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The Q? Blog

Smithsonian Science How?

Ancient scorpionflies pollinating the primitive seed plants Caytonia, at left, and Alvinia, at right. Depiction by Mary Parrish, Smithsonian.
by Devin Reese -- Jan 24, 2018

Some systems that sustain life on Earth have been operating for a really long time. Cycles of oxygen, water, and minerals all come to mind. But...

The 2013 eruption of the Mount Etna in Italy sent materials skyward. Photo by gnuckx, public domain.
by Devin Reese -- Nov 14, 2017

Lava is the most famous hazard of volcanoes. It is featured in movies, and used to describe lamps, chocolate cakes, and mobile phone cases. But...

Sea urchin (Araeosoma belli) with poison sacs on the end of its spines. Photo by Dave Pawson, Smithsonian.
by Devin Reese -- Oct 23, 2017

While this animal looks like a pincushion, you would not find it in a sewing kit. This venomous sea urchin, A. belli, lives on the ocean bottom as...

The red paper lantern jellyfish, a strikingly beautiful animal in the web of midwater ocean life. Photo by Karen Osborn, Smithsonian Institution.
by Devin Reese -- Mar 16, 2015

When we think about the ocean, we may visualize sea turtles swimming around coral reefs, sea urchins anchored in tidepools, dolphins breaching the...

Scientists finding a meteorite in Antarctica. Photo by Katherine Joy, University of Manchester, Antarctic Search for Meteorites Program.
by Devin Reese -- May 31, 2016

Who would think that a rock found in remote, freezing Antarctica, could be useful for studying Mars? In fact, teams of geologists congregate in...

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.
by Devin Reese -- Dec 8, 2016

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...

Can you see any differences between these millimeter-long male and female ostracodes (tiny ocean animals)? Microscope photos of fossil ostracodes by Gene Hunt, Smithsonian.
by Devin Reese -- Jan 23, 2017

In the animal kingdom, sexual reproduction is the rule, even for tiny ocean animals such as ...

A broken, fossil tyrannosaurid dinosaur tooth found on the ground in the Judith River Formation in Montana. Smithsonian photo by Michelle Pinsdorf.
by Devin Reese -- Feb 14, 2017

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,...

A robber fly, Microstylum morosu, with the facial bristles, or mytax (“moustache” in Greek), visible.  Photo by Eric Isley via iNaturalist, CC-BY-NC.
by Devin Reese -- Mar 16, 2017

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...

Keeled Ramshorn snail (Planorbis carinatus) that lives in rivers and lakes in Europe. Photo by Gerhard Falkner.
by Devin Reese -- Apr 26, 2017

Both kayakers and river snails are animals who rely on freshwater. While for a kayaker, it’s for recreation, for a snail it’s about livelihood....

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