Skip to main content

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.

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.

Our Language, Ourselves

Every sentence we speak reveals something about who we are as humans. Even people speaking the same language have distinct dialects that are rooted in their history and culture. Whether you say “soda” or “pop” may reveal what country and what region you are from....Read more
Alberto Javier Reyes García, biologist at the National Herbarium in Mexico (MEXU), collecting plants in the Zapotec community of La Ventosa, Oaxaca, Mexico as part of Smithsonian-led research. Photo by Gibrán Morales Carranza.

What Do Kayakers and River Snails have in Common?

Both kayakers and river snails are animals who rely on freshwater. While for a kayaker, it’s for recreation, for a snail it’s about livelihood. Freshwater snails live underwater and feed on algae and other bits of aquatic food. Like kayakers, they depend on certain conditions of temperature, water flow, and water quality for their activities....Read more
Tags: snail
Keeled Ramshorn snail (Planorbis carinatus) that lives in rivers and lakes in Europe. Photo by Gerhard Falkner.

Giving Fossils a Facelift

A fossil, if you think about it, has not shown its best face in a long time, maybe never. It has spent millions of years embedded in rock, ice, tar, or amber. It is a fossil preparator’s job to remove a fossil from the surrounding materials to reveal it for study and display. The difficulty of the preparation depends not only on what the fossilized organism is, but also how it has changed over time....Read more
Tags: fossil
A broken, fossil tyrannosaurid dinosaur tooth found on the ground in the Judith River Formation in Montana. Smithsonian photo by Michelle Pinsdorf.

Pages

--> -->