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The Q? Blog

Smithsonian Science How?

Blue Morpho Butterfly (Morpho sp.) perched on a leaf, showing the underside of its wings, with a bit of upperside blue peeking out. Photo by DerBurgunder via Pixabay.
by Devin Reese -- May 21, 2018

Learn the function and basis of butterfly coloration, and how blue is often created differently from other colors.

The massive Goliath birdeater tarantula (Theraphosa blondi). Smithsonian photo by Rosa Pineda
by Devin Reese -- Jul 14, 2014

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...

Pickled parasites in the vast collections of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which are now managed by the Smithsonian.
by Devin Reese -- May 3, 2016

Who would keep a collection of parasites? Believe it or not, the United States government has been collecting parasites for a hundred years. The...

 Tiny fossil jaw of a rhynchosaur (reptile) from the Late Jurassic that lived alongside dinosaurs in Wyoming. Photo by Matthew Carrano, Smithsonian.
by Devin Reese -- Feb 17, 2016

A fossil the size of our pinky nail is not typically what we hope to see when we come to a natural history museum to learn about dinosaurs. But,...

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 ...

Ash-grey Indian paintbrush plant in Southern California. Image by Gary A. Monroe, EOL via CalPhotos, CC-BY-NC.
by Devin Reese -- Jan 8, 2015

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...

The Giant Woolly rat was discovered in 2009 in a Papua New Guinea forest. Photo by Kris Helgen, Smithsonian.
by Devin Reese -- Apr 14, 2016

How would you feel if you encountered a rat almost three feet long? Smithsonian’s Dr. Kristofer Helgen was overjoyed. The rat was discovered by...

This scanning electron microscope image shows fungi making bead-like minerals (elemental selenium). Image from Carla Rosenfeld, Smithsonian.
by Devin Reese -- Feb 26, 2015

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...

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...

Ski boots worn by the Arctic Sami people of northern Norway. Smithsonian E398453-0, photo by Don Hurlbert.
by Devin Reese -- Oct 19, 2015

It’s hard to believe that people have been living in the Arctic for 40,000 years. How can people survive in such a harsh environment, and what...

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