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Image caption: Yellow banded dart frog.


A group of scientists and policy makers have published a report this week warning how international goals to reduce poverty are being weakened by the increasing rates of biodiviersity loss.


I don't think the report got a huge amount of press coverage but it highlighted an important fact: that a lot of the causes of poverty and biodiversity loss are often the same.


Natural History Museum plant expert Dr Sandra Knapp was part of the research team and says there needs to be more research into these links. She also mentioned how the Darwin Centre will be a good place where experts can get together and discuss these big issues. Read more in this article.


Ancient humans in the news

Posted by Yvonne Oct 8, 2009


Image caption: A scene of ancient Britain with early Neanderthals hunting in Swanscombe, Kent.


The last 7 days has seemed to me to be all about ancient humans here at the Museum.


Last Thurday evening, an amazing human-like creature was revealed to the world. Named Ardipithecus ramidus, or Ardi, the female is 4.4 million years old and gives us important clues about early human evolution. The international team of scientists worked for 17 years on Ardi and other finds from the same site, and published 11 papers altogether.


And this week, another team of scientists including those at the Natural History Museum, got funding for the 3rd phase of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project (AHOB). They have found evidence for human occupation in Britain as far back as 700,000 years.


These two projects, are examples of research that bring the fascinating story of human evolution to life. From the relatively recent snapshot of ancient humans in Britain to a possible human ancestor close to the time the human evolutionary branch separated from the common ancestor we share with chimpanzees.


Find out what Chris Stringer, our human origins expert, has to say in the Ardi article and the AHOB article.



Image caption: This underwater observatory is being put into position 30m under the sea in western Sweden.


Scientists, including Adrian Glover from the Natural History Museum, have developed the world's first underwater observatory connected to the internet.


The observatory is currently 30m underwater in a fjord on the west coast of Sweden and is beaming images of a community of scavenging creatures living on the remains of a dead whale.


Scientists anywhere in the world are now able to carry out research in real-time on one of the least-studied enviromments on the planet.


Technology advances in cabling and underwater instruments helped make this system possible. However, there a few hurdles to overcome along the way, including a sudden infestation of barnacles! http://


prince-tarantuala_close up.jpg

Image caption: Prince William holds Sarah the tarantula


Did you see Prince William and the tarantula images in the press last week? Looking slightly wary or pretty relaxed depending on which millisecond of action the camera caught! He was holding the tarantula at the opening of the Museum's new Darwin Centre last Monday.


The tarantula in the photos is called Sarah and is the pet of a member of staff. She was brought in for the The Secrets of Spider Dating talk, part of the Museum's free daily Nature Live events.


Museum spider expert Jan Beccaloni gave the talk and shared her wisdom of spiders telling fascinating facts such as how there are 40,000 or more species of spider in the world and how the jumping spiders have the best eyesight.


And, if that isn't fascinating enough, the American Museum of Natural History has just put on display a textile made from spider silk. It took 80 people, using more than 1 million spiders, 4 years to make.


They collected female golden orb spiders daily from telephone wires from the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, during the rainy season (the only time the spiders produce silk).


The process needed people to draw the silk from each spider using hand-powered machines. Each spider produces more than 24m of silk filament. The spiders are released afterwards unharmed.


So, if you are lucky enough to be in New York, make your way to the Museum and have a look at the rare specimen. Not in America? Get a copy of Jan Beccaloni's new book Arachnids.



This week saw the launch of our spectacular new Darwin Centre, with Prince William and Sir David Attenborough. Like no other museum so far, the landmark building with its impressive cocoon structure brings our science, scientists and specimens live and direct to the public.

Not quite as exciting, but hopefully sure to be just as interesting, is the launch of this new Natural History Museum Nature News Blog. I'm hoping to bring news and updates about the work of the Museum's scientists and other nature news - the shorter bits that can or can't be made into full news articles in the website's News section.

I thought I'd begin with some of the science happening in the new Darwin Centre, but there is so much there that I will have to focus on topics, bit by bit, over the next few blogs.

But, the biggest news from the Museum this week is definitely the glittering Darwin Centre grand opening celebrations, with its butterfly confetti, mid-air dancing human butterfly, tarantula close encounter with a royal prince and natural history royalty himself, Sir David Attenborough, all which can be seen in the collection of videos we have on our site.

I leave you with a snippet of Prince William's speech:

'The Natural History Museum is one of our great institutions. Its collections, and what it achieves in the areas of research and education make it - quite simply - the envy of the world. This magnificent new wing will further enhance the museum’s peerless reputation.’

Come back soon for more nature news.


Member since: Aug 27, 2009

This Nature News Blog will bring you snippets of news about the work of Museum scientists and other science and nature news.

View Yvonne's profile