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

It’s World Penguin Day! These flightless, aquatic birds have waddled their ways into people’s hearts with their unique characteristics. There are more than 15 species of penguin—but today we’re going to take a closer look at the King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus). This bird is one of the largest in its family, second only to the Emperor Penguin. Many King Penguins congregate on South Georgia, an island in the south Atlantic near Antarctica (pictured), where colonies can include several hundred thousand breeding pairs! To protect their eggs and, once they hatch, small chicks from the cold, King Penguin parents carry them on their feet, under a fold of belly skin that keeps them at adult body temperature. Females and males take turns watching over the offspring.
Photo: Amanda B

A Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture (Gyps rueppellii) can fly at a breath-taking 37,000 feet (11 kilometers). Humans would need an oxygen mask at this altitude, but this African scavenger does just fine. The high-flying bird has a protein in its red blood cells that is particularly efficient at binding oxygen. This vulture feeds exclusively on bone fragments and carrion. Its hooked bill helps it to crush bones and rip through flesh.
Photo: Pierre Dalous

The white-nosed coati has a tail that’s just as long as its body, but its nose may be its most impressive feature! With an abundance of sensory receptors around its snout, this raccoon relative has a sharp sense of smell. A variety of muscles at the tip of its nose make it highly flexible—perfect for poking around the forest floor for grubs, ants, and beetles. When drinking water, the coati can even curl its proboscis upwards to avoid getting it wet! You can find this critter in tropical forests of the Americas, from Arizona to the Andes.
Photo: Hans Norelius

Happy #EarthDay! What makes this planet habitable? It’s the right distance from the Sun, it’s protected from harmful solar radiation by its magnetic field, it’s kept warm by an insulating atmosphere, and it has the right chemical ingredients for life, including water and carbon. The processes that shape the Earth and its environment constantly cycle elements through the planet—sustaining life and leading to the formation of the mineral and energy resources that are the foundation of modern technological society. Let’s conserve our unique planet. Join us for #EarthFest today at the Museum to get inspired and find out how you can make a difference.
Photo: Pixabay

In 1973, the Endangered Species Act was signed in the US, helping threatened marine species like the steller sea lion and humpback whale to recover. Since then, nations have designated 23 million km² of ocean and coastline as marine protected areas (or MPAs)—that’s about 6.35% of Earth’s oceans. Even better news: 193 countries have pledged to expand MPAs to cover 10% of Earth’s oceans by 2020. Want to celebrate protecting our planet? Join us on April 22 for an all-day, Museum-wide Earth Day event. #EarthFest #EarthDay
Photo: Eliezg, family of steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus)

Remember the very hungry caterpillar? When luna moth larvae grow up, they forget about food and focus their short lives on reproducing. In fact, the adult luna moth (Actias luna) has vestigial, or functionless, mouthparts and does not feed. Its main objective is to find a mate. The time frame for this? About one week! Males will track down females by using their antennae to sense females’ pheromones. After mating, females will lay as many as 400 to 600 eggs. See the fluttering butterflies and moths in the Museum’s Butterfly Conservatory through May 28.
Photo: Geoff Gallice

You’ve heard of the aardvark, but did you know there’s an aardwolf? This mammal (Proteles cristata) is in the same family as the hyena, but unlike its carnivorous relative, the aardwolf is insectivorous. It’s one of 18 mammal species that feed exclusively on termites—but instead of digging for them, the aardwolf uses its large, sticky tongue to scoop up termites when they come above ground to forage at night. In summertime, it can gobble up more than 200,000 termites for its midnight meal.
Photo: wagon16

Parasite alert! A female crab hacker barnacle (Sacculina carcini) starts out life as a “microscopic slug” before attaching to a host crab. Eventually, it finds its way to the crab’s mid-gut. Once settled in, this parasite grows tendrils that help it to siphon off nutrients from the crab’s tissues. To reproduce, it extends a sack outside through the crab abdomen (pictured), where one or typically two tiny males climb in to reproduce. The female barnacle can produce hundreds of eggs a day, releasing them inside the crab. This affects the behavior of both male and female crabs: they treat the parasite’s eggs as their own, dispersing them like they would their own offspring.
Photo: Auguste Le Roux

Did you know that the beautiful black and white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata) is considered the largest pollinator in the world? Like a bee, this lemur feeds on nectar. The species pollinates the Madagascan rainforest, moving from flower to flower and transferring pollen that gets stuck to its face. Its long snout and tongue helps it reach deep into flowers for a tasty snack. Unfortunately, the lemur is critically endangered due to habitat loss and being hunted for meat and fur.
Photo: Paul Reynolds

Humans are making more plastic than ever before. Since 1970, we have discarded six billion tons of plastics, and only 9% has been recycled. Most remains in our natural environment. In fact, 150 million tons of plastics waste have accumulated in the ocean—that’s 80 times the weight of all the blue whales in the sea. On April 22, the Museum will be hosting #EarthFest, an all-day festival of art, science, and culture in honor of Earth Day. Join us to get inspired and re-energized to protect our planet.
Photo: Jedimentat44

Since life on Earth began in water some 3.5 billion years ago, living organisms have evolved an amazing variety of techniques for surviving different water conditions. Ever wonder how exactly it is that fish breathe underwater? Water is constantly flowing into their bodies as they use their gills to breathe. To prevent their tissues from becoming too watery, their kidneys continually drain water into their urine. For freshwater fish, salt must be actively pumped into their systems from the water. Saltwater fish have the opposite problem—they have to bring in water while pumping out salt.
Photo: Jón Helgi Jónsson

Compared to other colors found in nature, true blues are pretty rare—but the indigo milk cap (Lactarius indigo) has just that! This vibrant mushroom gets it color from a pigment that is a derivative of guaiazulene, a dark blue crystalline hydrocarbon. You would think that its blueness is a marker for toxicity, but the mushroom is actually edible—although its color fades to a grayish hue when it’s cooked.

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