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Fireflies

Reading the Language of Firefly Flashes

On Exhibit posts

Flashing flirted its way up the firefly family tree. These beetles’ evolutionary history shows a strange metamorphosis unfolding. Firefly eyes grow bigger, more bug-like, as the insects’ light organs enlarge. Their antennae, used like a nose to follow pheromones, shrink into stubs. The more important bioluminescent courtship signaling became throughout their history, the more the trappings of invisible communication faded out.

When Marc Branham, a professor of entomology at the University of Florida, began researching fireflies, he assumed such a beloved animal would be a textbook case in entomology. He was shocked to learn how little scientists knew about the common insect.

Tags: Bioluminescence

Q&A with Ian Tattersall: Masters of the Planet

Q&As

Museum Curator Emeritus Ian Tattersall’s latest book, Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins, offers a look at early human ancestors and reveals how our species came to rule the planet. On Wednesday, March 28, Tattersall will discuss his work with Science Friday host Ira Flatow at a live recording of NPR’s popular talk show in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. He will also speak about the book at a special Museum lecture on Monday, April 2. Tattersall recently answered a few questions about Masters of the Planet.

Tags: Human Evolution, Q&A

The Known Universe Hits 10 Million YouTube Views

News posts

An unforgettable trip from Earth to the edge of known space and back, the American Museum of Natural History’s The Known Universe has hit 10 million views on YouTube. Viewers from Australia to India to Alaska have tuned in to watch the video, which uses the Digital Universe Atlas, a scientifically accurate four-dimensional map of the cosmos maintained by Museum astrophysicists, to show the vastness of the universe. The Known Universe was created by the Museum in late 2009 as part of an exhibit for the Rubin Museum of Art in New York.

Tags: Astronomy Live!, Hayden Planetarium

Hatchetfishes

Bioluminescence Across the Tree of Life

On Exhibit posts

Curator John Sparks is blogging weekly about the Museum’s upcoming exhibition, Creatures of Light, which opens on Saturday, March 31.

Many people are familiar with the summertime flashing patterns of fireflies and have seen images of bizarre bioluminescent deep-sea fishes. However, few realize how pervasive bioluminescence is throughout the tree of life. Bioluminescence is  known to occur in bacteria, protists, fungi, crustaceans, insects, worms, ctenophores, jellyfishes, squids, starfishes, sea cucumbers, tunicates, and fishes—not to mention sharks—as well as numerous additional invertebrate lineages.

Tags: Bioluminescence

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