GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History will host “Celebrating La Florida: Spanish Explorers at the Edge of the World” from 10:15 a.m. to noon Saturday, discussing the people, environment and cultures encountered by the state’s early explorers.
The free program sponsored by University Press of Florida features five scholars covering a variety of topics, including history, geography, archaeology and ethnology.
“To celebrate the quincentennial, we wanted to engage people with Florida’s remarkable history and culture by giving them a glimpse of the world Spanish explorers discovered upon first landing,” said University Press of Florida Director Meredith Morris-Babb. “The presentations will provide insight into Ponce de León’s voyage and examine the events following the explorer’s arrival on April 2, 1513, with a goal of creating a better understanding of interactions with the native peoples, initial efforts to settle Florida and resulting Spanish influences in the state.” (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Scientist Alex Hastings, a former University of Florida graduate student who unwrapped the first Titanoboa fossils from Colombia at the Florida Museum of Natural History, will discuss the discovery during the museum’s final Science Café of the semester Monday.
The program at Saboré restaurant, 13005 SW First Road, suite 129 in Town of Tioga from 6:30 to 8 p.m., includes discussions on giant snakes, bizarre crocodilians and climate change. Hastings, a visiting instructor from the department of geology and geography at Georgia Southern University, will describe the science behind the colossal discovery of Titanoboa.
“I hope people walk away with the impression that not only has Titanoboa, the largest snake known to science, helped us understand the world after the dinosaurs, but it has told us a little about what to expect for Earth’s future,” Hastings said.
Participants are normally asked to RSVP for the free program at least one week in advance, but a limited number of openings remain and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. To RSVP, email your name and the number attending to email@example.com or call Amanda Harvey, 352-273-2062. Participants purchase their own refreshments, and may arrive as early as 6 p.m. to place orders from a limited menu. (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A study co-authored by a University of Florida scientist adds critical new data for understanding caribou calving grounds in an area under consideration for oil exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The research may be used to create improved conservation strategies for an ecologically important area that has been under evaluation for natural resource exploration since enactment of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980.
By studying bone accumulations on the Arctic landscape, lead author Joshua Miller discovered rare habitats near river systems are more important for some caribou than previously believed. The study appearing online today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows bone surveys conducted on foot provide highly detailed and extensive data on areas used by caribou as birthing grounds.
“The bone surveys are adding a new piece of the puzzle, giving us a way of studying how caribou use the landscape during calving and providing a longer perspective for evaluating the importance of different regions and habitats,” said Miller, an assistant scientist at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus and a Fenneman assistant research professor at the (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new free brochure published by the Florida Museum of Natural History provides tips for enhancing landscapes with native plants specifically for butterflies.
The brochure, “Monarchs & Milkweeds,” features photos of common butterfly larvae and their host plants as well as five species of milkweeds native to the southeast United States.
“Any nature enthusiast can use the brochure to identify caterpillars, which gardeners sometimes kill simply because they munch on leaves,” said Jaret Daniels, lepidopterist and assistant professor in the Florida Museum’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity.
Daniels said the brochure should be useful to a variety of people, from school groups to garden clubs to professional landscapers at zoos and botanical gardens. The brochures are available at the museum, but interested parties may also contact Daniels at firstname.lastname@example.org. (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new University of Florida study of nearly 5,000 Haiti bird fossils shows contrary to a commonly held theory, human arrival 6,000 years ago didn’t cause the island’s birds to die simultaneously.
Although many birds perished or became displaced during a mass extinction event following the first arrival of humans to the Caribbean islands, fossil evidence shows some species were more resilient than others. The research provides range and dispersal patterns from A.D. 600 to 1600 that may be used to create conservation plans for tropical mountainous regions, some of the most threatened habitats worldwide. Understanding what caused recent extinctions – whether direct habitat loss or introduction of invasive species – helps researchers predict future ecological impacts. The study was published (more…)
Florida Museum to unpack fossils of new 30-foot-long giant crocodile relative from Colombia Friday at 11 a.m.March 20th, 2013
What: Newly arrived fossils from the Cerrejon coal mine in Colombia will be unloaded and opened at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
When: 11 a.m. Friday March 22
Where: Florida Museum of Natural History rear loading dock, 3215 Hull Road, Gainesville, University of Florida Cultural Plaza
Media: Museum employees will unload and open plaster jackets containing fossils of an unnamed crocodile relative recently received from Colombia. The fossils are from the same Cerrejon coal mine where the 48-foot-long “Titanoboa: Monster Snake” was discovered. The fossils will be brought into the “Titanoboa” exhibit prep lab, where visitors have the opportunity to observe “science in action” and speak with researchers and volunteers working on the fossils.
Florida Museum vertebrate paleontology curator Jonathan Bloch, who led the international team that discovered Titanoboa, will be available for interviews.
“This is extremely exciting because we’ll be unpacking the first lower jaw discovered of this giant, 30- to 40-foot-long crocodile relative we believe may have actually battled Titanoboa,” Bloch said.
Bloch and other researchers are currently preparing a journal article describing the new species.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History will open two new free exhibits Saturday featuring the state’s natural springs and exploring legends surrounding Ponce de León’s discovery of the state 500 years ago.
The “Springs Eternal: Florida’s Fragile Fountains of Youth” exhibit features 88 images by nature photographer John Moran, including a 20-foot-by-60-foot photograph of two manatees and four other large-scale images. Based on an upcoming book by Rick Kilby, the “Finding the Fountain of Youth: Discovering Florida’s Magical Waters” exhibit examines how the legend of Ponce de Leon’s quest for restorative waters shaped the Sunshine State’s image as a land of fantasy, rejuvenation and magical spring-fed waters. (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida researcher has described a new genus and species of extinct saber-toothed cat from Polk County, Fla., based on additional fossil acquisitions of the animal over the last 25 years.
The 5-million-year-old fossils belong to the same lineage as the famous Smilodon fatalis from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, a large, carnivorous apex predator with elongated upper canine teeth. Previous research suggested the group of saber-toothed cats known as Smilodontini originated in the Old World and then migrated to North America, but the age of the new species indicates the group likely originated in North America. The study appeared online in the journal PLOS One Wednesday.
“Smilodon first shows up on the fossil record around 2.5 million years ago, but there haven’t been a lot of good intermediate forms for understanding where it came from,” said study co-author Richard Hulbert Jr., vertebrate paleontology collections manager at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. “The new species shows that the most famous saber-toothed cat, Smilodon, had a New World origin and it and its ancestors lived in the southeastern U.S. for at least 5 million years before their extinction about 11,000 years ago. Compared to what we knew about these earlier saber-toothed cats 20 or 30 years ago, we now have a much better understanding of this group.” (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Butterflies are among the most vibrant insects, with colorations sometimes designed to deflect predators. New University of Florida research shows some of these defenses may be driven by enemies one-tenth their size.
Since the time of Darwin 150 years ago, researchers have believed large predators like birds mainly influenced the evolution of coloration in butterflies. In the first behavioral study to directly test the defense mechanism of hairstreak butterflies, UF lepidopterist Andrei Sourakov found that the appearance of a false head – a wing pattern found on hundreds of hairstreak butterflies worldwide – was 100 percent effective against attacks from a jumping spider. The research published online March 8 in the Journal of Natural History shows small arthropods, rather than large vertebrate predators, may influence butterfly evolution.
“Everything we observe out there has been blamed on birds: aposematic coloration, mimicry and various defensive patterns like eyespots,” said study author Andrei Sourakov, a collection coordinator at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity on the UF campus. “It’s a big step in general and a big leap of faith to realize that a creature as tiny as a jumping spider, whose brain and life span are really small compared to birds, can actually be partially responsible for the great diversity of patterns that evolved out there among Lepidoptera and other insects.”
Sourakov’s behavioral experiments at the McGuire Center showed the Red-banded Hairstreak butterfly, Calycopis cecrops, whose spots and tail imitate a false head, successfully escaped all 16 attacks from the jumping spider, Phidippus pulcherrimus. When 11 other butterfly and moth species from seven different families were exposed to the jumping spider, they were unable to escape attack in every case. Sourakov videotaped the experiments and analyzed the results in slow motion. (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History will offer behind-the-scenes tours of its archaeology collections at Dickinson Hall March 23 and other activities for all ages in celebration of Florida Archaeology Month.
“These programs will give our community multiple opportunities to engage with different sides of Florida archaeology,” said Amanda Harvey, museum education assistant.
The museum’s Randell Research Center in Pineland will host its eighth annual Calusa Heritage Day Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a variety of activities including tours, demonstrations and presentations. Florida Museum archaeology curator emeritus Jerald T. Milanich will give the keynote address, “Ponce de Leon’s 1513 Voyage to Florida.” Admission is $5 for adults and free for children and Randell Research Center members. For more information, visit http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/rrc/ or call 239-283-2062 or 239-283-2157. (more…)