• The Natural History Museum Data Portal

      Hardy, H; Scott, B; Baker, E; Woodburn, M; Vincent, S; Smith, V (Oxford University Press, 2019-04-11)
      The Natural History Museum, London (NHM), generates and holds some of the largest global data sets relating to the biological and geological diversity of the natural world. A majority of these data were, until 2015, not widely accessible, and, even when published, were typically hard to find, poorly documented and in formats that impede discovery and integration. To better serve the bespoke needs of user communities outside and within the NHM, a dedicated data portal was developed to surface these data sets and provide a sustainable platform to encourage their citation and reuse. This paper describes the technical development of the data portal, from its inception to beta launch in December 2015, its first 2 years of operation, and future plans for the project. It outlines the development principles adopted for this prototypical project, which subsequently informed new digital project management methodologies at the NHM. The process of developing the data portal acted as a driver to implement policies necessary to encourage a culture of data sharing at the NHM.
    • The Natural History Museum Fossil Porifera Collection

      Sendino, Consuelo (SAGE Publications, 2020-12-02)
      This article provides updated information about the Porifera Collection at The Natural History Museum (NHM), London. With very little information available regarding fossil sponge digitization or any similar initiative, this paper covers the type and figured specimens and drawer label content data of the Porifera Collection and also describes the collection and its research potential. With approximately 71,000 specimens, of which more than 60% are Mesozoic, the NHM holdings offer the best Mesozoic sponge collection in the world and one of the most important due to its breadth and depth. The Porifera Collection covers all stratigraphic periods and all taxonomic groups and includes almost 3000 cited and figured specimens including types. Although most of the specimens come from the British Isles, worldwide samples are also present, with abundant specimens from other Commonwealth countries and from Antarctica.
    • A new family of diprotodontian marsupials from the latest Oligocene of Australia and the evolution of wombats, koalas, and their relatives (Vombatiformes)

      Beck, RMD; Louys, J; Brewer, Philippa; Archer, M; Black, KH; Tedford, RH (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2020-06-25)
      We describe the partial cranium and skeleton of a new diprotodontian marsupial from the late Oligocene (~26–25 Ma) Namba Formation of South Australia. This is one of the oldest Australian marsupial fossils known from an associated skeleton and it reveals previously unsuspected morphological diversity within Vombatiformes, the clade that includes wombats (Vombatidae), koalas (Phascolarctidae) and several extinct families. Several aspects of the skull and teeth of the new taxon, which we refer to a new family, are intermediate between members of the fossil family Wynyardiidae and wombats. Its postcranial skeleton exhibits features associated with scratch-digging, but it is unlikely to have been a true burrower. Body mass estimates based on postcranial dimensions range between 143 and 171 kg, suggesting that it was ~5 times larger than living wombats. Phylogenetic analysis based on 79 craniodental and 20 postcranial characters places the new taxon as sister to vombatids, with which it forms the superfamily Vombatoidea as defined here. It suggests that the highly derived vombatids evolved from wynyardiid-like ancestors, and that scratch-digging adaptations evolved in vombatoids prior to the appearance of the ever-growing (hypselodont) molars that are a characteristic feature of all post-Miocene vombatids. Ancestral state reconstructions on our preferred phylogeny suggest that bunolophodont molars are plesiomorphic for vombatiforms, with full lophodonty (characteristic of diprotodontoids) evolving from a selenodont morphology that was retained by phascolarctids and ilariids, and wynyardiids and vombatoids retaining an intermediate selenolophodont condition. There appear to have been at least six independent acquisitions of very large (>100 kg) body size within Vombatiformes, several having already occurred by the late Oligocene.
    • A new genus and species of natricine snake from northeast India

      GIRI, VARADB; Gower, DJ; DAS, ABHIJIT; LALREMSANGA, HT; LALRONUNGA, SAMUEL; CAPTAIN, ASHOK; DEEPAK, V (Magnolia Press, 2019-05-09)
      Based on the first molecular phylogenetic analyses of samples from northeast India, specimens referred to Rhabdops from this region are more closely related to the southeast and east Asian natricine genera Opisthotropis Günther, 1872 and Sinonatrix Rossman & Eberle, 1977 (as well as to New World and western Palearctic natricines) than to peninsular Indian (true) Rhabdops. Morphologically, these northeast Indian populations differ from other natricines by having a single (‘fused’ or unpaired) internasal shield and a single prefrontal shield. Given the morphological and phylogenetic distinctiveness of these northeast Indian populations, we refer them to a new genus, Smithophis gen. nov., and transfer Rhabdops bicolor (Blyth, 1854) to Smithophis bicolor comb. nov. Based on morphological and molecular variation within our northeast Indian sample, we additionally describe Smithophis atemporalis sp. nov. from the state of Mizoram.
    • New insights from old eggs – the shape and thickness of Great Auk Pinguinus impennis eggs

      Birkhead, T; Russell, D; Garbout, A; Attard, M; Thompson, J; Jackson, D (Wiley, 2020-02-09)
      We compared the shape and eggshell thickness of Great Auk Pinguinus impennis eggs with those of its closest relatives, the Razorbill Alca torda, Common Guillemot Uria aalge and Brünnich's Guillemot Uria lomvia, in order to gain additional insights into the breeding biology of the extinct Great Auk. The egg of the Great Auk was most similar in shape to that of Brünnich's Guillemot. The absolute thickness of the Great Auk eggshell was greater than that of the Common Guillemot and Razorbill egg, which is as expected given its greater size, but the relative shell thickness at the equator and pointed end (compared with the blunt end) was more similar to that of the Common Guillemot. On the basis of these and other results we suggest that Great Auk incubated in an upright posture in open habitat with little or no nest, where its pyriform egg shape provided stability and allowed safe manoeuvrability during incubation. On the basis of a recent phylogeny of the Alcidae, we speculate that a single brood patch, a pyriform egg and upright incubation posture, as in the Great Auk and the two Uria guillemots, is the ancestral state, and that the Razorbill – the Great Auk's closest relative – secondarily evolved two brood patches and an elliptical egg as adaptations for horizontal incubation, which provides flexibility in incubation site selection, allowing breeding in enclosed spaces such as crevices, burrows or under boulders, as well as on open ledges.
    • New insights into the genetic diversity of Schistosoma mansoni and S. haematobiumin Yemen

      Sady, H; Al-Mekhlafi, HM; Webster, BL; Ngui, R; Atroosh, WM; Al-Delaimy, AK; Nasr, NA; Chua, KH; Lim, YAL; Surin, J (2015-12)
    • A New Method for the Restoration of Palaeontological Specimens Mounted in Canada balsam

      Allington-Jones, L (Natural Sciences Collections Association (NatSCA ), 2008)
      Many museums contain slides mounted with Canada balsam. If this resin is poorly prepared, it can become crazed. Examples can be found within the British Type Graptolite Collection at the Natural History Museum, London. These are delicate dendroids prepared using the transfer technique. A search of the available literature and communication with museum workers highlighted suggestions for methods to rescue the cracked slides. These methods were tested, and the most suitable method proved to be a double transfer technique utilising carbowax. This technique may be used to rescue any specimen which is mounted in Canada balsam and which possesses an exposed surface. It is particularly important for the conservation of fragile specimens.
    • A new metriorhynchid crocodylomorph from the Oxford Clay Formation (Middle Jurassic) of England, with implications for the origin and diversification of Geosaurini

      Foffa, Davide; Young, Mark T; Brusatte, Stephen L; Graham, M; Steel, Lorna (Taylor and Francis, 2017-10-02)
      Metriorhynchids 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.
    • A new Middle Jurassic diplodocoid suggests an earlier dispersal and diversification of sauropod dinosaurs

      Xu, X; Upchurch, P; Mannion, PD; Barrett, PM; Regalado-Fernandez, OR; Mo, J; Ma, J; Liu, H (2018-07-24)
    • New model systems for early land plant evolution (w16-05) Vienna, Austria, 22 - 24 June 2016

      Kenrick, P (2016)
      Microbial communities have existed on land since at least the Neoarchean (2800 to 2500 million years), but fossil evidence indicates that the ancestors of land plants first appeared much later during the mid-Ordovician some 470 million years ago. These latter communities probably comprised varied and mixed associations of Archaea, Bacteria, arthropods, lichens, fungi, green algae and extinct land plants called ‘cryptophytes’. Little is known about the cryptophytes, but emerging evidence from fossil charcoal records minute sporophytes at the bryophyte level of complexity but with novel combinations of characteristics. Some are known to contain spores dispersed as tetrads and dyads suggesting that significant differences in sporogenesis operated in some early extinct lineages. The most intact and earliest well-preserved fossil ecosystem is the 407 million year old Rhynie Chert (Scotland). Here, plants were fossilised near to their sites of growth preserving soft tissues and organism associations. Such fossils provide unparalleled insights into the evolution of major organ systems in stem group vascular plants and lycophytes, including roots, shoots, leaves, vascular system and reproductive structures. They are helping us to understand how key plant organs evolved from precursor structures, to disentangle homology from homoplasy, to better reconstruct early life cycle evolution, and to learn about the co-evolution of plants and their fungal symbionts.
    • New names and status for Pacific spiny species of Solanum (Solanaceae, subgenus Leptostemonum Bitter; the Leptostemonum Clade)

      McClelland, DHR; Nee, M; Knapp, S (Pensoft Publishers, 2020-04-10)
      Five new species of spiny solanums (Solanum subgenus Leptostemonum Bitter; the Leptostemonum Clade) are described from the islands of the Pacific. Two of the new species are from Fiji (S. pseudopedunculatum D.McClelland, sp. nov. and S. ratale D.McClelland, sp. nov.), two from New Caledonia (S. memoayanum D.McClelland, sp. nov. and S. semisucculentum D.McClelland, sp. nov.), one from Papua New Guinea (S. labyrinthinum D.McClelland, sp. nov.) and another from Vanuatu (S. vanuatuense D.McClelland, sp. nov.). A new status and combination is provided for the rare Hawaiian endemic S. caumii (F.Br.) D.McClelland, comb. et stat. nov. and a new type designated for S. peekelii Bitter of Papua New Guinea, for which a description is also provided. All species are illustrated with digitized herbarium specimens, mapped and have been assigned a preliminary conservation status using current IUCN guidelines. Details of all specimens examined are provided in a Suppl. materials 1: file SM1.
    • New Permian fauna from tropical Gondwana

      Cisneros, JC; Marsicano, C; Angielczyk, KD; Smith, RMH; Richter, M; Fröbisch, J; Kammerer, CF; Sadleir, RW (2015-12)