Showing blog posts tagged with "Our Research"
by AMNH on
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.
by AMNH on
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.
by AMNH on
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.
by AMNH on
Museum astrophysicist Jacqueline Faherty, who recently completed her doctorate under the supervision of Curator Michael Shara, was one of five students at Stony Brook University who received the 2011 President’s Award for Distinguished Doctoral Students.
Faherty’s dissertation looked at the kinematics of brown dwarfs—objects intermediate between planets and stars because they aren’t massive enough for nuclear fusion. The award citation is:
“For creating the largest extant catalog of uniform astrometric data on brown dwarfs, and for making signiﬁcant contributions to our understanding of the nature and physics of brown dwarfs based upon this astrometric data.”
by AMNH on
Small enough to climb onto the inflorescence, or flower cluster, of a palm plant, this tiny mouse opossum belongs to a newly re-classified South American species: Zeledon’s mouse opossum (Marmosa zeledoni). Minute marsupials like this one are rarely seen at flowers, but this species may be a pollinator for some neotropical palms.
Zeledon’s mouse opossum was previously lumped together with the Mexican mouse opossum, Marmosa mexicana. But in a recent study partly funded by the National Science Foundation, Curator Rob Voss of the Division of Vertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History and colleagues examined roughly 1,500 mouse opossum specimens, some collected from as far back as the 1800s. They determined that what had been known as the Mexican mouse opossum could actually be subdivided into two different species.