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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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The alteration history of the CY chondrites, investigated through analysis of a new member: Dhofar 1988We provide the first detailed analysis of the carbonaceous chondrite Dhofar (Dho) 1988. This meteorite find was recovered in 2011 from the Zufar desert region of Oman and initially classified as a C2 ungrouped chondrite. Dho 1988 is a monomict breccia composed of millimetre-sized clasts, between which large (~50-250µm) intermixed sulphide-Ca-carbonate veins formed. It has high sulphide abundances (~14 vol%), medium-sized chondrules (avg. 530µm, N=33), relatively low chondrule/CAI abundances (<20 area%), a heavy bulk O-isotope composition (δ17O=9.12‰, δ18O=19.46‰) and an aqueously altered and then dehydrated alteration history. These characteristics are consistent with the newly defined Yamato-type (CY) carbonaceous chondrite group, suggesting this meteorite should be reclassified as a CY chondrite. Dho 1988 experienced advanced aqueous alteration (petrologic subtype 1.3 in the scheme of Howard et al., ). Alteration style and extent are similar to the CM chondrite group, with the matrix having been replaced by tochilinite-cronstedtite intergrowths and chondrules progressively pseudomorphed by phyllosilicates, sulphides and in one instance Ca-carbonates. However, departures from CM-like alteration include the replacement of chondrule cores with Al-rich, Na-saponite and upon which Cr-spinel and Mg-ilmenite grains precipitated. These late-stage aqueous alteration features are common among the CY chondrites. Fractures in Dho 1988 that are infilled by phyllosilicates, sulphides and carbonates attest to post-brecciation aqueous alteration. However, whether aqueous alteration was also active prior to brecciation remains unclear. Veins are polymineralic with a layered structure, allowing their relative chronology to be reconstructed: intermixed phyllosilicate-sulphide growth transitioned to sulphide-carbonate deposition. We estimate temperatures during aqueous alteration to have been between 110ºC<T<160ºC, based on the co-formation of Na-saponite and tochilinite. Dho 1988 was later overprinted by thermal metamorphism. Peak temperatures are estimated between 700ºC and 770ºC, based on the thermal decomposition of phyllosilicates (both serpentine and saponite) combined with the survival of calcite. As temperatures rose during metamorphism the thermal decomposition of pyrrhotite produced troilite. Sulphur gas was liberated in this reaction and flowed through the chondrite reacting with magnetite (previously formed during aqueous alteration) to form a second generation of troilite grains. The presence of both troilite and Ni-rich metal in Dho 1988 (and other CY chondrites) demonstrate that conditions were constrained at the iron-troilite buffer.
The atmospheric entry of fine-grained micrometeorites: The role of volatile gases in heating and fragmentationThe early stages of atmospheric entry are investigated in four large (250–950 lm) unmelted micrometeorites (three fine-grained and one composite), derived from the Transantarctic Mountain micrometeorite collection. These particles have abundant, interconnected, secondary pore spaces which form branching channels and show evidence of enhanced heating along their channel walls. Additionally, a micrometeorite with a doublewalled igneous rim is described, suggesting that some particles undergo volume expansion during entry. This study provides new textural data which links together entry heating processes known to operate inside micrometeoroids, thereby generating a more comprehensive model of their petrographic evolution. Initially, flash heated micrometeorites develop a melt layer on their exterior; this igneous rim migrates inwards. Meanwhile, the particle core is heated by the decomposition of low-temperature phases and by volatile gas release. Where the igneous rim acts as a seal, gas pressures rise, resulting in the formation of interconnected voids and higher particle porosities. Eventually, the igneous rim is breached and gas exchange with the atmosphere occurs. This mechanism replaces inefficient conductive rim-to-core thermal gradients with more efficient particle-wide heating, driven by convective gas flow. Interconnected voids also increase the likelihood of particle fragmentation during entry and, may therefore explain the rarity of large fine-grained micrometeorites among collections.
The conundrum of an overlooked skeleton referable to Imperial Woodpecker Campephilus imperialis in the collection of the Natural History Museum at TringThe discovery of an overlooked skeleton of Imperial Woodpecker Campephilus imperialis in the bird collection of the Natural History Museum at Tring (NHMUK) is documented, one of very few known to exist worldwide of this almost certainly extinct species. We present evidence that, on balance of probabilities, it is one of two collected by Alphonse Forrer in 1882 near the settlement of La Ciudad in the Sierra Madre Occidental, Durango, western Mexico; the whereabouts of the other, which did not come to NHMUK, appears currently unknown. During research into the NHMUK specimen, we demonstrated that the supposed Imperial Woodpecker skull held in the collection of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, must in fact be that of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker C. principalis.
Step by step towards citizen science — deconstructing youth participation in BioBlitzesBioBlitzes, typically one-day citizen science (CS) events, provide opportunities for the public to participate in data collection for research and conservation, potentially promoting deeper engagement with science. We observed 81 youth at 15 BioBlitzes in the U.S. and U.K., identifying five steps participants use to create a biological record (Exploring, Observing, Identifying, Documenting and Recording). We found 67 youth engaged in at least one of the steps, but seldom in all, with rare participation in Recording which is crucial for contributing data to CS. These findings suggest BioBlitzes should reduce barriers to Recording for youth to increase engagement with science.
The early death of Colonel Robert C. Tytler and the afterlife of his collectionA letter by Allan Octavian Hume and three by Bertram Bevan-Petman, all written between 1904 and 1911 to Ernst Hartert, bird curator of Rothschild’s Tring Museum, are present in the Rothschild Tring archive, now held by the Natural History Museum. These shed light on both the probable cause of the early death in 1872 of Colonel Robert C. Tytler, British army officer and naturalist in colonial India, and on the somewhat convoluted fate of his collection subsequently.