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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Ancient life and moving fluidsOver 3.7 billion years of Earth history, life has evolved complex adaptations to help navigate and interact with the fluid environment. Consequently, fluid dynamics has become a powerful tool for studying ancient fossils, providing insights into the palaeobiology and palaeoecology of extinct organisms from across the tree of life. In recent years, this approach has been extended to the Ediacara biota, an enigmatic assemblage of Neoproterozoic soft-bodied organisms that represent the first major radiation of macroscopic eukaryotes. Reconstructing the ways in which Ediacaran organisms interacted with the fluids provides new insights into how these organisms fed, moved, and interacted within communities. Here, we provide an in-depth review of fluid physics aimed at palaeobiologists, in which we dispel misconceptions related to the Reynolds number and associated flow conditions, and specify the governing equations of fluid dynamics. We then review recent advances in Ediacaran palaeobiology resulting from the application of computational fluid dynamics (CFD). We provide a worked example and account of best practice in CFD analyses of fossils, including the first large eddy simulation (LES) experiment performed on extinct organisms. Lastly, we identify key questions, barriers, and emerging techniques in fluid dynamics, which will not only allow us to understand the earliest animal ecosystems better, but will also help to develop new palaeobiological tools for studying ancient life.
Lack of support for Deuterostomia prompts reinterpretation of the first BilateriaThe bilaterally symmetric animals (Bilateria) are considered to comprise two monophyletic groups, Protostomia (Ecdysozoa and the Lophotrochozoa) and Deuterostomia (Chordata and the Xenambulacraria). Recent molecular phylogenetic studies have not consistently supported deuterostome monophyly. Here, we compare support for Protostomia and Deuterostomia using multiple, independent phylogenomic datasets. As expected, Protostomia is always strongly supported, especially by longer and higher-quality genes. Support for Deuterostomia, however, is always equivocal and barely higher than support for paraphyletic alternatives. Conditions that cause tree reconstruction errors—inadequate models, short internal branches, faster evolving genes, and unequal branch lengths—coincide with support for monophyletic deuterostomes. Simulation experiments show that support for Deuterostomia could be explained by systematic error. The branch between bilaterian and deuterostome common ancestors is, at best, very short, supporting the idea that the bilaterian ancestor may have been deuterostome-like. Our findings have important implications for the understanding of early animal evolution.
Vertically migrating Isoxys and the early Cambrian biological pumpThe biological pump is crucial for transporting nutrients fixed by surface-dwelling primary producers to demersal animal communities. Indeed, the establishment of an efficient biological pump was likely a key factor enabling the diversification of animals over 500 Myr ago during the Cambrian explosion. The modern biological pump operates through two main vectors: the passive sinking of aggregates of organic matter, and the active vertical migration of animals. The coevolution of eukaryotes and sinking aggregates is well understood for the Proterozoic and Cambrian; however, little attention has been paid to the establishment of the vertical migration of animals. Here we investigate the morphological variation and hydrodynamic performance of the Cambrian euarthropod Isoxys. We combine elliptical Fourier analysis of carapace shape with computational fluid dynamics simulations to demonstrate that Isoxys species likely occupied a variety of niches in Cambrian oceans, including vertical migrants, providing the first quantitative evidence that some Cambrian animals were adapted for vertical movement in the water column. Vertical migration was one of several early Cambrian metazoan innovations that led to the biological pump taking on a modern-style architecture over 500 Myr ago.
Pentaradial eukaryote suggests expansion of suspension feeding in White Sea-aged Ediacaran communitiesSuspension feeding is a key ecological strategy in modern oceans that provides a link between pelagic and benthic systems. Establishing when suspension feeding first became widespread is thus a crucial research area in ecology and evolution, with implications for understanding the origins of the modern marine biosphere. Here, we use three-dimensional modelling and computational fluid dynamics to establish the feeding mode of the enigmatic Ediacaran pentaradial eukaryote Arkarua. Through comparisons with two Cambrian echinoderms,Cambraster and Stromatocystites, we show that flow patterns around Arkarua strongly support its interpretation as a passive suspension feeder.Arkarua is added to the growing number of Ediacaran benthic suspension feeders, suggesting that the energy link between pelagic and benthic ecosystems was likely expanding in the White Sea assemblage (~ 558–550 Ma). The advent of widespread suspension feeding could therefore have played an important role in the subsequent waves of ecological innovation and escalation that culminated with the Cambrian explosion.
Petrographic and chemical studies of the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary sequence at El Guayal, Tabasco, Mexico: Implications for ejecta plume evolution from the Chicxulub impact craterA combined petrographic and chemical study of ejecta particles from the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary sequence of El Guayal, Tabasco, Mexico (520 km SW of Chicxulub crater), was carried out to assess their formation conditions and genetic relation during the impact process. The reaction of silicate ejecta particles with hot volatiles during atmospheric transport may have induced alteration processes, e.g., silicification and cementation, observed in the ejecta deposits. The various microstructures of calcite ejecta particles are interpreted to reflect different thermal histories at postshock conditions. Spherulitic calcite particles may represent carbonate melts that were quenched during ejection. A recrystallized microstructure may indicate short, intense thermal stress. Various aggregates document particle-particle interactions and intermixing of components from lower silicate and upper sedimentary target lithologies. Aggregates of recrystallized calcite with silicate melt indicate the consolidation of a hot suevitic component with sediments at ≳750 °C. Accretionary lapilli formed in a turbulent, steam-condensing environment at ~100 °C by aggregation of solid, ash-sized particles. Concentric zones with smaller grain sizes of accreted particles indicate a recurring exchange with a hotter environment. Our results suggest that during partial ejecta plume collapse, hot silicate components were mixed with the fine fraction of local surface-derived sediments, the latter of which were displaced by the preceding ejecta curtain. These processes sustained a hot, gas-driven, lateral basal transport that was accompanied by a turbulent plume at a higher level. The exothermic back-reaction of CaO from decomposed carbonates and sulfates with CO2 to form CaCO3 may have been responsible for a prolonged release of thermal energy at a late stage of plume evolution.