After the manta ray filters out the tiny plankton from the water it ingests, the excess water exits through the dark gill slits on the ray's ventral side. 

Why Conservationists Are Hopeful About the Manta Ray's Future

The giant fish faces threats from poachers, boat strikes and climate change

A Union Pacific locomotive makes its way through Cajon Pass in Southern California. The “Building America” slogan is not just puffery: Union Pacific is the nation’s largest railroad, and was also one of the original companies responsible for constructing the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s.

These Photographs Capture the Indescribable Glory of Trains

America’s fascination with trains is fast-tracked in this study of passing freight

Custard apple trees—a freshwater version of mangroves once ringed Lake Okeechobee’s southern shore in a three-mile-wide belt. Today, barely 100 acres remain.

The Strange Beauty at the Edge of the Everglades

Chronicling the historic struggles of the Florida farming community known as Belle Glade

Sunset Drive In, San Luis Obispo 7/25/1981
"Let's hope young people today can get fascinated by the aura of that time," Kappeler says.

A Snapshot of Life in America in 1981

The magic of a young artist's carefree trip across the country four decades ago

The Blue Mountains of Niger. Arable land in the fast-growing country shrank nearly 50 percent per capita from 1996 to 2016.

Photographs From One of the World's Most Troubled, and Least Understood, Regions

A photojournalist journeys to the Sahara-Sahel desert of remote northern Africa to catalogue the state of emergency on the ground

Previously deployed service members raise their hands at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

New Poll of U.S. Troops and Veterans Reveals Their Thoughts on Current Military Policies

In a new Smithsonian poll, conducted with the help of Stars and Stripes, current and former members of the armed forces take aim at conventional wisdom

Researchers have documented more than 4,000 fossils on clifftop beds accessible to the public.

Darwin Would Have Loved the Cliffs of Newfoundland, Where 500-Million-Years-Old Fossils Reside

Step back in time half a billion years to a world of mysterious sea creatures that would have thrilled Darwin

Many Americans think U.S. teens perform even worse on standardized science tests than they actually do, according to a new national survey.

How Much Do Americans Know About Science?

An exclusive poll shows Americans crave stronger mathematics, science schooling for U.S. kids

2011 Grand Champion orchid: Cycnodes Taiwan Gold.

Objects Of Desire

Chronicling passions that change the world, for good and ill


Going Places

Whether as a tourist, an outcast or a pilgrim, traveling is discovering


Most Interesting

Winfrey steps aside after a decade, Caruso steps in

"We're just seeing the start of matching patients with the right drug and seeing rapid improvements," says Dr. Brian Druker.

A Triumph in the War Against Cancer

Oncologist Brian Druker developed a new treatment for a deadly cancer, leading to a breakthrough that has transformed medicine


Fresh Eyes

Seeing everyday experience in a new light

The Obamas worship at African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.


We salute the basic human urge to remember the future

The United States, not China, will dominate world affairs, George Friedman believes.

George Friedman on World War III

The geopolitical scientist predicts which nations will be fighting for world power in 2050

Melinda Gates, with caregivers in Rampur Bhuligadha, India, says infant deaths can be halved by 2025.

Melinda French Gates on Saving Lives

The co-chair of the world's largest philanthropy talks about what can be done to improve global health and poverty

"New research will increasingly be driven by ... evolutionary theory," says Melvin Konner.

Melvin Konner on the Evolution of Childhood

The anthropologist and physician talks about how our understanding of child development will change


Top Five U.S. Events of the Last 40 Years

What events, ideas or developments have had the most significant impact in our lives since 1970?



In praise of contributors, including you

Charles Darwin

Evolution and Equality

What do Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, and the Freedom Riders have in common with each other?

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