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

Meet Team Cheatgrass! Ned Horning (far left) works in the Museum’s Center for Biodiversity & Conservation. He recently journeyed to Idaho with four other scientists to study invasive cheatgrass. Why? To find out how cheatgrass affects the ecosystem—particularly with regard to fire frequency and intensity. Watch our latest Instagram Story for more. 📸 by @nedhorning

Have you ever seen a tree kangaroo? Suited for life in the trees, they have strong arms for climbing—and unlike true kangaroos, their arms are about equal in length to their legs. These arboreal marsupials live in mountain tropical forests in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia, snacking on the leaves, flowers, and fruits among the trees. They are extremely vulnerable to habitat loss from deforestation and are also threatened from being hunted for food.
Photo: Tim Williams, Goodfellow's tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus goodfellowi) pictured

Big news: The Titanosaur is getting a cleaning tomorrow and everyone is invited to watch! Tune into our Facebook Page starting at 9:15 am to see the event live and ask questions. Or, swing by the Museum at 11 am to watch in person! #tidydino 📷: D. Finnin/©AMNH

The brilliant orange plumage and half-moon crests of Guianan Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola rupicola) males set them apart from the less distinctive, grey females of the species. These birds, which inhabit damp, humid forests in South America, earn their common name in part because they prefer rocky areas, where the females build mud-and-stick nests on outcrops.
Photo: AISSE GAERTNER

Ever wonder about the sound cicadas make? While females can produce a clicking noise with their wings, only males “sing” by contracting their tymbal organs—membranes on the side of their abdomens. These loud songs are specific to each species, and their purpose is to attract a mate. Cicadas spend most of their life—as much as 17 years—as larva, deep underground and feeding on the liquids from plant roots. Once they emerge, often in a large brood, adults mate, lay eggs, and live for four to six weeks.
Photo: Katja Schulz, Magicicada sp. pictured

Lions once roamed much of the African continent, but over the last century, they’ve disappeared from more than 80% of their historic range. Only about 20,000 are left in the wild. Those that remain are under threat from human encroachment into lion habitats, poaching for bushmeat that snares lions inadvertently, hunting for local and international traditional medicines, and trophy hunting. The disappearance of lions would have major implications for their ecosystems: these apex predators hunt weak or sick animals, keeping ungulate populations healthy and, in turn, helping to maintain the conditions of the grasslands and forests where they live.
Photo: pixabay

The world’s largest hornet? That would be the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia). Its sting delivers venom that can be deadly to humans if not treated properly. It’s a ferocious hunter, too—prey include other hornet species, mantises, and bees. When out searching for food, an Asian giant hornet scout will leave a scent mark on a honeybee hive in order to attract its fellow hornets. When a swarm of hornets attacks, a hive can succumb in a matter of minutes—and the predators then feast on the honey. European honeybee hives are easily devastated, but Japanese honeybees have developed a defense for this predator! If spotted in time, a mass of bees will surround the hornet and smother it to death. Such defensive “bee balls” can reach up to 117 degrees Fahrenheit!
Photo: Joe Carey

The only thing better than winning a fight with a predator is ending it before the attack even starts. Meet the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). Its special skill? This critter urinates when threatened. Females also pee on their own eggs—apparently predators find the smell or taste repulsive. Desert tortoises are experts at hoarding water, and when surprised can unleash a copious stream. But this defense can leave them dangerously dehydrated!
Photo: U.S. Geological Survey

Imagine an entire beach where the sand is shaped like tiny stars. You can find such beaches in Japan—only the stars aren’t sand. They are the shells of single-celled marine organisms called Foraminifera. The tiny, amoeba-like critters that live inside these shells can move around by extending flexible pseudopods (projections) out through holes in their armor—quite a feat for an animal composed of a single cell!
Photo: Psammophile

The Marble Cathedral is a group of breathtaking caves located on General Carrera Lake, which Chile shares with Argentina. Crashing waves of the lake have dissolved the marble of a surrounding peninsula over thousands of years, forming intricate caves and tunnels. The water, which comes from melted glaciers in the Patagonian Andes, contains particles of glacial silt that give it its distinct blue color.
Photo: Backpackerin

Ever heard of abrin? It’s one of the deadliest plant toxins for humans, and it can be found in this plant: the rosary pea (Abrus precatorius). If consumed whole, its seeds can cause discomfort—but their hard shell exterior acts as a protective barrier against the toxin. If ingested crushed, a single seed can be fatal. Yet for ages, glossy red seeds of the plant have been used for jewelry, instruments, and decoration because of their alluring appearance. Another interesting fact? The rosary pea is not toxic to birds, which help spread the seeds!
Photo: Bernard DUPONT

Widely regarded as the “rare jewel bird of the world,” the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) doesn’t disappoint. Males showcase brilliant iridescent green plumage that contrasts with a vibrant shock of red on its belly, and their extravagant tail feathers can grow up to 3 feet long! (Females lack the long train of feathers but also show off iridescent green plumage.) The Resplendent Quetzal population is, unfortunately, threatened due to poaching and deforestation.
Photo: Francesco Veronesi

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