Welcome to The Natural History Museum repository
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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Disparate compound eyes of Cambrian radiodonts reveal their developmental growth mode and diverse visual ecologyRadiodonts are nektonic stem-group euarthropods that played various trophic roles in Paleozoic marine ecosystems, but information on their vision is limited. Optical details exist only in one species from the Cambrian Emu Bay Shale of Australia, here assigned to Anomalocaris aff. canadensis. We identify another type of radiodont compound eye from this deposit, belonging to ‘Anomalocaris’ briggsi. This ≤4-cm sessile eye has >13,000 lenses and a dorsally oriented acute zone. In both taxa, lenses were added marginally and increased in size and number throughout development, as in many crown-group euarthropods. Both species’ eyes conform to their inferred lifestyles: The macrophagous predator A. aff. canadensis has acute stalked eyes (>24,000 lenses each) adapted for hunting in well-lit waters, whereas the suspension-feeding ‘A.’ briggsi could detect plankton in dim down-welling light. Radiodont eyes further demonstrate the group’s anatomical and ecological diversity and reinforce the crucial role of vision in early animal ecosystems.
Orogen architecture and crustal growth from accretion to collision (IGCP#662): Scientific Activities 2018-2019The scientific board of the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP), jointly sponsored by IUGS and UNESCO, approved for funding in March 2018 the IGCP-662 project (2018-2023) entitled “Orogenic architecture and crustal growth from accretion to collision”. Four meetings and field excursion, as well as training courses, have been successfully held respectively in 2018 and 2019. The first workshop was held during 21th - 22nd September 2018 in Beijing, China, with a 5-day (15th - 19th September) preworkshop field trip and one-day (23 September 2018) post-conference training course on “Using isotopes in zircon and sulfides to understanding crust-mantle evolution”. The second workshop and field trip of the IGCP-662 project were held in Mongolia from July 4th - 10th, 2019. Besides, the IGCP-662 project joined as co-sponsor the organization of an international symposium “The Geology of Eurasia” held at the Helmholtz-Centre Potsdam - German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) during 26th June - 1st July 2019.
Evolution of reproductive strategies in the species-rich land snail subfamily Phaedusinae (Stylommatophora: Clausiliidae)Most of the present knowledge on animal reproductive mode evolution, and possible factors driving transitions between oviparity and viviparity is based on studies on vertebrates. The species rich door snail (Clausiliidae) subfamily Phaedusinae represents a suitable and unique model for further examining parity evolution, as three different strategies, oviparity, viviparity, and the intermediate mode of embryo-retention, occur in this group. The present study reconstructs the evolution of reproductive strategies in Phaedusinae based on time-calibrated molecular phylogenetics, reproductive mode examinations and ancestral state reconstruction. Our phylogenetic analysis employing multiple mitochondrial and nuclear markers identified a well-supported clade (including the tribes Phaedusini and Serrulinini) that contains species exhibiting various reproductive strategies. This clade evolved from an oviparous most recent common ancestor according to our reconstruction. All non-oviparous taxa are confined to a highly supported subclade, coinciding with the tribe Phaedusini. Both oviparity and viviparity occur frequently in different lineages of this subclade that are not closely related. During Phaedusini diversification, multiple transitions in reproductive strategy must have taken place, which could have been promoted by a high fitness of embryo-retaining species. The evolutionary success of this group might result from the maintenance of various strategies.
Using natural history collections to investigate changes in pangolin (Pholidota: Manidae) geographic ranges through timePangolins, often considered the world’s most trafficked wild mammals, have continued to experience rapid declines across Asia and Africa. All eight species are classed as either Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Alongside habitat loss, they are threatened mainly by poaching and/or legal hunting to meet the growing consumer demand for their meat and keratinous scales. Species threat assessments heavily rely on changes in species distributions which are usually expensive and difficult to monitor, especially for rare and cryptic species like pangolins. Furthermore, recent assessments of the threats to pangolins focus on characterising their trade using seizure data which provide limited insights into the true extent of global pangolin declines. As the consequences of habitat modifications and poaching/hunting on species continues to become apparent, it is crucial that we frequently update our understanding of how species distributions change through time to allow effective identification of geographic regions that are in need of urgent conservation actions. Here we show how georeferencing pangolin specimens from natural history collections can reveal how their distributions are changing over time, by comparing overlap between specimen localities and current area of habitat maps derived from IUCN range maps. We found significant correlations in percentage area overlap between species, continent, IUCN Red List status and collection year, but not ecology (terrestrial or arboreal/semi-arboreal). Human population density (widely considered to be an indication of trafficking pressure) and changes in primary forest cover, were weakly correlated with percentage overlap. Our results do not suggest a single mechanism for differences among historical distributions and present-day ranges, but rather show that multiple explanatory factors must be considered when researching pangolin population declines as variations among species influence range fluctuations. We also demonstrate how natural history collections can provide temporal information on distributions and discuss the limitations of collecting and using historical data.
Dinosaur diversification rates were not in decline prior to the K-Pg boundaryDetermining the tempo and mode of non-avian dinosaur extinction is one of the most contentious issues in palaeobiology. Extensive disagreements remain over whether their extinction was catastrophic and geologically instantaneous or the culmination of long-term evolutionary trends. These conflicts have arisen due to numerous hierarchical sampling biases in the fossil record and differences in analytical methodology, with some studies identifying long-term declines in dinosaur richness prior to the Cretaceous–Palaeogene (K-Pg) boundary and others proposing continued diversification. Here, we use Bayesian phylogenetic generalized linear mixed models to assess the fit of 12 dinosaur phylogenies to three speciation models (null, slowdown to asymptote, downturn). We do not find strong support for the downturn model in our analyses, which suggests that dinosaur speciation rates were not in terminal decline prior to the K-Pg boundary and that the clade was still capable of generating new taxa. Nevertheless, we advocate caution in interpreting the results of such models, as they may not accurately reflect the complexities of the underlying data. Indeed, current phylogenetic methods may not provide the best test for hypotheses of dinosaur extinction; the collection of more dinosaur occurrence data will be essential to test these ideas further.