Undiscovered Species in Natural History Museums

Evon Hekkala and a crocodile skull at the AMNH. Photo by Ed Yong.

We’re big fans of museums, especially those of natural history with specimens of life in the world that are invaluable to science. Now, in a piece for the Atlantic, Ed Yong (previously here) writes about the dozens of new species being identified many years–or in the case of some Egyptian mummified crocodiles, millennia–after their collection. These specimens, Yong reports, can inform us further on the evolution of animal body types, on cycles of diversity, and on the origins of epidemics, among other things:

In the darkness of the Akeley Hall of Mammals, swarms of kids gawk at beautifully staged dioramas of Africa’s wildlife. The stuffed safari, nestled in the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York, includes taxidermied leopards stalking a bush pig, preserved ostriches strutting in front of warthogs, and long-dead baboons cautiously considering a viper. In one corner, in a display marked “Upper Nile Region,” a lone hippo grazes next to a herd of lechwe, roan antelope, and a comically stern shoebill stork.

“This is my favorite one,” says Evon Hekkala, pointing to the display. “There’s a taxidermied crocodile tucked away down there.”

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