Natural History Museum

Nick Pyenson, the Smithsonian Institution’s curator of fossil marine mammals, compares the skeletons of ancient whales to the life-sized model of a North Atlantic right whale displayed at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. Whales have been evolving for more than 50 million years, and long before becoming ocean-dwelling giants, the earliest cetaceans walked on land. 

This Cliff Face Is Packed With Fossilized Whale Remains

An exposed prehistoric seafloor is a hotspot for relics, and now an international team is helping unravel their mysteries

The 55-faceted gemstone is believed to be the largest cut black diamond in the world.

A Huge Black Diamond, Purportedly From Outer Space, Is Now Up for Sale

The gem known as the 'Enigma' is expected to fetch around $7 million at auction, though experts are skeptical of its cosmic origin

The explosion was likely the biggest volcanic eruption recorded anywhere on the planet in more than 30 years.

Why the Eruption in Tonga Was a 'Once-in-a-Millennium' Event for the Volcano

The blast, which sent tsunami waves across the Pacific, left thousands of Tongans without access to water and power

The remote Kibish Formation, in southern Ethiopia, features layered deposits more than 300 feet thick that have preserved many ancient human tools and remains. 

East Africa's Oldest Modern Human Fossil Is Way Older Than Previously Thought

Analysis of ash from a massive volcanic eruption places the famed Omo I fossil 36,000 years back in time

One reader wonders what graffiti was like before spray paint.

What Did Graffiti Look Like Before Spray Paint and More Questions From Our Readers

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Seven New Things We Learned About Human Evolution in 2021

Paleoanthropologists Briana Pobiner and Ryan McRae reveal some of the year's best findings in human origins studies

A humpback whale and her calf swim underwater. A recent study in Nature found whales eat and poop way more than previously thought—and that feces plays an important role in fertilizing the ocean.

The Top Ten Ocean Stories of 2021

From the discovery of a large bioluminescent shark to the use of an innovative drone to study hurricanes, these are the best marine stories of the year

One reader wonders why more flowers and fruits aren't blue-hued.

Why Are So Few Flowers and Fruits Blue? And More Questions From Our Readers

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A humpback whale feeds on sand lance in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Some Whales Can Eat Upwards of 16 Tons of Tiny Shrimp a Day

The giant mammals consume enormous quantities of marine organisms, three times more than previously thought, then their poop fertilizes the sea

All mollusks build their own shells.

How Do Snails Get Their Shells? And More Questions From Our Readers

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Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for captive apes.

How Do Gorillas Get Heart Disease? And More Questions From Our Readers

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The Tuxtla statuette, discovered in Veracruz, Mexico, in 1902, now resides in the National Museum of Natural History.

What Secrets Does This 1,800-Year-Old Carved Stone Hold?

The Tuxtla Statuette illuminates an endangered Latin American culture

Mosquitoes are more than blood-sucking menaces. They also pollinate flowers, have intricate sex lives and eat other disease-carrying mosquitoes.

The Unexpected Beauty, Benefits and Diversity of the Mosquito, the World's Most Hated Insect

While some are a nuisance, others working as nighttime pollinators may be critically important to a functioning ecosystem

Both beer and wine are thought to predate distilled spirits.

'Which Came First: Beer or Wine?' and More Questions From Our Readers

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Male acorn woodpeckers, like the one on the left, have more offspring over their lives when they’re polygamous, according to new research.

Polygamy Helps Male Acorn Woodpeckers Thrive

The findings of a new study could help scientists learn more about how social behaviors evolved in other animals

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Drop in Greenhouse Gas Caused Global Cooling 34 Million Years Ago

A new study confirms that carbon dioxide plays a significant role in any climate change

Smooth pearls in the shape of orbs and ovals are usually created by bivalves, like mussels, in pearl farms. As with all gems, the less blemishes they have, the more valuable they are.

The True Story Behind How Pearls Are Made

Mollusks create these shiny gems, but that biological process could change as Earth’s waters warm

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Scientists Award the Pygmy Sorrel Moth a Big Title

This minute species now holds the coveted title of world's smallest moth

There are about 160,000 species of moths and butterflies worldwide, each with unique characteristics.

Marvel at the World's Most Magnificent Moths

With thousands of species of moths worldwide, each with unique characteristics, check out these unusual specimens in the Smithsonian collections

Cher Ami, April 1918–June 1919

Solving a 100-Year-Old Mystery About the Brave Pigeon Cher Ami

Science determines the most famous pigeon in World War I history was not a female, but a cock bird

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