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Showing blog posts tagged with "Our Research"

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Researchers Broaden Reach of Virus Tracking Software

Research posts

A web-based application that tracks dangerous viruses as they spread has been restructured to allow even wider use of the program around the world. SUPRAMAP, a program that synthesizes large, diverse datasets to help researchers understand the evolution of infectious diseases across hosts and geography, was developed in 2007 by the Museum, The Ohio State University, and the Ohio Superconductor Center. In a recent paper in the journal Cladistics, researchers from these institutions describe how they reconfigured SUPRAMAP’s server to let researchers and public safety officials develop their own applications for the program.

Tags: Our Research, SciCafe

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Museum Ph.D. Student Confirms New Lizard Species in the Congo

Research posts

Museum graduate student Edward Stanley recently used high-resolution x-ray images of tiny “armor” bones to help an international team of scientists discover a new species of lizard from remote, war-torn mountains in Central Africa. The lizard, Cordylus marunguensis, was found on the Marungu Plateau in the southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is described in the African Journal of Herpetology.

The new lizard was discovered on an expedition led by Eli Greenbaum, assistant professor of evolutionary genetics at the University of Texas at El Paso, and Chifundera Kusamba, a research scientist from the Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles in the Congo. Suspecting that the lizard represented a new species, Greenbaum sent DNA samples and a specimen to Stanley, a third-year student in the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School—the first museum program in the Western Hemisphere with the authority to grant the Ph.D. degree.

Tags: Our Research, Richard Gilder Graduate School

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Ancient Indian Amber Preserves

News posts

A rare fossil discovered by an international team of scientists that includes Museum researchers documents a biological partnership that makes the survival of most terrestrial plants possible. For 52 million years in a piece of Indian amber the size of a walnut, the fossil preserved a symbiotic relationship between soil fungi and plant roots called mycorrhizae.

In this longstanding relationship, the fine thread-like cells of the fungus increase the root surface for the plant, enabling the host plant to access more nutrients. In return, the fungus receives energy from the plant in the form of sugars. This symbiosis also has been shown to enhance a plant’s resistance to pathogens and the effects of drought. This mycorrhizal relationship is believed to have arisen more than 400 million years ago, as plants began to colonize terrestrial habitats.

Tags: Our Research

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Museum Researcher Names Lizard Genus After Tolkien’s Dragon Smaug

News posts

The villain of J. R. R.Tolkien’s The Hobbit–the fearsome dragon Smaug–dwells deep in a cavern with a massive hoard of treasure and terrorizes nearby villages.

His real-world namesakes aren’t quite as fearsome. Smaug is the new name given to a genus of girdled lizards from South Africa by Ed Stanley, a doctoral candidate at the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History, who reclassified the genus in a in a paper published in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution in January 2011. Stanley’s work is funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

Smaug lizards live in tunnels in the highlands, including the appropriately named Drakensberg (Dragon Mountain) mountain range of southern Africa. But the inspiration for the name came from a connection to the author rather than the fictional character. “Tolkien was born in the Free State, South Africa, where this lizard was found,” says Stanley.

Tags: Our Research, Richard Gilder Graduate School

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Two of Year’s Top Ten New Species Discovered by Museum Scientists

News posts

Two extraordinary new species discovered by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History — a toothy leech and a Louisiana batfish — have been named in the Top 10 New Species of 2011, a ranking compiled by the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) at Arizona State University. Every year taxonomists at the IISE review thousands of new species uncovered over the preceding calendar year.

One of the Top 10 is Tyrannobdella rex, which means “tyrant leech king,” a new species of blood sucker with ferociously large teeth lining a single jaw. It was discovered in Perú when the leech, which is less than 2 inches in length, was plucked from the nose of a girl who had recently been bathing in a river. T. rex was first brought to the attention of Mark Siddall, curator in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology, when he received a specimen collected by Dr. Renzo Arauco-Brown, a Peruvian medical doctor. Siddall immediately recognized it as a new species. Part of the research for the paper, originally published in PLoS ONE, involved an expedition by two of Siddall’s students, Anna Phillips and Alejandro Oceguera-Figueroa, to gather new specimens for DNA analysis.

Tags: Bioluminescence, Our Research

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