Blogs & Videos: Science Newsflash

Science Newsflash brings you the most current scientific news stories from The Field Museum. 

Born from the Ashes

You know that part in Game of Thrones where the dragon eggs hatch when they’re put in fire? This is like that, but with a super-endangered flower. Illinois’s only native wildflower, the Kankakee mallow, has been missing from this state for years—it was presumed extinct in its native habitat. But this year, Field Museum scientists and volunteers from the Friends of Langham Island group were able to bring it back. Their secret? Setting fire to the ground where the plants once lived.

Tea Parties, Bird Barf, and Rat Skulls

At tea parties, etiquette is key. You need to know which spoon to use, whether to pour the milk or the tea first, and, when a fellow scientist hands you an owl pellet for your research, how to graciously accept it and dissect it right there at the table. Field Museum collections manager Bill Stanley was at a garden tea party in Tanzania when a colleague handed him a coffee can containing an owl pellet for him to study. The hacked-up mass of fur and bones contained the key to a scientific discovery—the skull of a rat never before seen in the region.

“Scarface”: The Dachshund-sized Pre-mammal with a (Possibly) Venomous Bite

Two hundred and fifty-two million years ago, huge volcanic eruptions triggered a mass extinction bigger than the one that ended the dinosaurs, changing life on earth forever. Field Museum scientist Ken Angielczyk and his colleagues are now studying this event, the Permian-Triassic Extinction, to learn about how communities bounce back after falling apart. And one newly discovered ancient mammal relative is helping them get closer to their answers—meet “Scarface.”

Monsters Storm The Field

Invertebrate paleontologists aren’t afraid of anything, so when Collections Manager Paul Mayer was offered a chance to add hundreds of monsters to The Field’s collections, he jumped at the opportunity. The monsters in question, Tully monsters, are just a small part of the enormous donation of Thomas V. Testa’s collection of Mazon Creek fossils that The Field Museum just received from Field Associate Jack Wittry.  

Peregrine Falcons Removed from IL Endangered List

Peregrine Falcons have their share of claims to fame—with a diving speed of over 200 miles per hour, they’re the fastest animals in the world, and they’ve adapted from living on rocky cliffs to a different kind of “mountain”: Chicago’s skyscrapers.  But in 1951, there were none left in Illinois, and it looked as if the species would be wiped out of North America entirely. Today, thanks largely to the Chicago Peregrine Program headed by The Field Museum’s Mary Hennen, Peregrines are flourishing to the point that they’re no longer in immediate danger.

New Discoveries in How Animal Moms-to-Be Feed Their Babies

Pop quiz—what kinds of animal mothers feed their babies before birth? The first (and maybe only) ones to come to mind are probably mammals like us—moms-to-be funnel nutrients from their blood supply right to their developing embryos through an organ called the placenta; the moms literally “eat for two.” That’s a different kind of nourishment than you see in most other animals—the majority lay eggs with a nutritious yolk for the embryo to use as it develops.

Sawfish “Virgin Birth” Discovery

“Life, uh, finds a way.” Any Field Museum fan worth their salt probably remembers the scene in Jurassic Park where Jeff Goldblum’s character explains that even though all the dinosaurs in the park are female, they might still find a way to reproduce. But this isn’t science fiction—Field Museum scientists have recently helped discover that smalltooth sawfish, critically endangered shark relatives, sometimes reproduce through “virgin birth.”

Kilimanjaro's Small Mammals

Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania has captured the imagination for decades, and climbing it is one of the most common items on the proverbial bucket list.  “Kili” is not only the tallest mountain in Africa, it is the tallest free-standing (isolated and not part of a mountain range) massif in the world.  Thousands of climbers ascend Kilimanjaro every year, trekking through multiple habitat zones to reach the summit which is 5895 m (19571 feet) above sea level.