the climate has changed over time. As profiled in the Science Bulletin below, scientists in New Zealand are examining samples from the rocky landscape once dominated by glaciers and employing a new technique called surface exposure dating, which uses chemical analysis to determine how long minerals within rocks have been exposed to the air since the glaciers around them melted. Comparisons of this data with other climate records have revealed a link between glacial retreat and rising levels of carbon dioxide in the air, findings that are informing scientists' understanding of global climate change today. 


Tags: Science Bulletins

DNA Barcoding of Caviar Indicates that Regulation Can Curb Illegal Trade

Research posts

Research that used DNA-based testing to compare the extent of fraudulent labeling of black caviar purchased before and after international protection shows conservation benefits. A team of scientists from the Institute for Conservation Science at Stony Brook University and the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the Museum repeated a market survey of commercially available caviar in the New York City area that was conducted before the protection was put in place, and the results showed nearly a 50 percent decrease in fraudulently labeled caviar.

The research, published this week in the journal PLoS ONE, compared the results of two market surveys conducted 10 years apart. The previous market survey was conducted from 1995 to 1996, before sturgeon was listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1998. That survey revealed that 19 percent of commercially available caviar in the New York City area was mislabeled with respect to species origin. When sampling the same market from 2006 to 2008, fraudulently labeled caviar occurred in 10 percent of the caviar, and only in the samples bought online.

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