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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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A new metriorhynchid crocodylomorph from the Oxford Clay Formation (Middle Jurassic) of England, with implications for the origin and diversification of GeosauriniMetriorhynchids are an extinct group of Jurassic–Cretaceous crocodylomorphs secondarily adapted to a marine lifestyle. A new metriorhynchid crocodylomorph from the Oxford Clay Formation (Callovian, Middle Jurassic) of England is described. The specimen is a large, fragmentary skull and associated single ramus of a lower jaw uniquely preserved in a septarian concretion. The description of the specimen reveals a series of autapomorphies (apicobasal flutings on the middle labial surface of the tooth crowns, greatly enlarged basoccipital tuberosities) and a unique combination of characters that warrant the creation of a new genus and species: Ieldraan melkshamensis gen. et sp. nov. This taxon shares numerous characters with the Late Jurassic–Early Cretaceous genus Geosaurus: tooth crowns that have three apicobasal facets on their labial surface, subtly ornamented skull and lower jaws elements, and reception pits along the lateral margin of the dentary (maxillary overbite). Phylogenetic analysis places this new species as the sister taxon to Geosaurus. The new taxon adds valuable information on the time of origin of the macrophagous subclade Geosaurini, which was initially thought to have evolved and radiated during the Late Jurassic. The presence of Ieldraan melkshamensis, the phylogenetic re-evaluation of Suchodus durobrivensis as a Plesiosuchus sister taxon and recently identified Callovian Dakosaurus-like specimens in the Oxford Clay Formation, indicate that all major Geosaurini lineages originated earlier than previously supposed. This has major implications for the evolution of macropredation in the group. Specifically, we can now demonstrate that the four different forms of true ziphodonty observed in derived geosaurins independently evolved from a single non-functional microziphodont common ancestor.
An overlooked contributor to palaeontology—the preparator Richard Hall (b. 1839) and his work on an armoured dinosaur and a giant sea dragonThe work of Richard Hall, a fossil preparator at the British Museum (Natural History) in the late 19th century, has been largely unrecorded. It included the excavation, preparation and restoration of two important specimens: the dinosaur Polacanthus foxii and the ichthyosaur Temnodontosaurus platyodon. The painstaking reconstruction of the dorsal shield of Polacanthus took seven years to complete and enabled a supplemental note redescribing the specimen to be published in 1887. The significance of the discovery in 1898 of the Temnodontosaurus to the town of Stockton in Warwickshire was such that it featured in an article in Nature. It has entered the local folklore and remains celebrated on the town’s road signage and features as the logo of Stockton Primary School.
The air-abrasive technique: A re-evaluation of its use in fossil preparationThis paper outlines the history of air-abrasion (also known as airbrasion) as a paleontological preparation technique and evaluates various powders and their properties. It explores the rationale behind the selection of abrasive powders and presents, for the first time, trench-scatter experiments through Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) photography and three-dimensional (3-D) profiling. This article also offers general practical advice and details the results of an international survey of practising fossil preparators.
Evolutionary history of the Galápagos Rail revealed by ancient mitogenomes and modern samplesThe biotas of the Galápagos Islands are one of the best studied island systems and have provided a broad model for insular species’ origins and evolution. Nevertheless, some locally endemic taxa, such as the Galápagos Rail Laterallus spilonota, remain poorly characterized. Owing to its elusive behavior, cryptic plumage, and restricted distribution, the Galápagos Rail is one of the least studied endemic vertebrates of the Galapagos Islands. To date, there is no genetic data for this species, leaving its origins, relationships to other taxa, and levels of genetic diversity uncharacterized. This lack of information is critical given the adverse fate of island rail species around the world in the recent past. Here, we examine the genetics of Galápagos Rails using a combination of mitogenome de novo assembly with multilocus nuclear and mitochondrial sequencing from both modern and historical samples. We show that the Galápagos Rail is part of the “American black rail clade”, sister to the Black Rail L. jamaicensis, with a colonization of Galápagos dated to 1.2 million years ago. A separate analysis of one nuclear and two mitochondrial markers in the larger population samples demonstrates a shallow population structure across the islands, possibly due to elevated island connectivity. Additionally, birds from the island Pinta possessed the lowest levels of genetic diversity, possibly reflecting past population bottlenecks associated with overgrazing of their habitat by invasive goats. The modern and historical data presented here highlight the low genetic diversity in this endemic rail species and provide useful information to guide conservation efforts.
A proposed solution to a lengthy dispute: what is Leptinaria (uni)lamellata (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Achatinidae)?The taxonomic position and the publication dates of both Achatina lamellata Potiez & Michaud, 1835 and Helix unilamellata d’Orbigny, 1835 are discussed. The dispute concerning the correct publication date of Potiez & Michaud is analysed and a collation of their Atlas is compared to the sheets of their main text, leading to the most likely scenario that the name Achatina lamellata became available in October 1838. The discovery of material ex auctore of this taxon enables us to establish it as a junior synonym of d’Orbigny’s taxon, which was published in March 1838. The correct name is thus Leptinaria unilamellata (d’Orbigny, 1838).