Articles on Natural history

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With a lot not on display, museums may not even know all that’s in their vast holdings. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Digitizing the vast ‘dark data’ in museum fossil collections

A tiny percentage of museums’ natural history holdings are on display. Very little of these vast archives is digitized and available online. But museums are working to change that.
Brazil’s gutted National Museum now resembles an archaeological ruin itself. AP Photo/Mario Lobao

Lesson from Brazil: Museums are not forever

It's a comforting falsehood that once an artifact joins a museum's collection, it's safe for eternity. Museums face many foes in the fight to preserve – a lack of funds might be the biggest.
This clay facial reconstruction of Kennewick Man, carefully sculpted around the morphological features of his skull, suggests how he may have looked alive nearly 9,000 years ago. Brittney Tatchell, Smithsonian Institution

Kennewick Man will be reburied, but quandaries around human remains won’t

A 9,000-year-old skeleton became a high-profile and highly contested case for the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. How do we respectfully deal with ancient human remains?
New forms of life are discovered in high-tech ways that leave yesterday’s natural history collections in the dust. Detective image via www.shutterstock.com.

The modern, molecular hunt for the world’s biodiversity

Forget the pith helmet and butterfly net. Discovering biodiversity now is much more about metagenomics and the 0's and 1's of digital databases.
What do collections of dead butterflies do for their still-living counterparts? Andrew D Warren

Why we still collect butterflies

The dead animal specimens that comprise natural history collections contribute a lot toward scientific understanding of their still-living counterparts – and those that have gone extinct.
Alexander von Humboldt selfportrait.

The most influential scientist you may never have heard of

Gaze at Alexander Von Humboldt’s 1814 self-portrait and you peer into the eyes of a man who sought to see and understand everything. By this point in his life, at age 45, Humboldt had tutored himself in…
Crocodiles keep their own secrets. Tambako

The unknown crocodiles

Slow, lazy, stupid? It's time to update your impression of the crocodilians. These animals are up to amazing things that we're only beginning to observe and recognize.

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