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My Favorite Specimen, the Pangolin

Pangolins are the only mammals with scales. I love showing the pangolin specimen to visitors because they often think it’s a reptile at first. It challenges everyone who looks at it to reevaluate his or her definition of a mammal. I like to use the pangolins to help Q?rius visitors make connections with other animals in the Museum....Read more
Keywords: collections, mammal
Q?Crew volunteer Ella holds a pangolin specimen in Q?rius. Photo by Melissa Cannon, Smithsonian.

Meteorites Bring News from Outer Space

Meteorites may conjure images of giant rocks smashing into towns. In fact, meteorites rarely hit people and regularly bring valuable materials to Earth from outer space. All of the iron we use on Earth today was delivered by meteorites. Gold and platinum even have meteorite origins....Read more
Keywords: meteorite, geology
This meteorite piece from an ancient asteroid contains valuable crystals and metals. Smithsonian image 6474.

Do You Suffer from Cellphone Separation Anxiety?

If you feel anxious when you don't have your phone nearby, you are not alone. With some 6 billion cellphones in circulation on Earth, we depend on them for a huge range of services: texting friends, sharing selfies, ordering food, getting news, watching movies, accessing clouds, etc....Read more
Keywords: mineral
Have you seen your cell phone lately? Photo by Devin Reese, Smithsonian.

How Mummies are Made

The most familiar mummies are the Egyptians, buried in elaborate tombs and surrounded with treasures to escort them into the afterlife. But, not all mummies were Egyptian, or even of the ruling class. Mummies have been found around the world, in circumstances ranging from honored leaders to unfortunate victims....Read more
Egyptian mummy and its X-ray at the National Museum of Natural History. Smithsonian image by Chip Clark.

A Crystal the Size of a School Bus?!

In South Dakota miners found a crystal of a mineral called spodumene that was 42 feet long and weighed 90 tons. While it's an extreme example, the massive crystal showcased one of the incredible qualities of the rock in which it was found, known as "pegmatite." Unlike most rocks, pegmatites contain unusually large crystals of a wide variety of minerals....Read more
Keywords: geology
Blue beryl that crystallized as a 6-sided hexagonal crystal, not bus-sized but beautiful. Photo by Chip Clark, Smithsonian.

Discovering Weird, Wonderful New Species in the Open Ocean

When we think about the ocean, we may visualize sea turtles swimming around coral reefs, sea urchins anchored in tidepools, dolphins breaching the surface, or even shrimp gathered around deepwater sulfur vents. But most of the ocean is just open water, miles and miles of it from below the surface to thousands of feet down. This ocean midwater is the largest habitat on Earth! ...Read more
Keywords: invertebrate, ocean
The red paper lantern jellyfish, a strikingly beautiful animal in the web of midwater ocean life. Photo by Karen Osborn, Smithsonian Institution.

Not Just Menaces, Microbes are also Mineral-Making Machines

A microbe is a tiny organism, microscopic in size. We often think of microbes as menaces, such as pathogenic bacteria or fungi that cause disease. In fact, microbes are also necessary for life because of their impacts on the distribution of essential nutrients in ecosystems. Nearly every element on this planet is affected in some way by microbes....Read more
Keywords: microbe, geology
This scanning electron microscope image shows fungi making bead-like minerals (elemental selenium). Image from Carla Rosenfeld, Smithsonian.

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