Top 10 science and nature 2011 news stories

27 December 2011

From a rare dual-sex butterfly and an exciting new addition to the human family tree, to a striking electric-blue lobster and a new horned dinosaur, here are the top 10 favourite 2011 science and nature news stories from the Natural History Museum website.

New horned dinosaur Spinops was identified from skull bones overlooked in the Museum collections

New horned dinosaur Spinops was identified from skull bones overlooked in the Museum for 90 years. © Dmitry Bogdanov

1. Electric-blue lobster found in Billingsgate fish market, November

The most popular story from 2011 was about a striking blue live lobster that was brought to the Museum for identification.

2. Ancient Denisovans and the human family tree, January

The 2nd most popular story featured Museum human origins expert Chris Stringer talking about a new group of ancient humans and the research suggesting they interbred with us.

3. New horned dinosaur hidden for 90 years in Museum, December

The 3rd most popular story was about the new dinosaur Spinops uncovered in the Museum collections. Museum dinosaur expert Paul Barrett talks about the discovery. 

Butterfly house manager Luke Brown with the rare dual-sex great mormon butterfly

Butterfly house manager Luke Brown with the dual-sex great mormon butterfly, mid July 2011.

2011 was also the year for interesting research on the ancient magpie-sized Archaeopteryx. Barrett comments on its place in the dinosaur-bird family tree.

4. Dual-sex butterfly hatches at Natural History Museum, July

As well as being a popular visitor attraction in 2011, the Sensational Butterflies butterfly house was home to the hatching of two rare dual-sex butterflies, one in July that is the 4th popular story, and an even rarer one in August.

5. World's heaviest spider title challenged at Museum and video, July
One of the human skull-cups made by ice age Britons 14,700 years ago

A human skull-cup made by ice age Britons 14,700 years ago from Gough's Cave. The process required great skill and knowledge of anatomy.

At number 5 was an article and video for the Guinness World Record title challenge between a Hercules baboon spider and Goliath bird-eating spider.

6. Earliest human skull-cups made in the UK, February

The 6th story and video was about how Museum scientists revealed the earliest known examples of human skulls made into cups in Somerset. Museum scientists uncovered another important modern human find in a Devon jawbone that revealed the earliest NW Europeans.

7. Oldest predator Anomalocaris had super sight, December
Fossil bones of A. sediba's hand that showed more human-like features as well as a powerful grip

Fossil bones of Australopithecus sediba's hand show human-like features as well as an ape-like powerful grip. © Peter Schmid 1/ Wits University

Scientists at the Museum find first direct evidence that Anomalocaris had compound eyes with 16,000 lenses in this number 7 story.

8. Sediba human ancestor could shift our origins to South Africa, September

The 8th most popular story is about an almost 2-million-year-old human-like species that may be the ancestor to the first humans.

9. Bone-eating zombie worms can no longer hide, October

In the number 9 story, Museum scientists showed how a 3-million-year-old fossil revealed traces of bone-eating zombie worms.

10. Bee mimic flies in to a garden near you, April

Last on this list is news of the springtime sightings of a curious fly. The bee-fly is hairy like a bee, hovers and hums, and has a scary looking spike at one end!  

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