New study sheds light on evolution of human, ape intelligence
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…)
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…)
GAINESVILLE, 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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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.
The 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…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History Director Douglas Jones has been elected chair of the board for the American Alliance of Museums. His two-year term began at the conclusion of the organization’s 2016 annual meeting last week in Washington, D.C.
In his new role, Jones will help lead the organization’s programs related to museum accreditation, monitoring the fiscal health of AAM and implementing the group’s 2016-2020 strategic plan. He also will chair two annual meetings and participate in federal advocacy efforts around the country.
An AAM board member since 2012, Jones previously served as vice chair for 2015-2016.
“I’m honored to have been elected to serve in (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two Florida Museum of Natural History professors have received the 2016 Darwin-Wallace Medal from the Linnean Society of London, considered one of the top international awards given to researchers studying evolutionary biology.
Distinguished professor, Florida Museum curator and University of Florida Biodiversity Institute director Pam Soltis and Doug Soltis, distinguished professor in the Florida Museum and the UF department of biology, received the award today from Linnean Society President Paul Brakefield at the group’s headquarters at the Burlington House in London. The Soltises are principal investigators in the Florida Museum Laboratory of Molecular Systematics and Evolutionary Genetics and researchers with the UF Genetics Institute.
“This is an incredible honor, particularly that Doug and I were selected as joint recipients,” Pam Soltis said. “We are humbled by this award and (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Spotting native alligators and crocodiles in Florida is common, but anyone who sees a large reptile may want to take a second look— man-eaters that can grow to 18 feet long and weigh as much as a small car have been found in the Sunshine State.
Using DNA analysis, University of Florida researchers have confirmed the capture of multiple Nile crocodiles in the wild.
The ancient icon eats everything from zebras to small hippos to humans in sub-Saharan Africa. Now three juveniles of the monster crocodile have been found in South Florida swimming in the Everglades and (more…)