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Am Museum of Natural History  Official Instagram page of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City


Puffins have been dubbed "clowns of the sea" because of their facial markings and brightly colored bills—but this humorous appearance doesn't last throughout the year! The Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) develops its orange bill, with a yellow-outlined patch of blue, during spring’s breeding season. Beak size increases as the bird matures, so size and color may be a way for puffins to assess their potential mates. In winter, both males and females lose their parrot-like look, leaving behind a shorter, dark bill.
Photo: Richard Bartz

Happy #FossilFriday! Weighing around 1,500 pounds and rivaling a large moose in size, the extinct Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus) was actually a giant deer. Originally discovered in bog deposits in Ireland, this animal lived throughout Europe, northern Africa, and northern Asia. Its enormous antlers, some of which reached a 13-foot spread, were used in ritualized combat between males. Adapted to live on grassy terrain, this elk became extinct some 10,000 years ago, possibly because of habitat loss.
Photo: AMNH/ D. Finnin

As a general rule, antlers in the deer family are an extension of an animal's skull and shed each year. Horns, on the other hand, have a bone interior and an outer sheath of keratin (which also makes up our hair and fingernails). Horns also typically grow for an animal's entire life. An exception to this rule? The North America’s pronghorn, which sheds its horn sheath each year. Pronghorn are the sole surviving member of the family Antilocapridae—and are more closely related to giraffes and okapi than to antelope.
Photo: Nature's Pics Online

The Museum is thrilled to be featured in @bergdorfs holiday windows this year. Our window shows Deinonychus skeletons encrusted in 1.5 million individual crystals. The display, "To New York, with Love,” highlights the Museum and other iconic NYC cultural institutions like @nyhistory, @nyphilharmonic, @movingimagenyc, @nybg, @bam_brooklyn, and @urbanglass_nyc. If you’re visiting the city, we hope you get a chance to view these dazzling works of art!
Photo: BFA #BGHoliday #BGwindows

The sarcastic fringehead (Neoclinus blanchardi) doesn't really have much of a sense of humor. This small but territorial fish can be found inside shelters like empty clam shells, abandoned burrows, or even garbage thrown in the ocean. Their head often protrudes from these shelters as they wait to attack prey, intruders, or anything within their range of vision. If threatened, the fringehead first flexes its body and head while snapping its jaws—and if that doesn't work, the fish then attacks with its needle-like teeth.
Photo: Wikistudent348

Life in the desert is no joke—the days are scorching, while the nights dip into freezing temperatures. But the 3-pound nocturnal fennec fox—the smallest fox in the world—has a few adaptations that help it survive in its tough environment in the deserts of northern Africa. One important physical feature? Its massive ears, which disperse heat and help this mammal hear its prey moving under the sand. This species also has soft hairs that protect the soles of its feet from the hot desert sands.
Photo: Kitty Terwolbeck

You'll never forget this face! Meet the proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus), native to the southeast Asian island of Borneo, which is fittingly known as the long-nosed monkey. Adult males sport a famously large nose that hangs over the mouth, acting like a resonating chamber to amplify its calls. Scientists think it’s a sexually selected trait, with females preferring bigger-nosed (and louder!) mates. This monkey, one of the largest monkey species native to Asia, lives at low elevations near coastal areas or rivers and eats mostly leaves, seeds, unripe fruits, and insects.

Despite their cat-like appearance, the fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) are actually a close relative of the mongoose. They’re the largest carnivores on Madagascar—feeding on birds, reptiles, and lemurs—and use their long tail for balance when chasing prey through the trees. But don't make this mammal angry: when aggravated, fossa release a pungent odor from their scent glands. They also use scent to mark their territory and possibly to signal reproductive status.

Hay, there! Did you know that horses of all colors, shapes, and sizes once roamed the world? Some were barely larger than a small dog. By 55 million years ago, the first members of the horse family, the dog-sized Hyracotherium, were scampering through the forests that covered North America. For more than half their history, most horses remained small, forest browsers. But changing climate conditions allowed grasslands to expand, and about 20 million years ago, many new species rapidly evolved. Some—but not all—became larger and had the familiar hooves and grazing diets that we associate with horses today. Only these species survived to the present.

One of the remarkable animals Charles Darwin found and sent back to England was the ornate horned frog (Ceratophrys ornata). This pillow-shaped amphibian has been called a "mouth on legs," and while it doesn’t have true horns, its raised upper eyelids resemble a pair—and give this frog its name. When ready for a meal—this frog eats mice, small reptiles, spiders, and insects—it buries itself in leaves or loose soil and lies in wait, ready to gulp down whatever walks by, even animals larger than itself. The ornate horned frog lives in eastern Brazil and Argentina; similar, related frogs live in neighboring areas.
Photo: U.S. Geological Survey

The beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) is a highly social animal, with a melon-shaped head that this whale uses to crack breathing holes in sea ice. This species has a thick layer of blubber, up to 15 centimeters thick, to keep it warm.

The narwhal (Monodon monoceros) is famous for its distinct tusk— actually an upper-jaw tooth that grows through the lip. Scientists think narwhals use them in mate selection, echolocation, and to hunt fish.

Which Arctic whale would you most love to observe out in the wild? Tell us, below!
Photo 1: Steve Snodgrass; Photo 2: Glenn Williams

It’s just another Mammal Monday! The bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus) may be shy, but this large African antelope has a few attention-grabbing features: white stripes on chestnut coats, heavy spiralled horns on both males and females, two white spots on each cheek, and sizeble ears. Bongos forage for leaves, flowers, twigs, and thistles during the day with their long, prehensile tongues and can be spotted at the salt licks come nightfall. They also eat burnt wood—such as trees charred by lightning—likely for the salt and mineral content in charcoal.
Photo: Mathias Appel

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