by AMNH on
Powerful synchrotron scans of Baculites fossils found on American Museum of Natural History expeditions to the Great Plains suggests that the extinct group of marine invertebrates to which they belong, the ammonites, had jaws and teeth adapted for eating small prey floating in the water. One ammonite also provided direct evidence of a planktonic diet because it died with its last meal in its mouth — tiny larval snails and crustacean bits. The detailed description of internal structure of ammonites, published by a Franco-American research team this week in Science, also provides new insights into why ammonites became extinct 65.5 million years ago when an asteroid impact led to the demise of the world’s nonavian dinosaurs and much of the plankton.
“I was astonished when I saw the teeth for the first time, and when I found the tiny plankton in the mouth,” says first author Isabelle Kruta of the Département Histoire de la Terre, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France. Kruta began the project as an Annette Kade fellow at the American Museum of Natural History. “For the first time we could observe these delicate, exceptionally well-preserved structures and obtain information on the ecology of these enigmatic animals.”
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For three nights only, New York’s legendary Joshua Light Show will present Fulldome, an eye-popping, 360-degree work of light and sound that explores the neurological phenomenon synesthesia, or the blending of sensory experiences, in the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium.
The program will begin with an after-hours visit to the exhibition Brain: The Inside Story, which explores how the brain interprets light and sound. Then, visitors will enjoy a multi-sensory experience in the Hayden Planetarium’s Space Theater.
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After more than 200 years of exploration, new species of snakes, chameleons, geckos, and skinks are still being discovered in Madagascar, the fourth-largest island in the world. At the next SciCafe on Wednesday, June 1, Christopher Raxworthy, associate curator in the Department of Herpetology who has spent decades working in Madagascar, will discuss the mix of modern technologies—including satellite imagery and DNA sequencing—and “muddy boots” field biology to remote parts of the island that is making discovery possible today.
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We asked you to help us name Mamenchisaurus, the 60-foot-long female sauropod at the center of The World’s Largest Dinosaurs exhibition. She’s an 18-year-old vegetarian known for her incredible 30-foot-long neck who also happens to love tweeting. She is originally from China, and she just arrived at the Museum this April.
After hundreds of nickname submissions, the finalists are in:
- Brook (the first Mamenchisaurus fossil was found by a river in China)
- Mei Mei (mei means beauty in Chinese)
Now it’s up to you! Visit the contest page to vote for your favorite nickname through Sunday, June 5, Before you vote, you can get to know Mamenchisaurus a little better by following her on Twitter @Giant_Dino or by visiting the exhibition site.
Her new name will be announced on June 7.
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.