Latest Posts

Insects Interacting with Plants Play Mighty Roles on Earth for Millennia

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 what about the green world of plants around us, and of their abundant associates, the insects? Insects and plants have been interacting on Earth for hundreds of millions of years in a complex array of relationships....Read more
Tags: insect, plant, fossil
Ancient scorpionflies pollinating the primitive seed plants Caytonia, at left, and Alvinia, at right. Depiction by Mary Parrish, Smithsonian.

How Magma Behaves when It Gets Gassed Up

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 lava is only part of the volcano story. Lava is what we call magma when it flows out of a volcano, and magma is molten – or melted – rock. While you would not want to stand in lava, which can be as hot as 2,000°F, at a walking pace you could outrun the majority of lava flows....Read more
Tags: volcano
The 2013 eruption of the Mount Etna in Italy sent materials skyward. Photo by gnuckx, public domain.

Back to the Past, Looking for Sea Urchins and Other Deep Sea Life

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 deep as several thousand meters. Scientists study it, and other deep ocean dwellers, from submersibles or remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) that explore the ocean depths equipped with cameras and collecting gear. ...Read more
Sea urchin (Araeosoma belli) with poison sacs on the end of its spines. Photo by Dave Pawson, Smithsonian.

¿Porque la mariposa Morfo Azul es azul? Averígualo en los “Viernes de SEM” en nuestras demostraciones de microscopios electrónicos

¿Porque la mariposa Morfo Azul es azul? Ven a ver por ti mismo en “Viernes de SEM”, una demostración semanal de nuestro microscopio electrónico de barrido (SEM), en Q?rius, El Centro de Educación en Ciencia Coralyn W. Whitney. Mira como se ve una mariposa magnificada hasta 15.000 veces, y descubre los secretos del color de la mariposa y mucho más....Read more
Tags: butterflies
The blue morpho butterfly (Morpho peleides) can be found in tropical areas from Mexico to South America. Smithsonian photo.

Why Are Blue Morpho Butterflies Blue? Find Out on ‘SEM Fridays’ at Our Electron Microscope Demo

Why are blue morpho butterflies blue? Come see for yourself at a weekly demonstration of a scanning electron microscope (or SEM) on “SEM Fridays” in Q?rius, The Coralyn W. Whitney Science Education Center. Watch me zoom in on a blue morpho sample at 15,000 times magnification, revealing clues to the butterfly’s color and more....Read more
Tags: butterflies
The blue morpho butterfly (Morpho peleides) can be found in tropical areas from Mexico to South America. Smithsonian photo.

Going Deep for Octopods

Most familiar “octopods” (general term for octopuses and their close relatives) live in relatively shallow parts of the ocean. They are predators, who can benefit from the abundant food, such as fishes, crabs, and shrimps, in habitats such as shallow coral reefs....Read more
Ghost-like octopod of an unknown species discovered on the seafloor of the Pacific Ocean more than 4,000 meters down during a research cruise. Photo from NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Hohonu Moana 2016.