See all the species of the day fact files published in 2010 to celebrate the UN's International Year of Biodiversity.
Humans are land-dwelling mammals that differ from their ape relatives by having a larger brain, less hair, and adaptations that allow them to walk on 2 feet. During the last 250,000 years they have spread across the globe from Africa. In the last century, their activities have become so complex, they now threaten other species and their own habitat. Find out more about this exploitative species.
Lecanopteris spinosa is an intriguing fern species that has a mutually beneficial relationship with ants. Whilst the fern’s rhizome provides shelter for the ant colony, the ants provide nutrients for the plant. Read on to discover more about this unusual plant and how it has adapted to accommodate its helpful tenants.
Ips typographus, the 8-toothed spruce bark beetle, lives on Christmas trees. Its larvae burrow into the bark, but it causes most damage by introducing a fungus that can within a few weeks, turn the wood blue, reducing the commercial value of the tree and eventually kill it. Discover more about the boring methods of this tactical beetle.
Most termites are difficult to see because they live out-of-sight, underground or in dead wood. Hospitalitermes hospitalis is easy to observe because it forms long columns of soldiers and workers that go foraging across the rainforest floor during daylight hours. Find out more about the curious habits of this processional termite, and its chemical weaponry.
The holly leaf-miner (Phytomyza ilicis) is what its name suggests, a miner of holly leaves. The adult of the species is a fly and its larvae feed in holly leaves, forming characteristic blotch mines, which cause aesthetic damage and weaken some young plants. Find out more about this fly and where you might spot its larva’s tell-tale mines.
The Ectoedemia heringella moth was first spotted in Britain in 1996 right here, in the wildlife garden of the Natural History Museum. It had never been seen before in northern Europe. It occurs in some areas where Holm oak trees grow as its larvae feed in the leaves. Find out more.
Holly has for centuries been used to decorate houses and churches at Christmas. Ilex aquifolium is 1 of 400 holly species. It’s an evergreen tree that grows up to 15 metres tall, with waxy, spiky leaves, and characteristic red berries. Read on to find out more about this English holly and the folklore that surrounds it.
Kissing under the mistletoe has become a popular Christmas tradition in the last 300 years in English-speaking nations. Viscum album is a small, woody shrub that grows parasitically on trees and forms a ball-shaped mass on the host tree’s branches. Find out more about this poisonous plant and its traditional uses.
Lavatera oblongifolia is a recently described species that is only found in the arid mountains of the extreme south-east corner of Spain. It prefers mountainous, rocky locations and its restricted distribution means it is threatened with extinction. Find out more about this attractive plant and its 2-toned flowers.
Solanum phoxocarpum is a shrub or tree that grows at high altitudes in Kenyan and Tanzanian mountains. It can grow up to 6 metres tall, and has unusual long pointy fruits and mauve flowers. The plant's roots are used locally for medicinal purposes. Read on to find out more about this spiny plant and its mountain habitat.
Webb’s tufted-tailed rat was first described in 1949 by Sir John Ellerman who did much of his research here at the Museum. Eliurus webbi lives in underground burrows in the rainforests of eastern Madagascar, and is well adapted to its forest habitat. Find out more.
Rigidipenna inexpectata is a rare bird found only on a few of the Solomon Islands. It is a nocturnal species and remains hidden in forested regions, but makes characteristic whistling sounds to communicate. Read on to discover more about this typical frogmouth and the threats it faces from deforestation.
Isoetes biafrana was first described by former Museum scientist Arthur Hugh Alston in 1956, and the type specimen is held in the Museum’s hryptogamic herbarium. It is a small aquatic plant known as a quillwort that reproduces by producing spores. Find out more about this rare plant and how it has adapted to its aquatic habitat.
Cryptoprocta ferox is Madagascar’s largest carnivore. It is an avid climber and lives in forested areas throughout the island where it feeds on lemurs, birds insects and reptiles. It has a fearsome reputation and can emit a foul smell when aggravated. Find out more about the unusual habits of this Malagasy mammal.
Frankincense has been used for centuries in religious rituals, and in the story of Christmas it is one of the gifts brought to Jesus by the wise men. It comes from a resin produced by the Boswellia sacra tree and its relatives, which grow in arid conditions along the Arabian Peninsula. Explore the frankincense tree’s exotic history, and the lucrative trade it created.
The rhinoceros bot fly, Gyrostigma rhinocerontis is an endangered species. It depends on rhinos for its survival, and as rhino numbers decline, so too will this fly. The adult fly is the largest in Africa and lives only for a few days, but its larvae spend months developing in the rhino’s stomach. Find out more about the lifecycle of this parasitic fly.
Navaea phoenicea is a majestic plant endemic to the Canary Islands. Its exotic flowers produce copious nectar, to attract the birds it relies on for pollination and subsequent reproduction. The Tenerife tree mallow is endangered in its natural habitat because of animal grazing and the arrival of other plant species. Discover what’s being done to protect it.
Symsagittifera roscoffensis is a small, free-living marine worm that relies on symbiotic algae for nutrition. The photosynthetic algae give the worm its green colour and its common name, the mint-sauce worm. Read on to find out more about this simple acoel worm, its ability to regenerate, and the evolutionary questions it may help to answer.
Lepisorus clathratus is a fern that grows at altitude in the Sino-Himalayan region. It lives on rocks and has adapted to the hostile climate in which it lives by shedding its leaves in winter, and leaving its rhizome alive. Read on to find out more about this unusual fern and its mountain habitat.
Arocatus longiceps is a true bug that was first spotted in Britain in 2006. By 2007 it was common here in the Museum’s wildlife garden, but its identity remained a mystery for months afterwards. Find out more about this insect and why it was difficult to identify, and follow its travels across the globe.
Meerkats are small, sociable mammals which are found across southern Africa. They live in family groups called mobs where individuals co-operate to rear their young, protect against predators and defend their territory. Explore the intricacies of their social interactions and discover when young males form ‘roving parties’, what they eat and how they defend themselves.
The long-spiked glasswort, Salicornia dolichostachya, plays a key role in establishing salt marshes. It resembles a cactus, and like most plants that grow where water is scarce, it is highly adapted to its extreme environment. Discover how this plant manages to live in salty, water-logged mud, and how its presence helps other plants establish themselves.
Ivy is one of the few woody vines growing in Britain, and is commonly found as a ‘living curtain’ clinging to buildings and trees. It flowers and produces fruit late in the year and is often used as part of Christmas decorations. There are many ivy varieties, but it is still unclear how many species exist. Find out more about this climbing evergreen plant.
Reduvius personatus, the masked hunter, is an assassin bug that cleverly disguises itself in its dusty habitat and feeds on household insects and lice. It has adapted to life in the home, and is almost always found in human dwellings. Discover more about the life of the masked hunter and how it disguises itself.
Hamadryas feronia is a butterfly that is found across the Americas, from Texas to Argentina, and from southern Brazil to Paraguay. It is well camouflaged in its forest habitat, but the male makes itself known whilst flying using a loud clicking noise. Find out more about this beautiful butterfly and its unusual behaviour.
Tabebuia aurea is one of the most beautiful trees in the Paraguayan Chaco landscape and is widespread in the savannas of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay. It produces a spectacular show of large yellow flowers and is often cultivated as an ornamental tree. Take a closer look at ‘paratodo’ and the habitat in which it lives.
Asplenium nidus, bird’s nest ferns, are a common sight in the rainforests of south-east Asia, growing high up in the canopy. Falling leaves are trapped by the fronds, and the fern and its contents can weigh up to 200kg. They become mini ecosystems, and are home to thousands of insects and other animals. Discover more about this giant of the rainforest canopy.
Parkinsonia aculeate is an attractive wild plant that grows throughout the Americas, but has become invasive in Australia, Africa and the Caribbean. It has intricate yellow flowers and photosynthetic branches that make it a popular garden plant and help it survive in semi-arid conditions. Find out more about this pretty tree and how every part of it can be put to good use.
Clydagnathus cavusformis is a fossil that plays an important role in palaeontology. It is a member of the Conodonts that have been studied for 150 years, but only recently described as eel-like animals that lack a proper jaw but have rows of teeth-like projections that were probably used to filter or catch food. Discover what we know about these fossils and how they can be used to age rock sediments.
Ilex paraguariensis is a member of the holly family and is an evergreen tree that grows up to 18 metres tall. For generations, it has been used in Paraguay and other parts of South America to make a herbal infusion known as yerba mate, or Paraguayan tea. Discover the plant’s many beneficial properties and how yerba mate has become one of South America’s biggest exports.
The capercaillie is a most charismatic grouse, found in Scotland’s pinewood forests. It feeds on plants, seeds and even pine needles. The birds use open spaces within the woodland to perform an unusual mating ritual called ‘lekking’. Discover more about the habits of this majestic bird and find out what conservation efforts are underway to bolster its dwindling numbers.
The Chacoan peccary, Catagonus wagneri,was discovered in the remote Chaco forest in Paraguay, in 1975. Before its surprise discovery, scientists assumed it was extinct as it was only known from fossilised remains. Find out what threatens the Chacoan peccary today and what more can be done to protect this living fossil.
Parides agavus is a large and beautiful butterfly that lives in undisturbed forest areas in Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. The caterpillars feed on plants containing aristolochic acids - these are toxic to many of its potential predators. Adult Parides agavus usually only live for about 2 weeks. Discover more about the life of this striking butterfly.
Ceiba chodatii is a deciduous tree commonly found in the Dry Chaco of Paraguay. Its characteristic bottle-shaped trunk makes it easy to spot and helps it survive in its arid habitat. Local people use the tree in a variety of ways, from crafting canoes to curing headaches. Read on to discover more about palo borracho (the drunken tree) and its many uses.
Leptoglossus occidentalis is an invasive insect that has spread from North America to Europe in the last 10 years. It is an agricultural pest that feeds on pine trees and can cause significant seed loss in commercial tree crops such as the Douglas fir. Find out more about this 'leaf-footed' bug.
The Chacoan mouse opossum, is a tiny marsupial that seems to be thriving in Paraguay despite deforestation. The type specimen of this species was collected in Sapucay over a hundred years ago, and resides in the Museum’s collections. This species has been overlooked for decades as it was confused with Gracilinanus agilis. Explore the history of this ‘hidden dwarf’.
Anthracocentrus arabicus is a rare longhorn beetle found on the Arabian peninsula and across desert regions of Africa. Females of this species are often larger than males and there are fewer of them. The males have highly developed mandibles that they use to fend off predators and competing males. Find out what we know about these elusive beetles.
Solanum sisymbriifolium is a prickly plant with sticky leaves and bright red fruits. It is native to South America, where it grows like a weed. It has been grown in Europe since the 18th century, where it is known as viscid nightshade thanks to the tiny hairs on its leaves and fruits. Discover more about this ‘spiny’ plant, and how farmers use it to control a potato pest.
Bulnesia sarmientoi, the Palo Santo tree, is highly valued by the indigenous people of the Dry Chaco region in Paraguay. The tree's beautiful wood is used in many ways as furniture, tools and smoking pipes. Resins and an essential oil extracted from the wood are used in paints, perfumes and medicines. Read more about the wonders of the Palo Santo tree.
The khaosok sedge is a rare and unusual species that was first discovered in southern Thailand in 2001. It is a robust perennial with many drooping leaves and flowering stems. It lives on inaccessible, and seemingly inhospitable, limestone cliffs, where it relies on rainwater for its moisture. Read on to find out more about this sedge and the other plant species discovered recently in similar habitats.
Titanus giganteus, as its name suggests, is a giant. It’s the world’s largest beetle and can grow to the size of a small dog. Despite its imposing size, large jaws and tendency to hiss, this longhorn beetle is quite harmless to humans and lives unobtrusively in dense tropical jungles where its huge larvae burrow to feed on decaying wood. Explore the dank, dark world of this gigantic beetle.
Anopheles dirus is 1 of a number of mosquito species that transmits malaria - a disease that currently affects over 200 million people worldwide. It thrives in almost any fresh water, from a well to a muddy footprint, and has quickly adapted to new habitats created by human activity. Find out more about this blood-sucking insect and how analysing its genetic makeup might help scientists to control malaria.
Hildoceras bifrons is an ammonite that lived during the Early Jurassic Period and became extinct about 175 million years ago. Fossil Hildoceras are commonly found on the Yorkshire coast in Britain and are named in honour of St Hilda of Whitby. Discover where these animals lived and why the fossils are often known as ‘snakestones’.
The Bioko blackfly was first described by Museum researcher Rory Post. It is one of several blackflies capable of transmitting a parasitic worm that causes the disease onchocerciasis, or river blindness. The disease affects 18 million people in Africa. Discover how an eradication programme proposed by Museum researchers has successfully wiped out the Bioko blackfly.
Platycoma sudafricana is smaller than a pinhead, and is found living freely in marine environments in South Africa. This nematode worm can withstand extremes of temperature and salinity, and probably feeds by scraping plant particles from single grains of sand. Take a closer look at this tiny animal, and discover how nematode populations can be used to study environmental change.
Azolla filiculoides is a tiny invasive fern that has spread around the world, but can be put to good use. It thrives in nutrient-rich ponds and ditches, where it forms potentially damaging thick mats of foliage. Azolla can be a useful fertiliser, thanks to a nitrogen-fixing alga that lives in it, and so is often used in paddy fields to improve rice yields. Take a closer look at this floating fern.
The South Island piopio of New Zealand was first observed by Europeans during Captain Cook’s second voyage in the 1700s. It soon began to suffer as new predators including cats and ferrets were introduced, and it became extinct in the early 1900s. Much of what we know about Turnagra capensis comes from accounts written in Victorian times, but scientists are still striving to correctly classify the species and its relatives. Find out more.
Welwitschia mirabilis is a remarkable plant that can live for over a thousand years in an inhospitable desert habitat. It has a short stem and 2 huge leaves that take in water from fog and dew. The plant is a relic from the Jurassic Period and has changed little over millions of years. Discover more about the life of this ‘living fossil’.
Dioscorea strydomiana is a striking yam species from South Africa that has only recently been described. Like other yams it has large tubers that grow above ground, and this species is collected and used locally for medicinal purposes. Such activity is threatening its survival - fewer than 200 plants remain in the wild. Discover what efforts are underway to preserve this species.
Cereus stenogonus is a tree-like cactus that is commonly found in the Dry Chaco region of Paraguay. It has striking flowers and edible fruits, and its wood and spines are used by indigenous people to make utensils and children’s toys. Discover where you might spot this spiky plant in the Dry Chaco forests of South America.
Elatostema fengshanense is known only from caves in south west China. It was discovered in 2008 and since then has been found in only 3 additional caves. Scientists at the Museum, together with collaborators in China, are seeking to understand why these species grow in caves and how they spread from cave to cave. Read more about this plant and its unusual flowers.
Eumorpha labruscae, is an exotic hawkmoth that can grow to the size of your hand. This migrating moth is commonly found in South and Central America, and occasionally as far north as Canada. It is known as the gaudy sphinx thanks to its remarkable markings and the amazing array of colours on its wings. Discover how its colourful larvae mimic a snake to avoid predation, and how the adult moth seeks out a mate.
Crocodylus anthropophagus lived alongside hominids in Tanzania nearly 2 million years ago. As its name suggests, it was a man-eating reptile, and some hominid fossils bear tell-tale teeth marks. This ancient crocodile has only recently been named from specimens held in collections in Tanzania, and others here at the Natural History Museum. Discover where this reptile lived, and what makes it unique.
Ixodes ricinus, like other ticks, is a blood-sucking ectoparasite. It lives on a range of back-boned animals including humans and is well-known as a transmitter of Lyme disease. Tiny sensory hairs on its legs and toothed mouthparts make this tick remarkably well adapted to finding and sticking with its host. Discover more about the gripping lifestyle of this tick and the diseases it can spread.
Acrocephalus orinus was originally described as a species in 1871 from 1 bird discovered in India. No further examples were identified for over 130 years, causing scientists to think the specimen belonged to another existing species. A molecular study on the type specimen in 2002 confirmed that Acrocephalus orinus is a discrete species. Follow the journey of discovery concerning this elusive bird.
The grey seal is a protected species, and is thriving in many coastal waters, particularly around Britain. It can dive 300 metres deep for food, but also eats sand-eels and seabirds. Large groups of seals gather at ‘haul out’ sites to breed and rest. They give birth to their pups around this time of year, as autumn becomes winter. Read more about this endearing species.
Coprophanaeus lancifer is one of the largest scarab dung beetles in the western hemisphere, and can grow to the size of your fist. It is commonly found in the Amazon basin where it prefers to eat animal carcasses rather than dung. This remarkable beetle has legs lined with teeth to help it dig burrows for its young. Find out more about this heavy-weight beetle and why its presence indicates of a thriving forest.
Rhopalomyzus lonicerae, like many aphids, is sometimes regarded as a pest. During the summer of 2010 it made a dramatic appearance in the wildlife garden at the Museum. Discover how this fascinating insect speeds up its reproductive cycle to produce armies of aphids, and how natural biocontrol agents can annihilate them.
The pineapple, Ananas comosus, was first discovered by the Tupi-Guaraní Indian tribe in what is now Paraguay. Ananas comes from the Tupi word meaning excellent fruit, and the name pineapple was coined by European explorers who noticed the fruit’s similarity to pine cones. Find out more about this succulent fruit and its many uses.
The death’s-head hawkmoth casts an ominous image with its skull-shaped markings, yellow stripes and cloak-like wings. For centuries it has been portrayed as an evil omen. But in reality it is only the honeybee who needs to beware the death’s-head hawkmoth. Discover how this tenacious moth disguises itself to steal honey from inside bee hives.
The Goliath bird-eating spider, Theraphosa blondi, is a Goliath among spiders but it rarely eats birds. It lives under logs in the mountain rainforests of South America where it feeds on crickets, beetles and small mammals and reptiles. It subdues its prey by injecting venom from its long fangs. Discover more about the dark world of this heavy-weight tarantula.
Dryococelus australis is an unusual insect that was, for a long time, thought to have become extinct from the one island from where it was known, Lord Howe Island off the coast of Australia. However, it was rediscovered in the 1960s on a nearby volcanic outcrop. Find out more about the Lord Howe Island stick insect, and the conservation efforts that are underway to reintroduce it to its native island.
Cheirotonus parryi is an Asian beetle with surprisingly long forelegs. It was named in 1848 after Major FJS Parry, an English entomologist who was born two hundred years ago, on 28th October 1810. Much of Major Parry’s beetle collection resides here at the Museum. Read on to discover where this beetle lives in the wild, and what it likes to eat.
Kukufeldia tilgatensis is an Iguanodon-like dinosaur that lived in the Cretaceous period over 130 million years ago. It has been described from a single jaw specimen that resides here at the Natural History Museum. The so-called ‘Brickenden jaw’ was for a long time thought to be from an Iguanodon. Find out what scientists discovered when they took a closer look at this unique fossil.
Flustra foliacea is a cheilostome bryozoan that is common along the British coastline, particularly after storms. Its colonies have a distinctive smell and grow to up to 20 centimetres long and are often mistaken for a seaweed. They provide a microhabitat for dozens of tiny animals. Find out more about this unusual creature and where you might spot it.
Echinolittorina placida is a marine snail belonging to the family of periwinkles. It lives on sheltered rocky shores and jetties in the Gulf of Mexico, where it was first discovered in 2009 by Museum scientists. This snail has spread rapidly northwards during the last 100 years as man-made structures have created new habitats. Read more about this recently identified snail.
Otis tarda, the great bustard, is a majestic bird that stands over a metre tall. It was once common throughout Europe, but has been in decline since the 1800s as its habitats have disappeared. It became extinct in the UK in the 1830s. Read on to discover how conservationists are striving to reintroduce this great bird to the UK.
A specimen of the coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae was discovered in a fisherman's catch in 1938 - until then, scientists had thought all coelacanths had been extinct since the Cretaceous period, 85 million years ago. Read about this amazing discovery and what makes Latimeria chalumnae so elusive.
Leafcutter ants are the subject of the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010 winning photograph. Ants in the genus Atta harvest leaves to cultivate fungus that they then eat. Castes of ants fulfil a range of tasks including collecting vegetation, tending fungus gardens, construction and defence. Find out more about this fascinating species.
Arachnula impatiens is a single-celled organism about the size of a pinhead that lives in soils around the world. It belongs to a family called vampire amoebae that feed by boring a hole into their victim and sucking out the contents. Arachnula impatiens can also engulf its prey whole. Explore the miniature world of this ‘impatient spider-like amoeba’ and discover why it might make a good bio-control agent.
Cauloramphus disjunctus is a bryozoan that occurs as a colony of individual units called ‘zooids’ and encrusts rocks and shells in the seas around Japan. Take a closer look at how this tiny creature has adapted over millions of years to avoid predation by sea-spiders and sea-slugs, and discover how it got its name ‘disjunctus’.
The leatherback sea turtle, Dermochelys coriacea, is one of the world’s largest living reptiles and can weigh over half a tonne. It is a deep sea diver feeding mainly on jellyfish, and travels up to 10,000 kilometres a year. This critically endangered turtle only comes ashore to lay its eggs and bury them in the sand. Dive into the world of this giant turtle and discover what makes it unique.
Hymenolepis microstoma is a tapeworm parasite of mice and beetles that has been studied in the laboratory for over 50 years. Like all tapeworms, it has no mouth or gut, and feeds by absorbing nutrients in the host’s intestine. Explore the complexities of its reproductive cycle and discover how it provides a model for scientists to explore the biology and genetics of medically important tapeworms.
The extinct moose Cervalces latifrons is the largest deer that ever existed. It was superbly well-adapted to the habitat in which it lived, and its living relative Alces alces has found little reason to change. Browse through the adaptations that made this remarkable animal so well-suited to its habitat and discover how those huge antlers were used.
The Rennell Island sea krait, Laticauda crockeri, is a small, venomous sea snake found only in the brackish waters of Lake Tegano on the Solomon Islands. Sea kraits spend most of their time in water, but surface to breathe via lungs. Most species reproduce by laying eggs on land, but Laticauda crockeri is different. Discover what we know about Laticauda crockeri’s reproductive strategy and what else makes it unusual.
Cheyletus eruditus is a predatory mite that is used in agriculture to attack pest mites in bulk food stores such as granaries. It feeds on insects and mites, and will eat its own kind if food is scarce. Find out how environmental conditions can affect this species and what makes it such a useful bio-control agent.
Microdajus pectinatus is a member of a group of barnacle-like creatures called tantulocaridans. This group was first recognised as a distinct subclass of crustacea by Museum scientists in 1983. They live as parasites on other crustaceans including shrimps and can be found from the polar seas to the tropics. Read on to discover more about the life of this ‘so-small shrimp’.
Terebralia palustris is a large marine snail that belongs to the family of mud creepers, the Potamididae, and lives in mangrove forests in the tropical Indian and western Pacific Oceans. It is amphibious and can survive out of water and without food for up to 4 months. Discover how this cleverly-adapted snail seeks out and devours its food.
Macropoma lewesiensis is an extinct coelacanth that lived 145–65 million years ago. Exquisitely preserved fossils in the English Chalk give us a detailed view of the fish’s appearance, and the other species that shared its ecosystem. For years it was assumed that all coelacanths were extinct but in 1938 a living species was discovered, Latimeria chalumnae. Find out more.
For centuries, Hoodia currorii and its relatives have been used by African tribesmen to quench thirst and suppress appetite during long hunting trips. Scientific studies have helped identify the plant’s active compounds, which are now being harnessed for medicinal purposes. Discover more about this striking desert cactus, and its many uses.
Desmodesmus subspicatus is a freshwater green alga that it is found throughout the world. It usually forms flat colonies of cells, but changes to environmental conditions, such as nutrient levels, can trigger it to convert to a unicell form. Find out more about the structure of this microscopic organism and why it is often referred to as a ‘green weed’.
Trichopodiella faurei is a marine ciliated protozoan recently described by Museum scientists, found in the Yellow Sea and South China Sea. It is 50 micrometres long, about half the diameter of a human red blood cell, and is found swimming freely or attached to solid objects. Find out what this intriguing creature looks like and what we know about its evolutionary history.
Syrrhopodon mahensis is a moss species that grows on tree trunks, rocks and soil on islands in the western Indian Ocean. It has lance-like leaves that possess a distinctive transparent basal region. This unusual leaf base identifies S. mahensis as a member of the tropical moss family Calymperaceae. Find out more about this tropical moss, and where you might find it.
Macrocystis pyrifera, is a giant among seaweeds. Its fronds can grow up to 45m long in a single season and it forms extensive underwater forests that create the base for an ecosystem of hundreds of marine animals. For years it has been harvested for commercial purposes. Find out how this seaweed is exploited, and what threatens its survival.
Ginkgo gardneri is a fossil plant that has only one surviving relative - Ginkgo biloba. It lived in a subtropical climate 60 million years ago, but as flowering plants began to dominate, the number of ginkgo species declined. Find out where Ginkgo gardneri fossils have been uncovered, and discover what we know about this ancient plant’s evolutionary history.
The ragfish - Icosteus aenigmaticus - is a large soft-boned fish with a flabby appearance that remains an enigma to scientists. It lives only in the Northern Pacific Ocean and can grow to 2 metres long. It was first described in 1880 and is the only known species in the genus Icosteus. Explore the mystery surrounding this unusual fish.
The sweetgum tree, Liquidambar styraciflua, is native to the Americas but is commonly cultivated in the UK. It has striking purple, red and yellow leaves in autumn and as its name suggests, it exudes a resin that can be used in many ways including as an adhesive, and in soaps and medicines. Find out more about this beautiful tree.
The satanas beetle is a giant among beetles and can grow to the size of your hand. It has formidable horns that it uses to attack rival males. But it is under threat in its native country Bolivia as its habitat is destroyed and it is exploited by collectors. Find out more about this beetle’s armour and how it reproduces.
New Zealand’s blue duck, Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos, is unique. It has no close relatives and lives all year round in often inaccessible locations on fast-flowing mountain rivers. Its numbers are declining largely due to habitat loss and predation by non-native mammal species. Find out more about the threats this duck faces and discover how it got its Maori name ‘whio’.
Budgerigars are one of the world’s best-loved birds. They have been bred in captivity for more than 170 years and come in all shapes and sizes. But all captive budgies are descended from a single species of Australian parrot that lives in arid conditions in the Australian interior. Find out more about the budgie’s colourful history and how it provides fascinating insights into both natural and artificial selection.
Canthidium (Eucanthidium) darwini was first collected and described during a Museum-led exploration of the Amistad Binational Park in Panama in 2008 as part of the Darwin Initiative. Little is known about this small and beautiful beetle, but it probably feeds on the dung of small mammals such as mice. Find out what we do know about this diminutive dung beetle.
Sminthurus viridis is a springtail species that is native to Europe but, since its introduction to the southern hemisphere, has become an agricultural pest. This tiny animal can decimate crops such as clover and lucerne as numbers reach a million per square metre. Discover more about the life of the lucerne flea, and how recent DNA studies are helping scientists explore the springtail's evolutionary relationship with insects.
You might mistake this amazing creature for a caterpillar, but Cristatella mucedo is an invertebrate that is comprised of tiny units called zooids with tentacular feeding crowns that collectively form a large colony. Find out how the caterpillar-like colony takes shape and provides a microhabitat for numerous other species.
Daubentonia madagascariensis, known as the aye aye, is a nocturnal primate found only on Madagascar. Its bright, shining eyes and unusual appearance give it a reputation as a bad omen. Discover how this peculiar-looking animal uses its thin bony finger to extract larvae from tree trunks, and find out what’s behind those shining eyes.
Cameraria ohridella is a small leaf-mining moth that lives on horse-chestnut trees. Its larvae turn leaves prematurely brown and can reduce the trees’ conker crop. No-one knows when the moth first appeared, but it was discovered over 25 years ago and has become widespread in the last decade. Find out where you might spot this tiny moth and its distinctive leaf mines.
Amphipleura pellucida is a minute photosynthetic organism that can glide across surfaces and is often found suspended in plankton in freshwater lakes. It has a silica cell wall with a highly regular structure that can remain preserved in sediment for centuries. Discover how scientists use this tiny organism’s regular shape to test the magnifying power of microscopes.
Dynastes neptunus is truly a giant in the insect world. It is a scarab beetle belonging to the subfamily of rhinoceros beetles, and occurs in the Andes mountains of South America. As the name implies, rhinoceros beetles are large, and often possess horns on their head and thorax. Find out more about this impressive beetle and its formidable horns.
Vespa crabro is the only species of hornet to live in the UK. It has a yellow face and a characteristically wide head. Like its wasp and ant relatives, it lives in colonies where individual workers share the job of rearing the young. Read on to explore this hornet’s lifestyle and its unusual reproductive strategy.
Doryopteris majestosa is a striking fern with its main distribution in central and south Brazil. Until recently it was mistakenly identified as a closely related species, D. nobilis. But in 2007, Museum botany researcher, Dr Jovita Cislinski Yesilyurt, recognised differences between the 2 species. Discover what sets this majestic fern apart from its relatives.
Melianthus major is also known as the honey bush as it produces copious amounts of nectar. It is a shrub endemic to South Africa that is popular with gardeners around the world because of its large, pinnate leaves and elongated inflorescences of reddish flowers. Find out what makes the flowers attractive to pollinating birds.
The southern oak bush-cricket may have tiny wings, but in recent years it has successfully spread throughout Europe. It is now a common sight in Britain and probably first appeared after hitching a ride through the channel tunnel. Find out more about this bush-cricket’s habits and where you might spot it.
Carmichaelia muritai is one of the world’s rarest plants. It inhabits windswept cliffs on a remote coast of South Island, New Zealand, and could easily disappear from the wild. However, thanks to horticulturalists who are rearing the plant in the UK, it is safe from extinction. Find out more about this rare plant and its unusual life history.
Agathiphaga vitiensis is an unusual moth found in the south western Pacific. Its larvae live on Kauri pine trees, where they develop in seeds within the pine cone. It is rarely seen in the wild, but in the 1970s, Museum scientists raised adults from infested pine seeds. This primitive moth is now helping scientists understand the evolutionary relationships between moth species and their close relatives, the caddis flies.
Bombylius major may look and behave like a bee, but beneath the disguise is a parasitic fly whose larvae mostly feed on bee and wasp larvae. It is an agile flier that is found in most parts of the world and is common in Britain. Discover more about this unusual fly’s behaviour and its detrimental effect on the species it mimics.
The black fruited stink moss,Tetraplodon mnioides, is a dung-loving moss that produces foul smelling spore-producing structures to attract flies. The flies disperse the moss’s spores, allowing it to establish itself at new sites. This moss has all but disappeared from South East England, but may return .Find out more about Tetraplodon mnioides.
Dendrobaena attemsi is a European earthworm species that is sometimes found in woodland in southern parts of Britain. It lives in the upper layers of the soil where it feeds on dead organic matter. Find out more about this worm’s lifecycle, and why it is likely to become more widespread in the UK.
Euceraphis betulae lives only on the silver birch tree. It produces several generations of young each year, and can build up large populations that suck sap from leaves, and rain droplets of sticky honeydew onto anything below. Discover more about the elaborate lifecycle of this very common aphid.
Batrachotomus kupferzellensis was a large, carnivorous reptile that lived in Europe during the Triassic period, approximately 230 million years ago. Unlike most modern reptiles it stood with its body clear of the ground and its limbs held directly beneath its body. Find out what fossil specimens tell us about this formidable predator, and how it earned its name - the Kupferzell frog-slicer.
Drupella cornus is a marine snail that lives and feeds on corals. During population explosions, up to 175 snails can inhabit 1 square metre of coral. In the 1980s, the Nangaloo Reef in western Australia was devastated by a snail invasion and reduced by over 80 per cent. Find out how this snail consumes living coral, and how the coral tries to fight back.
Syzygium aromaticum is commonly known as the clove tree. Cloves - the pungent, hard, brown, nail-shaped spice we are familiar with - are dried, unopened flower buds from the tree. Find out how the buds are collected, and explore the myriad of other ways this aromatic tree can be used.
Little is known about this mosquito species that was first described by a Museum researcher and a colleague in 1992, having been collected on Majé Island in the Bayano Reservoir in Panama. It lays its eggs in the water that collects in the crevasses of plants, but these plants are being lost due to deforestation. Find out what little we know about this blood-sucking insect.
Trentepohlia abietina is often mistaken for a lichen, but it is an alga that forms the striking orange patches you see on tree trunks. Surprisingly, it is one of the green algae - Chlorophyta, but its green chlorophyll is masked by a red-coloured pigment. It is easy to spot and is becoming increasingly common in Britain. Find out how you might identify it.
The water-soldier, Stratiotes aloides L., is an aquatic vascular plant of the family Hydrocharitaceae. S. aloides is found floating in summer and submerged in winter and its leaves display a notable similarity to those of pineapples. Find out more about Stratiotes aloides L.
Euphrasia grandiflora is a striking plant that occurs only in the Azores archipelago where it lives on other plants at the edges of volcanic larva flows and craters. Only 2,000 individuals of this species remain, and numbers are dwindling as its habitat disappears. Find out more about this delicate plant and its unique habitat.
Felis silvestris grampia is Britain’s last truly wild cat. It is affectionately known as the Scottish wildcat as the Scottish highlands are its last refuge. This cat once roamed freely throughout England, Scotland and Wales but numbers fell due to habitat loss and human persecution in the early nineteenth century. This species is now protected by law but its future is still uncertain.
In Britain, this endangered species of dragonfly is found only around the Norfolk Broads, but it is also found in other parts of Europe and North Africa. In Norfolk, it prefers to live close to waterways where the water soldier plant - Stratiotes aloides grows. Its name Aeshna isosceles relates to a distinctive triangular marking on its abdomen. Find out more about this rare species.
Chorthippus parallelus is the most common and widespread grasshopper in England, Wales and Scotland. It is usually green or brown and well camouflaged in its grassland habitats, but occasionally adult females are a striking pink colour. Find out more about this eye-catching grasshopper and the perils it faces.
Ectoedemia heckfordi is a pigmy moth that was first discovered in Britain in 2004 by amateur naturalist, Bob Heckford. He initially spotted its bright green larva, rather than the adult moth - its wingspan is only about 5mm. Find out where you might spot this tiny moth and its tell-tale leaf mines.
Myrsidea nesomimi is a louse that lives on mockingbirds inhabiting the Galápagos Islands. It clings to the bird’s feathers, chews its skin and sucks blood. Find out how this blood-sucking parasite is helping Museum scientists track the evolutionary history of the archipelago’s mockingbirds.
Plasmodium falciparum is a microscopic parasite transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes that infects humans. P. falciparum is the commonest and most deadly of all species that cause malaria. Find out how it is transmitted between humans and mosquitoes and what Museum scientists are doing to help control its spread.
Longitarsus nigerrimus is a small, black flea-beetle which is endangered in the UK. Unusually for a terrestrial plant-eating beetle, it is happy in water and feeds on an aquatic plant, the lesser bladderwort. Discover more about this beetle’s life style and how it exploits fluctuating water levels in its boggy habitat.Find out more about Longitarsus nigerrimus.
This ancient sponge lived in European seas over 120 million years ago, filtering food through its internal channels and chambers. It is commonly found fossilised in pieces of flint along the south coast of England, where it has been intricately preserved. Find out more about this intriguing sea creature.
Myotis daubentonii is a medium-sized bat found close to waterways around the British Isles. It roosts near canals, and in moated castles and old waterworks, and catches its prey of small flies as it skims the water surface like a hovercraft. Find out more about this fast-flying bat and its favourite haunts.
Unlike Convolvulus arvensis - the field bindweed that is the bane of gardeners’ and farmers' lives around the globe - Convolvulus vidalii from Morocco is very rare. Convolvulus vidalii is restricted to a small geographical area, like many of the 200 species of Convolvulus worldwide. It is potentially threatened by human activity. Discover where you might see this unusual flower.
Corallina officinalis is a calcified red seaweed found in rock pools on seashores around the world. It appears as pink and red tufted patches on rocks around the rim of rock pools and often provides a home for other sea creatures. Find out more about the life of this pretty seaweed.
Carabus olympiae is a rare and beautiful beetle found only in one alpine valley in Italy. It was first discovered in 1855 by the 8 year-old cousin of a well known Italian entomologist - Eugenio Sella. Its beautiful iridescent markings made it highly desirable to collectors, but it is now a protected species. Find out more about the life of this rare beetle.
Betta brownorum is a miniature species of fighting fish, first described in 1992. It is brightly coloured and about the size of your little finger. It is only found in the murky waters of peat swamp forests in south east Asia. Find out more about this feisty fish and what threatens its extreme habitat.
Lumbricus terrestris is the UK’s largest earthworm. It builds deep vertical burrows and forages for food at night, holding on to its burrow with its flattened tail. Charles Darwin studied this important soil organism in great detail. His experiments explain how this worm manages to drag its leaf-litter supper into its burrow. Find out more.
The jaguar is the largest and most powerful cat found in the western hemisphere. It looks like a leopard and behaves like a tiger, but is especially well adapted to hunt its prey in dense forest - wild animals often 5 times its size. Find out where you might spot a jaguar and how to distinguish it from its feline relatives.
Chaudhuria ritvae is a tiny fish that is only now making its debut. It is an earthworm eel species, about the size of a match. It was first discovered in a shallow pool in Myanmar, by Ritva Roesler and Dr Ralf Britz in 2003. It has now been formally described and named by Ralf Britz, one of the Museum's fish researchers. Find out more about this minute fish and its diminutive relatives.
‘Rusty cracked’ Acarospora sinopica survives in extreme environments. You might mistake it for rust, but it is a lichen that thrives on barren rocks rich in metal. It is often found at abandoned mine sites. Discover more about the life of this lichen.
Solanum dulcamara known as woody nightshade is a common European weed that has spread around the world. Woody nightshade was used in European folk medicine for hundreds of years, although its benefits remain unproven. Solanum dulcamara can be invasive and is a carrier of the bacteria that causes potato rot. Find out more about Solanum dulcamara
The threadfin dragonfish usually lives deep in the ocean. It has distinctive fins and formidable teeth, and it emits light from specialised organs. Its illuminated barbel helps attract prey, but unusually for a dragonfish, the structure of the barbel varies during its lifetime. Find out how the Museum’s collection of Echiostoma barbatum has helped resolve confusion over its classification and shed light on its lifestyle.
The violet click-beetle is extremely rare in Britain and is a protected species. It lives in rotting tree trunks in pasture woodland. Find out more about this striking insect.
The African lungfish - Protopterus annectens - is an eel-like fish that has survived relatively unchanged for millions of years. It is a wonderful example of how animals can evolve from breathing water to breathing air. It breathes using lungs and can survive without water for months at a time. Find out more about this unique fish and what it tells us about our own evolutionary history.
Derogenes varicus is a tiny flatworm that lives in fish that inhabit cold waters around the world. The flatworm has a complex lifecycle that involves three hosts, a marine snail, another invertebrate and a fish. The worms tail is central to its success which it uses for protection, propulsion and as a way of infecting one of its hosts. Read on to find out more about this intriguing parasite.
The horse-chestnut scale insect is a true bug. It feeds on tree sap by sucking it up through modified mouthparts. Since being introduced into Europe from Asia accidentally it has become a widespread nuisance, particularly in urban areas. Find out more about Pulvinaria regalis and how it produces a characteristic mottled affect on tree trunks.
Indigenous people in parts of Central and South America have an unusual way of dyeing cloth - by milking snails. Plicopurpura pansa produces a thick liquid from a gland which turns a rich indigo when exposed to sunlight. Find out how the dye is harvested and why its increasing popularity has an adverse effect on snail populations.
Solemya velesiana is a marine shellfish found in Australian seagrass beds that belongs to an ancient group of clams that date back over 400 million years. It propels itself using an extendable foot and swims by opening and closing its shell. Bacteria are the key to this mollusc’s diet. Read on to find out how Solemya velesiana feeds.
Cephalaspis lyelli is a jawless fish that lived in Scottish lakes over 400 million years ago. It was the first fossil of its kind to be discovered - 150 years ago. A few of its relatives survive today. Discover how scientists have studied the fossils to learn more about this unusual family of fish.
Pilea matama was first discovered and described from the Talamanca Mountain range in Central America in 2009 by one of the Museum’s botanists - Dr Alex Monro. It is a small herb that grows under the forest canopy and is a member of the nettle family, Urticaceae. Find out more about this delightful plant, its beautiful foliage and amazing tiny flowers.
Phormidium pseudpriestleyi is a cyanobacterium that is well adapted to life in Antarctica where it is found in lakes and ponds. It protects itself against cold by producing antifreeze compounds, and against intense ultra-violet radiation with pigments that act as UV screens. Find out how you might spot this unusual bacterium.
The marmalade hoverfly is a useful bio control agent that gobbles aphids wherever it finds them. It lives throughout the Palaearctic region, which covers Europe, North Asia and North Africa, and is swept into the UK in large numbers each summer by southerly breezes. Find out more about this marmalade-coloured migrating fly.
Tennysonia stellata is a bryozoan or moss animal found in the sea off South Africa. Tennysonia stellataforms star-shaped colonies with a hard calcium carbonate skeleton that provides a habitat for a variety of species on the sea-bed. Despite its hard skeleton, fossils of this animal have never been found. Find out more about this beautiful creature.
Periphylla periphylla is probably the world’s most common deep-sea jellyfish. Living over a thousand metres deep in the ocean it is highly adapted to life in the dark. Periphylla periphylla preys on fish and crustaceans and can emit flashes of light, produced by a chemical reaction, to warn off its own predators. Find out more about this fascinating creature.
Porphyra umbilicalis is a red seaweed found on north Atlantic seashores. It is one of several species known as laver. Laver has been eaten for thousands of years in various parts of the world. In Wales it is eaten as laverbread; in Japanese sushi, the black wrapping around rice known as nori is a species of Porphra; and in Chile, people prefer to eat laver with boiled potatoes. Find out more about this tasty species.
In 2008, Museum scientists described Craterostigmus crabilli for the first time. C crabilli is a centipede found in New Zealand and is one of only 2 centipedes in the order Craterostigmomorpha. For a long time scientists thought C crabilli and its Tasmanian relative C. tasmanianus were the same species. Genetic studies have shown that they diverged into separate species millions of years ago. Find out about this unusual centipede.
Scopolia carniolica Jacq. is a species of hallucinogenic plant that grows in the mountainous regions of south-eastern Europe. Its underground stems were used in many Slavic cultures to prepare magical beverages and love potions. Discover why this mysterious plant has, for centuries, mesmerized both folklore and science.
Endocarpon pusillum is a lichen. Like all lichens, it is made up of a fungus and an algae living in close association. But the algae in this lichen lives in an unusual place - the spore-bearing fruiting body. This adaptation should improve the lichen’s chances of survival. But does it?
Freshwater snails in the genus Bulinus are exceptionally important in Africa as carriers of disease. Species including Bulinus truncatus act as a host for the parasitic worm that causes schistosomiasis - a disease that currently affects 164 million people worldwide. Find out more.
Rhinatrema bivittatum is a tropical amphibian from a group known as caecilians. It looks like a large worm and lives in soil. Find out why, and how, Museum scientists are using this species to study the early evolution of caecilians.
The orange-tipped sea squirt can attach to almost anything - piers, ropes, even other sea squirts. It has hitch-hiked its way to most parts of the world on ship hulls and in shipments of mussels and oysters. Find out more about this invasive filter-feeder, and how it is damaging native fauna and flora.
This species of flea is famous for carrying bubonic plague between rodents and humans. It was first described by Nathaniel Charles Rothschild in 1903. He found it amongst dead fleas in Cairo after an outbreak of bubonic plague. The specimens described by Rothschild are here in the collections at the Museum. Discover the power behind the flea’s jump and how it wreaks havoc on humans.
Dimorphodon macronyx is an extinct flying reptile - a pterosaur - from the Lower Jurassic Period, roughly 200 million years ago. It had a 1.4 metre wingspan and a large head. The name Dimorphodon relates to its teeth which came in two sizes - smaller at the back, and larger at the front. Discover what else scientists have learnt from the Museum’s unique Dimorphodon specimens.
Tachypodoiulus niger is a common millipede found in gardens across Britain. It is known as the black millipede, and sometimes as the white-legged snake millipede. It finds its home in leaf litter and on tree bark and sometimes ventures into houses. Find out what this helpful garden insect likes to eat.
Capitulum mitella is a stalked barnacle that appears like protruding teeth in crevices low on wave-swept rocky shores throughout the Indo-Pacific region, and is eaten as a seafood delicacy in Japan and China. Get a flavour of the barnacle’s lifestyle and find out more about its reproductive cycle.
Manicina species have inhabited the earth for over 24 million years, but Manicina areolata is the only species in the genus that survives today. It is a reef coral but prefers to remain free-living and can survive in places where most corals would be smothered by sediment. Discover how this clever coral gets itself out of trouble.
T. troglodytes is an aphid that, like its relatives, feeds on plants. But as its name suggests, T. troglodytes lives underground where it feeds on plant roots and relies heavily on neighbourly ants. Delve deep into the dark world of this white aphid and discover how Museum scientists have helped shed light on its sex-life.
This particular specimen of Glaucus atlanticus was collected exactly 135 years ago today - on the 21 July 1875 - during the British Challenger Expedition (1875–1876). The species was first discovered in 1777. This amazing-looking creature floats freely on open seas feeding on jellyfish. Discover more about this blue sea slug’s eating habits and how it defends itself.
Idioneurula donegani is a recently discovered species of butterfly found in high elevation habitats in Colombia. Find out more about Idioneurula donegani.
Mandragora caulescens is a perennial herb native to China and the Himalayas. It has bell-shaped purplish flowers and green berries, and its roots are used in Chinese herbal medicine to treat acute respiratory shock. Find out exactly where the Himalayan mandrake grows and how to identify it.
E. formosa is probably the most famous biological control agent in history and has been used to control greenhouse whitefly - Trialeurodes vaporariorum - since the 1920s. The parasitoid wasps lay their eggs in whitefly nymphs, and feed on them too. A single wasp can kill around a 100 whitefly nymphs in its short lifetime. Discover more about this wasp’s killer habits.
Microcystis aeruginosa is a green bacterium. Unusually for bacteria it contains chlorophyll - a green pigment more common to plants - that allows it to produce oxygen via photosynthesis. It can grow rapidly over pond surfaces causing ‘blooms’ that are harmful to humans and animals. Find out more.
The Judas tree, Cercis siliquastrum, is a beautiful small tree with an attractive and interesting shape, flowers and leaves. Although native to the eastern Mediterranean region, it has been widely cultivated elsewhere and was introduced to the British Isles before 1600. Discover more about this increasingly popular garden plant.
Ascaris lumbricoides is a parasitic worm. It causes the tropical disease ascariasis in humans. Over a billion people worldwide are infected with ascariasis. Find out more about this giant worm and what Museum scientists are doing to help control its spread.
Proisocrinus ruberrimus, the Moulin Rouge sea lily, is a deep sea animal which lives in tropical waters in the western Pacific Ocean. It has a fan-like crown of arms and a long, slender stalk, both of which it is able to re-grow if they get damaged. Find out more about this species.
Macaca sylvanus, the Barbary macaque, is an Old World species of monkey with ancestry dating back to approximately 7 million years ago. Today Macaca sylvanus is restricted to isolated forest fragments in Morocco and Algeria and is regarded as a threatened species. Find out more.
Seirocrinus subangularis is a pseudoplanktonic, sessile, filter feeder that lived attached to a floating tree trunk. Find out more about how Seirocrinus subangularis survived.
This free-living nematode worm was discovered in Kuwait in 2004 and named after an ancient Greek musical instrument. Find out more about Manunema kithara and nematode worms, the most abundant multicelluar animals on Earth.
Peloneustes philarchus is a fossil marine reptile from the Middle Jurassic period that lived in warm, shallow seas and had a stream-lined body with large flippers for swimming through water. It is the most common species of fossil pliosaurid found in the UK. Find out more.
Buddenbrockia plumatellae is a tiny worm that is parasitic in freshwater bryozoans and so unknown since it was first described in 1910 that giving it a place in the animal kingdom has only recently been achieved. Find out more about this species.
Solanum lycopersicum, the cultivated tomato, originated from South America but is now grown worldwide for its fruits. Recent work by scientists has seen the species classified under the genus Solanum, instead of its previous genus Lycopersicon. Find out more about this species.
Platynereis dumerilii is a small, tube-dwelling species of marine worm that is regarded as a model organism for scientific research. Studying the eyespots of Platynereis dumerilii larvae is probably the closest scientists can get to figuring out what eyes looked like when they first evolved. Find out more.
Find out more about Brahmaea europaea, the European owl moth, a relict species that has survived from the Tertiary period.
European populations of Pleurochaete squarrosa are currently spreading in north-western and central Europe, making the species an ideal candidate for the study of distribution of Mediterranean bryophytes in relation to climate change. Find out more.
Wodnika striatula (Zechstein shark) is a rare, extinct fossil shark that lived 257 million years ago. The Museum has a well-preserved complete specimen in its collections.
Gryphaea obliquata, the Devil’s toenail, is an extinct oyster known from the Dorset coast. It would have been well-known to the iconic British palaeontologist Mary Anning, famously known for her discoveries of Ichthyosaurs, Plesiosaurus and the pterosaur Dimorphodon. Find out more about Gryphaea obliquata and the life of Mary Anning.
Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) antiquus the straight-tusked elephant was a notably large-bodied elephant, with long, almost straight, tusks. commonly found across Eurasia in the Middle and Late Pleistocene between 50 and 780 thousand years ago. Straight-tusked elephants seem to have become extinct duaring the last global ice age. Find out more about Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) antiquus.
Gigantoproductus giganteus is an extinct brachiopod that was prevalent during the Visean in the Carboniferous (328-345 million years ago). It is the largest of the brachiopods, dwarfing all other species of this phylum. Fossil specimens are currently known from Eurasia and North Africa. Find out more about this species.
Archaeopteryx lithographica is a famous snapshot of evolution ‘in action’. The fossil has a combination of dinosaur and bird characters that demonstrate conclusively modern birds are the descendants of small meat-eating dinosaurs. Find out more about Archaeopteryx.
Paradoxides paradoxissimus is one of the largest animals known to have lived in the seas of half a billion years ago. The genus has become a kind of emblem of marine life in the middle Cambrian period. Paradoxides. paradoxissimus is the type species of the genus. Find out more about Paradoxides paradoxissus
Agrias claudina the claudina butterfly is found in the forests of tropical South America the Andean countries and Brazil. Agrias claudina is a canopy-lover species and it is rarely seen and only observed when attracted to baits along trails. Find out more about about the beautiful butterfly Agrias claudina.
Erythromma viridulum the small red-eyed damselfly thrives in southern Europe and northwest Africa near ponds and lakes that are rich in vegetation. As our climate warms, these elegant insects are flying further afield and have settled in new habitats as far north as Germany and Britain. Find out more about Erythromma viridulum.
The bird fly Carnus hemapterus Nitzsch is a parasite of nestling birds. After locating the host, adult flies loose their wings and start sucking the blood of the nestlings. The females lay their eggs in the nest, where the larvae then develop feeding on organic nest material. Find out more about Carnus hemapterus
Clipeoparvus anatolicus is an unusual small, centric diatom that was found in a crater-lake (Nar Gölü) in the continental semi-arid region of Cappadocia, Central Turkey. Clipeoparvus anatolicus is a newly discovered species, belonging to a newly defined genus, recently described by Museum Scientist, Dr Eileen Cox, and Dr Jessie Woodbridge from the University of Plymouth. Find out more about Clipeoparvus anatolicus.
Cetonia aurata the rose chafer beetle is fairly common throughout the UK. The adults are fairly variable in colour from dark green through to some with a more golden-green sheen. Rose chafers are usually seen in sunny weather feeding on the petals of flowers especially roses. Find out more about this beautiful beetle, one of the largest flower visitors in Europe.
Lucanus cervus the stag beetle is Britain’s largest known terrestrial beetle. This magnificent beetle, famed for its antler-like mouthparts and its wrestling style of combat in the competition for a mate, make it a charismatic and emblematic creature of our times. However, stag beetle populations have been rapidly declining in the last 40 years. Find out more about Lucanus cervus.
Asilus crabroniformis is commonly called the hornet robber fly as it resembles hornets due to the patterning of the abdomen, and the colour and size of the rest of the adults body. The hornet robber fly is found throughout Wales and the southern part of England. Find out more about Asilus crabroniformis.
First described by Museum staff in 2009, Urera fenestrata is a species new to science. It is part of the nettle family and is known only from mountain ranges in Costa Rica and Panama. Find out more about this species.
Ratnadvipia karui belongs to a genus of land snails that is endemic to Sri Lanka. Ratnadvipia karui was discovered and described by Museum scientists carrying out field work in Sri Lanka. Find out more about Ratnadvipia karui.
Macropanesthia rhinoceros the Australian rhinoceros cockroach is the heaviest cockroach species on earth. Endemic to Australia where it lives in burrows. Rhinoceros cockroachs are kept by some as exotic pets and have been mistaken by people for baby tortoises. Find out more about the rhinoceros cockroach.
Haematomyzus elephantis, commonly known as the elephant louse, lives and feeds on the skin of African and Asian elephants. It can only survive on elephants. The elephant population can decline from an onslaught of the elephant louse. Find out more about Haematomyzus elephantis.
Microgale talazaci Talazac’s shrew tenrec is endemic to Madagascar. Talazac’s is the largest of the shrew tenrecs, the head has a large tapering snout, the body is covered in soft dense and brown fur with a long tail. Find out more about Microgale talazaci.
Turbo kenwilliamsi, is a turban shell large marine snail, is common on rocky shores along the western and south-western coastline of Australia. Find out more about Turbo kenwilliamsi.
Pentacrinites fossilis is an extinct sea lily or crinoid and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful echinoderm fossils to be found in Britain. It is frequently found entirely preserved and covered in the mineral pyrite (fool’s gold) which gives the fossil a golden colour. The crinoid is composed of a long angular stem, a small body and long flowing feathery arms. Find out more about Pentacrinites fossilis
Zygodon forsteri (knothole moss, Forster’s yoke-moss) is the only autoicous (male and female organs on the same plant) European species within its genus and also the only one with smooth leaf cells. Since the advent of molecular studies it has had its generic placement questioned several times. Currently it is listed as a Vulnerable species in Europe and Endangered in Great Britain. Find out more.
Azygocypridina lowryi is a species of myodocopid ostracod (seed shrimp) that has the appearance of a swimming baked bean. The species is known from the east coast of Australia at depths of 100-500m. It is considered a 'living fossil' given that other, near identical in appearance, members of its genus are known from Cretaceous fossils. Find out more about this charasmatic species.
Emiliania huxleyi is one of the most beautiful and widespread single-celled organisms. Although it is minute, it can form huge oceanic algal blooms that can be seen from space. Find out more about this coccolithophore.
Dieffenbach’s rail (Gallirallus dieffenbachi) is an extinct species of medium-sized, flightless rail. It was endemic to the Chatham Islands of New Zealand and is known from only one living specimen that was collected by Ernst Dieffenbach in 1840. The species appears to have been hunted to extinction by humans and rodents, such as the Pacific rat. Find out more.
Bulinus globosus is common freshwater snail known from Africa and some some Indian Ocean islands. It is a hermaphrodite capable of self-fertilisation and is a host for several parasitic species. Find out more about Bulinus globosus.
Equisetum myriochaetum the giant horsetail is the largest species of horsetail, commonly reaching 15 feet (4.6 m), and with the largest recorded specimen having a height of 24 feet. Found in central and south America they are also know as the Mexican giant horsetail. Find out more about Equisetum myriochaetum.
Find out about one of the most bizarre fishes ever discovered, the stoplight loosejaw. Quite monstrous in appearance, it has some unusual abilities.
The giant velvet worm (Tasmanipatus barretti) is a rare species known from north-eastern Tasmania that lives in rotting logs. The future of the species is threatened by forestry activity such as clearfelling and controlled burning. Find out more about the giant velvet worm.
Atretochoana eiselti is a strange-looking amphibian with a worm-like appearance and no lungs. It was thought to live in fast-flowing water in Brazil, but until 2011 no populations had been found. Learn more about this unusual creature.
The interestingly named bone-eating snot-flower worm, Osedax mucofloris, was discovered and described in 2005 after it was found living on whale bones on the sea floor. Find out more about this surprising discovery, and the big questions that it raised.
The sea urchin Calveriosoma gracile is a deep sea species known from waters near the Philippines to the Sea of Japan. It is unusual among sea urchins for having a leathery skin with embedded plates rather than a rigid skeleton. Find out more about this species.
Metacrinus rotundus is a crinoid species found off the west coast of Japan that has the ability to regenerate its arms and stalk. Since it lives at relatively shallow depths, it is vulnerable to coastal trawling. Find out more.
The sperm whale, Physeter catodon, is the largest toothed predator on Earth, with males over 18m long and weighing up to 50,000kg. Found in oceans across the world, hunting has made the sperm whale vulnerable to extinction. Find out more about Physeter catodon.
Euplectella aspergillum or Venus' flower baskets are deep sea animals known as glass sponges as their bodies are entirely composed of silica. These glass sponges are found deep in the South Pacific. Euplectella aspergillum was first described in 1841 by Sir Richard Owen who became the director of the Natural History Museum. Find out more about Venus' flower basket.
Agalma elegans, sometimes referred to as a string jelly, is an extremely transparent species. Coloured areas on its tentacles combined with an almost invisible feeding net help it to lure and then trap prey. It is found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, and sometimes around the UK coast. Find out more about this species.
Neocrinus decours is a bottom-dwelling sea lily known from deep tropical waters in the Atlantic Ocean. Although it looks rather like an exotic flower, it is actually an animal. It is capable of a strange-looking crawl using its arms in order to find better feeding areas or escape predation. Find out more.
This tiny sandfly, just 3mm long, plays a key role in a number of human diseases thanks to the blood-sucking behaviour of the female flies. They are responsible for transmitting Leishmania parasites to humans from infected animals, causing cutaneous leishmaniasis, and are also vectors for certain viruses that cause fevers. Find out more about Phlebotomus papatasi.
Urtica dioica the common or stinging nettle is one of the British Isles most widespread and successful plants. It is characteristic of damp, nutrient-rich soils, but can colonise a wide range of other habitats. Our ancestors used nettles as food, for fibre and in medicine and some of these uses are being revived today. Find out more about Urtica dioica.
The harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is a fast swimming animal that generally avoids boats and other human activity. It is known from cool temperate to sub-polar waters in the northern hemisphere. There are an estimated 700,000 harbour porpoises globally, therefore the species is not currently a major conservation concern. However, a range of factors, including hunting and exploitation by humans, pose a threat its ongoing survival. Find out more.
The miniature fish Danionella dracula was described scientifically for the first time in 2009 by Museum scientists. The species has evolved many unusual characteristics. Males have tooth-like processes on their jaws which resemble canine fangs and this striking feature earned the species the name 'dracula'. Find out more.
Melolontha melolontha is the largest species of chafer beetle in the UK. It is seen flying between the months of May and July and often enters homes through open windows or chimneys, attracted by the artificial light. Find out more about this species.
Amphorotia hispida is a freshwater diatom discovered recently in Lake Baikal, Russia by Museum scientists. Amphorotia hispida belongs to a genus which itself has only recently been discovered. Find out more about this fascinating species.
Populus nigra the black or water poplar is Britain’s rarest native timber tree found alongside waterways in the UK. Populus nigra is under threat from disease and reduced numbers of male trees. Find out more about what is being done to help conserve this native species.
Lottia gigantea is a protandric hermaphrodite species of limpet and the largest patellogastropod in North America. The females of the species exhibit a particularly dominating behaviour, being highly territorial and protective of their feeding spaces. Find out more about Lottia gigantea (owl limpet).
Wendy’s forest toad is known from just one confined area in Uganda, making it one of the rarest toads in the world. While it is described as common within this small area, there are a number of threats facing its survival, some of which resulted in the extinction of the Kihansi spray toad that had lived in the same mountain ranges. Find out more about Nectophrynoides wendyae.
Eunoe nodosa is an epi-benthic species of polychaete worm that can be found on marine sediments from the sub-littoral zone to 1,260 meters of water. Find out more about Eunoe nodosa and the project underway to make the Museum's polychaete type collections more accessible.
The Aldabra brush warbler (Nesillas aldabrana) is a species presumed extinct after the last confirmed sighting in 1983. It was discovered in 1967 and was endemic to the tropical raised coral atoll of Aldabra in the western Indian Ocean. The introduction of black rats to Aldabra appears to have been a major cause of the species' disappearance. Find out more.
Bdelloid rotifers (Adineta ricciae) are swimming or creeping unsegmented metazoans that reproduce asexually. The species is easy to culture in laboratory conditions and is therefore used in diverse experimental studies as a model organism. It has several features that account for the ecological and evolutionary success of its group and make it an interesting model organism. Find out more.
Precis octavia or gaudy commodore is an African butterfly capable of displaying seasonal forms with extreme differences. Find out more about Precis octavia.
The northern rock-cress (Arabidopsis lyrata) is a plant species that consists of several closely related species or subspecies. It is known as a pioneer species of disturbed habitats where there is little vegetative competition and has attracted attention for its extensive variation in leaf-shape, flowering time, reproductive mode, rock-type, and altitudinal range. Find out more.
Find out more about Pediculus humanus, a human louse that is an ectoparasite of the human head or body. The head louse variant is common in the western world. The body louse variant can carry typhus and was responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths up until the early nineteen hundreds.
Homo neanderthalensis was a highly carnivorous early human species largely similar to Homo sapiens (humans). It is believed that Homo neanderthalensis and humans share a common ancestor. Fossils of the species are mainly known from the southerly regions of western Eurasia. Find out more about this species.
Solanum sanchez-vegae is a member of the same group of plants as the European woody nightshade, from Peru. Solanum sanchez-vegae was only recently found and described by Museum scientists and named in honour of their Peruvian collaborators. Find out more.
Rasta lamyi is a weird-looking, marine bivalve mollusc with long shaggy extensions. Rasta lamyi lives in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea.Find out more about Rasta lamyi and what threatens its survival.
Aphanius iberus (fartet, the Iberian toothcarp) is a small, sexually dimorphic species of fish restricted to the eastern Spanish coastline. The species is currently classified as Endangered and faces threats relating to its limited and isolated distribution as well as a range of threats to its habitat. Find out more about Aphanius iberus.
Cheirothrix lewisii is an extinct fish from Lebanon in the Middle East. Flying fish have developed the ability to leap out of water at high speed then glide up to several hundred meters by utilizing their enlarged pectoral fins as ‘wings’. Find out more about Cheirothrix lewisii
Parkinsonia parkinsoni is an extinct ammonite common in the Mesozoic seas of the Late Bajocian, Middle Jurassic age. The species is commonly found in exposed sea cliffs of southern England and used as a zone fossil. Find out more.
Ophthalmosaurus icenicus is a member of a long extinct group of marine reptiles called ichthyosaurs. It lived during Middle to Upper Jurassic times (164-150 million years ago)and has the largest known eye in the animal kingdom. Find out more.
The great auk (Pinguinus impennis) is an extinct species that, although not a true penguin, is known as the 'penguin of the north'. Great auks are thought to have been hunted by humans since prehistoric times, with the last known great auk hunt in 1844. Find out more about this species.
Nitzschia sigmoidea is a large freshwater diatom (microscopic alga) that can be found growing on the surface of mud in ponds and streams. Nitzschia sigmoidea has many uses e.g. as a metal polish. Find out more about Nitzschia sigmoidea.
Argulus japonicus is a fish louse that parasitises a wide range of freshwater fish hosts. Originally from the Far East, today is widespread after being transported around the world with stocks of ornamental fish. Find out more.
Ornithorhynchus anatinus is the only living species of platypus. This bizarre-looking creature from Australia combines features of both reptiles and mammals. Find out more about this unusual mammal.
St Mark’s Fly (Bibio marci) is a large, hairy black fly known for the mating swarms of the males. It is also the model for a fly fishing pattern, known as the hawthorn fly. Find out more about this species.
Gryllus campestris is one of the rarest insects in the British Isles. Find out more about the field cricket and what is being done to save the species from the brink of extinction in Britain.
Littoraria scabra is a species of marine worm, found on mangrove trees from East Africa to Australia and Hawaii, with an interesting and unusual lifecycle. Find out more about this species.
Cercomonas clavideferens are single celled organisms that can only be seen under a powerful microscope and are thought to be found everywhere in the world. Cercomonas species are believed to be among the commonest protozoans eating bacteria in soils and freshwater habitats. Therefore they are likely to be extremely important in microbial food webs, on which all other life depends. Find out more.
Harbinia micropapillosa is an extinct fossil species of ostracod known from the Cretaceous of Brazil in rocks that were deposited in freshwater systems. After being described under the genus Pattersoncypris when the first specimens were collected in the 1970s it is has recently changed to Harbinia due to the shape of the carapace. Find out more.
Milichia patrizii is an interesting species of fly. Known for its attacks on Crematogaster ants, from which it steals food, it has become known as the ant-mugging fly. It was discovered by Willi Hennig, who is famously known for developing phylogenetic systematics. Find out more.
The giant fern or king fern (Angiopteris evecta) is one of the largest ferns on the planet in terms of its leaves. It is a widespread species that can grow very old and tends to live in nutrient rich volcanic soils. Human uses for the giant fern include to flavour rice and produce an intoxicating alcoholic drink. Find out more.
Steatoda nobilis (the false widow spider) is known for being the UK's most venomous spider, however its venom does not usually have long-lasting effects on humans. It is strongly synanthropic (lives in close association with humans) and typically lurks high off the ground in dark corners. Find out more about this species.
Calliphora vicina is a common bluebottle fly species that has followed and benefited from humans. While many people consider it a pest, it plays a vital role in the carbon cycle and has gained recognition for its role in assisting forensic investigations. Find out more about this species.
Urania sloanus, an extinct Jamaican moth, is regarded as one of the most beautiful of all moths, named in honour of Jamaican naturalist Sir Hans Sloane. Find out more about this stunning species of moth.
The Japanese flowering cherry, Prunus serrulata, is a well known ornamental tree that produces masses of blossom, making it an icon of spring. Prunus serrulata originates from across Asia with cultivars planted throughout Europe and North America. Find out more about this species.
Fredericella sultana is freshwater bryozoan commonly found in flowing or turbulent waters such as rivers and streams. It forms colonies of identical zooids, can resemble plants and is preyed on by waterfowl and fish. Find out more about one of the most common freshwater bryozoans in the world, Fredericella sultana.
Paraconularia subtilis was first specimen ever described of an extinct organism called a conulariid. Paraconularia subtilis lived on the sea floor where it probably had long tentacles that it used to catch prey. The Museum has one of the largest collections of conulariids in the world with more than 1100 specimens. Find out more.
Acavus superbus is a large, brightly coloured land snail that can grow to 6cm wide and possibly live more than 10 years. It is only found in part of Sri Lanka and the greatest threat to the species is habitat loss and fragmentation due to the expansion of intensive agriculture, mainly to grow tea. Find out more.
Discovered in central Brazil, Scolopendropsis duplicata is a species of scolopendromorph centipede that represents the first known instance of a scolopendromorph having variable segment numbers (either 39 or 43) in a population. Find out more about this species.
The Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius) is a well known, adaptable and successful species. The jay is one of the most colourful members of the crow family and has a widespread distribution. Acorns are a staple food for jays and the species has an intensive process of collecting, hiding and storing them. Find out more about this species.
Thought to reach lengths of up to 15m, the giant squid is currently the largest known cephalopod. Specimens have been found in all of the world's oceans and the Museum has one in its collections which can be seen as part of the free Spirit Collections Tour. Find out more about this giant of the deep sea, as featured on the Museum of Life.
Ornithoptera alexandrae, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, is the largest known butterfly in the world. The species, named after the wife of the UK's King Edward VII, is currently endangered as a result of habitat destruction. Find out more.
Hyacinthoides non-scripta the British bluebell a symbol of spring, is one of Britain's favourite flowers. However, hybrids of the species are increasingly being mistaken for and sold as British Bluebells. Find out more about the threats to Hyacinthoides non-scripta.
Find out more about Rediviva emdeorum, a bee species native to South Africa. It has the longest known forelegs of any bee which helps it collect oil produced by the flowers of its host plants.
Lophopus crystallinus (bellflower animal or crystal moss animal) was the first bryozoan ever described. Although it is regarded as a rare species, new sampling methods have revealed it is not as rare as previously thought. Find out more about this freshwater bryozoan.
Harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) are frequently seen around the UK coastline, where they spend much of their time in the water. Tagging devices are used to monitor and track their movements. The species is vulnerable to viral distemper which has caused mass fatalities in the past. Find out more about this species.
Ground sloths were once a diverse, successful, widespread group of mammals, but are now all extinct. Megatherium americanum was one of the largest its kind, believed to have weighed as much as a female Indian elephant. Find out more about this giant distant relative of tree sloths.
Find out more about the distribution and life history of Biomphalaria choanomphala and how research by Museum scientists on these little freshwater snails could help control and treat the intestinal disease schistosomiasis.
The Cobb’s wren (Troglodytes cobbi) is a shy bird endemic to the Falkland Islands. It is classified as a Vulnerable species due to its small range and the threat of predators such as rats. Find out more about the Cobb's wren.
Achias rothschildi is a stalk-eyed fly endemic to Papua New Guinea. The eye-stalks are mainly used for display in confrontations with other males as they try to establish territory in order to attract a mate. Find out more about this about more stalk eyes and their owners.
The river jelly lichen (Collema dichotomum) is a rare amphibious fungus found growing on siliceous rocks in cool and clean streams across Europe and North America. European populations of this lichen are declining due to a range of threats. Find out more about this species.
Find out more about the southern tyrant reptile, the first ever tyrannosauroid found in Australia or any southern continent and why it appears to be an ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex.
Loxodonta africana, the African elephant, is currently found in Africa, south of the Sahara, occurring in about 35 African states. Elephants are faced with a number of threats to their survival especially from hunting fuelled by the ivory trade. Find out more about the African elephant and what can be done to help its survival.
Cinctipora elegans is a bryozoan species found on the sea-bed around New Zealand. It currently faces threats from trawling and ocean acidification. Find out more.
Tetracapsuloides bryosalmonae is a multicellular endoparasite known for causing proliferative kidney disease in trout and salmon, which has resulted in significant economic losses for aquaculture and has threatened wild fish populations. Find out more about Tetracapsuloides bryosalmonae.
Often seen idling, preening or sun-bathing in urban areas, the feral pigeon (Columba livia) is a species familiar to most of us. As a species, it lives independently of, but usually close to humans, their buildings, and agriculture products. Find out more about this species and learn why the only valid scientific name for feral pigeons is Columba livia.
The Aldabra giant tortoise, Geochelone gigantea originates from Aldabra atol in the Indian Ocean. One of the largest tortoise in the world, it is claimed the Aldabra giant tortoise can live for over 250 years. Many other species of giant tortoise are now extinct. Climate change and rising sea levels have resulted in the Aldabra tortoise being classified as Vulnerable. Find out more about this species.
Solanum aculeastrum is recognised by its bright yellow berry, which is often compared to lemons. It is found across African highlands where it has a range of uses, from hedges to medicinal treatments. Find out more about this species.
The Killarney fern (Vandenboschia speciosa) is one of the rarest species of British flora, which has led to it being highly sought after and secrecy surrounding many of its locations. Find out more about the fern's unique biology and its role as a conservation icon.
Named after Royal Brunei Airlines, Sorolopha bruneiregalis is known from montane areas in Brunei, Sabah and northern Sulawesi. Find out more about this species.
Laonastes aenigmamus is a squirrel-like species that is the living survivor of a family believed to have been extinct for approximately 11 million years. It is largely confined to the Khammouan Limestone National Biodiversity Conservation Area in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and faces a number of threats to its survival. Find out more.
Simulium (Trichodagmia) rubrithorax is a common species in the amazon forests of Brazil. Find out more about the disease it can cause and how it can be used as a source of food.
Conopeum seurati is found in estuarine habitats from Northern Europe to as far as New Zealand. Find out more about this bryozoan.
Danaea kalevala is a large fern known from the tropical rainforests of the Lesser Antilles. It takes its species name, kalevala, from a famous Finnish book and epic poem and can live for several centuries depending on the conditions of its habitat. Find out more about this fern.
The Chinese mitten crab has spread far beyond its native range and is considered one of the world’s worst invasive alien species. Find out more about this 'furry' crab, including why it poses such a threat to native ecosystems and how our scientists are helping to find a way of controlling alien populations.
Telenomus dignus is a parasitoid wasp. Find out more about how Telenomus dignus can aid the pest control of the sugarcane top borer Scirpophaga nivella and so protect the sugarcane crop.
Nannocharax signifer is a newly described species of African darter fish discovered by Museum scientists in the Ouémé River basin, Benin, West Africa. Find out more about how Nannocharax signifer was distinguished from other known Nannocharax species.
Coelopleurus (Keraiophorus) exquisitus is a sea urchin known only from the waters around New Caledonia. It has a striking pattern and colouration, however given the deep waters in which it lives, a reason for these is currently a mystery. Find out more about this species.
Malagopsis doggeri is a recently discovered parasitic wasp that takes its name from a pet dog. To date there has only been one specimen collected. Find out more about Malagopsis doggeri.
Anthosoma crassum is a copepod crustacean and a parasite of fish, particularly sharks. Find out more about how Anthosoma crassum feeds on the tissues and blood of its hosts.
Aegagrophila linnaei is a widespread filamentous green algae that has three different growth forms, including that of 'lake balls', which have led to much interest in countries such as Japan where a 3-day ceremony focuses on the balls. Find out more about this species.
The Asian elephant, Elephas maximus, is under threat. Current estimates suggest only 30,000-40,000 remain in the wild. Find out more about this species and the important role elephants have played in many cultures for thousands of years.
This fascinating butterfly is a master of protective disguise, mimicking inedible butterflies in order to avoid predation. Find out more about Papilio dardanus.
This species of spiny eel, discovered in a hill stream in Myanmar, has recently been described by Museum fish researcher Dr Ralf Britz, making it new to science. Find out what we know about Macrognathus pavo.
Phytoseiulus persimilis is a fast-moving and voracious predatory mite that feeds almost exclusively on spider mites. Find out more about Phytoseiulus persimilis
Xanthoria parietina is a brightly coloured species of lichen found in sunny, exposed places that are nitrogen rich. Find out more about this species.
Find out more about Anopheles janconnae, a species of mosquito that transmits malaria to people, discovered in Roraima in Brazil.
An extinct marine snail, Hippochrenes amplus is one of the earliest fossil species to use the binomial system of naming (genus and species). Fossils can be found in southern England, where its presence represents a shallow subtropical sea that extended over the area 40 million years ago. Find out more.
Strongyloides stercoralis is a nematode worm that causes strongyloidiasis, an often neglected disease that predominantly infects the bowels of humans. Find out more about this species and its interesting lifecycle.
Hydrodictyon reticulatum (water net) is a widespread alga common in ponds, lakes and rivers and regarded by many as a nuisance. Find out more about water net, including why climate change is believed to have led to its rapid spread in the British Isles.
These fossilised foraminifera have an intricate internal structure of growth chambers that once contained single-celled marine animals. Nummulites species lived 60-25 million years ago and some are valuable in helping geologists to assign relative ages to rock strata. Learn more.
Nakiwogo virus is a flavivirus that was discovered in Uganda by Museum scientists. Many flaviviruses infect humans, usually through the bite of an infected mosquito. Find out more about this newly-discovered virus.
As the Year of the Tiger begins, conservationists are taking the opportunity to highlight the plight of these magnificent animals. Most critically endangered is the South China subspecies, with less than 30 tigers thought to exist in the wild. Learn more about this once abundant animal, including what is being done to try to save it.
Observing mockingbirds such as Mimus trifasciatus provided Charles Darwin with inspiration for his theory of evolution by natural selection. But now it is nearing extinction. Today, on International Darwin Day, find out how one of Darwin's own Floreana mockingbird specimens is being used in efforts to save the species.
This rare tropical moss is only found on a few islands in the Indian Ocean. Find out more about Leiomitrium plicatum.
Paralecanium expansum metallicum is a scale insect with a remarkable appearance, like a splash of metal solder on the surface of the leaves it feeds on. Find out more about this species.
Nannoceratopsis gracilis belongs to one of the oldest known groups of dinoflagellates, microscopic algae that play a major role in the CO2 cycle. Find out more about this unusual-looking fossil species from the Jurassic.
Find out more about Pangio longimanus, the miniature eel-loach, which was described scientifically for the first time in February 2010 by one of our fish experts. The fish are tiny, growing to less than 23mm.
Wohlfahrtia magnifica is a parasitic species of fly that can bring pain and suffering to its warm-blooded hosts, which include humans. Despite taking just five years to colonise Crete there is no current legislation regarding the control of this species. Find out more about Wohlfahrtia magnifica.
This primitive brachiopod has often been referred to as a living fossil (having changed little over time), however recent studies suggest otherwise. Find out more about the interesting Lingula anatina.
Discovered in 2009, Vigtorniella ardabilia is a species of annelid worm so similar in appearance to a related species that they are only distinguishable by DNA sequences. Find out more about Vigtorniella ardabilia.
Solanum stoloniferum is an edible common wild potato from the USA and Mexico that tastes like sweet chestnut. Find out more about how Solanum stoloniferum is used for food in USA and by the Tarahumara Indians in the Chihuahua, Mexico
Mantelliceras mantelli is an ammonite fossil commonly found in sea cliff exposures in southern England. It has a precise distribution within layers of rock, which can be used to identify layers of the same age. Find out more.
The Kihansi spray toad is currently extinct in the wild due a number of factors, including the fungal disease chytridiomycosis and the construction of a dam in the confined area it made its habitat. Captive breeding is underway in two United States zoos with the hope of reintroduction into the wild. Find out more.
Also known as the Japanese wonder shell, Thatcheria mirabilis can be found in deep waters from 60 to 400 metres. Find out more about this interesting and once highly sought after species, including how it reportedly provided inspiration for a famous museum's design.
This miniature fish from India is new to science. One of our researchers described it scientifically for the first time in a paper published in October 2009. Find out what is known so far about Danionella priapus.
Find out more about Pipreola riefferii, the green-and-black fruiteater (chachapoyas).
Varanus prisca was the largest lizard ever to live on land and is closely related to the Komodo dragon. Find out more about this sharp-toothed predator.
Learn more about the green worm, Allolobophora chlorotica, an earthworm that comes in 2 colours, green and pink. Find out what you can do to help scientists discover more about this species.
Learn about the iridescent Captain's wood snake, Xylophis captaini, recently discovered in India by Museum scientists and their Indian collaborators.
Parasitoid wasps lay their eggs on a host, usually another insect, which their larvae feed on and eventually kill. Some are very useful commercially as biological controls of pest species. Find out more about Ophion obscuratus, a nocturnal parasitoid wasp that can be found across Britain.
Hippopotamus madagascariensis is one of three extinct species of dwarf hippopotamus described from Madagascar. Find out more about the dwarf hippopotamuses of Madagasgar and how they are believed to have evolved from the large hippopotamus common in Africa today.
The dodo is one of the most famous extinct species in the world, telling a cautionary tale about the consequences human actions can have. Discover what what we know about how this flightless bird lived, and what caused it to go extinct.
Widespread across most of Europe and Great Britain, the ghostly courtship flight of the silvery white males has earned this species its common name, the ghost moth. Males on islands in the North Atlantic show extraordinary variation in their wing colouring. But why?
This trematode flatworm is one of the major causes of schistosomiasis, a widespread disease that damages internal organs and affects millions of people worldwide. Find out more about Schistosoma mansoni, its lifecycle and how it can cause schistosomiasis.
The devil's coach horse beetle is a nocturnal predator recognised by its threatening posture. It has a rather foul defense mechanism, producing an unpleasant smelling chemical and even excreting fecal fluid. Find out more about the UK's largest rove beetle and why it is a beneficial insect.
The fishtail palm is a favourite accompaniment to floral arrangements. However, it has become endangered due to destruction of the rainforests it grows in and harvesting to meet floricultural industry demands. Find out more about this Central American plant.
This species of brain coral lives in shallow water habitats. Like other corals with calcium carbonate skeletons, it is at risk from ocean acidification. Learn more.
Bradypus tridactylus the pale throated three-toed sloth sleep or rest for about 20 hours a day. Find out more about Bradypus tridactylus
More commonly known as the aubergine or eggplant, Solanum melongena is used in cooking throughout the world. Learn about the history, the unusual flowering process and the conservation status of Solanum melongena.
Famous for their migratory marches and other interesting behaviour, including being fussy when choosing a den-mate, the Caribbean spiny lobster has been affected by intensive fishing. Find out more about Panulirus argus.
Pangolins are scaly, shy, nocturnal animals that provide an important role as natural pest controllers. However, significant trade in the pangolin has seen it become an endangered species. Find out more about this unique animal and the threats it faces.
Phyllonoma ruscifolia is a keystone species notable for the unique positioning and formation of its flower clusters. Find out more about the Near Threatened Phyllonoma ruscifolia.
Find out more about the widespread Dendrolimus pini, including how it came to be discovered in Britain and the impact it is having on forestry trees.
Lycopodium clavatum resembles some of the earliest plants to live on land. It is used to make Lycopodium powder, which has a range of uses including an explosive used by the film and entertainment industries. Find out more about this plant and the conservation issues it faces.
Fasciola hepatica (the common liver fluke) infects the livers of a range of mammals, including man. Find out more about this parasitic worm and why it is proving difficult to control.
This sea urchin has survived the last 150 million years with little change. Find out more about Eucidaris metularia.
Find out more about Myophorella lusitanica, a bivalve described from the Late Kimmeridgian to Early Tithonian (Late Jurassic) of Portugal.
The spiralling whitefly, Aleurodicus dispersus, is a widespread pest that is costing millions of dollars in lost yield in agricultural crops across the tropics. Its widespread distribution is an example of failed quarantine procedures. Find out more about the spiralling whitefly and what is being done to manage its impact.
This blue-green micro-organism could have some beneficial uses as biological control against harmful cyanobacteria or as a biological indicator of organic water pollution. Its way of eating prey resembles someone slurping up spaghetti. Find out more.
Find out more about the large marine snail Turbo marmoratus, whose numbers in the wild have been depleted due to fishing for its attractive shell.
Find out more about Daidal acanthocercus, an extinct proto-mantis shrimp from the Carboniferous period.
Find out about the UK's great yellow bumble bee, Bombus distinguendus, how its numbers are declining and what can be done to help.