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The American Museum of Natural History

Discover The American Museum of Natural History

  1. Describe and discuss one display that illustrates the use of deception for predator escape.

Tactical deception is a technique used on animals used to misinform them in the advantage of the agent or human. The method is used with precise caution, and there are rules that have to be followed (Saint, 2012). There are various ways in which animals achieve tactical deception and camouflage is the most common method. Camouflage involves the insect or animal residing in an environment, where the color of its body is similar to its surrounding environment. This makes the animal or insect very hard to identify since its body color looks exactly like the environment around it. This method is very useful when it comes to predators, and they are able to remain hidden when hunting their prey. It is also two way, and some preys are able to stay away from the eyes of the predators as a result of the camouflage.

The method differs when it comes to different types of animals because various animals have different adaptations. The museums have a specific type of spiders, Peckhamia picata that use their close resemblance to ants to their advantage. This saves them from predators since very few predators feed on ants due to their unpleasant taste and aggressive behavior. When the fool their prey that they are ants, the prey is obliged not to run away making it easy to attack.

  1. Describe and discuss some of the major trends in evolution of genus Homo. Refer to the recent discovery of the Homo floresiensis. How does this new species challenge our views on the evolution of this genus and perhaps the evolution of Homo sapiens.

The story of human evolution can be traced to Africa about six million years ago. The process was quite lengthy, and the results came in a little bit slower than most of us would expect. Evolution refers to the gradual change in a group of the same species over a period of time. Evolution is a scientific theory and it differs from the Christian theory of the origin of humans, and this has raised a lot of controversies.

The Homo erectus was the first man to walk on his two feet and the name came from the word erect. The evolution saw man advancing in brain capacity and becoming more civilized as the process continued. The recent discovery of the Homo floresiensis was done in 2003 at the island of Flores in Indonesia. The remains found were that of a man about three feet in height, which makes it him very short. The discovery of this Flores man has raised a lot of controversies with some archaeologist claiming that this is a newer breed of the Homo sapiens. Some of them, however, reject that and claim that the Flores man shows more resemblance to apes than earlier humans due to his bones, size, and brain size.

  1. Describe and discuss the details of any display that concerns some aspect of extinction from the fossil records.

Extinction can be simply identified as the end of a species. When a species is said to be extinct, this means that species no longer exists on earth. There are various reasons that are behind evolution and some maybe environmental or biological. There has been a high rate of extinctions according to reports by scientists and the most common are isolated extinctions. Fossil records are preserved remains of animals, organism or plants that are used to evolution of the plants, organisms or animals. They are excavated and are mostly found on the surface of the earth buried.

In the American Museum of Natural History, there is a fossil record of the earliest primitive rabbit (Piper, 2009). The fossil is a result of the hard work of the museum’s group of paleontologists. The rabbit named; Gomphos elkema is a fifty-five million year old fossil animal. The Gomphos elkema was collected in the fossil beds of the Gobi Desert, Mongolia during one of the museum’s paleontological expeditions with the aid of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences. It is the oldest complete skeleton by an around twenty million years and shows characteristics of early lagomorphs. This group of animals contains the rabbits and the hares and this fossil moved around like a rabbit. What made it look more like a rabbit is that it had it hind limbs longer than its front limbs, a characteristic of a rabbit.

  1. Visit the dinosaur hall, view the film on the evolution of the dinosaurs and summarize the major evolutionary tree of these amazing creatures.

The dinosaur extinction story is always fun to listen to each and every time. There have been very main theories about the reasons behind the extinction of the dinosaur. The most common myth is that the dinosaurs became too big, and they could not even accommodate their bodies. They would feed heavily and grow bigger after each meal. With time, they had eaten all the vegetation, and they had to look for other grounds to feed. However, due to their size, they could hardly even move. They were then confided to one location, and the all died out of hunger since there was nothing to fill their stomachs. Other theorists add to this myth claiming that there were prone to diseases, and this speeded up their extinction. The exposure to the cold and hunger made the animals extinct at a faster rate, and this is the most common myth.

From the museum, the film showed that the dinosaurs were on the verdict of their extinction even before they were hit by an asteroid about 65.5 million years ago (Piper, 2009). The larger herbivores numbers were reducing compared to the carnivores, and, the smaller plant eaters’ numbers were not even reducing. The extinction of the animals was basically affected by the sizes of the animal, with the larger species being exposed to extinction more. The geographical position is also said to have aided in the extinction, and their feeding habits also played a part.

  1. Describe and discuss the details of any display that concerns some aspect of adaptive radiation.

Adaptive radiation can be explained as the process whereby organisms diversify and lead to the formation of new forms. There are four methods that can be used to identify adaptive radiation, and they are the sharing of a common ancestry in a species, a physiological and morphological relation between the environment, trait similarities due to the adaptations to the environment and rapid emergence of new speciated species. This is usually triggered by a change in the environment creating new resources. Adaptive radiation may also be caused by the exposure to a new environment like an isolated island or newly formed lake.

The evolution of Neo-tropical Freshwater fishes using the family of Cichlidae as a model is one of the examples of adaptive radiation in the Museum. Neo-tropical cichlids have an approximate of around 60 genera and over 600 species. The research is not, however, complete and, therefore, the research is still undergoing to establish the cichlids in South America believed to have emerged as a result of adaptive radiation (Fleagle, 1999). The research should establish how old they are and how long it took for them to change. There is a higher chance the different environments might have triggered the adaptive radiation.

  1. Describe and discuss the details of any display that concerns some aspect of speciation.

Speciation differs in adaptive radiation in that, in speciation, evolution occurs, and entirely new biological species arise. Speciation is more of a natural process but can also be induced artificially through agriculture, animal husbandry, and laboratory experiments. The four natural and geographical methods of speciation are, allopatric, parapatric, peripatric and sympatric. Research is ongoing to define the involvement of genetic drifts in the process of speciation. The rate of speciation is another issue that has caused constant arguments between scientists. Some of them claiming that speciation is gradual, and it happens over a period of time. Other counter this and say that there is a period of dormancy then a change occurs suddenly then another period of dormancy before there is a change again.

In the museum, there is a display of the finches. These birds were fetched from the Galápagos archipelago, in South America off the Pacific Ocean. The two bird species were used by Charles Darwin to explain this theory (Fleagle, 1999). The birds are separated from each other by the ocean, but over the years their beaks have evolved according to what they feed on. The birds due to the separation do not breed with each other and form a special type of species with unique characteristics.

  1. Describe and discuss a display that illustrates the adaptive suit of characteristics of an invertebrate.

Invertebrates happen to be the type of organisms that do not possess a backbone, or else a vertebral column that comes from the notochord. This lack of the vertebral column is what makes this group of organisms different from vertebrates which possess a vertebral column. The group invertebrates happens to be very big since only about four percent of all organisms have a vertebral column, leaving invertebrates to occupy the other ninety six percent. The most common invertebrates are insects, crabs, worms, and snails. The most common traits of invertebrates are: the organisms are heterotrophic since they are all animals, have differentiated tissues, possess a digestive chamber, and reproduction is both asexual and sexual. The characteristics get further differentiated according to species, but the above traits are found in almost all invertebrates.

The group is very large and contains very many organisms and therefore the display in the Museum was overwhelming. The spider is one of the invertebrates that were at display at the museum, and it belongs to the group of arachnids. The insect possesses a body that is divided into two segments (Clarkson, 1998). It does not contain wings or an antennae, has simples eyes, an exoskeleton that is shed periodically, and the presence of pedipalps and chelicerae. The insect also possesses silk that they use in the creation of webs and venom found in the fangs in the chelicerae for attacking prey.

  1. View the extinct Irish Elk. Discuss the most plausible explanation for why this species went extinct. Note: It is not due to the size of the rack.

The Irish Elk is another case of species that went extinct. The Irish Elk was one of the largest deer to ever live and belonged to the species megaloceros. Although its latest form is said to have been from China, the Irish Elk was found in North Africa and Asia, Ireland and Eurasia. The creatures stood to a height of about seven feet to the shoulder and the antlers rising up to twelve feet. The name given to it does not mean that it was completely Irish, but there are claims that it is related to the Giant and Fallow deer of Ireland.

The species was very important to the scientist and were part of the reason that proved the existence of extinction of animals. Scientists argued that is being not right that God would let one of his best creatures to die out; therefore rooting that evolution and extinction are natural processes. There are claims that hunting by human might have been the reason behind the extinction of the species (Goecke, 2004). There is also another theory that states that the change in vegetation led to their demise. For their large bodies and antlers, the animals needed large amounts of calcium and phosphate, and when the environment could no longer provide that, the animals became extinct.

  1. Describe and discuss some display(s) that illustrate(s) evidence for gradual evolution from one form into another.

Gradual evolution is a type of evolution that takes place at a slow pace compared to the time schedule at hand. In this type of evolution, the change is slow, consistent and also constant. This type of evolution is common when it comes to all types of animals depending on the situation. A change in the habitat or environment will see the animal developing some traits that help the animals adapt to the new environment. It is during this period thatsome animals survive, and the others do not. The new breed and new generations that are born come bearing the characteristics that are able to cope in the new environment. At the long last, the change will have already happened, and it happens in a slow way.

A good example is the black and yellow butterflies (Fleagle, 1999). The butterflies gradually changed their color to orange and yellow, which was less easy to note and therefore free from predators. The black and yellow butterflies, therefore, became extinct after the predators fed on them more. This was because they were much easier to note than the orange, yellow butterflies. Therefore after some time, the black and yellow butterflies were completely wiped out and what remained were the orange and yellow ones that were able to stay away from predators.

  1. Describe and discuss one display that specifically illustrates the idea of punctuated equilibrium.

Punctuated equilibrium is a type of evolution that is exactly opposite of the gradual evolution. In punctuated evolution, the variation happens very fast, and at a very high rate compared to the discrete intervals and at times there is no change at all. The theory upholds the fact that species come about too rapidly to give their origins a chance to be tracked by paleontologist. They then persist in a static state of equilibrium with no change. The mutations are changes in the DNA that are not inherited from the other generations, but passed on to other generations. Though these mutations are responsible for the deaths of some species, this is only to leave the fittest species living. In nature, there is only one theory: survival for the fittest.

An example of punctuated equilibrium is the change in the sea level affecting marine animals. If there is a change in sea level, not all marine animals are expected to adapt to the situation and therefore some of them die. The remaining will adapt the resistance, and it will be passed on to generations to come (Fleagle, 1999).


Fleagle, J. G. (1999). Primate adaptation and evolution. San Diego: Academic Press.

Clarkson, E. N. K. (1998). Invertebrate Palaeontology and Evolution. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Goecke, M. P. (2004). Irish elk. Edina, Minn: Abdo Pub.

Piper, R., & MyiLibrary. (2009). Extinct animals: An encyclopedia of species that have disappeared during human history. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Saint, J. L. (2012).Tactical deception. Cincinnati, OH: Samhain.