Tag Archives: smithsonian institution

Study finds turtles are closer kin to birds, crocodiles than to lizards, snakes

What are turtles, and where did they come from?

Precise answers to these questions have long eluded scientists. But new research led by Daniel Field of Yale University and the Smithsonian Institution recasts the turtle’s disputed evolutionary history, providing fresh evidence that the familiar reptiles are more closely related to birds and crocodiles than to lizards and snakes. (more…)

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Evolution, Civil War History Entwine in Fossil Find

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A fossil leaf fragment collected decades ago on a Virginia canal bank has been identified by a University of Maryland doctoral student as one of North America’s oldest flowering plants, a 115- to 125-million-year-old species new to science. The fossil find, an ancient relative of today’s bleeding hearts, poses a new puzzle in the study of plant evolution: did Earth’s dominant group of flowering plants evolve along with its distinctive pollen? Or did pollen come later?

The find also unearths a forgotten chapter in Civil War history reminiscent of the film “Twelve Years a Slave,” but with a twist. In 1864, Union Army troops forced a group of freed slaves into involuntary labor, digging a canal along the James River at Dutch Gap, Va. The captive men’s shovels exposed the oldest flowering plant fossil beds in North America, where the new plant species was ultimately found. (more…)

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American history at your fingertips

The launch of the Digital Public Library of America brings greater access to local treasures.

History became easier for the nation and the world to access, thanks to the recent launch of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

The DPLA is a groundbreaking project that, for the first time, will make many of America’s significant digital collections searchable and accessible to the public from a single site. It will aggregate millions of digital artifacts from local archives, libraries, museums, and cultural heritage institutions across America and deliver them to students, teachers, scholars, and the public via a powerful search interface. (more…)

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How the turtle got its shell

The turtle has been in no rush to give up the secret of its shell — but after two centuries of close study, scientists are filling in the story of a structure unique in the history of life.

New research led by Tyler Lyson of Yale University and the Smithsonian Institution pushes back the origins of the turtle shell by about 40 million years, linking it to Eunotosaurus, a 260-million-year-old fossil reptile from South Africa. The work strengthens the fossil record and bolsters an existing theory about shell development while providing new details about its precise evolutionary pathway. (more…)

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Behind the Surface: 19th-Century Haitian Paintings Provide Link to Past

Behind the surface of a painting lies the history of its making. Scholars now know more about the histories of some 19th-century Haitian paintings held in Yale’s collections, thanks to the collaborative efforts of colleagues from Yale, the Smithsonian Institution, and Haiti.

The participants in the project originally came together out of concern for the future of the paintings, many of which are in need of restoration and conservation efforts. Now that preliminary studies of the paintings are complete, planning is underway for the next phase: preserving these portraits for future audiences and researchers. (more…)

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Ice Age Mariners From Europe Were Among America’s First People

Some of the earliest humans to inhabit America came from Europe according to a new book.

Across Atlantic Ice puts forward a compelling case for people from northern Spain travelling to America by boat, following the edge of a sea ice shelf that connected Europe and America during the last Ice Age, 14,000 to 25,000 years ago.

Across Atlantic Ice is the result of more than a decade’s research by leading archaeologists Professor Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter and Dr Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian Institution. Through archaeological evidence, they turn the long-held theory of the origins of New World populations on its head.

For more than 400 years, it has been claimed that people first entered America from Asia, via a land bridge that spanned the Bering Sea. We now know that some people did arrive via this route nearly 15,000 years ago, probably by both land and sea. (more…)

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Rare Deep-Water Giant Squid from South Florida Brought to UF for Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. University of Florida researchers received a rare 25-foot-long, deep-water giant squid Monday, the only one of its kind in the collections of the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Recovered by recreational fishermen who found the creature floating on the surface about 12 miles offshore from Jensen Beach Sunday, museum scientists collected the specimen from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Tequesta Field Laboratory in Palm Beach County and returned to the Gainesville campus late Monday. (more…)

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Black Hole at Milky Way Core Powers Galaxy’s Fastest Stars

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The black hole at the center of the galaxy is to blame for sling-shotting “hypervelocity stars” out of the Milky Way at up to 1.8 million miles per hour, according to new evidence from research involving a University of Michigan astronomer. 

Hypervelocity stars, discovered about five years ago, are the fastest stars astronomers have ever observed. They are escaping the galaxy at beyond what was thought to be its stellar speed limit.

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