Blogs & Videos: Series

The Origin of Mammal Movement: Harvard Adventures, Part I

Paleontologists today look at more than just fossil evidence to learn about organisms that lived millions of years ago. In this case, we're seeking to answer the question: how, and when, did mammals evolve their specialized movements? Turns out, the next step in this process involves dissecting a giant weasel.  This is part one in a three-part series supported in part by The Field Museum, the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, and The National Science Foundation (!!!!). 

“Fire Frogs” and Eel-like Amphibians: Meet The Field’s Newest Fossil Discoveries

Two hundred and seventy-eight million years ago, the world was a different place. Not only were the landmasses merged into the supercontinent of Pangaea, but the land was home to ancient animals unlike anything alive today. But until now, very little information was available about what animals were present in the southern tropics.

Clearing and Staining Fishes

Diaphonization -- otherwise known as clearing and staining -- is one of the most photogenic preparation methods used by research scientists. It's beautiful, but is it practical? We interviewed Dr. Caleb McMahan, Collection Manager of Fishes, on how he uses this technique to answer questions about the evolution of fish! Big thanks to Caleb for taking the time to share his work with us, and to Alan Resetar for lending the reptile and amphibian specimens!... as well as the extra light table because ours broke right before filming. :( 

Six adorable Halloween animals that will make you re-evaluate your ideas of “scary”

Yes, Halloween's all about things that go bump in the night, but at The Field Museum, we're also all about seeing the beauty (and yes, the cuteness) in the natural world. Here are some of our favorite animals that get a bad rap but are actually pretty gosh-darn adorable. 1. Honduran White Bats

Eight behind-the-scenes specimens that will haunt your dreams

The Field Museum is home to about 30 million objects—including a handful of super creepy ones. Here are some of our favorites that walk the line between scientifically valuable and downright horrifying. 1. Freezers full of dead animals deer_head.jpg

Spiders: The First Web Developers

Out of any creatures in the animal kingdom, spiders seem to have the worst reputation. Their many legs and unpredictable movements elicit a fear response in even the most stoic of individuals. Let's take a moment to put our fear aside and learn more about these global dominators with Dr. Petra Sierwald! Dr. Sierwald is an arachnologist specializing in spiders, scorpions, and millipedes. Check out her profile on The Field Museum's website to learn more about her research: 

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.

Millipedes: The First Land Animals

More than 420 million years ago ancient millipedes took their first many -- many many many -- steps onto land. Today they remain largely cryptic animals, as there are tens of thousands of species still unknown to science. Associate Curator Dr. Petra Sierwald, arachnologist and millipede expert, is working to create a visual atlas to help with our understanding and identification of these mysterious creatures! If you find a millipede and would like to have it identified, send us an image! thebrainscoop(at)gmail(dot)com

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.