Our year in science

Bony spikes projecting from ankylosaur dinosaur ribs, photographed against a black background

This new dinosaur is not only the oldest ankylosaur ever discovered and the first to be found on the African continent, but also had bony spikes projecting from its ribs, a feature not seen in any other vertebrate species living or extinct.

A year full of ground-breaking research and chances to influence policy at all levels through Museum evidence and expertise.

New nature knowledge

New species

Museum scientists described 552 new species, from what may be the earliest ankylosaur, to a moth with the longest tongue in the world. Each new species helps build a more complete picture of life on our planet, helping us better understand our past - and our future.

Imaging life's evolutionary path

Advanced imaging and informatic techniques are unlocking new insights about the evolution of life on Earth. This year they underpinned important research into how the crocodyliform skull evolved, demonstrating for the first time how anatomy relating to jaw closing and bite force production changed over time.

Uncovering our genetic past

A major new study of ancient DNA uncovered new details about prehistoric Europe's human past. Analysis of DNA from nearly 800 ancient individuals revealed large scale migration into southern Britain during the Bronze Age. It paints a picture of a lengthy period of sustained contacts between many diverse population groups.

Welcoming the Winchcombe meteorite 

Museum scientists described and displayed a fragment from a meteorite dating back to the birth of our solar system. The Winchcombe meteorite was the first to fall and be recovered in the UK in 30 years. It is of an extremely rare type, one of only 1,000 carbonaceous chondrites known to exist in the world.

Informing policy through scientific evidence

Resourcing the green economy 

Humanity's transition to green technologies is heavily reliant on raw materials such as cobalt and lithium, sourced through mining. In 2021-2022, Professor Richard Herrington gave select committee advice and evidence to government on resourcing these needs in a nature-positive way.

Nature and public health 

Around the world, 1.5 billion people suffer with intestinal parasitic worms, transmitted through soil. Our programme helping combat this neglected tropical disease challenge generated much-needed evidence to inform effective health policy, and led to the treatment of 300,000 people. 

Understanding plastic pollution 

We're building an evidence base to improve understanding of the impact of plastic on marine environments and wildlife. Museum scientists researching plastic pollution on the uninhabited and isolated Henderson Island in the Pacific concluded that microplastic particles on its beaches had increased by an order of magnitude. A separate study in Malaysia designed to inform pollution control found that plastic made up 91% of the marine litter on coral reefs.

Stewarding biodiversity

Our new tool for understanding biodiversity decline, the Biodiversity Trends Explorer was unveiled in 2021. It is aimed at policy and decision-makers in need of relevant, robust and trustworthy data, and was accessed almost 7,000 times within six months of its launch. The tool uses abundance data on plants, fungi and animals from around the world to show how local terrestrial biodiversity is responding to human pressures, such as land use change and intensification.