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The Living Wild                                                             

 Photographs by Art Wolfe

Through August 3, 2002

Television's Animal Kingdom is fun, and zoos show you the wild animals in modern cages, but the power of earth's living animal species in their own habitat is best savored through great photography.  This is evident in the animal portraits of Art Wolfe, the celebrated nature photographer who devoted himself to creating his signature photography exhibit, The Living Wild. 

It was a three-year odyssey for Wolfe to photograph these animals.  His travels included more than 40 different countries to record over 140 different species on film: from the Florida panther (reduced to only 50 animals) to the California Condor (declared extinct in the wild in 1987 but successfully reintroduced) and the gray whale.  His photographs  record the diversity of wildlife on earth at the start of the 21st century.

The Bald Eagle--unique to North America--is an interesting conservation success story. In the 18th century estimates of the bald eagle population ranged from 25,000 to 75,000, but fewer than 450 birds still survived in the 1960s.  Habitat destruction, systematic bounty hunting, and pollution had doomed them. The DDT contamination of their food and eggs led to thin-walled eggs that failed to hatch. Then the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey began a last effort captive breeding program, and began to reintroduced birds into the wild. Habitats were protected and the use of DDT was banned in agriculture.  Today there are about 4,500 birds in the contiguous United States, and 30,000 in Alaska.

The photo is of a curious eagle which lifted off its nest to scrutinize photographer Wolfe, who was positioned 100 meters above him.  The site was a grassy promontory overlooking the Bering Sea.

In his 25-year career Wolfe has taken more than one million images and made slides of over 1,000 species.  Many species he photographed, like the Mexican grizzly bear, the Seychelles parrot, and the Okinawa flying fox, are now extinct. But Wolfe dedicates The Living Wild to "the species we still have time to save. The Living Wild provides a look at a world of animals that few get the chance to see in their natural habitat.  It also presents an honest look at how these animals are doing at this point in time."  His message is about the challenge of conservation, based on the evidence of what still exists.

Signed copies of Art Wolfe's The Living Wild, published by the Wildlands Press, are available at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History Store.

Eomaia, the "Dawn Mother"                                                               

Carnegie Scientists discover the first placental mammal

Scoring another first in the field of vertebrate paleontology, Carnegie scientists have just published their findings on the world's first placental mammal, called "Eo-maia," the "dawn mother."  This small fossil specimen, some 125 million years old, is the ancestor of all the placental species that bear their young live. What followed them has ranged from elephants to manatees, tree sloths, armadillos, hedgehogs, bats, pangolins, horses, rhinos, cows, pigs, whales, monkeys, and of course humans, and man’s best friends - dogs. 

Eomaia resembled a large shrew, and was an active climber.  It had claws and feet which gave it considerable ability to walk on branches and in the trees.  It was an insectivore. The fossil was discovered in 2000 at a field site in northeastern China, but Carnegie Museum of Natural History paleontologist Zhexi Luo, and mammalogy curator John Wible, were in a good position with their colleagues to bring it to light to the world’s scientific community.  Their article was published in the prestigious British scientific journal Nature (April 25, 2002).

"This is a very important find," says Zhexi Luo, who worked with colleagues he calls "the best in China," from the Chinese Academy of  Geological Science.  This is the earliest species in placental mammal evolution that has a climbing adaptation, and shows how early diversification of species began.  The specimen is older by ten million years than the next oldest placentals  known only by three isolated teeth, and older by 40 million years than the next oldest placentals represented by skulls.  It helps to fill fresh information in a previously blank period of the placental mammal history.

Shrimp and People: Fishing for Solutions

Dr. Bill DeWalt

July 11, 7pm, Lecture Hall

Can depleting seafood resources place disaster on the planet's menu? 

Bill DeWalt, Director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History, shares his thoughts on how we may continue to eat shrimp cocktail and scampi without causing harm to the environment.

While a consultant for the World Wildlife Fund and the World Bank, DeWalt focused on finding solutions for the ecological and social issues that affect shrimp farming in Latin America.

Museum on the Move: A  20th Anniversary                                   215 words

Sunday, April 28, 1:00-4:00pm

To celebrate 20th years of service to children and adults with special needs, Museum on the Move held a Community Fair at the museum. Displays and activities for the family to enjoy were set up by ten of the more than 50 organizations that partner each year with the museum-based program. The broad outreach of Museum on the Move touches the lives of some 10,000 people each year.

The fair included tables from Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, LEAP Preschool/The Watson Institute, Pioneer Education Center,  The Bradley Center (residential treatment facilities, schools, support and consultation services),  South Hills Interfaith Ministries, The Knowledge Connection, and Reading is FUNdamental.

Museum on the Move reaches out to children with special needs in schools, institutions, residential treatment facilities, camps, shelters, and acute care hospitals. At the sites trained volunteers present free programs on natural history and anthropology subjects adapted to the needs of specific audiences. All programs include hands-on activities and crafts. Museum on the Move is supported by grants and donations from foundations and individuals.

For more information about Museum on the Move, contact Lenore Adler at, or (412) 688-8687, or fax the Division of Education at (412) 622-3419.

Dave Berman: Carnegie Paleontologist Honored

In March 2002 David S. Berman, curator of Vertebrate paleontology, received an award in Houston from the SEPM Foundation, Inc. for an outstanding research paper published in the scientific periodical Palaios.  He and his colleagues have published articles since the early 1990s on the ancient life discovered at the abandoned Bromacker quarry site in central Germany.  Their research into fossils of the early Permian period (290-250 million years ago) has helped prove that North America and Europe were once linked in a single massive continent called Pangaia.

The First Step in Human Globalization--Horseback Riding

Archaeologist Sandra Olsen explains the oldest evidence of taming

wild horses in Discover magazine (March, 2002)


For nine summers archaeologist Sandra Olsen of the Anthropology Section of Carnegie Museum of Natural History has returned to the same windswept, grassy plains in the heart of the Eurasian steppe, in Kazakhstan.  There she studies life in the prehistoric village of Krasnyi Yar, a primitive settlement dating to some 5,500 years ago.  Olsen knows that in this site the ancient Botai people endured harsh nine-month winters, dressed in furs from small mammals, huddled around campfires in pit houses dug into the ground, and ate horsemeat.

But not only did they eat horsemeat, Olsen says, they hunted and herded horses, and probably used them for transport.  Thus the Botai were in fact among the first to invent horseback riding, and this development changed human behavior forever.  Prior to riding horses people walked, carried their cargo on their shoulders, or used boats along rivers and coasts.  Horses were the first ) form of rapid transit.  They were fleet of foot, carried one or two people or heavy loads, and could survive in a poor environment.  Thus by turning their prey into transport, the ancient horse culture of the Botai enabled isolated human societies to develop into interconnected spheres of influence.

By studying the clues from horse bones and burials in northern Kazakhstan, and asking the right questions, Olsen deduces that wild horses were hunted from horseback and domestic horses were kept as livestock.  People used horse manure for building material, butchered horses for food near the village, and fashioned horse jawbones into thong-making tools. Some 5,500 years ago horses were buried with their owners, perhaps like faithful servants to accompany a person or family in the afterlife. In today's remote villages, Kazaks still enjoy a bitter-tasting drink called "koumiss" made from fermented mare's milk, boys are taught to ride at age four, and a marathon 20-minute horse race is a highlight of the various horse games at local festivals.

With generous support from the National Science Foundation and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Olsen and her colleagues from England and Kazakhstan continue to investigate this turning point in the history of humankind.  Olsen’s co-director, Bruce Bradley, a world-renowned stone toolmaker, has found a quarry where the Botai collected raw materials to fashion arrowheads and scrapers.  Colleague Alan Outram is looking for residues of horse milk in their ancient pottery to prove that the Botai consumed koumiss just as their modern counterparts do. 

The Discover magazine article has led to  National Public Radio and BBC radio interviews, and BBC's Horizon program plans to visit the site and make a film.





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