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The Natural History Museum is an international leader in the study of the natural world. Our science describes the diversity of nature, promotes an understanding of its past, and supports the anticipation and management of the impact of human activity on the environment.
The Museum's repository provides free access to publications produced by more than 300 scientists working here. Researchers at the Museum study a diverse range of issues, including threats to Earth's biodiversity, the maintenance of delicate ecosystems, environmental pollution and disease. The accessible repository showcases this broad research output.
The repository was launched in 2016 with an initially modest number of journal publications in its database. It now includes book chapters and blogs from Museum scientists.
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Novel Virus Discovery and Genome Reconstruction from Field RNA Samples Reveals Highly Divergent Viruses in Dipteran HostsWe investigated whether small RNA (sRNA) sequenced from field-collected mosquitoes and chironomids (Diptera) can be used as a proxy signature of viral prevalence within a range of species and viral groups, using sRNAs sequenced from wild-caught specimens, to inform total RNA deep sequencing of samples of particular interest. Using this strategy, we sequenced from adult Anopheles maculipennis s.l. mosquitoes the apparently nearly complete genome of one previously undescribed virus related to chronic bee paralysis virus, and, from a pool of Ochlerotatus caspius and Oc. detritus mosquitoes, a nearly complete entomobirnavirus genome. We also reconstructed long sequences (1503-6557 nt) related to at least nine other viruses. Crucially, several of the sequences detected were reconstructed from host organisms highly divergent from those in which related viruses have been previously isolated or discovered. It is clear that viral transmission and maintenance cycles in nature are likely to be significantly more complex and taxonomically diverse than previously expected.
Aquatic Habits and Niche Partitioning in the Extraordinarily Long-Necked Triassic Reptile TanystropheusTanystropheus longobardicus is one of the most remarkable and iconic Triassic reptiles. Mainly known from the Middle Triassic conservation Lagerstätte of Monte San Giorgio on the Swiss-Italian border, it is characterized by an extraordinarily long and stiffened neck that is almost three times the length of the trunk, despite being composed of only 13 hyper-elongate cervical vertebrae [1-8]. Its paleobiology remains contentious, with both aquatic and terrestrial lifestyles having been proposed [1, 9-12]. Among the Tanystropheus specimens, a small morphotype bearing tricuspid teeth and a large morphotype bearing single-cusped teeth can be recognized, historically considered as juveniles and adults of the same species . Using high-resolution synchrotron radiation microtomography (SRμCT), we three-dimensionally reconstruct a virtually complete but disarticulated skull of the large morphotype, including its endocast and inner ear, to reveal its morphology for the first time. The skull is specialized toward hunting in an aquatic environment, indicated by the placement of the nares on the top of the snout and a "fish-trap"-type dentition. The SRμCT data and limb bone paleohistology reveal that the large morphotype represents a separate species (Tanystropheus hydroides sp. nov.). Skeletochronology of the small morphotype specimens indicates that they are skeletally mature despite their small size, thus representing adult individuals of Tanystropheus longobardicus. The co-occurrence of these two species of disparate size ranges and dentitions provides strong evidence for niche partitioning, highlighting the surprising versatility of the Tanystropheus bauplan and the complexity of Middle Triassic nearshore ecosystems.
Cranial morphology of the tanystropheid Macrocnemus bassanii unveiled using synchrotron microtomographyThe genus Macrocnemus is a member of the Tanystropheidae, a clade of non-archosauriform archosauromorphs well known for their very characteristic, elongated cervical vertebrae. Articulated specimens are known from the Middle Triassic of Alpine Europe and China. Although multiple articulated specimens are known, description of the cranial morphology has proven challenging due to the crushed preservation of the specimens. Here we use synchrotron micro computed tomography to analyse the cranial morphology of a specimen of the type species Macrocnemus bassanii from the Besano Formation of Monte San Giorgio, Ticino, Switzerland. The skull is virtually complete and we identify and describe the braincase and palatal elements as well the atlas-axis complex for the first time. Moreover, we add to the knowledge of the morphology of the skull roof, rostrum and hemimandible, and reconstruct the cranium of M. bassanii in 3D using the rendered models of the elements. The circumorbital bones were found to be similar in morphology to those of the archosauromorphs Prolacerta broomi and Protorosaurus speneri. In addition, we confirm the palatine, vomer and pterygoid to be tooth-bearing palatal bones, but also observed heterodonty on the pterygoid and the palatine.
The cranial morphology of Tanystropheus hydroides (Tanystropheidae, Archosauromorpha) as revealed by synchrotron microtomographyThe postcranial morphology of the extremely long-necked Tanystropheus hydroides is well-known, but observations of skull morphology were previously limited due to compression of the known specimens. Here we provide a detailed description of the skull of PIMUZ T 2790, including a partial endocast and endosseous labyrinth, based on synchrotron microtomographic data, and compare its morphology to that of other early Archosauromorpha. In many features, such as the wide and flattened snout and the configuration of the temporal and palatal regions, Tanystropheus hydroides differs strongly from other early archosauromorphs. The braincase possesses a combination of derived archosaur traits, such as the presence of a laterosphenoid and the ossification of the lateral wall of the braincase, but also differs from archosauriforms in the morphology of the ventral ramus of the opisthotic, the horizontal orientation of the parabasisphenoid, and the absence of a clearly defined crista prootica. Tanystropheus hydroides was a ram-feeder that likely caught its prey through a laterally directed snapping bite. Although the cranial morphology of other archosauromorph lineages is relatively well-represented, the skulls of most tanystropheid taxa remain poorly understood due to compressed and often fragmentary specimens. The recent descriptions of the skulls of Macrocnemus bassanii and now Tanystropheus hydroides reveal a large cranial disparity in the clade, reflecting wide ecological diversity, and highlighting the importance of non-archosauriform Archosauromorpha to both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems during the Triassic.