Blogs & Videos: Science Newsflash

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

Book of Eggs

Field Museum scientists and colleagues have just released a new book, entitled The Book of Eggs. The book is a lifesize guide that introduces readers to six hundred bird species from around the world, whose eggs are housed mostly at The Field Museum. Readers will embark on a journey told through individual stories that highlight the strategies employed by birds to successfully reproduce through the fragile but colorful structure that is the egg.

Sharks and Soup

From the salt-cured fish eggs of caviar to snails roasted in garlic, the human race has come up with many strange delicacies, some of which are offered locally.  In fact, Chicago’s Chinatown is famous for offering products derived from dried shark fins, such as shark fin soup – a broth delicacy containing fibers of cartilage from shark fins.  Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding shark fin soup has little to do with its texture – several of the shark species from which the fins come are endangered or vulnerable, raising questions about their conservation.

Sue's Microbes go to Space

The citizen science project, called Project MERCURRI, is designed to compare microbes from different environments on Earth both to each other and to those found on the International Space Station.  All together, 48 microbial species were selected to blast into orbit aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 shuttle to the International Space Station for research later this month.

Mummies and Cheetahs, in 3D!

Contrary to the image of mummies portrayed by the popular Scooby-Doo cartoon, mummies are not monsters, capable of smashing through walls; in fact, most mummies are too fragile even to stand on end. Egyptian mummies are embalmed lying on their back, and so fit easily into a medical CT scanner, which looks a bit like a spaceship with a table for the patient that slides through a hole in the middle of the machine. Peruvian mummies are a different story, though, since they were buried crouching – the larger examples won’t fit through the hole.

The Future of DNA Investigations at The Field Museum

  The glass windows that enclose The Field Museum’s Pritzker Laboratory on the second floor of the museum give visitors a glimpse into the daily lives of the scientists, students, and interns that work there.  Now, visitors can also get a glimpse of the future – a new DNA sequencer has arrived, and its users are busy enjoying its capabilities!

An Earlier Great Wall of China

The centuries before China’s unification under the Qin Dynasty (221 BC) are known as the Warring States period, an era when large armies clashed in fierce competitions for power and territory.  The rulers of these competing large states amassed giant armies of tens of thousands of infantrymen, who marched in combat against their enemies.  In China, one innovation against such attacks was the construction of fortification walls built along borders.  

Shark Sense

Scientists are finding that some animals have a sense of where they came from – a homing device of sorts – and often return to their birthplace later in life.  You may be familiar with this behavior in salmon; the migration of salmon from the ocean to their freshwater spawning habitat is one of the most extreme in the animal kingdom!  This behavior is termed “natal philopatry”, which refers to animals returning to their own birthplace to give birth to their young.  In the marine world, natal philopatry has been documented in salmon, seals, and some sea turtles; but for the first time, the phenomenon has been recognized in lemon sharks. 

Not One, Not Two, But Four New Species!

In our recent history, it has not been uncommon for scientists to collect plant and animal specimens from the remotest corners of our planet, and then bring them home to be a part of a collection at a museum.  It’s also not uncommon for some of these specimens to remain undescribed (meaning that no official characterization of the animal has been published in the scientific literature) for years, due to the large number of specimens in the collection.  Many times, new species have been discovered hiding among the specimens in a collection, sometimes 50 years after the specimen was collected.  Of course, it helps if the animal is fossilized – this is the reason scientists are still discovering new species of dinosaurs that once walked the earth!

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