Deadly fungus threatens Africa frogs

May 6th, 2016
Discovered on Mount Manengouba in Cameroon by David Blackburn in 2008, Cardioglossa manengouba was a common frog before the chytrid fungus emerged and devastated its population. Photo courtesy of Mark-Oliver Rödel

Discovered on Mount Manengouba in Cameroon by David Blackburn in 2008, Cardioglossa manengouba was a common frog before the chytrid fungus emerged and devastated its population.
Photo courtesy of Mark-Oliver Rödel

GAINESVILLE, Fla.  — Misty mountains, glistening forests and blue-green lakes make Cameroon, the wettest part of Africa, a tropical wonderland for amphibians.

The country holds more than half the species living on the continent, including dozens of endemic frogs — an animal that has been under attack across the world by the pervasive chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). Africa has been mostly spared from the deadly and (more…)

Building on shells: Study with UGA unraveling mysteries of Calusa kingdom

May 5th, 2016
Two University of Georgia students excavate a site on Mound Key near Fort Myers Beach. Photo courtesy of Victor Thompson/University of Georgia

Two University of Georgia students excavate a site on Mound Key near Fort Myers Beach.
Photo courtesy of Victor Thompson/University of Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. — Centuries before modern countries such as Dubai and China started building islands, the Calusa Indians living in southwest Florida were piling shells into massive heaps to construct their own water-bound towns.

One island in particular, Mound Key, was the capital of the Calusa kingdom when Spanish explorers first set foot in the area. Supported in part by a grant from National Geographic, a new interdisciplinary study led by University of Georgia anthropologist Victor Thompson and (more…)

‘Wicked Plants’ opening celebration May 14 features family activities

May 3rd, 2016

wickedlogoSMwebGAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History visitors will have an opportunity to play an “animal murder mystery game” and participate in other free family-friendly activities from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 14 during opening day of the new featured exhibition, “Wicked Plants: The Exhibit.”

Visitors can speak with Florida Museum botanists who will bring specimens from the collections, or play “pollinator vision” and “match the plant with the pollinator” with Gators Reaching Out With Botany.

Other participants include Alachua Conservation Trust, the City of Gainesville Nature Operations Division, (more…)

New ‘Crafting Ethnic Identity’ exhibit opens May 7

April 27th, 2016
An Andean man from the 1970s wears a traditional outfit from the Cuzco region. Photo courtesy of Roy C. Craven

An Andean man from the 1970s wears a traditional outfit from the Cuzco region.
Photo courtesy of Roy C. Craven

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Visitors can learn about how people with roots in pre-Hispanic cultures from South and Central America express their identities through clothing designs and materials that echo their community’s past in a new exhibit opening May 7 at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

“Crafting Ethnic Identity in the Andes and Mesoamerica: Highlights from the Doughty Folk Art Collection” features authentic hand-crafted items, including heirlooms dating to the late 1800s, and offers a glimpse into the mid-20th-century lifestyles of indigenous people.

Compiled over a period of more than 30 years, the Doughty collection was recently donated to the Florida Museum. This exhibit reflects the many years Paul and Polly Doughty spent living and (more…)

Saving the treasures of a sunken world

April 27th, 2016

A new national park protects the past, future of the Bahamas’ blue holes

Two divers explore the ornately decorated Cascade Room in Dan's Cave. Photo courtesy of Brian Kakuk

Two divers explore the ornately decorated Cascade Room in Dan’s Cave.
Photo courtesy of Brian Kakuk

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — An underwater graveyard of prehistoric mega-reptiles has long been a trove of scientific discovery. Now that these flooded caves in the Bahamas have gained national protection, they could be a key to restoring the islands’ biodiversity.

For four years, scientists – including University of Florida ornithologist David Steadman and Bahamian research diver Brian Kakuk – campaigned for a national park to protect flooded caves known as blue holes. The Bahamian government recently accepted the proposal to create the 34,000-acre South Abaco Blue Holes Park, along with 14 other new marine and land parks in the Bahamas, for a total of more than 2 million acres.

Kakuk’s first fossil finds led to discoveries that changed what scientists thought they knew about the Bahamas. Probing the contours of some of the world’s most dangerous underwater caves, (more…)

Brownie, Junior Girl Scout archaeology program set for May 6

April 26th, 2016
Brownie Girl Scouts enjoy an exploration event at the Florida Museum. Florida Museum photo by Jeff Gage

Brownie Girl Scouts enjoy an exploration event.
Florida Museum photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Girl Scouts can join the Florida Museum of Natural History for an evening of exploration during its May 6 “Girl Scouts Explore: Archaeology” program.

Brownie and Junior Girl Scouts can discover the world of archaeology and Florida’s past during the event from 6 to 9 p.m. with activities to engage girls in excavation, pottery and (more…)

Paleontologists find first fossil monkey in North America – but how did it get here?

April 20th, 2016
This white-headed capuchin, Cebus capuchinus, from Panama resembles what Panamacebus transitus probably looked like in the flesh. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

This white-headed capuchin, Cebus capuchinus, from Panama resembles what Panamacebus transitus probably looked like in the flesh.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Seven tiny teeth tell the story of an ancient monkey that made a 100-mile ocean crossing between North and South America into modern-day Panama – the first fossil evidence for the existence of monkeys in North America.

The find provides the oldest fossil evidence for the interchange of mammals between South and North America and challenges long-held views of South America as an island continent that evolved in isolation before the Isthmus of Panama was formed and animals began crossing between the continents about 3.5 million years ago, said Jonathan Bloch, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus. Study findings are detailed online today in the journal Nature.

Scientists uncovered the teeth belonging to the 21-million-year-old forest-dwelling primate during recent excavations related to the expansion of the Panama Canal.

The new genus and species, dubbed Panamacebus transitus, (more…)

New featured exhibit on ‘Wicked Plants’ opens May 14

April 20th, 2016

16434 Wicked Plants FB Graphic 1 FNLGAINESVILLE, Fla. —While the effects of marijuana, mushrooms and poison ivy are fairly well-known, many people may be surprised to learn about the potential danger of common plants in and around their homes.

And beginning May 14, Florida Museum of Natural History visitors will learn about the power that plants hold in its newest featured exhibit, “Wicked Plants: The Exhibit.”

The exhibit features more than 100 plants and is designed to educate guests about botanicals that are harmful to humans and animals, including evildoers lurking in the home and backyard. The story is brought to life inside an old home, where visitors will encounter a deadly dinner in the dining room, terrible toxins in the parlor, social misfits in the bathroom and (more…)

George Washington’s little buttercup

April 15th, 2016

How an extinct ancestor of the plant is helping solve Darwin’s ‘abominable mystery’

Nathan Jud rediscovered this fossil of Vernifolium tenuiloba, which shows the delicate veins of the leaf, in the Smithsonian Institution collections. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Nathan Jud

Nathan Jud rediscovered this fossil of Vernifolium tenuiloba, which shows the delicate veins of the leaf, in the Smithsonian Institution collections.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Nathan Jud

Two men set out on the Potomac River in 1892 looking for fossil plants from the days when dinosaurs roamed the Atlantic Coast nibbling on conifer leaves and ferns. Their paddling came to a halt when up ahead in a bluff on George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, a section of chocolate-colored stone caught the eye of paleobotanist Lester Ward and volunteer Victor Mason. Within minutes of digging, 105-million-year-old branches, leaves and seeds spilled from the mudstone, known for preserving fine details—a plant scientist’s gold mine. Scraps of partial fossils littered their findings. Among them was a tiny, seemingly insignificant leaf, thus beginning the modern history of George Washington’s little buttercup.

Except for a brief mention in Ward’s 1905 book, (more…)

New $1.2 million NSF grant to promote STEM education in grades 6-12

April 8th, 2016
Science educator Laura Beach, from Soquel High School in California, and iDigFossils project coordinator Claudia Grant review 3-D images of a fossil. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeffrey Gage

Science educator Laura Beach, from Soquel High School in California, and iDigFossils project coordinator Claudia Grant review 3-D images of a fossil.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There is new hope for kids who spend their free time digging in their backyards in search of dinosaur bones, wishing they could be like the paleontologists from “Jurassic Park,” but maybe with a tamer outcome.

Florida Museum of Natural History and University of Florida researchers at the College of Education recently received a $1.2 million grant to provide 3-D scanners and printers, new laptop computers, and curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and math for students in grades 6-12 in Florida and California.

“I don’t think this project would be successful without the collaboration of the College of Education and the museum,” said UF associate professor of educational technology and (more…)

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