Top 10 2009 science and nature stories

07 January 2010

From giant sperm, dwarf hippos and the lemur-like creature Ida, to dinosaurs, meteorites and Neanderthals, here are the top 10 favourite science and nature stories from the Natural History Museum website last year.

1. Unusual meteorite found by time-lapse camera observatory, Nov 09

The most popular 2009 story was about an observatory made of time-lapse cameras set up in the Australian desert. It detects the track of a meteorite fireball as it travels through the sky and an international team, including Museum scientists, have correctly predicted where one meteorite landed. And that is not all. They discovered the meteorite is unusual with an interesting orbit.

This dwarf hippopotamus skull from the Museum’s collections is nearly 3000 years old

This dwarf hippo skull from the Museum’s collections is nearly 3000 years old and helped scientists explain the small brain of the hobbit

2. Hippo's island life helps explain dwarf hobbit, May 09

Second most popular in 2009 was a fascinating study by Museum scientists on extinct dwarf hippos of Madagascar. Their research shed light on a possible reason for the tiny brain of the 1-metre-tall human, nicknamed 'hobbit', discovered in Flores in 2003. Watch a video too.

3. Dinosaurs declined before mass extinction, April 09

As the title says, this 3rd most popular story was about Museum research showing that many dinosaurs, including T.rex, were already declining millions of years before the so called mass extinction event 65 million years ago. The key was looking at how species diversity appears in the fossil record.

4. Smallest dinosaur in North America uncovered, Oct 09

This story is about a pigeon-sized dinosaur that was the smallest dinosaur uncovered in North America. An international team, including Museum scientists, made the find by re-examining fossils found in the 1970s.

Close-up of fossil cast showing Ida's foot

Close-up of fossil cast showing Ida's foot

5. Lemur-like fossil gives clues to primate evolution, May 09

Number 5 was a story that caused a media sensation in May about the 47-million-year-old lemur-like creature, Ida. This remarkable fossil was extremely well preserved and revealed clues about the evolution of early primates.

6. T.rex's oldest ancestor, Nov 09

The 6th most popular story was about a 165-million-year-old dinosaur skull from the Museum’s fossil collection. It was identified more than 100 years after it was first discovered and is the oldest known relative of T.rex.

Electron micrograph of Ostracod, Harbinia micropapillosa, shows soft body parts inside.

Electron micrograph of Ostracod, Harbinia micropapillosa, shows soft body parts inside.

7. Oldest evidence of giant sperm, June 09

The top summer story was about the oldest evidence for reproduction with giant sperm. This was uncovered in tiny ostracod specimens in the Museum's collections using high-tech X-ray techniques.

8. First underwater observatory live online, September 09

This story was about scientists, including those at the Museum, who developed the world's first underwater observatory connected to the internet. 

Close-up of Danionella dracula male showing tooth-like structures

Close-up of Danionella dracula showing male's tooth-like structures

The live images help scientists understand more about the ocean, one of the least-studied environments on Earth.

9. Dracula minnow has teeth, almost, March 09 

A tiny fish surprised Museum scientists in the 9th most popular 2009 story. Its huge jaw structures helped identify the new species as a Dracula minnow.

10. Did humans eat Neanderthals, May 09

In the number 10 story, the Museum's human origins expert, Chris Stringer, commented on a study that suggests modern humans may have eaten Neanderthals 35,000 years ago.

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