Celebrate wildlife during 11th annual ButterflyFest Oct. 1

September 9th, 2016

17531-bfest-fb_4_fnlGAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the significant role butterflies have in nature during ButterflyFest on Saturday, Oct. 1.

The free event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. features live butterfly releases, workshops and activities for all ages. This year’s theme, “Why Butterflies Matter,” highlights the ecological importance of butterflies, including serving as environmental indicators and the flagship species for conservation. The insects also are model organisms for many areas of biology research.

“Butterflies are important biological indicators of a healthy environment and ecosystem,” said Jaret Daniels, associate curator and director of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity. “These charismatic ‘gateway bugs’ also help stimulate interest in nature, (more…)

iDigBio project receives $15.5 million NSF grant to digitize biodiversity collections

September 8th, 2016

new_cover_FINALGAINESVILLE, Fla. — Fossil primates, ancient mollusks and exotic butterflies will soon be coming to your home—as long as you have a personal computer.

This week, the National Science Foundation awarded a five-year, $15.5 million grant to the iDigBio project based at the University of Florida to continue leading the national effort to digitize biodiversity collections and make them available online.

iDigBio combines the efforts of the Florida Museum of Natural History, UF’s College of Engineering Advanced Computing Information Systems Laboratory and the Institute for Digital Information and Scientific Communication at Florida State University.

Initiated by the NSF’s Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections program in 2011, iDigBio aims to make the vast amount of information in biodiversity collections readily available online. Collaborating with faculty and (more…)

‘Butterfly Rainforest’ exhibit to close at 4 p.m. through Oct. 6

August 16th, 2016
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The “Butterfly Rainforest” exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History will close early at 4 p.m., with last admission at 3:30 p.m., beginning Wednesday through Oct. 6 for scheduled maintenance.

The exhibit also will be closed all day on Wednesday, Sept. 7, and Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, for installation and removal of scaffolding.

Chase Permann, Florida Museum facility coordinator for exhibits and public programs, said the work includes pressure washing, sanding, (more…)

How did primate brains get so big?

August 11th, 2016

New study sheds light on evolution of human, ape intelligence

A translucent image of Notharctus tenebrous’s skull, showing a virtually constructed brain. Top (bottom right), bottom (bottom left) and side views are shown here. Scan courtesy of Arianna Harrington

This translucent image of a Notharctus tenebrosus skull shows a virtually constructed brain. A side view, top, and bottom and top views of the skull are pictured.
Scan courtesy of Arianna Harrington

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Virtual brains reconstructed from ancient, kiwi-sized primate skulls could help resolve one of the most intriguing evolutionary mysteries: how modern primates developed large brains.

University of Florida paleontologists found clues in the remarkably preserved skulls of adapiforms, lemur-like primates that scurried around the tropical forests of Wyoming about 50 million years ago. Thought to be a link between primitive and advanced primates, their fossil skulls were the best evidence available for understanding the neuroanatomy of the earliest ancestors of modern primates. But there was just one problem—the brain cavities of the fragile skulls contained only rock and (more…)

New species of threatened Florida indigo snake could aid conservation efforts

August 1st, 2016
Florida Museum researchers describe a new species, the Gulf Coast indigo snake, Drymarchon kolpobasileus, pictured here, in a study published in Zootaxa this month. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kenneth L. Krysko

Florida Museum researchers recently described a new species, the Gulf Coast indigo snake, pictured here.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kenneth L. Krysko

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — They seem similar at first glance, but it turns out the indigo snakes found on Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts are not two of a kind.

Ten years of research by Florida Museum of Natural History scientists led to new information about the origins of Florida’s largest native snake species, which may impact efforts by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to conserve the reptiles and their environments.

Museum researchers confirmed that two distinct lineages of indigo snakes live on opposite sides of Florida. Differences in the genetics and appearances of the Gulf Coast and (more…)

First ‘Murder Mystery at the Museum’ program set for Aug. 3

July 22nd, 2016

17542 Murder Mystery_fb1_FNLGAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History will host its first murder mystery event Aug. 3 as part of the University of Florida Creative B program.

The “Murder Mystery at the Museum” event features an interactive theatrical show presented by a company from Orlando, and guests are encouraged to come help crack the case dressed in 1920s attire.

“This is a great opportunity to get the best of both worlds,” said Paul Van Duyn, The Murder Mystery Company assistant private sales manager. “You get to enjoy ‘Wicked Plants: The Exhibit’ and participate in a fully immersive murder mystery event that has connections to the exhibit.”

The opening reception begins at 6 p.m. with heavy hors d’oeuvres and (more…)

Map of Life named among 2016 best teaching, learning apps

July 14th, 2016

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The American Association of School Libraries recently announced its 2016 list of the Best Apps for Teaching & Learning, including the interactive data-gathering application Map of Life created by a partnership between the University of Florida and Yale University.

Built on 100 years of knowledge, users can log, track and identify species from anywhere in the world thanks to a recording feature on the mobile app. Citizen scientists contribute to the biodiversity data available to scientists by (more…)

Cicadas are the Barry White of the insect world

July 11th, 2016
A new study shows Emblemasoma erro flies like this mating pair are attracted to cicada calls. Photo courtesy of Brian Stucky

A new study shows Emblemasoma erro flies like this mating pair are attracted to cicada calls.
Photo courtesy of Brian Stucky

Summer days resonate with the sound of cicadas trying to make a love connection. But like a lot of singles, male cicadas don’t always attract the kind of mates they’re hoping for.

Cicada calls, it turns out, attract not just female cicadas, but sarcophagid flies in the mood for love, according to a study by Brian J. Stucky, a post-doctoral researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida.

Here’s where it gets weird. The love song also attracts pregnant sarcophagid flies looking to deposit maggots that burrow into the cicada and (more…)

July 1 marks 100-year anniversary of ‘12 Days of Terror’

June 29th, 2016
Shark researcher George Burgess displays an original July 1916 issue of the New York Tribune describing the New Jersey attacks. ©Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

Shark researcher George Burgess displays an original July 1916 issue of the New York Tribune describing the New Jersey attacks.
©Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Before five shark attacks left four people dead and one wounded on the Jersey Shore in 1916, there was widespread doubt a shark would even bite a human.

But the attacks that occurred July 1-12, later dubbed “the 12 Days of Terror,” marked a major turning point in the relationship between sharks and humans that put the fish on the defensive and continues to threaten their existence a century later.

“It literally landed on the desk of the president,” said George Burgess, who directs the Florida Program for Shark Research and International Shark Attack File based at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus. “It was affecting everybody.”

The Jersey Shore was a vacation hotspot, and during a polio epidemic and sweltering heat wave in 1916, thousands flocked to the seaside paradise.

The first two attacks happened on the coast, and the last three in Matawan Creek. Some experts suspected a bull shark, because it’s the only shark that regularly swims into brackish water.

But the attacks occurred during a nearly full moon high tide when the tributary had maximum salinity. The high tide, severity of the human injuries and the fact a great white shark was later caught with human remains in its stomach, led Burgess to believe it was a great white.

And it was a 25-foot great white that spiked viewers’ heart rates in the 1975 film “Jaws.”

“When the movie came out, there was a collective testosterone rush up and down the East Coast,” Burgess said. Fishermen wanted to prove their bravery, and catching (more…)

Free ‘Creative B’ movie series kicks off with ‘Mothra’ July 8

June 17th, 2016

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History will offer extended hours and free film screenings with panel discussions during July as part of the University of Florida Creative B program.

CreativeB_wordmark_sub_lrThe museum is also hosting an opening reception at 6 p.m. July 8 where attendees can meet and greet Creative B featured artist Nobuho Nagasawa prior to the discussion and viewing of “Mothra” (1961) at 7 p.m.

“Creative B is a unique opportunity to speak to experts in the fields of special effects, science and science fiction,” said Tiffany Ireland, Florida Museum educator. “It’s the main event of the summer.”

The museum also will show “Little Shop of Horrors” (1960) on July 15, “The (more…)

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