los angeles county natural history museum

Dinoween: Day 29: Graveyard

Museums are mausoleums of the millions of years dead. Their bones are moved from their original resting place to be resurrected for those who never knew them in life can pay their respects; their tombstones lacking any name but what the undertakers have renamed them as, often only a few letters and numbers.So mourners of these ancient avian monsters, gather with your bouquets of money to fund even more magnificent memorials.

This is also a fanart to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County @nhmla of their dueling dinos! It’s one of the closest big museums to me, my second favorite museum I’ve ever been to, and the one I go to most. Since I was a kid, I’ve done their classes, excursions, and eventually volunteered some in the vertebrate paleontology lab. I take friends and family here as often as I can.

New Study Unveils Exotic Flies Hiding in Urban LA

The common laboratory fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is arguably the most intensively studied and best known multicellular organism. Over 16,000 research papers were published in the last five years with the word “Drosophila” in the title. Many other species of Drosophila, though, still surprise scientists. In a study just published in the journal PLOS ONE, a group of researchers led by the American Museum of Natural History and the Natural History Museum (NHM) of Los Angeles County announce the discovery of two species of Drosophila flies never before seen in the United States living in the heart of Los Angeles.

“Given their great diversity and ecological significance, as pollinators in particular, arthropods are extremely important to city ecosystems. These two flies are remarkable examples of hidden biodiversity in one of the most populated urban centers in the world,” said David Grimaldi, a curator in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology and lead author of the study. “As urban green areas become better recognized for improving quality of life, with parks and lots replanted with native species, and community gardens multiplying, more attention is being paid to species within cities.”

One of the newly noted species, Drosophila gentica (pictured above), is the second-most common fruit fly found in the Los Angeles BioSCAN traps. This species was described in 1962 based on specimens collected in El Salvador in 1954, the first and last time it’s been recorded anywhere until now.

The other species, Drosophila flavohirta (pictured above), has its origin in Australia, but has accompanied transplanted eucalyptus from Australia to South Africa and Madagascar. That might also explain its presence in California, given the popularity of eucalyptus trees and shrubs there. This is the first time the species has been seen in the Western Hemisphere.  The two fly species were collected by researchers with Biodiversity Science: City and Nature (BioSCAN), a project of the NHM.

“I was as surprised as anyone when such unusual flies were found in our samples,” said Brian Brown, NHM entomology curator and an author on the study. “But urban biodiversity is an almost unknown frontier.”

How could these species of one of the world’s most studied organisms have escaped notice for so long in a place like Los Angeles? It all depends on how you look. Previous surveys used fruit or other baits to catch Drosophila. The research team suggests that may be why these species were missed—both breed on flowers, not fruit.

The new study used a tent-like insect trap called a “Malaise trap,” made of a fine-screened fabric that intercepts and collects fly specimens. Thirty of these traps were placed in yards and outdoor areas around L.A., including in two gardens and at one school.

“The citizen scientists that host these traps share in the credit for this discovery,“ Brown said.

This story was originally published on the Museum blog

It started with a bet. In 2013, Brian Brown, the curator of entomology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, told one of the museum’s trustees that he could find a new species of insect practically anywhere he looked. Her cynical response was, “Can you find one in my back yard?”

Brown accepted the challenge. Read the story of Los Angeles’ Back-Yard Entomologists.

Photograph by Kelsey Bailey / Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

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Know Your T. rex!

There are dozens of Tyrannosaurus skeletons on display around the world, but most are casts of a handful of specimens.

AMNH 5027

The first T. rex ever exhibited, and for most of the 20th century the only nearly complete specimen known. Look for a boxier skull, oversized legs borrowed from the T. rex holotype, feet based on Allosaurus, and filled-in fenestrae on older casts.

As Seen At: American Museum of Natural History, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Academy of Natural Sciences, National Museum of Natural History (skull), Peabody Museum of Natural History (skull)

The Nation’s T. rex - MOR 555

Discovered by rancher Kathy Wankel on Army Corps of Engineers land. Currently on loan to the Smithsonian. Look for longer, lankier legs, and an inaccurately reconstructed sloped snout on cast skulls.

As Seen At: Royal Ontario Museum, Museum of the Rockies, National Museum of Scotland, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, National Museum of Natural History (in 2019)

Stan – BHI 3033

By far the most duplicated and most exhibited dinosaur in the world. Look for excessively long teeth and a perforated jaw.

As Seen At: Black Hills Institute, Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, National Museum of Natural History, Dinosaur Discovery Museum, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Manchester Museum, Tokyo National Museum of Natural Science, traveling exhibits

Sue – FMNH PR2081

Discovered by Susan Hendrickson and the subject of an ugly 3-year legal battle before being purchased by the Field Museum. The oldest and most complete T. rex known. Look for a longer snout and stubby cocker spaniel legs.

As Seen At: Field Museum of Natural History, Disney World Animal Kingdom, traveling exhibits

Jane – BMRP 2002.4.1

A juvenile Tyrannosaurus discovered in 2001. Look for a scrawny build, gracile legs and a narrow skull.

As Seen At: Burpee Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Hildegarde Howard: Paleornithologist

Hildegarde Howard (4/3/1901 – 2/28/1998) pioneered the field of avian paleontology, and made no apologies.

This daughter of a screenwriter and musician grew up in the Los Angeles area in the early part of the 20th century. Despite a strong facility for writing, Howard focused her attention on biology rather than journalism. Taking an opportunity to work with paleontologist Chester Stock in the La Brea Tar Pits, Howard took the first of many steps in her 69-year long career.

She earned her BS in Paleontology from the University of California, Berkeley, and by 1923 she conducted research on saber-toothed cats for the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. She made her greatest achievements in the field of avian evolution, identifying 3 families, 13 genera, 57 species, and 2 subspecies.  

Howard was the first woman to be awarded the Brewster Medal in 1953, and the first woman elected president of the Southern California Academy of Sciences (who would dedicate Hildegarde Howard Cenozoic Hall in 1977). In back to back years, Howard served as a Guggenheim Fellow in Earth Science, then as an Honorary Member of Cooper Ornithological Society, in 1962 and ‘63 respectively.

What did you do with your summer?

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DADEVILLE, Ala. – A 53-year-old man says he and another person witnessed a huge black bird flying over their heads while boating in an Alabama lake. They spotted the feathered creature at about 10 p.m. in July of 1998. The boat was about 19 feet long and the alleged bird was almost as big. It had a wingspan three to four times as wide as the boat. It was jet black. The estimated wingspan would be about 20 to 30 feet. The birds body shape was that of a raven or crow, but extremely large and had finger-like feathers. The man states that the sighting didn’t last longer than 10 or 15 seconds. He believes that what they saw was an Argentavis magnificens, also known as Terrator and believed to be extinct. Remains of this bird, which lived in Argentina about 6 million years ago, were found by curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Kenneth Campbell.