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The Tales that Plants Can Tell

They are silent and stationary, but scientists look to them to tell stories about what happened in the past. Because plants are all around us, and specific in their needs, they are great indicators of ecosystem change. Just as an animal might move to a different place if conditions get rough, plants must adapt. Unfortunately, habitat changes are happening more rapidly than in the past and plants cannot adapt as quickly....Read more
Tags: collections
Ash-grey Indian paintbrush plant in Southern California. Image by Gary A. Monroe, EOL via CalPhotos, CC-BY-NC.

Webcast Extra: More Answers to Your Questions About Birds

Welcome to the first “Smithsonian Science How” video blog! If you tuned in to the Dec. 11, 2014 live webcast featuring Smithsonian ornithologist Dr. Helen James talking about bird extinctions, you know that the show’s awesome viewers from classrooms across the county were typing in questions fast and furiously. You might say the questions were flying! ...Read more
Smithsonian's Dr. Helen James and Maggy Benson during a live Smithsonian Science How webcast

Dinosaurs were just the Tip of the Iceberg

We’ve all fantasized about living in a world where dinosaurs roam the Earth, a place like Jurassic Park, rife with the perils and excitement of living amongst these odd creatures. While it’s safer for us now, what a shame that birds are the only living descendants of the dinosaurs that walked on two legs and included the infamous T. rex. About 66 million years ago, T....Read more
Late Cretaceous scene. Depiction by Mary Parrish, Smithsonian.

Choose Your Weapon: Shark or Vending Machine

You may have heard that more people die from vending machine accidents every year than from shark bites. My fourth grader knew that, and it's not hard to dig up statistics to confirm it. So, if we're going to make the world a safer place by eradicating vending machines or sharks, I'd choose vending machines....Read more
Tags: shark
Silky Shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) off the coast of Cuba. Photo by Alex Chernikh, via Wikimedia and EOL, CC-BY.

Hey Moth, That's a Great Rack on Your Head

Browsing through moths in the Q?rius Collections at the National Museum of Natural History during National Moth Week,  I discovered some impressive antennae. The wide, sturdy projections from many of the moth's heads looked like the blades of a helicopter....Read more
Tags: moth
Male fox moth (Macrothylacia rubi) with a magnificent set of antennae. Photo by Biopix, via EOL, CC-BY-NC

Tarantula: Friend or Foe?

How can you tell whether to trust a tarantula or not? Most tarantula defenses, such as trying to look big, hissing, or running away, are harmless to humans. It’s the rare but harmful defense -- the bite -- that we tend to focus on....Read more
Tags: spider
The massive Goliath birdeater tarantula (Theraphosa blondi). Smithsonian photo by Rosa Pineda

Catch the Pollination Bug

People all over the U.S. were celebrating National Pollination Week last month. What’s to celebrate about pollination? I asked around the Smithsonian and found that there are as many reasons to celebrate pollination as there are types of bugs....Read more
Tags: pollinator
Orange “nectar guides” act like runway lights to attract pollinators into the center of a Miltoniopsis orchid. Smithsonian photo by Devin Reese

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