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Killer Insect profile: The Assassin Fly

  Assassin Fly, genus “Holcocephela” (Photo by Torsten Dikow, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution)     Name:  Asilidae Aliases:   “Assassin Fly” or “Robber Fly” Size:    0.2 – 2 inches Weapon of choice:   Venomous saliva Victims: Bees, wasps, dragonflies, spiders, beetles, other flies Area of operation:   Worldwide Operating since:       120 million years ago       Stealthy.

Smithsonian Libraries’ rare texts include early superstars of science

Breydenbach’s Peregrinatio in terram (detail) Tucked away on the lower levels of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of American History are some of science’s most glittering literary treasures: rare and unique texts, some written in their authors’ own hand.

Dull mastadon taste buds once helped pumpkin’s wild ancestor thrive

A variety of domestic squash gourds. (Photo by George Perry, Penn State) New research by a team of archaeologists has revealed a curious connection between our traditional Thanksgiving dinner and the taste buds of prehistoric mammoths and mastodons.

Renwick Gallery Reopens with Renewed Sense of ‘Wonder’

“In the Midnight Garden” by Jennifer Angus, 2015. Cochineal, various insects, and mixed media. (Courtesy of Jennifer Angus) An intersecting prism of light arcs overhead—made of thousands of strands of thread.

James Smithson, the scientist who started the Smithsonian

This portrait of Smithson painted by Henri Johns in 1816, is one of the rare images of the philanthropist scientist.

NEON begins to monitor changing ecology of U.S.

The National Ecological Observatory (NEON) is a large-facility project managed by NEON, Inc., and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).


The monstrous elliptical galaxy M87, located 53 million light-years from Earth is the dominant galaxy at the center of the neighboring Virgo cluster of galaxies.

Astronomers Eager to Get a Whiff of Newfound Venus-like Planet

In this artist’s conception GJ 1132b, a rocky exoplanet very similar to Earth in size and mass, circles a red dwarf star.

Monitoring methane? Now there is a better way to measure

Dairy cows in Mount Joy, Penn. Biologists from the Smithsonian, University of New Mexico and Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a new and better way to estimate the methane output of large numbers of herbivores.

Newly discovered sea urchin fossil is oldest of its kind

“Eotiaris guadalupensis” fossil discovered by Jeffrey Thompson in the Smithsonian collections. (Image courtesy of David Bottjer) Researchers have uncovered a fossil sea urchin that pushes back a fork in its family tree by 10 million years, according to a new study.

Training a CLouded Leopard for Cheek Swabs

Watch a keeper train the Zoo’s clouded leopard, Tai, for voluntary cheek swabs. The DNA from these cheek swabs is used to map the genealogy of individual leopards, helping scientist create ideal breeding pairs.

Disk Gaps Don’t Always Signal Planets

This artist’s concept illustrates a solar system that is a much younger version of our own. Dusty disks, like the one shown here circling the star, are thought to be the breeding grounds of planets, including rocky ones like Earth.

slave ship artifacts recovered

In an excerpt from this coming Sunday’s “60 Minutes,” Scott Pelley follows National Museum of African-American History and Culture director Lonnie Burch to Africa hoping to find a shipwreck.

Major El Nino Perfect opportunity for Global Change Research

This year’s El Niño event is one of the strongest on record and is still ramping up. Large parts of the tropics are turning into a superheated lab, presenting rare research opportunities for Smithsonian scientists to understand climate change.

Nano Bible donated to Smithsonian

The Bible is only 0.5 square millimeters – much smaller than the head of a pin. The text was etched with a focused beam of energetic gallium ions.

Disease carrying ticks hitchhike into U.S. on migratory birds

Migratory Arcadian flycatcher (Photo by Guida) Researchers who examined thousands of migratory birds arriving in the United States from Central and South America have determined that three percent carry ticks species not normally present in the United States.

Cosmic “Death Star” is Destroying a Planet

The Death Star of the movie Star Wars may be fictional, but planetary destruction is real. Astronomers announced today that they have spotted a large, rocky object disintegrating in its death spiral around a distant white dwarf star.

National Zoo Opens New Home for Appalachian Salamanders

A long-tailed salamander (Photo by Annalisa Meyer) Salamanders are typically elusive animals and adept at hiding, but National Zoo visitors will have a chance to see a variety of different amphibian species up close.

Florida Oyster Reef Communities

Jessica Lunt, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Marine Station in Link Port, Fla., shows how her oyster sampling fieldwork looks at what lives on these reefs to better manage restoration efforts in the St.

Is Tattoo Ink Safe?

A man receives a colorful tattoo at a tattoo art fest in Paris (Flickr photo by Philleppe Leroyer) Tattoos really are more than skin deep—and that raises questions about their safety.