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Science News

171 Posts authored by: C Lowry
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Eocene.jpg

Fridgeir Grimsson

Department of Palaeontology, University of Vienna

 

Tuesday 25 March - 4.00 pm

Earth Sciences Seminar Room
(Basement, WEB 05, the previous Mineralogy Seminar Room)
 
Oldest records of many modern north-temperate woody angiosperm genera are from the Eocene. However, the precise time and place of origin of individual tree genera that play important roles in modern temperate forest ecosystems has largely remained unresolved. One hypothesis about the origin of modern temperate woody elements in the northern hemisphere was proposed in the late 19th century by Adolf Engler, who suggested that many modern temperate tree genera originated in Arctic areas and migrated southwards in the course of the Cenozoic when global climate cooled.

 

The final objective of the present study is to test the validity of Engler’s (1882) concept of the “arctotertiary element”, that is, to determine whether early Cenozoic high latitude floras were the cradle of a number of tree genera that now dominate north-temperate mid-latitude forests. To achieve this, the systematic affinities of  pollen from Paleocene and Eocene sediments of western Greenland and the Faröe Islands are being assessed using combined light and scanning electron microscopy. Macrofossils from the same areas housed in existing museum and university collections are also under study, and new material has been collected in the field. By combining evidence from the palynofloras and the revised macrofloras, the phylogenetic affinities of the recognized plant taxa are being established in order to determine the proportion of extinct lineages and co-occurring extant genera, representing the “arctotertiary element” in the fossil floras.

 

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

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Coll man flyer 28 March.jpg

 

If you have any queries please contact the organiser Julie Reynolds (julie.reynolds@nhm.ac.uk)

 

 

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.html

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Papilio_dardanus.jpg    (Image from Wikipedia)

 

Martijn Timmermans

Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum

 

Wednesday 19 March 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)


Papilio dardanus is a polymorphic Batesian mimic renowned for copying a large number of toxic Lepidopteran models. Its phenotypic variation is known to be largely determined by a single mimicry switch, but studies on the origin and maintenance of its intricate wing pattern variation have been “hindered at the outset by a complicated nomenclature” (Poulton, 1924; pg. 21). To acquire a comprehensive overview of the phenotypic diversity displayed and to stimulate collaborative research on this enigmatic species, we have digitised, geo-referenced and made publicly available all specimens held by the Museum. I will describe how data-derived distribution maps help us to understand Papilio dardanus’ wing pattern radiation and present genomic data that exposes the engrailed gene as the enigmatic mimicry master switch.

 

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

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sea fan coral.jpg

 

 

Maria del Mar Soler Hurtado

University of Seville, Spain

 

Wednesday 12 of March 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

 

Although abundant, the Eastern Pacific octocoral fauna was considered poorly known by Bayer (1951), mainly due to the difficulty of identification and lack of taxonomic expertise.  In addition, the continuous nature of many of the morphological characters in the taxonomy of the Octocorallia has been a major problem for the systematic study of the group.  For this reason, some authors consider octocoral characters difficult to encode or to polarize, and it is necessary to implement in this family new sources of characters (in all available disciplines) to help us in the correct identification of units (species), in order to develop a more natural classification and phylogeny than that which currently exists, which is seen as clearly artificial yet still in use. In this context, the opportunity to review important collections of gorgoniid specimens deposited in museums, such as the collection available in the NHM, is for us a major step in the development and expansion of our research.  The examination of these type specimens, from a morphological and molecular point of view, will permit their comparison with newly-collected material from Ecuador, the delimitation of specific variability, the re-evaluation of the importance of morphological characters previously used, and the description of new forms where necessary.

 

 

 

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

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Earth core mantle.jpg

 

Dr Ian Wood

Senior Lecturer, Department of Earth Sciences, UCL

Tuesday 11 March - 4.00 pm

Basement, WEB 05, the previous Mineralogy Seminar Room

 

If we are to understand large-scale Earth processes such as the formation and evolution of the core, the magnetic field, and the transfer of heat through the mantle, it is essential that we know the physical properties of the minerals present in the Earth’s deep interior, i.e. in its lower mantle and core. However, as the core-mantle boundary in the Earth lies at a depth of nearly 3000 km, at which point the pressure and temperature are around 1.3 million atmospheres and 4000 K, direct experimentation is extremely challenging. A more effective route for determining the structures and properties of these deep-Earth phases is, therefore, to combine X-ray and neutron diffraction studies with computer simulations of both actual and low-pressure “analogue” systems. In this talk I shall concentrate on recent work on the FeSi – NiSi system, a possible inner-core component of terrestrial planets, and on studies of ABX3 analogues of MgSiO3 perovskite, with particular relevance to the perovskite to post-perovskite phase transition that occurs in MgSiO3 just above the Earth’s core-mantle boundary.

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

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rhinoceros-beetle-micro-ct-scan_38570_1.jpgStill image taken from a micro-CT of the rhinoceros beetle, Oryctes boas.

 

 

Thomas J. Simonsen

Department of Life Sciences, the Natural History Museum

 

Friday 7 March 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

 

Computer-aided X-ray tomography (CT scanning) has been around as a medical, industrial and scientific tool since the early 1980s. However, it was only after the arrival of scanners with sufficient resolution power (micro-CT) in the early 2000s that the technology was used in the study of non-vertebrate animals. After the first study presenting micro-CT scanning results from insects in 2002, the technology has become a state-of-the-art tool for studies into insect comparative morphology and palaeontology (in particular involving amber fossils). On the other hand, micro-CT scanning has been criticised for not yielding the same resolution as histology, nor having the same ability to distinguish between different types of tissue, partly due to low natural contrast in soft tissue and cuticle. Nevertheless, micro-CT scanning has the advantage of being much faster than traditional methods such as histology, thus allowing for much larger samples to be examined. Furthermore, the method is largely non-destructive and thus ideal for studying rare and valuable specimens. Here I will give a short introduction to micro-CT scanning in entomology and illustrate the technology's uses (and limitations) in the study of insect, focused on forensics entomology, developmental biology and taxonomy/virtual dissections.

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

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world.gif

 

 

Emiel van Loon

University of Amsterdam

 

Friday 28 February 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

 

Species distribution modelling (SDM) is increasingly applied to answer all sorts of ecological questions. Implicitly, the
SDM literature suggests that the question of interest together with the available data prescribe the appropriate methods for data analysis. In contrast with this suggestion, it can be argued that a range of questions concerning the distribution of a species is usually interesting, while the available species occurrence and environmental data cannot easily be changed. Hence it may be effective to establish which questions may be answered by the available data as a first research step. The number of species records is one of the most important factors limiting the research questions and methods that are applicable. For that reason this presentation will focus on the relation between the number of available species records and the potential to answer different research questions.

 

First a hierarchy is proposed to organise research questions that differ in nature and complexity, and to cast different research questions in a model comparison framework. Using this framework, research questions of different complexity are translated into SDMs. Through different simulation examples, the effect of the number of occurrence data on the possibilities to identify SDMs with different numbers of predictor variables as well as on predictive performance are shown. Next, it is shown that with increasing scarcity of species records, either the information requirement as dictated by the research questions has to decrease or more prior knowledge about the species-environment or geographical relations have to be specified. The presentation concludes with a preliminary overview of research questions on species distributions and the matching levels of occurrence records that are required to obtain an adequate answer.

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

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caribbean mammal.jpg

 

Ian Barnes

Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum

 

Friday 21 of February 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)


Until very recently, the Caribbean hosted one of the world’s most diverse insular land mammal faunas, with approximately 100 endemic species of rodents, insectivores, sloths and monkeys found on the major islands of the Greater Antilles. However, Caribbean mammals have experienced the most severe post-glacial extinctions of any mammal fauna, and today only 15 putative species, mostly highly threatened capromyid rodents, survive in the region. In marked contrast to other insular regions which still retain a significant component of their pre-human mammal fauna (e.g. Madagascar), there have been only limited attempts to reconstruct either the colonization history of the insular Caribbean by different mammal lineages, or inter-island patterns of Quaternary mammalian phylogeny and biogeography.

 

In order to better understand the origins and evolution of this fascinating and formerly highly diverse fauna, we have been working on the recovery and analysis of DNA from a wide range of Caribbean mammal remains. The conditions in most Caribbean Quaternary sites are however not well suited for the preservation of organic molecules, despite their relatively recent age. In this talk I will discuss our ongoing work, with a focus on our efforts to utilise next generation sequencing on this poorly preserved material.

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

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Grouse1.jpg

Hein van Grouw

Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum

 

Wednesday 19 of February 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

 

Grouse are subject to three peculiarities that have caused a lot of taxonomic confusion in this group of birds in the past. These phenomena are hybridisation, sex-change plumages and colour aberrations. While these occurrences are usually rare in birds, they appear to be quite common in grouse. Up to now it is unknown why the phenomena are so frequent among these birds and if there is an evolutionary explanation. This talk presents insights into an ongoing research project on grouse specimens in natural history museums that re-analyses our knowledge of such aberrations.

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

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Tibet plateau.bmp(Image from Wikipedia)

 

Robert Angus

Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum

 

Friday 14 February 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

 

This is an illustrated account of my travels on the north-eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau in June 2013. The extent of the Plateau is shown with its division into the various Chinese provinces, including the Xizang Autonomous Region. My objective was to collect and do research on various beetles, and this was fundamental to the design of the trip.  Some of the research will be discussed in a future seminar. This one is to illustrate the landscape and the sheer fun of it.

 

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

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Lichen Sri Lanka.jpg

 

 

Gothamie Weerakoon

Department of Botany, University of Sri Jayawardenapura, Sri Lanka

 

Wednesday 12 February 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)


Corticolous lichen species are identified as indicators of disturbance for seven vegetation types in central mountains of Sri Lanka (four disturbed, and three undisturbed matched by habitat). Ordination of lichen communities (six sites / type for 42 sites) showed distinct species composition in the vegetation types. Disturbed and undisturbed sites differ; undisturbed sites have higher species richness of both trees and lichens. Canopy cover, bark pH, distance to an undisturbed site, and years since disturbance, were all correlated with a disturbance gradient. Indicator species analysis (ISA) was performed on three different sets of site groups: seven vegetation types, three groups of sites with different disturbance levels, and two groups of sites near to vs. far from an undisturbed site. Twenty species were strong indicators of undisturbed sites from all three ISA analyses; three species indicate moderately disturbed sites; five species indicate very disturbed sites. Six additional species were weaker indicators of disturbance level. Thirty-four species were strong indicators for a single vegetation type. Most indicators of disturbance level are visually distinct. Parataxonomists could be trained to identify them in the field; these will be the most useful indicators for land managers.

 

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

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Tien Shan 2.jpg(Image from Wikipedia)

 

Dmitry Konopelko

Geological Faculty Saint Petersburg State University, Russia

 

 

Tuesday 11 February - 4.00 pm
EARTH SCIENCES SEMINAR ROOM

 

The presented results are part of a bigger project on Hercynian post-collisional magmatism in the Tien Shan carried out during the last two decades. Results are presented for two vast terranes of the Tien Shan which previously were inaccessible due to their remoteness or political reasons: the whole Tajik part of Tien Shan and the Alai ridge in Kyrgyzstan. In both areas the main types of granites and alkaline rocks including carbonatites were sampled. In Tajikistan special attention was paid to subduction-related granitoids that were studied for comparison with arc magmatism elsewhere in Tien Shan.


Four samples of subduction-related granites from the Gissar ridge in Tajikistan yield ages showing active subduction under Gissar block that continues from 321 to 300 Ma. This is similar to ages of subduction-related granites in the Middle Tien Shan terrane in Uzbekistan (315-300 Ma). The ages of 17 post-collisional intrusions including alkaline rocks and carbonatites in both terranes are in the range from 300 to 274 Ma. Some of the alkaline complexes have slightly younger ages but none formed in post-Permian time as shown on some regional geological maps. Post-collisional rocks of the Alai ridge have crustal isotopic Pb-Sr-Nd compositions supporting suggestion that the basement of the Alai segment comprises a Precambrian micro-continent. Similar crustal signatures were previously reported for other terranes of the Tien Shan in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.


The features of the post-collisional intrusions in Tajik Tien Shan and Kyrgyz Alai ridge match well the general characteristics of the post-collisional magmatism in Tien Shan: (1) Early Permian Hercynian post-collisional magmatism culminated after the closure of the Paleo-Turkestan ocean and affected the whole region across terrane boundaries, (2) The majority of post-collisional intrusions were emplaced within a relatively short time span between 295 and 280 Ma, (3) Ages of intrusions emplaced syn-kinematically into the regional shear zones, and ages of alkaline intrusions indicating regional extension also match the 295-280 time span, (4) Similar ages were reported for the major orogenic gold deposits in the Tien Shan, (5) The post-collisional intrusions are geochemically diverse and their volume varies from one terrane to the other. This suggests different scenarios of post-collisional development in various terranes of the Tien Shan.

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

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seaweed.jpg

 


Juliet Brodie and Jo Wilbraham: Department of Life Sciences, NHM

 

Friday 7 February 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)


The seashores and shallow seas around Britain support an important component of UK biodiversity with over 650 species of red, green and brown seaweeds which represent c. 7% of the described seaweed flora of the world.  However, over 55% are Data Deficient according to IUCN criteria, there is increasing evidence that large brown habitat-forming seaweeds (kelps and fucoids) are disappearing, and invasive seaweeds species are increasing.  Seaweeds remain an under-recorded group with over 50% data deficient, yet there is an urgent and increasing need for good quality, verifiable data on past and present species occurrence to inform on e.g. environmental change, potential pressures from harvesting, loss of habitats, increases in non-native species (currently c. 6% of the UK flora). 

 

Data from the NHM seaweed collection provide crucial evidence points for mapping changing patterns in species distribution around the UK but regional museums often hold important collections from their local area which will help fill in current spatial and temporal data gaps.  So we set about capturing from UK national and regional museum collections specimen data against a target list of seaweed species in order to provide data on distribution of species over time around the UK, and to make these data widely available via a purpose built website which provides a unique resource for disseminating information about these species.  Fourteen institutions participated, 8334 records were received of which 4334 were newly generated. 

 

We will describe this model project, discuss the findings in relation to temporal and spatial change, detective work, social history, taxonomy, the role of Queen Victoria and her children, and the detrimental impact that the Victorian collectors had on some of our more charismatic seaweeds.  We will also demonstrate the web site: http://seaweeds.myspecies.info/.

 

This project was funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund.

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

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rB>C @50 - The Golden Anniversary of Hamilton’s Rule (or helping your relatives is good for you)

 

hosted by the NHM in collaboration with UCL, the CEE and Imperial College London

 

 

Darwin's birthday Party 2014 picture.jpg

 

                                                                    

The nocturnal social wasp Apoica pallens – Darién, Panama (photo Sandy Knapp)

 

 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014, 4:00 pm

Flett Lecture Theatre, The Natural History Museum

(reception follows)

 

 

Our topic this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the original 1964 paper in which W.D. (Bill) Hamilton first articulated what is known as Hamilton’s Rule (i.e. that helping your relatives makes evolutionary sense, even if it doesn’t benefit you directly )

 

 

Laurent Lehmann (Université de Lausanne, Switzerland) - Hamilton’s 1964 legacy: the rule that rules them all and the myth of inclusive fitness maximization

 

This talk will present the key steps to derive the rb-c>0 rule and discuss the two results obtained by Hamilton in his 1964 paper: (1) an equation describing allele frequency change under natural selection expressed in terms of phenotypic cost and benefit and a genealogical concept of relatedness; and (2) a result about the maximization of inclusive fitness. The first result has been extended to all conditions and provides the rule that rules them all. The second result applies only under narrow conditions and points to a mismatch between Hamilton's aim for inclusive fitness and what has been proved over the last 50 years.

 

 

David Haig (Harvard University, USA) - All-inclusive fitness: the enduring legacy of W. D. Hamilton

 

W. D. Hamilton’s concept of inclusive fitness revolutionized the way we think about social interactions. Individuals were shown to have an interest in each other’s well-being to the extent that they shared common genes. His insights have had unexpected medical applications to understanding conflicts within genomes between genes inherited from fathers and genes inherited from mothers and to understanding how sibling rivalry can be expressed in the mother’s womb during the early stages of pregnancy.

 

 

Full information including a flyer and map for this event can be found at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/cee/events/darwin-birthday

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.html

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LIFE SCIENCES DEPARTMENT SEMINAR

 

 

Bees.jpg

 

 

Taxonomic background information is essential for bee conservation

 

Denis Michez

Laboratory of Zoology,  University of Mons,  Belgium

 

Friday 31 of January 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)


Bees are a monophyletic group of largely pollenivorous species derived from among the predatory apoid wasps. Their extant diversity is estimated to be about 20.000 species worldwide, with 2000 species known from Europe. Many European bee species are in strong decline and several working groups are currently analyzing potential drivers of range contraction. Here I would like to address the importance of clear taxonomic background information to correctly characterize bee decline and to develop a conservation program at global scale.

 

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

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