Blogging from west Kenya, William Harcourt-Smith, a research associate in the Division of Paleontology, is directing a 20-million-year-old paleontological site on two islands in Lake Victoria. One of these islands, Rusinga, is best known as the site of the discovery of the first fossils of Proconsul, an early ape. Harcourt-Smith’s multidisciplinary team includes physical anthropologists and geologists, and in addition to collecting fossils, researchers are trying to learn more about the evolutionary events and environmental conditions that may have influenced the emergence of Proconsul and other early ape lineages.
Whether Museum scientists are studying parasites, people, or planets in other solar systems, cutting-edge imaging technologies such as infrared photography, scanning electron microscopes, and CT scanners now make it possible to examine details that were previously unobservable. A new exhibition, Picturing Science: Museum Scientists and Imaging Technologies, features more than 20 sets of large-format images that showcase the wide range of research being conducted at the Museum as well as how various optical tools are used in scientific studies.
On Thursday, July 7, the Museum’s Tumblr and Twitter followers are invited to a special after-hours viewing of the exhibition, including visits to cutting-edge research labs, the opportunity to meet Museum scientists, and more. Visit the application page to find out more about the event and sign up for your chance to attend.
The Museum’s new blog on Tumblr, which showcases a wide range of photos taken by staff photographers, was recently added to Tumblr’s Spotlight, a directory of inspiring blogs, in the Science category.
Daily photos provide an insider’s look at work that goes on behind the scenes at the Museum (like cleaning T. rex’s teeth), interesting specimens from the Museum’s collection, and beautiful shots of the Museum’s iconic halls.
his species of North American leech, Placobdella kwetlumye, was identified by two graduate students, Alejandro Oceguera-Figueroa of the City University of New York and the American Museum of Natural History and Sebastian Kvist of the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School.
Like all leeches and their relatives, P. kwetlumye is hermaphroditic, which means that individuals are both male and female. The parent leech carries the eggs until they hatch—and then some.
“Once they hatch, they attach to the parent with their suckers, and the parent will carry them to their first blood meal,” says Kvist.
The preferred “blood meal” for P. kwetlumye is typically from turtles, frogs, aquatic birds, and amphibians like salamanders. The leeches won’t say no to a nice drink of human blood, however. Oceguera-Figueroa collected the leeches in Washington State by wading bare-legged into the shallow water and picking off the leeches that attached, a common collection method.