NHM.org


Nature in L.A.

November 30, 2016

The Sweet Sound of Love (x4)

Illustration of California shield-back katydid (Capnobotes occidentalis) showing sound inputs that function remarkably similarly to the human hearing system. Photo by: Jeffrey Cole

When I was a kid, I dreaded the moment when a friend would call my name to wave me over to a school lunch table and I could not locate the sound of her voice. At a time in life rich with potential for abject mortification, the daily practice of standing in the middle of the cafeteria dumbly holding a plastic food tray with a panicked, lost expression ranks highly in those angsty and miserable moments of adolescence. If only I'd been a bush cricket.

Researchers from the University of Lincoln, UK, have discovered that a group of bush crickets, or katydids, have an “...


November 29, 2016

The Scoop on Ferndell: Griffith Park's Enchanted "Nature Museum"

At the border of the Hollywood Hills and Los Feliz neighborhoods is an enchanting, tree-shaded half-mile trail of Griffith Park that meanders along a trickling stream dotted with ponds. This verdant paradox in the city of Los Angeles has an appropriately puzzling name: Ferndell Nature Museum. If you go there looking for “the Museum,” there isn’t one; the collection of plants and animals living there IS the Museum.

Ferndell trail now (left) and then (right), early 1900s: photo courtesy of Seaver Center for Western History Research, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Frederic Hamer Maude (1858-1959) Collection, ca.1890-1920.

The history of...


November 3, 2016

Abandoned Baby Animals: What Should You Do?

Earlier this month, I received an e-mail from a friend of mine asking if I wanted to adopt “a tame squirrel.” I paused and re-read her sentence, and then saw a photo of an extremely cute baby squirrel.

Photo of the baby fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) - an introduced species to the L.A. area.

Through several e-mail exchanges I learned that my friend’s coworker saw the baby squirrel in a park near her home, and was surprised at how unafraid it was of people (it came right up to her and let her touch it). Worried that this squirrel was a lost or abandoned pet, she picked up the squirrel, placed it in a box, and took it to her office. Everyone in her office was amazed that the squirrel was not afraid of people, and that it would let them touch it...


October 27, 2016

L.A.'s Weirdest Halloween Costume: An Insect Disguised as a Ball of Lint

Green lacewing larva disguised as a tiny lint ball, walking up our den wall. Photo by: Martin Schlageter

The other night, as I was walking through the house turning out lights and locking up, I saw a weird, tiny ball of debris—the kind of thing you see in the corner of a house that has multiple pets and an idle vacuum cleaner—making its way up the wall. I called for my husband and said, “What in the world is going on? Does that dust bunny have legs?”

For the next 20 minutes we watched it slowly traverse our wall and tried to capture photographs of it on our small point-and-shoot, hoping to get a closer look on the computer (blurry photo above). The next day my husband submitted a couple of photos of it to iNaturalist and...


October 18, 2016

The Sound of our Griffith Park Mountain Lion: P-22 and the Mysteries of Puma Communication

What comes to mind when you imagine the call of P-22, L.A.'s famous urban mountain lion (Puma concolor)?  Do you imagine a roar or violent hiss? If so, you are not alone because that is what people most often see and hear in the movies.

Photo by Miguel Ordeñana

However, a recent video of P-22 vocalizing (first ever!) paints a different picture. The video supports recent cutting edge research suggesting that puma communication is more complex than we once thought.  As we prepare to celebrate our beloved Griffith Park denizen on...


October 7, 2016

L.A. Mushroom Season Starts!

The early Fall can be an extraordinary time for finding fungus in Southern California, as I was thrilled to discover at the perimeter of two NHM sites.

Along the border of the Exposition Park Rose Garden, adjacent to NHM’s Nature Garden, is a grove of remarkably large Ficus and Eucalyptus trees. Recently, two of the six or so Eucalyptus trees were sporting young fruiting bodies and more mature “shelves” of Laetiporus gilbertsonii, a fungus known as the California Chicken of the Woods. This species is a wood decay fungus common to California oaks and eucalyptus trees especially when they are old or stressed from something like drought, which we are experiencing in Southern California. These golf-ball sized, candy corn-colored blobs were as weird as they were wonderful.

More...


September 30, 2016

Slimy friends or...?

While looking for snails and slugs on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona recently, I uncovered this cozy scene: an Ambigolimax slug nestled between two land planarians. Despite my disappointing photography, the result of which is the blurry photo you see here, this slug/planarian coupling is noteworthy for a few reasons.

1. You can see their differences. Land planarians are often mistaken for slugs, and although these animals are both slimy and found in the same moist, leaf litter habitat, the planarian belongs to the Flatworm (or Platyhelminthes) phylum, while the slug belongs to phylum Mollusca. The planarian is much thinner than any slug and often has two dark brown bands running the length of its body. The body of slugs is stout compared to the very...


September 27, 2016

Straighten Up and Fly Right, “Collective Wisdom” in Pigeon Flocks

Our fearless, GPS-tracked homing pigeon leader, poised to steer the flock astray. Photo by: Zsuzsa Ákos

In a recent study published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, researchers from the University of Oxford have discovered that pigeons have more reasoning capacity than urban-dwelling humans have ever credited them.

It was previously thought that “bad” flock leaders that made navigational mistakes would propagate their errors down through a hierarchical decision-making system in species that travel together, like the homing pigeon (above and below). 'Lo and behold, the researchers found that those...


September 20, 2016

Late Summer in the NHM Nature Gardens

Dioprosopa clavata. Photo by Brian Brown.

With the flowering of the buckwheats almost completely finished, the insect activity has temporarily dropped off in the Nature Gardens. I say temporarily because the coyotebush, Baccharis 'Centennial,' is almost ready to flower, and when it does the 1913 Garden becomes an insect photographer's paradise. 

Green fig beetles (Cotinis mutabilis). Photo by Brian Brown.

Until that happy event, only a few days away, the action is now...


September 13, 2016

East Ridin’ Pseudoscorpion Picked Up in LA!

Pseudoscorpions (meaning "false scorpion") resemble miniature scorpions without a long stinging "tail." Photo credit here.

The Coolest Hitchhikers in the Galaxy

Imagine being only a few millimeters in length with a big round body, 8 legs, and 2 large pincher-like “claws.” With no wings to transport them, it’s a great big world to navigate for the tiny predatory pseudoscorpion, a relative of spiders, scorpions and their kin. Hunting food and finding mates may seem like an impossible challenge for other tiny organisms, but pseudoscorpions DON’T PANIC, for evolution has made them the coolest little hitchhikers in the galaxy!

...