Islands: Evolving in Isolation at Harvard Museum of Natural History

On Saturday, April 25, 2015, Islands: Evolving in Isolation will open at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. With bizarre woodpecker-like primates, dwarf humans, and flightless birds over nine feet tall, islands are havens for some of the most unusual creatures on our planet. Why are islands such hotspots of biodiversity and 
how does evolution work within these isolated pockets of life?


Islands: Evolving in Isolation is a new Harvard Museum of
 Natural History exhibition that unravels the mysteries of island 
biodiversity and evolution. Packed with examples from around the
 globe, the exhibition brings together an enormous array of plant 
and animal specimens, including lizards, giant pitcher plants, hissing
 cockroaches, Galápagos tortoises, New Guinea birds of paradise, Malagasy lemurs, a remarkable Komodo dragon from the Indonesian islands, and a rare fossil cast of Homo floresiensis, a relative of modern humans. An exhibition full of surprises, Islands: Evolving in Isolation will highlight some of the latest research and discoveries made by Harvard scientists.

"Since Darwin's time, research on islands has played a pivotal role in advancing understanding of biodiversity and evolution, says Harvard evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos, who was chief faculty advisor to the exhibition. "Our goal was to illustrate not only the extraordinary diversity of island life, but how scientists have studied it." Losos is the Monique and Philip Lehner Professor for the Study of Latin America in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Curator in Herpetology, Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard.

"There are very few institutions worldwide that have museum collections of the size and scope required to mount a comprehensive exhibition such as Islands: Evolving in Isolation, and Harvard is one.  The array of specimens and content on display is simply spectacular," said James Hanken, Museum of Comparative Zoology Director.

While the exhibition is on view, the museum will offer related public events. "I am delighted that in addition to this wonderful exhibit we are planning a number of exciting public events to explore the topic more deeply, including a free public lecture with Jonathan Losos, and, in the summer, look out for a tropical island extravaganza for the 21+ crowd," said Jane Pickering, Executive Director of the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture.

Losos' lecture is April 23, 2015 at 6:00 pm, entitled Islands: Natural Laboratories of Evolution. He will discuss the relevance of islands to our understanding of evolution and its processes.

The Islands: Evolving in Isolation exhibition is supported by the National Science Foundation and a generous gift from Dr. John Freedman AB '84. It will run through March 2017.

 

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