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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

Invertebrate fossils

Mobile Ammonites Stayed Put at Plains Methane Seeps

Research posts

Research led by Museum scientists shows that ammonites, an extinct type of shelled mollusk that’s closely related to modern-day nautiluses and squids, made homes in the unique environments surrounding methane seeps in the seaway that once covered America’s Great Plains. The findings, recently published in the journal Geology, provide new insights into the mode of life and habitat of these ancient animals.

In the Black Hills region of South Dakota, researchers are investigating a 74-million-year-old mound of fossilized material where methane-rich fluids once migrated through the sediments onto the sea floor. When the face of this cliff recently slumped off, a wide variety of bivalves, sponges, corals, fish, crinoids, and, as recently documented, ammonites, were revealed.

Tags: Invertebrates

Decades of Discovery on St. Catherines Island

Research posts

David Hurst Thomas is the curator of North American Archaeology in the Museum’s Division of Anthropology and has spent his career studying the human history of St. Catherines Island. Below, he explains how archaeological finds are proving history books wrong.

For nearly four decades, it’s been my privilege to work as an archaeologist on St. Catherines—a Manhattan-sized island 10 miles off the Georgia coastline. One of the storied Golden Isles, St. Catherines is privately owned; only two people live there. Forty years ago, the Edward John Noble Foundation established a long-term relationship with the American Museum of Natural History to pursue scientific research, conservation, and education on the island.

Tags: Anthropology

Microraptor

New Finding: Dinosaur’s Feathers Were Black with Iridescent Sheen

Research posts

A pigeon-sized, four-winged dinosaur known as Microraptor had black iridescent feathers when it roamed the Earth 130 million years ago, according to new research led by a team of American and Chinese scientists that includes Museum researchers. The dinosaur’s fossilized plumage is the earliest record of iridescent feather color. The findings, which suggest the importance of display in the early evolution of feathers, are published in the March 9 edition of the journal Science.

“This study gives us an unprecedented glimpse at what this animal looked like when it was alive,” said Mark Norell, one of the paper’s authors and chair of the Museum’s Division of Paleontology.

Tags: Dinosaurs, Paleontology

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