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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Various Gallus varius hybrids: variation in junglefowl hybrids and Darwin's interest in themHybrids between Green Junglefowl Gallus varius and domestic fowl G. gallus domesticus confused several 19th-century ornithologists. The plumage of these hybrids is so unlike the colours and patterns of either of the parent species that they were considered to be distinct species: G. aeneusTemminck, 1825; G. temminckiiGray, 1849; and G. violaceusKelsall, 1891. Darwin wanted to understand if G. aeneus and G. temminckii were hybrids or species, as part of his research on the origin of the domestic chicken. His view was that all domesticated fowl have a single wild ancestor, Red Junglefowl G. gallus (formerly G. bankiva). A hybrid specimen now present in the bird collection of the Natural History Museum at Tring played an important role in Darwin's reasoning and, although the conclusions he drew from this specimen were incorrect, his single-ancestor origin theory for domesticated fowl stands. ‘These hybrids were at one time thought to be specifically distinct, and were named G. aeneus. Mr. Blyth and others believe that the G. Temminckii is a similar hybrid' (Darwin 1868a: 234–235).
Monitoring nest incorporation of anthropogenic debris by Northern Gannets across their rangeAnthropogenic marine debris is a recognised global issue, which can impact a wide range of organisms. This has led to a rise in research focused on plastic ingestion, but quantitative data on entanglement are still limited, especially regarding seabirds, due to challenges associated with monitoring entanglement in the marine environment. However, for seabird species that build substantial surface nests there is the opportunity to monitor nest incorporation of debris that individuals collect as nesting material. Here, we monitored nest incorporation of anthropogenic marine debris by Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) from 29 colonies across the species' range to determine a) the frequency of occurrence of incorporated debris and b) whether the Northern Gannet is a suitable indicator species for monitoring anthropogenic debris in the marine environment within their range. Using data obtained from visual observations, digital photography and published literature, we recorded incorporated debris in 46% of 7280 Northern Gannet nests, from all but one of 29 colonies monitored. Significant spatial variation was observed in the frequency of occurrence of debris incorporated into nests among colonies, partly attributed to when the colony was established and local fishing intensity. Threadlike plastics, most likely from fishing activities, was most frequently recorded in nests, being present in 45% of 5842 nests, in colonies where debris type was identified. Comparisons with local beach debris indicate a preference for threadlike plastics by Northern Gannets. Recording debris in gannet nests provides an efficient and non-invasive method for monitoring the effectiveness of actions introduced to reduce debris pollution from fishing activities in the marine environment.
Sexual and geographic dimorphism in northern rockhopper penguins breeding in the South Atlantic OceanThe Endangered northern rockhopper penguin Eudyptes moseleyi, like all penguins, is monomorphic, making sex determination of individuals in the field challenging. We examined the degree of sexual size dimorphism of adult birds across the species’ breeding range in the Atlantic Ocean and developed discriminant functions (DF) to predict individuals’ sex using morphometric measurements. We found significant site-specific differences in both bill length and bill depth, with males being the larger sex on each island. Across all islands, bill length contributed 78% to dissimilarity between sexes. Penguins on Gough Island had significantly longer bills, whilst those from Tristan da Cunha had the deepest. Island-specific DFs correctly classified 82-94% of individuals, and all functions performed significantly better than chance. The model for Nightingale Island correctly classified the greatest proportion of individuals (94-95%), while that for Tristan da Cunha performed the poorest (80-82%). A discriminant function derived from all sites accurately sexed 86-88% of northern rockhopper penguins achieving similar accuracy to island-specific functions. While molecular techniques conclusively determine an individual’s sex, morphometric measurements can provide a reliable estimate with close to 90% accuracy using a method that is less invasive and requires little technical expertise. Sexing is an important tool for meaningful interpretation of ecological data. Consideration of sex-specific differences in future studies will aid investigation of a potential sex-dependent vulnerability in this Endangered species.
Moths: Their biology, diversity and evolutionMoths is an accessible introduction to the stunning diversity, life habits and evolution of moths. This iconic insect group encompasses 128 of the 135 families of the scaly winged insects (Lepidoptera), with some 140,000 known species. Moths are among the most successful of the Earth’s inhabitants, with an ancient history, some fossils being dated to 190 million years old. This book traces the structure and development of these winged insects and reveals some of their extraordinary adaptations, such as caterpillars that communicate with ants, as well as their ruthless survival tactics – including blood-sucking, feeding on the tears of sleeping birds, and cannibalism of their own mothers. It also exposes their essential roles in ecosystems and manifold interactions with humans. Often considered denizens of the night, hopelessly allured by lamps and mean to fabrics, the book shines a spotlight on moths, illuminating the bright side of their astonishing diversity.
Elevational richness patterns of sphingid moths support area effects over climatic drivers in a near‐global analysisAim We test hypotheses on the environmental control of elevational richness patterns of sphingid moths for their global applicability and generality. Specifically, we compare effects of area with climate‐related drivers, such as primary productivity and temperature, while also considering direct effects of precipitation. Major taxa Sphingid moths (Lepidoptera). Location Eighty‐six mountain ranges of the Old World and the Australia/Pacific region, from Scandinavia and Siberia through the African and Australasian tropics to South Africa and Southern Australia. Methods We used a large compilation of point locality records for 744 species, in addition to fine‐grained range maps derived from species distribution modelling of these records, to characterize the elevational pattern of species richness in 86 custom‐delineated mountain regions. For both types of data, we compared the effects of environmental drivers on richness by comparing standardized coefficients of multivariate models for pooled data after accounting for between‐region variation in richness. Results We observed varying patterns of elevational richness across the research region, with a higher prevalence of midpeaks in arid regions. We found overwhelming support for area as a main determinant of richness, modulated by temperature and productivity, whereas we detected no effect of precipitation. Main conclusions Area, productivity and temperature are the main environmental predictors explaining a large proportion of variability in sphingid richness. This is consistent not only with other elevational studies, but also with empirical and theoretical biodiversity research in a non‐elevational context (with the caveat of some unresolved issues in elevational area effects). However, distinct differences in elevational patterns remain even within the same mountain ranges when comparing with other Lepidoptera, that is, geometrid moths, which highlights the importance of understanding higher clade differentiation in ecological responses, within insects and in other groups.