Blogs & Videos: Series

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.

Newly-discovered dinosaur had “T. rex arms” that evolved independently

Scientists still aren’t sure why T. rex had those absurdly small forelimbs, but apparently the look was all the rage in the Late Cretaceous. A newly-discovered dinosaur from Patagonia has similar short, two-fingered claws, even though it’s not closely related to the tyrannosaurs.

Bringing Neanderthals to Life: The Sculptures of Elisabeth Daynès

There’s a lot to see in The Field Museum’s Evolving Planet exhibition—a rock bearing traces of life from a billion years ago, a seventy-two-foot-long Apatosaurus, a towering prehistoric giant sloth. But two new displays in the section on human evolution have been literally stopping visitors in their tracks. Two new sculptures, created by French paleoartist Elisabeth Daynès, give a breathtakingly lifelike look at human relatives—Homo ergaster and Homo neanderthalensis.

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.

Strange sea-dwelling reptile fossil hints at rapid evolution after mass extinction

Two hundred and fifty million years ago, life on earth was in a tail-spin—climate change, volcanic eruptions, and rising sea levels contributed to a mass extinction that makes the death of the dinosaurs look like child’s play. Marine life got hit hardest—96% of all marine species went extinct. For a long time, scientists believed that the early marine reptiles that came about after the mass extinction evolved slowly, but the recent discovery of a strange new fossil brings that view into question.

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