Natural History News from All Over

360 degree virtual interactive tour of the Smithsonian!

Want to take a freshman-level dinosaur class next Spring?

Want to keep an 
eye on a volcano or see a year’s activity at Kilauea in Hawaiiin one minute? Visit the US Geological Survey Volcano Hazards Program at to keep an eye on a volcano or see a year’s activity at Kilauea. Kilauea has been erupting most of the time since1983. The site also includes information on plate tectonics, types of volcanic hazards, and how volcanoes are studied.

Want to see what Mount St. Helen’s is up to now? 

The crater produced by its 1980 eruption is now partially filled by a lava dome.

Rapidly rotating lava world discovered  Astronomers based at MIT have discovered a planet that circles its star once every 8.5 hours. The planet is about 40 times closer to its star than Mercury is to the sun and temperatures on its surface could reach more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit according to an article by Eryn Brown in Science Now (

Fans of Star Trek will probably think of the planet as like the one on which Darth Vader sustained the injuries which put him into his famous costume, but the temperature on the new plant, called Kepler 78b, would have vaporized, not injured, the famous villain.

News from the 
One of the last true wild horses produces a foal via artificial insemination  A new filly of Przewalski's horse, which is considered the last wild horse left, was born July 27, 2013 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. It's the first of the species to be born via artificial insemination and is part of a captive breeding program which has already re-introduced some of the horses into parts of their original range in Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan. The species had been declared extinct in the wild until 1996, when a single male was seen. See the complete article by Derek Mead at

Image via Doloros Reed, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute  

Boulder opal picture stones and patterned stones 

Australian boulder opal picture stones and patterned stones formed when opal was deposited in a sandstone or ironstone matrix or in voids or cracks. Each opal is unique. They are mined from Cretaceous sedimentary rocks mainly in Yowah or Koroit opal fields in Queensland, Australia. If you go to and search for boulder auctions, you can see many interesting examples such as the pictures shown here, all from Opal Auctions.


Mystery of origin of gold is solved!
Many elements such as iron can be formed in the cores of large stars, but gold cannot be formed in this way. The Los Angeles Times Science Now Section (,0,5527820.story) has reported a discovery by Edo Berger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and his team, that gold can be formed by the collision of neutron stars, extremely dense remnants of supernova explosions that consist mainly of neutrons. An observed brief burst of gamma rays was attributed to a collision of two neutron stars. There was also a burst of infrared light produced by heavy elements, some of which were radioactive, and decaying. Matter flung out from the colliding neutron stars included a small percentage of gold, which Berger estimated as perhaps 10 times the mass of the earth’s moon. The stellar collision is 3.9 billion light-years away, so nobody needs to get excited about a gold rush.

The Geological Society of America is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2013. 
A timeline showing GSA and geoscience history can be downloaded at
Some highlights include:
  • 1966 The South­Central Section, which includes Louisiana, was formed.
  • 1970 Membership reaches 10,000.
  • 1991 Doris Malkin Curtis is first woman to serve as GSA president
  • 1999 First GSA Public Service Award given to Stephen Jay Gould. Many readers enjoy his essays in the magazine Natural History and his natural history books dedicated to general readers.

Comet ISON  may become "the comet of the century" by the time it approaches Earth in late November, or it’s close pass by the sun may diminish it. This fall it may appear as bright in our sky as the moon. Read more at,0,2324776.story

Want to drive across the Baton Rouge Fault? Drive on College from I10 towards Jefferson Highway. The gentle upslope just past Meineke Car Care Center marks the fault. Learn more at

Want to know more about the beautiful dragonflies hovering over a pond? See Dragonflies and Damselflies of Louisiana by M. L. Ferro, K. A. Parys, M. L.Gimmel, G. Strickland, and J. Strickland. Published by the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum  2010

Prehistoric animals from our collections - A skeletal cast of the dinosaur Allosaurus is on display in the Howe/Russell/Kniffen building and bones from a mastodon, an Ice Age elephant-relative, are on display, along with a painting reconstructing the animal, in Foster Hall on the LSU Campus. The other animals on the coloring posters represent animals known from fossils found in Louisiana. DinosaurColoringPosters.pdf

A really mammoth meeting! The IV International Conference on Mammoths and their Relatives will be held on May 5-12, 2014 in northern Greece. Their website has details of the meeting and a selection of pictures of fossils, sites, and reconstructions, including the longest tusks in the world.

*Please send Natural History short news snippets for consideration to Webmaster Sydney Lejeune at