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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.
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Back by popular demand, Frogs: A Chorus of Colors, opens at the Museum on Saturday, May 28. Featuring more than 200 live frogs, from the tiny golden mantella frog to the enormous African bullfrog, this dynamic exhibition introduces visitors to these complex amphibians, their biology and evolution, their importance to ecosystems, and the threats they face in the wild.
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Celebrating decades of groundbreaking exploration in East Africa, renowned paleoanthropologists Donald Johanson and Richard Leakey shared the stage at the American Museum of Natural History recently to discuss the overwhelming evidence for evolution in the hominid fossil record and why understanding our evolutionary history is so important. In this podcast, join the discussion, moderated by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for CNN.
Known for such landmark discoveries as “Lucy” (Johanson) and “Turkana Boy” (Leakey), the work of these two scientists has produced much of the fossil evidence that forms our understanding of human evolution.
Looking back over careers spanning 40-plus years, Dr. Johanson and Dr. Leakey shared the stories behind their monumental finds and offered a look at what’s ahead in human evolutionary research.
This historic event was made possible through a joint partnership of the American Museum of Natural History, the Arizona State University Institute of Human Origins, and the Turkana Basin Institute, headquartered in the U.S. at Stony Brook University.
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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.”