Blogs & Videos: Mammals

The Flapper and the Panda

In 1936, Ruth Harkness - a dressmaker from New York -- set off to China in search of the rare, elusive Giant Panda. Her goal? Bring one back alive to share the wonder of China's wildlife with the western world. She became the first explorer to do so, and so set in motion a public fascination with these creatures that continues 80 years later. Additional images c/o Ruth Harkness, "The Lady and the Panda," 1938, and the Chicago Zoological Society. 

Ridiculously cute mouse lemurs hold key to Madagascar’s past

Today, Madagascar is home to a mosaic of different habitats—a lush rainforest in the east and a dry deciduous forest in the west, separated by largely open highlands. But the island off the southeast coast of Africa hasn’t always been like that—a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences announces that these two ecologically different portions of the island were once linked by a patchwork of forested areas. And to figure it out, the scientists analyzed the DNA of some of the cutest animals on earth—mouse lemurs.

Mammals began their takeover long before the death of the dinosaurs

It’s a familiar story—the mighty dinosaurs dominated their prehistoric environment, while tiny mammals took a backseat, until the dinosaurs (besides birds) went extinct 66 million years ago, allowing mammals to shine. Just one problem—it’s not true. A new article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B reports that mammals actually began their massive diversification ten to twenty million years before the extinction that ended the age of the dinosaurs.

Drawing of an animal that looks like a large cat with small ears and long, sharp teeth

Dueling sabers: What this marsupial has in common with a cat

Saber-toothed cats such as Smilodon are easy to recognize, thanks to their long, sharp canine teeth. But saber-toothed cats had an unexpected lookalike: something more closely related to a kangaroo than a cat. Thylacosmilus was a saber-toothed mammal most closely related to marsupials, living in South America between seven and three million years ago. The marsupial’s young would continue developing after birth, while the placental saber-toothed cat gave birth to developed offspring.

Putting Together the Pieces to Prevent Tiger Extinction

Two hundred years ago, over 60,000 tigers lived in India. This figure has since decreased by 90 percent. Today, fewer than 3,500 tigers remain in the wild, and only seven percent of the historic tiger habitat remains. These habitats, mostly scattered across India, are becoming increasingly isolated as the country continues to urbanize. Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan, a population geneticist and biodiversity ecologist at India's National Centre for Biological Sciences, uses genetic information from tigers and landscape modeling of India to help curtail this disturbing trend.  

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