Evolutionary Biology

Who's your daddy? A hybird duck in Glenview

Museums such as the Field are deeply involved with describing and understanding the natural world. Hybrids can confuse that understanding, even to the point that they get described as new species. Many hybrids have English names that reflect that history, like Brewer's Duck (Gadwall x Mallard) and Brewster's and Lawrence's Warblers (variations of Golden-winged x Blue-winged Warbler hyrbids).

What are the feathers in those Amazonian headdresses?

Working at the Field Museum, I get to see some pretty special things. Whether it's because of rarity, antiquity, or something that's just plain weird, the museum provides surprises in abundance. Today was one of those days where routine gave way to surprise when Dylan Lott, a graduate student in Anthropology at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), showed up needing help identifying feathers. These weren't just any feathers, they were feathers attached to incredible artifacts that a UIC professor had collected from an Amazonian tribe called the Parintintin in the late 1960s.

Things seen in the Bird Division #8 (or: A once-sacred ibis)

This taxidermied specimen of Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) has been on display the Field Museum's Ancient Egypt exhibit for about 27 years. Indeed, its name derives from the fact that ancient Egyptians considered the birds sacred (ironically, Sacred Ibis no longer occurs in Egypt). The exhibit's department decided it was time to do some repairs. It needs some clever work to make it look just right again; that's the job of Chief Preparator Tom Gnoske.

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