Cracking the coelacanth code: Living version of HMNS fossil has genome sequenced

The coelacanth — a “living fossil” believed to have hardly changed over the last 300 million years — has finally had its genome sequenced by European researchers.

courtesy of wiki media
The deep-sea fish was the inspiration for the famous 1954 film Creature from the Black Lagoon and is well-represented here at HMNS, where we have three examples on display: a Devonian fossil, a Cretaceous specimen and a model like the one sequenced.

Researchers sorted through nearly 3 billion DNA bases to conclude that the coelacanth’s four fleshy fins were likely the early predecessors of limbs.

Although the coealcanth is related to early tetrapods — the first creatures to make the transition from the ocean to land — a comparison of the coelacanth genome with the DNA profiles of lungfish and other modern land-based animals led scientists to conclude that lungfish were the closer relative.

Coelacanths have been notoriously difficult to study, having been assumed extinct until an African fisherman caught the living fossil in 1938. Since then, only a few hundred specimens have been found.

Continue the investigation yourself at our Morian Hall of Paleontology, and see why this mysterious fish has kept researchers rapt for so long.

Get started early: HMNS child development class Early Investigations doubles capacity for summer

Until recently, our Early Investigations program — designed to pique the interests of young scientists aged 5 to 8 — could only permit 50 kids per day. But due to popular demand, we’ve doubled our capacity to 100 children for our two most popular topics — Paleontology and Insect Zoo — beginning June 1. Beginning in September, tours of the new Hall of Ancient Egypt will also increase capacity to 100 students per day.

Each hour-and-a-half course includes a 45-minute interactive class and 45-minute exhibit hall tour led by one of our expert HMNS docents. Intimate tour groups are kept at under 10 children (usually three to five kids per tour), ensuring that each child is able to hear and encouraged to speak up and ask questions.

Early Investigations

Hands-on classroom presentations include real specimens and artifacts. Students of Egypt create their own names in hieroglyphics, Insect Zoo attendees build anatomical butterflies, and young paleontologists dig in a miniature pit for fossilized remains.

Other available topics included Texas Wildlife, Under the Sea, Native North and Latin Americans and Africa. Early Investigations cost just $5 per person and includes exhibit access. Most classes go from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., but the schedule is flexible according to docent availability. For more information or to register your child, click here.

Dinosaurs in three dimensions: See Jurassic Park 3D on Houston’s biggest screen — complete with a Jurassic Paleo Hall tour

It’s the cult classic that launched a thousand fascinations with fossils. Influenced a generation of dinosaur devotees. Made you forever fear wilderness toilets, whether stranded on a prehistoric amusement park/island or just camping in Pedernales.

jurassicpark3dNow Jurassic Park is back in 3D, and this, well, this you’ve got to see. And where else than at HMNS’ Giant Screen Theatre, also known as the single largest screen in town?

So perhaps you already know we have an expansive screen. But need we mention our new, not-even-a-year-old, monstrous Morian Hall of Paleontology? Yeah. It’s only what the Huffington Post called one of the top dinosaur exhibits in the entire country. No big deal.

But to add to our Jurassic fierceness, our docents are guiding special <i>Jurassic</i> tours of that new Paleo Hall — spotlighting the real specimens featured in the film and separating scientific fact from fiction. Oh, yeaaaaah, we did.

For more information on our guided tours, call the Box Office at 713-639-4629 or click here to reserve your Jurassic Park 3D tickets!

Have a fun, fossil-filled Spring Break at HMNS! Did we mention we have air conditioning?

Looking for something to do with your little paleontologist over spring break? Well, we have some dino-mite options for you!

First, check out this Photo Scavenger Hunt of the Morian Hall of Paleontology. All of the images on the hunt are of specimens or images you can easily see in the hall. The trick?  We have zoomed in on the objects so closely that you might not be able to tell where to look! This is perfect for those paleontologists that haven’t quite learned to read yet.

Next, try taking a tour of the Paleo Hall with some of our knowledgeable staff! Our tours are family-friendly and available in a variety of ways. Talk to the Box Office to find out how you can participate!

Then, check out the bucking new Broncosaurus ride in the grand hall! Built especially for the little ones, this ride takes you back to the Cretaceous and lets you see what it would be like to saddle up a T. rex and go for a ride.

Check out our new buckin' Broncosaurus ride!

Finally, take a trip back in time to the age of saber-toothed cats, giant sloths and woolly mammoths in the Giant Screen Theatre when you watch Titans of the Ice Age.  You’ll explore the mammoth steppe with baby Lyuba, a 40,000-year-old female woolly mammoth calf recently exposed by the melting Siberian permafrost. You’ll discover the story of Zed, one of the most complete Colombian Mammoth skeletons ever uncovered.

All in all, we have a fun, fossil-filled week awaiting you! See you soon!