Showing blog posts tagged with "Our Research"
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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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Several years ago, Dr. Nikos Solounias, a visiting researcher specializing in the fossil record of animals from Samos discovered lizard bones mixed in with mammalian fossils that Museum paleontologist Barnum Brown had collected from Greece in 1924. Solounias showed the lizard bones to Jack Conrad, a research associate in the Museum’s Division of Paleontology, who recognized them as those of a varanid, a giant lizard typified by the Komodo dragon. In a new paper in PLOS ONE published last week, Conrad and colleagues Ana Balcarel and Carl Mehling have identified the 30-odd bone fragments, which fit in a box 8 inches long, as the remains of the oldest giant lizard ever to walk the Earth. If proportioned like its relatives, the new species—Varanus amnhophilis, or the Samos dragon—was 6 feet long.
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Have a question for a paleontologist? On July 18, head over to leading technology blog Gizmodo at 1:30 pm for a chance to ask the Museum’s Provost of Science Michael Novacek what led him to become interested in his field, and anything else you wanted to know about paleontology but were afraid to ask.
Nearly 20 years ago, Dr. Novacek was one of the discoverers of the Gobi Desert’s Ukhaa Tolgod, the richest Cretaceous fossil vertebrate site in the world. He has also led paleontological expeditions to Baja California, Mexico; the Andes Mountains of Chile; and the Yemen Arab Republic in search of fossil mammals and dinosaurs.
Earlier this month, blogs Gizmodo and iO9 launched What Was It, is a series of short interviews that asks the luminaries of science and technology what inspired them. Read interviews with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, and astronaut Mae Jemison, then join the conversation with Dr. Novacek on July 18 at Gizmodo.com.
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After millions of years of evolution, only one human species remains: Homo sapiens. In this podcast, join Museum Curator Emeritus Ian Tattersall in a discussion about his recent book, Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins—a history of paleoanthropology and an account of how Homo sapiens survived while other human species went extinct.
Dr. Tattersall’s talk was recorded at the Museum on April 2, 2012.
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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.