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

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Is there a more evocative symbol of the lazy, hazy days of summer than the dragonfly? But don’t let those whispering wings fool you: these insects are among the world’s fastest predators, and some of the most fearsome to boot. Darting over the surfaces of ponds, lakes, marshes, and streams, they can reach speeds of up to 30 miles an hour. Using separate sets of muscles for their four wings, these hunters can hover in one place for as long as a minute at a time. They can also fly backward, turn upside down, and pivot 360°—maneuvering in ways human helicopter pilots can only envy. Dragonflies’ aerial skills are so well developed that mechanical engineers are looking to these animals for clues on how to design small drones. Fast and furious, dragonflies also have exceptional eyesight. They boast what’s thought to be the largest compound eyes of all insects—30,000 facets full of photoreceptors make it possible for them to see everywhere except directly behind them. Researchers have determined that dragonflies have the capacity to pick out individual prey—mosquitos, moths, and other flying insects—within a crowd. They also have a highly developed fovea, an area of the eye with such high resolution that it acts as built-in binoculars. These attributes combine to give dragonflies a hunting success rate that puts most other predators to shame: they capture up to 95 percent of their prey! #dragonfly #dragonflies #insect #insects #naturephotography #amnh

It's time for Trilobite Tuesday!
Trilobites featured an almost dizzying array of sizes, shapes, spines and segments. Their body plans, while all following a fundamentally similar three-lobed pattern, presented an incredible diversity of design. Some trilobite species reached lengths in excess of two feet. Others never exceeded a fraction of an inch. Some had multi-faceted eyes sitting atop three-inch stalks… others had no eyes at all. During their 270 million year trek through evolutionary time, these amazing arthropods generated more than 25,000 scientifically recognized species. Such unimaginable longevity and multiplicity has continually presented paleontologists with a daunting yet elemental challenge; how to best categorize and distinguish one group of trilobites from another. Quite simply, the issue becomes one of finding the best manner in which to classify these primordial creatures so that we can gain at least a fundamental understanding of which family, genus and species produced a logical line of descendants. Once we begin to tackle this dilemma, we can then place the resulting trilobites, such as this Bathynotellus, into taxonomic orders that are manageable and to some degree practical. By doing so, scientists have tried to create some mentally digestible “order” out of relative chaos. #trilobite #trilobites #trilobitetuesday #amnh #fossil #fossils

The Great American Eclipse rolled into town today at 1:23 pm, reached its NYC peak (71% coverage) at 2:44 pm, and hit its finale at 4 pm. With the exception of an errant cloud or two, it was a perfect day. Thanks to everyone who joined us at the Museum's Rose Center for Earth and Space to celebrate this historic event--including these two budding eclipse chasers on the Arthur Ross Terrace. We'll see you at the next NY solar eclipse on April 8, 2024! #2017solareclipse #solareclipse #eclipse2017 #amnh #eclipse

Did you know that owls don’t have “eyeballs,” exactly? Instead, the animals have immobile tube-shaped eyes that boost focus and depth perception. Owls are also able to swivel their necks 270 degrees, enhancing the scope of their vision. Photo: Kameron Perensovich: #owl #owls #birds #birdsofinstagram #wildlife #wildlifephotography #amnh

Deinonychus, which takes its name from the Greek word for “terrible claw,” did indeed catch and grasp prey with its sharp claws. The animal lived during the Cretaceous period, and famed fossil hunter Barnum Brown first discovered this species’ remains in 1931. Its anatomy eventually helped revive the idea (dismissed during much of the 20th century) that birds were descended from dinosaurs.
Paleontologists believed that Deinonychus used their claws to stab their victims, waiting for them to bleed to death before consuming them. Without opposable digits, however, they had to pick up these animals by squeezing them between their palms. They probably had weak jaws and might only have been able to walk about 6 miles per hour.
Still, the species seemed impressive enough for Hollywood, which modeled Jurassic Park’s raptors after Deinonychus, but called them Velociraptors-- after a smaller, but more dramatic-sounding dinosaur. #dinosaur #dinosaurs #cretaceous #fossil #fossils #amnh

Happy Fossil Friday! Edmontonia rugosidens’s most distinguishing characteristic may be its back, which served as armor for the dinosaur. Bony plates called osteoderms covered this animal from the Late Cretaceous (about 100 to 66 million years ago). The osteoderms weren’t bound together, which allowed a certain flexibility and helped prevent puncture wounds from predators. Spikes along the dinosaurs’ sides added protection. Edmontonia is classified as a nodosaurid ankylosaur, and lacks the weapon-like club tail that relatives such as Ankylosaurus had. Instead, Edmontonia’s tails featured a row of triangular spikes that were perhaps used to slash aggressors. A keen sense of smell also aided these herbivores, helping them both avoid predators and find food. Edmontonia roamed Canada as well as other parts of North America and is in fact named for Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, where it was first discovered. #FossilFriday #fossils #amnh #naturalhistory #dinosaur #dinosaurs #naturalhistory #edmontonia #cretaceous #herbivores #herbivore

FROM THE ARCHIVES: in anticipation of Monday's eclipse, the Museum is releasing rarely seen footage and photos of a 1937 Museum expedition to the Peruvian Andes to capture some of the first color video of a total solar eclipse. The trip included shots like this one, taken from a plane at 25,000--images which would improve scientists' understanding of the Sun's corona. In 1937, Hayden Planetarium Curator Clyde Fisher and some dozen fellow sky-gazers traveled to Peru to be in the path of the Moon’s shadow on June 8th and to record their scientific observations. It promised to be a spectacular sight, as the Sun would be near the horizon—about half an hour from setting—adding the glory of a sunset to the uncanny coloring of an eclipse sky. The expedition personnel were divided into five groups, each positioned at a distinct location in case cloudy skies obscured a particular viewing spot. Team members observed the eclipse from 14,600 feet (4,450 meters), or nearly 3 miles, above sea level in the Andes, but Major Albert Stevens might have laid claim to the most unique view—he photographed the eclipse from a plane at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). This was a higher elevation than had ever been attempted for eclipse photography. Photo: Maj. Albert Stevens. #tbt #archival #amnh #solareclipse #astronomy #airplanephotography #eclipse #eclipse2017 #peru

It's time for a musical World Record Wednesday! The "Golden Record," created by NASA (album cover pictured above) and placed on both Voyager spacecraft in 1977, is the phonographic recording to travel farthest. Currently hurtling through space at a distance of over 12 billion miles from Earth on Voyager I, the album is literally a "world record"—a collection of sounds, songs, and short speeches intended to represent the best of planet Earth and humanity. The tracks were carefully curated by NASA and a committee chaired by Carl Sagan, and include music from Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Chuck Berry, Louis Armstrong, and others. (Fun fact: the producer of the Golden Record,“ Timothy Ferris, is an award-winning science author who wrote the script for the Museum’s Space Show “Dark Universe.”) The Record also features musical recordings from Senegal, Russia, Japan, and other countries. Carl Sagan, who worked on the project, stated that "the spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this 'bottle' into the cosmic 'ocean' says something very hopeful about life on this planet." Image: NASA #worldrecord #worldrecords #voyager #nasa #carlsagan #chuckberry #beethoven #stravinsky #louisarmstrong #amnh

It's time for Trilobite Tuesday! Back in the early Paleozoic trilobites filled the oceans, inhabiting virtually every available marine niche. It was during this time that they emerged as the first life forms on Earth to feature a hard exoskeleton. Due to that major evolutionary advance, their remains are pervasive in the fossil record, providing important stratigraphic markers to key geologic horizons worldwide. Indeed, when trilobites of a similar age and locale are viewed together, and then compared and contrasted with specimens of the same genus found in other locations, these fossils often provide an unrivaled perspective on the primordial forces that helped shaped our world. Perhaps nowhere is this paleontological phenomenon more evident than when dealing with the Middle Cambrian trilobite Paradoxides. If you examine various specimens of that genus, you will note something interesting: that fossils of closely related Paradoxides species have been uncovered in such now-disparate sites as Newfoundland, Sweden, Massachusetts, Wales, Spain, the Czech Republic and Morocco. #trilobitetuesday #trilobite #trilobites #amnh #naturalhistory #fossil #fossils

On Monday, August 21, as the Moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun, a total solar eclipse will make its way mile by mile across the contiguous United States. At certain places along its path, the Moon will completely obscure the Sun, blocking out its light for about three minutes. On a cloudless day, these places directly in the path of the “totality,” or central shadow, will suddenly go from brilliant sunshine to a sky dark enough to see stars and nearby planets. This total solar eclipse—the first to cross the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic since 1918—will start in Oregon at 10:17 am PDT and end in South Carolina at 2:44 pm EDT. Locations outside the direct path, including the New York metropolitan area, will experience a partial solar eclipse. In New York, the Moon will cover more than 70 percent of the Sun. "If it’s bright and sunny, for a little while it will feel oddly like a cloudy day,” says astronomer Charles Liu. “The light won’t seem quite right.” Heads up, New Yorkers! For maximum drama, spend a good deal of time outside until until the partial eclipse is about to begin at 1:23 pm. Then go inside until just before the peak time—2:44 pm—is about to be reached. Step outside then, and you should immediately notice the difference. Or, using safety glasses approved by a reputable authority, stay out and watch the Moon gradually overtake the Sun and then pass it by until the partial eclipse ends around 4 pm.
If you want to follow the total eclipse in real time that day and learn more about it, come to the Museum’s Rose Center for Earth and Space to see a live broadcast from NASA. This program is free for Members or with Museum admission. Image: NASA. #amnh #eclipse #eclipse2017 #solareclipse

The shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), known for its imposing beak and intimidating gaze, is found primarily in the swamps and marshes of eastern and central Africa. They can grow nearly 5 feet tall, with beaks up to 9 inches long and 4 inches broad. They're known to stand still in shallow water, waiting quietly for the perfect moment to pick off prey like fish, snakes, lizards, and even baby crocodiles. Shoebills are solitary by nature, socializing primarily for the purpose of breeding, or in rare circumstances of food scarcity. When greeting other birds, they will also often engage in a rapid-fire bill-clattering at high volume. Photo: Frank Wouters. #shoebill #shoebills #wildlife #wildlifephotography #amnh #birdsofinstagram #birds #birding

Happy World Elephant Day! Social and intelligent, elephants are among the few animals known to recognize their own reflections. They form close bonds and live in matriarch-led herds, the members of which work together to protect and rear calves. Elephants also show keen interest in their dead, and have been observed investigating and “protecting” elephant carcasses--reactions they don’t display when confronted with the carcasses of other species. Unfortunately, elephants are often hunted for their ivory. In 1930, between 5 and 10 million elephants roamed Africa's forest savanna and semi-desert. By 1989, that number had dropped to 600,000. In the decade between 1979 and 1989 alone, the African elephant population was cut in half. Deforestation and climate change pose great threats to these magnificent animals, resulting in loss of food and habitat. The African elephant is classified as vulnerable, and the Asian elephant is classified as endangered. Conservation efforts are underway to secure a future for elephants and restore the ecological integrity of their habitats. Learn more in the Museum’s Akeley Hall of African Mammals and the Hall of Asian Mammals. Photo: Brittany Hock. #worldelephantday #elephant #elephants #elephantsofinstagram #amnh #wildlife #wildlifephotography

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