Blogs & Videos: Science Newsflash

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

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. 

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.

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