A robber fly, Microstylum morosu, with the facial bristles, or mytax (“moustache” in Greek), visible.  Photo by Eric Isley via iNaturalist, CC-BY-NC.
A robber fly, Microstylum morosu, with the facial bristles, or mytax (“moustache” in Greek), visible. Photo by Eric Isley via iNaturalist, CC-BY-NC.

What animal has been witnessed snatching a bee from mid-air, stabbing it with a sharp tool, and sucking out its insides? An assassin fly is the culprit. Also known as robber flies, they stand out in their penchant for preying on...

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Giving Fossils a Facelift

A fossil, if you think about it, has not shown its best face in a long time, maybe never. It has spent millions of years embedded in rock, ice, tar, or amber. It is a fossil preparator’s job to remove a fossil from the surrounding materials to reveal it for study and display. The difficulty of the preparation depends not only on what the fossilized organism is, but also how it has changed over time....Read more
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A broken, fossil tyrannosaurid dinosaur tooth found on the ground in the Judith River Formation in Montana. Smithsonian photo by Michelle Pinsdorf.

How I Learned to Barcode Lizards during My Internship

This summer, I was a Youth Engagement through Science (YES!) 2.0 Global Genome intern at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The internship began with a two-week "bootcamp," during which we sequenced the DNA of the Iva annua plant (commonly known as the marshelder) in order to figure out what genes were involved in the plant’s domestication....Read more
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YES! Global Genome intern Camile gained experience working in a lab and learned how to DNA barcode lizards. Smithsonian photo.

How Ants Helped Me Feel Comfortable in the Genomics Lab

Before I actually got the chance to work in the lab as a YES! Global Genome intern, I was given a formal lab tour. Being the only 17-year-old African-American girl in a room full of sequencing technology worth more than $1 million was, to say the very least, intimidating....Read more
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YES! Global Genome intern Sal concentrates while using a pipette in the Smithsonian Laboratories of Analytical Biology. Smithsonian photo.

Does a Spider Need a Web to Catch its Prey?

What sort of spider can capture its prey without a web? We think of spiders as web-makers, but about half of all known spider species do not make webs. Still, they have organs called spinnerets that spin out silk for other uses. Silk can help a spider wrap up their eggs to make an egg case, line its burrow, or swing to the ground from a branch. ...Read more
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Front view of a trap-jaw spider head (family Mecysmaucheniidae) showing pinching mouthparts that snap shut to capture prey the same size or even larger than itself. Photo by Hannah Wood, Smithsonian.

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