Marston Library, museum to honor winners of science art competition March 20

February 27th, 2015

12790-The-Elegance-of-Science-rotatorGAINESVILLE, Fla. — The winning artists of images of nanoparticles to a woolly mammoth in the University of Florida Elegance of Science Contest will be recognized in an award ceremony at the Florida Museum of Natural History March 20 at 3:30 p.m.

A committee of six judges from Gainesville’s art and science communities evaluated 94 entries on their scientific and artistic merit.

“I enjoyed seeing the variety of ways you can interpret ‘the elegance of science,’” said judge and professional photographer Kristen Grace, who also works at the Florida Museum. “Some were as simple as a dewdrop on a flower petal and (more…)

Tropical turtle discovery in Wyoming provides climate-change clues

February 23rd, 2015
University of Florida paleontologist Jason Bourque reconstructs the 56-million-year-old shell of a newly described genus and species of ancient tropical turtle in his lab on Feb. 9, 2015. The fossil turtle gives clues to how today’s species might react to warming habitats. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

University of Florida paleontologist Jason Bourque reconstructs the 56-million-year-old shell of a newly described genus and species of ancient tropical turtle in his lab on Feb. 9, 2015. The fossil turtle gives clues to how today’s species might react to warming habitats.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Tropical turtle fossils discovered in Wyoming by University of Florida scientists reveal that when the earth got warmer, prehistoric turtles headed north. But if today’s turtles try the same technique to cope with warming habitats, they might run into trouble.

While the fossil turtle and its kin could move northward with higher temperatures, human pressures and habitat loss could prevent a modern-day migration, leading to the extinction of some modern species.

The newly discovered genus and species, Gomphochelys (pronounced gom-fo-keel-eez) nanus – provides a clue to how animals might respond to future climate change, said Jason Bourque, a paleontologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History at UF and the lead author of the study, which appears online this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The wayfaring turtle was among the species that researchers believe migrated 500-600 miles north 56 million years ago, during a temperature peak known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Lasting about 200,000 years, the temperature peak resulted in significant movement and diversification of plants and animals.

“We knew that some plants and lizards migrated north when the climate warmed, but (more…)

Study finds luna moths evolved long spinning tails to defend against bats

February 16th, 2015
A new study shows luna moths, Actias luna, such as this specimen from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity collections, spin their long hingwing tails to divert bat attacks.  Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Geena Hill

A new study shows luna moths, Actias luna, such as this specimen from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity collections, spin their long hingwing tails to divert bat attacks.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Geena Hill

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In the cover of night, an unseen war between bats and moths has been raging for 60 million years—and a new study suggests the insects have evolved long tails as a defense.

The collaborative work between University of Florida and Boise State University researchers is a first step in determining why bats are lured into striking a false target and could have implications on sonar development for the military, said study co-author Akito Kawahara, assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

“This finding expands our knowledge of anti-predator deflection strategies and the extent of a long-standing evolutionary arms race between bats and moths,” Kawahara said.

The study appearing today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows luna moths spin their long hindtails as they fly, confusing the sonar cries bats use to image prey and other objects. Diversionary tactics, such as false eye spots and (more…)

Register for summer, field camps beginning March 15

February 9th, 2015
Campers explore a recreated Calusa leader's house in the "South Florida People & Environments" exhibition during a 2011 summer camp. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

Campers explore a recreated Calusa leader’s house in the “South Florida People & Environments” exhibition during a 2011 summer camp.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

Early sign-up for museum members opens March 1

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Register your child beginning March 15 for adventures and scientific exploration at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s summer and field camps.

Students in grades 1-4 for the 2015-2016 school year can examine fossils, discover ancient cultures, learn about past and present ecosystems and meet some of the most interesting members of the animal kingdom during the weeklong camps that run June 8-July 31. Students in grades 5-6 may register for a field camp focusing on nature photography the week of Aug. 3.

“Museum camps are always an exciting and fun way to learn about everything from insects, collecting, engineering and chemistry to (more…)

Register now for K-5 spring break camps March 23-27

February 2nd, 2015
Atlatl lesson

Children learn to use an atlatl, a prehistoric hunting tool, during a 2013 spring break camp.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Students will have the opportunity to explore Florida habitats and learn how living things move during the Florida Museum of Natural History’s new series of spring break camps March 23-27.

The camps for students enrolled in grades K-5 for the 2014-2015 school year provide natural history exploration through museum exhibits and hands-on activities.

“Museum camps are a great way to channel your child’s spring fever,” said Florida Museum public programs coordinator Catherine Carey. “Here is a chance to learn about nature and have fun all at the same time.”

Pre-registration is required for all camps and (more…)

‘Passport’ gala Feb. 20 to support student programs

January 28th, 2015

PassportGAINESVILLE, Fla. — Prepare for a dizzying race around the globe and join the Florida Museum of Natural History for a thrilling quest at the “Passport to: Around the World in 80 Days” gala Feb. 20 from 7 to 11 p.m.

This year’s event features dinner catered by Blue Water Bay, the ultimate voyage created by Keith Watson Productions and dancing with The Savants of Soul. This is the first year the gala is raising funds for children’s educational programming through the museum’s Center for Science Learning.

“We want to offer a variety of engaging opportunities that foster students’ sense of wonder and discovery,” said Betty Dunckel. Florida Museum Center for Science Learning director. “We hope these experiences will generate excitement, expand interests and deepen understanding of science and its importance in our daily lives.”

Proceeds will provide critical funds to support museum projects for pre-K through 12th-grade students, including admission assistance for Title 1 schools, outreach to elementary classrooms and (more…)

Fossils link Caribbean bat extinction to humans, not climate change

January 22nd, 2015
Soto-Centeno with bat skull

Study co-author J. Angel Soto-Centeno displays the fossilized skull of a Cuban fruit bat, Brachyphylla nana.
Photo courtesy of J. Angel Soto-Centeno

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sharing caves with millions of bats, the Caribbean’s first humans may have driven some species of the winged mammals to extinction.

The new study appearing online today in Scientific Reports rejects previous research that directly connected climate change and the loss of land with the disappearance of bat populations.

Knowing when and how Caribbean bats went extinct could contribute to better understanding biodiversity and how to save modern-day wildlife from meeting the same fate, said co-author David Steadman, a University of Florida ornithologist.

“Ours are the first radiocarbon dates for bat fossils in the whole West Indies,” said Steadman, curator of ornithology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.  “The new dates prove that certain bat populations were still in existence much later than previously thought — around the same time humans arrived.”

The new dates demonstrate that at least five species of bats withstood this climate change and (more…)

New UF study reveals oldest primate lived in trees

January 20th, 2015
Dryomomys szalayi reconstruction

Scientists believe Purgatorius looked similar to Dryomomys szalayi, another primitive primate discovered near Yellowstone National Park by co-author Jonathan Bloch.
Illustration courtesy of Doug Boyer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Say “primate” and most people wouldn’t think of a tree-dwelling, squirrel-like creature that weighs no more than a deck of playing cards, but a new study suggests that may perfectly describe humans’ earliest primate ancestors.

Found in the same area of Montana that yielded the massive Tyrannosaurus rex, new ankle bones smaller than a penny provide the first fossil evidence that the oldest primates lived in trees.

That’s important because living in trees gave those early primates access to food sources that other species lacked – likely a critical factor in why primates succeeded in evolution where others may have failed.

The study appearing this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes the first bones below the skull of Purgatorius—previously known only by its teeth. The shape of the teeth allowed paleontologists to determine the tree shrew-like animal ate insects and (more…)

‘T. rex Named Sue’ Jan. 24 opening features fossils, family fun with Ronald McDonald, UF mascots Albert & Alberta

January 16th, 2015
Sue cast

Visitors to “A T. rex Named Sue” view a fully articulated cast skeleton of the dinosaur.
© The Field Museum

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History will celebrate the opening of its new featured exhibit “A T. rex Named Sue” from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24 with family fun including a fossil dig and other dinosaur-themed activities.

Visitors will have the opportunity to interact with museum researchers and representatives from fossil clubs, sample McDonald’s iced coffee while meeting Ronald McDonald, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and see University of Florida mascots Albert and Alberta from noon to 1 p.m.

“Because our state was underwater while dinosaurs lived, this is a rare chance for Floridians to glimpse the lost world of Tyrannosaurus rex right here in Gainesville,” said Florida Museum educator Tiffany Ireland. “It’s also important for children to speak with scientists and (more…)

Famous ‘A T. rex Named Sue’ exhibit to open Jan. 24, 2015

December 19th, 2014
Sue front

A fully articulated cast skeleton of the dinosaur is the centerpiece of “A T. rex Named Sue.”
© The Field Museum

Editors: Press materials are available at www.flmnh.ufl.edu/pressroom/a-t-rex-named-sue/.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The world’s dinosaur “Sue”-perstar returns to the Florida Museum of Natural History on Jan. 24, 2015, in the featured exhibition “A T. rex Named Sue.”

This bilingual exhibit presents the story of “Sue,” the largest, most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever unearthed. It features a life-size, 42-foot-long cast of the dinosaur and family-friendly interactive components exploring the paleontology that has helped scientists reconstruct Sue’s life and legacy.

In 2002, the Florida Museum was the state’s first venue to host the traveling exhibit, which has been seen by more than 20 million visitors worldwide.

“A whole generation of kids has been born since ‘Sue’ was last here, and (more…)