PROFILE: Clare Flemming
A Field Associate for the American Museum of Natural History’s Department of Mammalogy, Clare Flemming spends much of her time climbing rocks, rappelling down cliffs, and crawling through tight spaces in caves. Why? “Because that’s where the bones are, and bones are what I am looking for.” An expert on a family of large extinct rodents that lived on Caribbean Islands, Flemming has found fragments of bones and teeth that have contributed greatly to the picture of what once lived on the island of Puerto Rico. “What we know today as rodents are a small fraction of what once existed. For instance, there are no native land mammals on the island of Puerto Rico. In fact, bats are the only native mammals living on the island. But several thousand years ago, very large rodents inhabited most of the island.”
Flemming, who works with Ross MacPhee, Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology (Mammalogy) at the Museum, sees a clear connection between her research and biodiversity. “We don’t know what is extinct and how much diversity once existed until we find evidence. This evidence is found as bone fragments and teeth that remain thousands of years after the animals have disappeared. Reconstructing a whole animal or group of animals from these little pieces is like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle about life.”
More About This Resource...
This online article, from The Biodiversity Crisis: Losing What Counts, profiles a scientist who searches for extinct mammals. It takes a quick look at:
- The vigorous nature of Clare Flemming's work as an expert on a family of large extinct rodents that lived on the Caribbean islands.
- The connection between her research and the study of biodiversity.
Supplement a study of ecology or biodiversity with an activity drawn from this essay about a scientist who searches for extinct mammals.
- Send students to this online article, or print copies of the essay for them to read.
- Have them research and report on what has been learned so far about the extinct rodents that lived on the Caribbean islands.