Archive for the 'Speciation' category

New Species of Giant Flightless Bird Described in NYC

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Years ago, when Zoologist Mike Dickison was in the early stages of his PhD, he gave a joke presentation at a graduate student conference on the taxonomy and evolution of a giant flightless bird. It was the sort of thing you'd see at any conference on avian evolution: a Latin name, reconstructed skeleton, possible place on the great evolutionary tree of birds. The tone was completely serious, despite the subject matter -- the sort of thing that might be found in the Journal of Irreproducible Results back when it was funny.
Then, in the storage cabinets of the Berlin Museum of Natural History one summer's day, Dickison opened a drawer and had a revelation -- an original scientific insight that he is now sharing with the world: he realised what kind of bird he was working with, and figured out something of its evolutionary history.
Dr Dickison's astonishing findings were presented and recorded at the Christchurch PechaKucha #8 in May, and now the audio and (more-or-less) synchronised slides have been uploaded. (A pecha-kucha is a talk in which 20 slides play for exactly 20 seconds each, and the speaker tries to keep up.) All the science is real, and no birds were harmed in the course of this research.

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Evolution in Action by AMNH

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This video tells the story of speciation in Central Africa's roiling, rapid Lower Congo River. This river is home to an extraordinary assortment of fish -- many truly bizarre. This new video by Science Bulletins, the American Museum of Natural History's current-science video program, features Museum scientists on a quest to understand why so many species have evolved here. Follow Curator of Ichthyology Melanie Stiassny and her team as they search the Lower Congo River's mysterious depths for an evolutionary driver.

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Inside the Collections: Ichthyology at AMNH

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This video is the first of a new series of behind-the-scenes looks at the collections at the American Museum of Natural History. In this video, Melanie Stiassny, Axelrod Research Curator in the Department of Ichthyology, takes us through the Museum's vast collection of fishes.

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In Search of Madagascar's Chameleons

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With Madagascar containing nearly two-third's of the world's chameleon species, Christopher Raxworthy, Associate Curator of Herpetology at the American Museum of Natural History, recently embarked on an expedition to the island in search of these special lizards. His hope was to track down the lined-chameleon in order to further study speciation on Madagascar.

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New Species of Orchid is World's Smallest

Nov 30 2009 Published by under Biology, Evolution, Speciation

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A close-up of the world's smallest orchid, at just over 2mm from petal tip to petal tip.
Image: Lou Jost.

The world's smallest orchid was discovered recently in a mountainous nature reserve in Ecuador by American botanist Lou Jost. Dr. Jost, a former physicist, now works as a mathematical ecologist, plant biogeographer and conservation scientist, and is one of the world's most expert orchid hunters. In the previous decade, Dr. Jost discovered 60 new species of orchids and 10 other new plant species. He discovered this diminutive plant whilst examining another species of small orchid that he was cultivating.
"I found it among the roots of another plant that I had collected, another small orchid which I took back to grow in my greenhouse to get it to flower," Dr. Jost stated. "A few months later I saw that down among the roots was a tiny little plant that I realized was more interesting than the bigger orchid."

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Why Study the Tree of Life?

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This video presents a very brief glimpse into what I do as a professional researcher studying "my birds" -- the parrots of the South Pacific Ocean (during those rare and beautiful times when I actually have a job!!). To say the least, it fills me with intense longing to reclaim my long lost life.

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Discovering the Great Tree of Life

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This video presents a very brief glimpse into what I do as a professional researcher studying "my birds" -- the parrots of the South Pacific Ocean (during those rare and beautiful times when I actually have a job!!). It features interviews with one of the scientists whom I worked with when I was in grad school at the University of Washington: Scott Edwards, who now is at Harvard University. To say the least, this video fills me with intense longing to reclaim my long lost life.

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REPRISE: Dead Birds Do Tell Tales

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A young pair of Meyer's Lories (Lorikeets), Trichoglossus flavoviridis meyeri.
Image: Iggino [larger view].

"Can you help us identify a mystery lory in our collection?"
I was pleasantly surprised to find this email request from Donna Dittmann, Collections Manager and Museum Preparator for the Section of Genetic Resources at Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Evolution of Squeaker Catfishes in Africa's Lake Tanganyika

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The Cuckoo Catfish, Synodontis multipunctatus [Siluriformes: Mochokidae].
This is the only fish that is a known brood parasite.
This is one of the species included in this newly-published study.
Image: orphaned.

ResearchBlogging.org

One of the groups of fishes that I worked with as an aquarist for nearly my entire life are the synodontids, often known as "squeaker catfish" for their ability to make high-pitched sounds. These medium- to large-sized African catfishes are attractive, long-lived and intelligent, and many species in this genus exhibit a variety of distinctive breeding behaviors. For example, S. multipunctatus (pictured above) is the only fish documented to practice brood parasitism: it sneaks its eggs in with those of mouthbrooding cichlids in Lake Tanganyika, and its larvae grow faster than those of the host and feed on them. Add that to a fascinating evolutionary history, which is still being deciphered, and you have a very interesting group of fishes.

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Plumage Color Influences Choice of Mates and Sex of Chicks in Gouldian Finches, Erythrura gouldiae

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The three color morphs of Gouldian finches, Erythrura gouldiae.
Image: Sarah Pryke, Macquarie University.

ResearchBlogging.org

Gouldian finches, Erythrura gouldiae, are small cavity-nesting passerines that are endemic to open savannahs adjacent to mangrove swamps in northern Australia. These finches eat a variety of native grass seeds, but to meet the increased energetic and nutritional demands of rearing chicks, they primarily eat insects when breeding. Gouldian finches are social birds that typically occur in large flocks in the wild. Invasive species, disease and habitat destruction have dramatically reduced their population so there currently are fewer than 2500 individuals remaining in the wild. But these beautiful birds are popular avicultural subjects so there is an active conservation and captive breeding program designed to preserve them.

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