Latest Posts

Does a Spider Need a Web to Catch its Prey?

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 webs. Still, they have organs called spinnerets that spin out silk for other uses. Silk can help a spider wrap up their eggs to make an egg case, line its burrow, or swing to the ground from a branch. ...Read more
Tags: spider, venom
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.

Antarctic Meteorites that Hail from Mars

Who would think that a rock found in remote, freezing Antarctica, could be useful for studying Mars? In fact, teams of geologists congregate in Antarctica to find meteorites, some of which originated on Mars. Although meteorites fall all over the Earth, the cold, dry conditions of the South Pole are ideal for preserving them....Read more
Scientists finding a meteorite in Antarctica. Photo by Katherine Joy, University of Manchester, Antarctic Search for Meteorites Program.

Why Do We Collect Parasites?

Who would keep a collection of parasites? Believe it or not, the United States government has been collecting parasites for a hundred years. The collection, recently acquired by the Smithsonian, now numbers more than 20 million parasites. We keep parasites because they are a priority for research related to our well-being....Read more
Tags: parasite
Pickled parasites in the vast collections of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which are now managed by the Smithsonian.

Stumbling Upon a New Species of Giant, Woolly Rat

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 Kris and other members of a BBC expedition team in a remote volcano in Papua New Guinea. They named it the Bosavi woolly rat, after its thick fur and its home on Mount Bosavi....Read more
Tags: mammal, DNA, species
The Giant Woolly rat was discovered in 2009 in a Papua New Guinea forest. Photo by Kris Helgen, Smithsonian.

A Unique Field-Trip Opportunity for Title I Middle Schools

For a limited time this spring, Google is providing financial assistance to make field trips to the National Museum of Natural History possible for middle-school students from Title I schools in the D.C. area. For teachers interested in bringing their class or entire grade to the museum for a field trip, this is a unique opportunity to do so....Read more
Students handle real human bones in Q?rius during a Field Trip Day Sponsored by Google in 2015. Photo by Fiona Wilkinson, Smithsonian.