Destiny Buck, of the Wanapum tribe, rides her mare, Daisy, in the yearly Indian princess competition in Pendleton, Oregon. Nakia Williamson rides a cross between an Appaloosa and the hardy Akhal-Teke from Turkmenistan, one of the world’s oldest breeds, renowned for courage and endurance.
Jones Benally received this gelding, Moonwalker, pictured here just outside the Navajo Nation in Arizona, from a patient for his services as a medicine man.
Patricia Heemsah, of the Yakama Nation in Washington State, holds a beaded bag she uses in ceremonial dances and as regalia for her horse in parades.
A special bison hunt was approved for Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho, where members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes keep a herd of more than 300.
Jim, a quarter horse stallion, is a gift from bride Krystal Alden’s family to groom Paul J. As his horse applies the brakes, a rider in the Indian Relay Race on the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes reservation begins his flying dismount. Benson Ramone accompanies his 17-year-old daughter, Tashina, who’s competing in the Fort Hall Rodeo on the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes reservation in Idaho.
On the Crow Reservation in southern Montana, Michelle Walking Bear braids her 11-year-old son’s hair to keep it out of his face when he rides.
Spur shows off his stunt-riding skills to his siblings at his home on the Crow Reservation in Montana.
Go behind-the-scenes with our storytellers and join conversations about photography, art, and journalism. A series of prehistoric creature illustrations demonstrates the evolution of mammals through the ages. From the top of Shifting Sands dune in the Serengeti Plain of Africa a million mammals are in motion.
National Geographic explores how we can feed the growing population without overwhelming the planet in our food series. Volunteers risk their lives to vaccinate children in Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria.
Stately American bison graze beneath gold-lined clouds in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. To delete this file, click the file name with your mouse, then right-click and scroll down the menu to the "delete" option. To remove the photo permanently from the desktop, locate the photo on the hard drive and drag it to the trash.
Celebrated inventor Thomas Edison goes to war with his former assistant, Nikola Tesla, to determine who will power the world with electric light. Journey through time to explore the triumphs and travails of the biggest rivals in innovation.
Which genius offered the other $50,000 to help his cause, only to renege after the research was complete?
Nile crocodiles are the largest crocodilians in Africa, sometimes reaching 20 feet (6 meters) long. Saved from the brink of extinction, the American alligator now thrives in its native habitat: the swamps and wetlands of the southeastern United States.
Critically endangered, the prehistoric-looking American crocodile struggles to survive in pockets of shrinking habitat. The largest crocodilians on Earth, saltwater crocs, or "salties," are excellent swimmers and have often been spotted far out at sea. American alligators are found in freshwater coastal wetlands across the southeastern United States, from Louisiana to the Carolinas. Mother Nile crocodiles lay their eggs in a buried nest, opening it when high-pitched squeaks are heard from within.
Embraced first for war, hunting, and transport, horses became partners in pageantry and a way to show tribal pride. They’re taking part in an annual retracing of a portion of the 1,170-mile route Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce bands took through the northern Rockies in 1877, as they tried to escape peacefully from the Seventh Cavalry. More fact than fiction, these wild characters followed transitional Jurassic period animals that sported mammalian skull traits and reptilian teeth. After the eggs have incubated for about three months, the mother opens the nest and helps her young out of their shells. Although heavy and slow on land, they can ambush their prey from the water by lunging at speeds of 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour. This family-run, Orleans institution has served locals tasty omelets, hashes, benedicts, pancakes, and fritters at its cozy counter for over 20 years.
Sliced fruit and ice water in an insulated cooler are also a must, as well as a small first-aid kit, trash bags, and of course, kites and Frisbees for entertainment. It is one of Florida's most beautiful parks with its crystal clear waters, diverse wildlife, and stunning views over the Gulf of Mexico.
The big "must-do" is a visit to Flora-Bama, a bar located just 20 minutes away in Pensacola, Florida.
I loved that we could go for an evening of excitement and come back to the quiet of Bethany.
It overlaps broadly with the common raven, and to a lesser extent with the Chihuahuan raven, fish crow, and northwestern crow. Just answer four simple questions to search our database of 150 backyard birds common to Canada and the U.S.
When a Cheyenne woman gets married, tradition calls for the husband to receive a steed to help him hunt and provide for the family. Most noteworthy: the Cape-inspired cranberry walnut pancakes, and Fisherman's Favorite Omelet (with smoky, Portuguese linguica sausage). My family camped here almost every year and I have so many great memories of the place and the wildlife I encountered there.
It's southern, divey, and was the inspiration for Jimmy Buffet's song "Bama Breeze." It's a hot spot for locals and tourists alike. Start your day with breakfast at the Causeway Cafe (the Carolina blue crab omelet is a must), take a break from the waves with a hot dog from the Trolly Stop, and recharge after a long day in the sun with a trip to nearby Wilmington for Thai food at Indochine restaurant. Study of vocalizations, bill structure and size, tail shape, and overall structure of this species will greatly aid in the identification of other crows and ravens.
Be sure to try the Bushwacker, which is a delicious but deadly frozen concoction of coconut, coffee liqueur, and cream. Regional variation in size of the American crow poses challenges, particularly in the northwest. It is wildebeest calving season, and many of those giant bearded antelope have newborns trailing them. Definitely try the Honeycreme or Whoopeecreme, but don't leave without the classic New England cruller. From a distance the movement seems a serene and constant march toward the southeast, where recent rains have made pastures greener.
But a closer look reveals details of high drama.A young Grant's gazelle suddenly dashes between the clusters of wildebeests, followed closely by its mother. Also differs in behavior, never forming flocks; not found in urban areas and has more extensive vocal repertoire. Juvenile’s begging call is higher pitched, nasal, and resembles the call of the fish crow.Status and Distribution Common to abundant.
We feel connected to her because she's a fellow mammal."Local Masai women regard the dune as a sacred fertility site. Moehlman calls it "a place of pilgrimage." Indeed, no place on Earth offers a more spectacular abundance of our fur-bearing, breast-feeding brethren, especially when the wildebeests are on the march. Myriad mammal species graze, gallop, prowl, and wallow in this part of Africa.In the nearby Ngorongoro Crater a mother hippopotamus nuzzles her pink newborn in a muddy pond, while a pair of lions leisurely copulate along the roadside.
In a grove of acacia trees a group of giraffes, members of a family of mammals that until 20 million years ago were small forest dwellers, nibble at the top branches. Most depart north-central British Columbia and Alberta by late September; peak in Great Lakes early October–mid-November. A few miles away elephants—which scientists are just now realizing may come from one of the oldest of the modern mammalian lineages—lumber toward a midday bath in a rain-swollen stream. Quick-witted vervet monkeys dash down from the trees to steal food through the open door of a tourist van.


Meanwhile, one of the few surviving black rhinoceroses in the area wanders stealthily through a stand of high grasses.So many mammals—and such varied shapes and behaviors—throng this land that it's hard to believe any two could have descended from the same ancestor. Many populations experienced dramatic declines with the spread of West Nile virus early this century.
The earliest known mammals were the morganucodontids, tiny shrew-size creatures that lived in the shadows of the dinosaurs 210 million years ago. During the next 145 million years of evolution, the dominance of dinosaurs ensured that our distant mammalian ancestors remained no larger than a cat. But when a catastrophic asteroid or comet—maybe a few comets, as some scientists are now arguing—finished off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, mammals got the most important evolutionary opportunity they would ever have. Within a few million years of the impact the fossil record shows an explosion in mammalian diversity.How did those little creatures transform into not only the hippo and the mole rat but also today's vast panorama of mammals with fur, hooves, and fangs, as well as others that swim hairless through deep oceans—or ride, like me, in a Land Rover across this grassland?Only humans can ask that question, or hope to answer it.
To be sure, we share defining traits with the first mammals—traits that were evolving even as the morganucodontids scrambled for food among the dinosaurs: We are warm-blooded.
We have specialized jaws, whose hinges came together early in our evolution to create the ear bones that let us hear better than other animals.
We have complex teeth that let us grind and chew our food so that we get more nutrition out of it.
We are superb mothers whom evolution has supplied with physical adaptations—such as breasts and placental birth—that give mammalian young an important head start. We humans are among the most recent to evolve, and we use our big mammalian brains to reason and solve problems and struggle for goals beyond our basic needs. We ask about our past and wonder what it might tell us about the future.From scratching around in the dirt to deciphering DNA—how did we get from there to here?That question has never had an easy answer, but today new fossil discoveries and important new tools are illuminating our distant past more clearly than ever before.
Less than half a century ago, trying to understand mammalian evolution was like exploring the universe with a primitive telescope. But now high-speed analysis of genetic evidence, painstaking reconstruction of past climates and continental movements, and dogged work with often minuscule bones are creating insights that are challenging some cherished assumptions.In the late 1960s, evidence emerged that the world's landmasses were once assembled into one great continent, called Pangaea. Around 225 million years ago Pangaea began to split into a northern continent, called Laurasia, and its southern counterpart, Gondwana. They are finding evidence of advanced mammals far older than any known in the north, perhaps turning the Sherwin-Williams world upside down.On another front, geneticists comparing the genes of living mammals have found that certain groups thought to be very distant cousins—hippos and whales, say—are in fact next of kin. They have also found evidence that mammals began to diversify into today's 18 living orders much earlier than the fossil record shows.
Fossils suggest that most modern groups appeared around 60 million years ago, after the dinosaurs were gone.
Molecular data suggest they actually began diversifying about 100 million years ago."It's been a complete upheaval, says Mark Springer, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of California, Riverside. That's why mammals hear so much better than reptiles."The separation of the jaw and the ear bones allowed the skulls of later mammals to expand sideways and backward—enabling mammals to develop bigger brains.
The teeth of the morganucodontids were another important innovation that later mammals would improve upon. The upper and lower molars of morganucodontid jawbones interlocked, letting them slice their food into pieces.
That released more calories and nutrients."Reptiles don't cut up their food," says Cifelli. But these little guys were so active they had to get every calorie they could out of what they ate.
The more they could process their food in their mouths, the more energy it gave them."Scientists believe mammary glands began as sweat glands at the bases of hairs. Both sweat glands and mammary glands produce water, salts, and proteins, all of which a newborn needs to survive.The duck-billed platypus of Australia gives us a glimpse of how those primitive mammary glands worked. The platypus and the spiny anteater are the only surviving examples of a mammalian subgroup called monotremes."The platypus female doesn't have nipples," explains Peter Temple-Smith, a platypus specialist at the Melbourne Zoo. The young then lick or suck the milk off the hairs."Nipples, which concentrate milk ducts, probably emerged with the branch of mammals we know as marsupials—a group that includes kangaroos, koalas, and opossums. They descend and with their fierce beaks begin to tear into the placenta lying a few yards away.
Their arrival has announced to every scavenger for miles around that there is fresh young meat here, and she urges her calf into as fast a gallop as its wobbly legs can manage."She's being a good mother," says Moehlman, the wildlife biologist.
That's what being a mammal is all about."The bloody wildebeest placenta, which the scavenging birds fight over so aggressively, illustrates the physical investment that advanced mammalian mothers make in their young.
It not only nourishes the fetus in the womb; it also isolates the developing fetus from the mother's immune system. Otherwise, her immune cells would attack the fetus as a foreign object—after all, half its genes come from the father.Reptiles and birds avoid immune system attack by surrounding the fetus in an eggshell and moving it out of the body. And marsupials solve the immune problem by delivering their embryos early.Recent DNA studies suggest placental mammals began to diverge from marsupials as early as 175 million years ago.
Thus far, the fossil record has not shown this, perhaps because paleontologists trying to date the split have only little teeth and jawbones to work with. The major differences between placentals and marsupials lie in the reproductive tract—which doesn't leave much fossil evidence.
But the spectacularly complete new fossil of a protoplacental species found in China's Liaoning Province has given a concrete example that strengthens DNA researchers' claims that placentals began evolving much earlier than previously thought."This is the mother of all placental mammals," says Zhe-Xi Luo, a paleontologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, proudly presenting a fossil of what resembles a pressed mouse with a long snout.
That placental development was so far along 125 million years ago makes it easier for paleontologists to accept the genetic evidence that says the first protoplacentals began to evolve 50 million years earlier.Eomaia's mousy appearance makes it a pretty modest prize by today's mammal standards, but the little creature was the leading edge of a wave of mammalian evolution that had begun with the morganucodontids. Eomaia's placental progeny represented a huge leap, opening up evolutionary options that marsupials' pouch approach constrained. But placentals' extra time in the womb lets specializations such as the bat's wing and the seal's flipper evolve. Should food or water become scarce and the firstborn infant die, the embryo-in-reserve can implant itself after conditions improve. In an arid land such as Australia, these conditional pregnancies can be the best strategy.But marsupials remain much less common than other mammals. Opossums and other marsupials exist in North and South America, but Australia is the only continent where marsupials—and monotremes—still rule.Kangaroos, koalas, platypuses, and wombats: Why does Australia retain these supposedly antiquated mammals? According to the Sherwin-Williams model, marsupials, advanced mammals themselves 100 million years ago, migrated into Gondwana ahead of placentals.They simply got on board the Antarctic-Australian landmass before it broke away from the rest of Gondwana. Such teeth work like a mortar and pestle, a further improvement on the slicing teeth of earlier mammals.The ancestor of marsupials and placentals had tribosphenic teeth.
Thus the discovery in the Southern Hemisphere of tribosphenic teeth as old as 167 million years, or 25 million years older than any found in the north, complicates the north-south model. Some explain the presence of these southern tribosphenic teeth by saying they must have developed independently in both hemispheres.
Others say the innovation was too intricate to have evolved twice and that mammals must have evolved in the south, with subsequent generations moving north."It's good to remember that the evidence is still slim," says Oklahoma's Rich Cifelli. The Riches say that these mammals weren't simply on the way to becoming placental, they were placental—something like hedgehogs, in fact.Opponents of the Riches' theory argue that placentals—and certainly not the relatively advanced hedgehogs—were not supposed to be anywhere near Australia so long ago.
If the Riches are right, we have to rethink how placentals traveled from Asia to the Southern Hemisphere. Rather than traveling down the Americas, Eomaia may have found an island-hopping shortcut to Australia. Or perhaps placentals were widespread much earlier than we think now, and there's just no record of them. Placentals, suggest the Riches, might even have become extinct with the dinosaurs in Australia, making room for the marsupials to move in later.Rich himself concedes, "Most radical ideas are wrong. It's wise to be wary of them—especially when they are your own."Even more radical to many paleontologists has been the marriage of plate tectonics evidence and the placental family tree proposed by evolutionary geneticist Mark Springer and his colleagues. Springer is part of a new generation of researchers who examine the strands of an animal's DNA rather than scraping dirt from fossils at a dig.
These molecular biologists read the sequences of genes in a living animal's DNA like an evolutionary history book.
The scientists can then determine how closely these animals are related genetically and how long ago their ancestors diverged.Troubling as it is to many paleontologists, Springer's reading of mammals' genetic history fits remarkably well with what geologists now know about the breaking up and subsequent motion of ancient continents. The oldest group of living placental mammals, according to Springer and his colleagues, arose in Africa just before the continent finished breaking away from the rest of Gondwana around 110 million years ago. When Africa floated off, it carried these animals away to evolve on their own for tens of millions of years.The fossil record for Africa from this period is almost blank.
Nevertheless, Emmanuel Gheerbrant, a researcher for the National Center for Scientific Research in France, speculates that Africa "must have been a laboratory for some very peculiar animals."One species Gheerbrant has discovered from this period in Africa is the oldest and most primitive known member of the elephant group, the proboscideans.


It was the size of a fox, and although it lacked a trunk, it had many dental and cranial features strikingly similar to modern elephants.
Paleontologists had long thought elephants were one of the younger modern groups, evolving from ungulates that originated in Asia.
But Gheerbrant's fossil, like the genetic evidence, suggests that proboscideans are in fact one of the oldest of the modern ungulate mammals.One of the few fossil-rich regions in Africa—the Faiyum Depression of Egypt—has not only these early elephants but also a strange assortment of hyraxes.
An ancient seaway split South America from Eurasia and North America for millions of years, and South America became home to what geneticist Springer calls xenarthrans, another group of placental mammals. South America's fossil record during its isolation is far better than Africa's, and includes such xenarthrans as sloths, armadillos, and anteaters.Springer's data, in other words, indicate that the most recent common ancestor of placental mammals is Gondwanan. Contrary to more than a century of northern chauvinism, the northern continents have the youngest placental mammals.
The other group, euarchontoglires, includes rodents, tree shrews, monkeys, and humans.These genetic findings reveal more than simply which came first. For one, anatomists have always assumed that bats were in the same superorder as tree shrews, flying lemurs, and primates.
But genetic data place bats with pigs, cows, cats, horses, and whales.The data further show that these superorders of living mammals started to diversify much earlier than the fossil record suggests. But geneticists contend that genes in an organism's mitochondria, the parts of a cell that are used to trace and date lineages, can be evolving rapidly without changing what would be left behind in the fossil record."An animal's shape may be heavily affected by its environment," says Ulfur Ernason, a geneticist at Sweden's University of Lund. Birds have a slow rate, yet they can evolve physically very rapidly."However surprising the claims of geneticists seem at first, paleontologists and DNA researchers are finding that their theories can be complementary. Some stunning new fossils have confirmed a previously controversial DNA finding about whales.
Then in September 2001 two teams of fossil hunters published finds that backed up the claims of the biologists. A group led by Hans Thewissen of Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine found two species of the earliest known whales in 50-million-year-old deposits in Pakistan. The evolutionary transition among major groups of mammals is rarely illustrated so clearly. And no other discoveries have linked fossils to DNA findings with such precision.Until 65 million years ago dinosaurs dominated the land.
The dinosaurs and other large predators occupied the richest and most obvious evolutionary niches, keeping mammals at the margins.Then an event occurred whose scale is still hard to comprehend.
An object six miles (9.5 kilometers) across crashed near the present-day Yucatan Peninsula, punching out a crater 110 miles (177 kilometers) across.
That impact may have been one of many over the next several hundred thousand years, each adding to the destruction. But the damage done by the Yucatan impact alone is impressive: Tsunamis 500 feet (150 meters) high battered North America. Within 270,000 years they were diversifying and growing bigger.Still, the majority of mammals didn't get much larger than a pig until the Eocene epoch, which began about 55 million years ago. Then a rapid increase in global temperature encouraged the spread of forests around the world—even near both Poles. This abundance of rich vegetation opened yet more ecological niches for mammals to exploit. Today lemurs are confined to the island of Madagascar, where one species made it from Africa perhaps 50 million years ago, probably on rafts of storm-tossed debris.A few million years later, more advanced primates appear in the fossil record of eastern Asia. Chris Beard, a specialist in primate origins at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, has unearthed in China what may be the earliest known example, called Eosimias.
These creatures evolved in the mid-Eocene as the world was cooling and concentrated in the midlatitudes where forests remained lush.Beard says they "must have been frenetic little animals. Fossils from the Faiyum Depression, where Elwyn Simons of Duke University has led a dig since 1961, reveal how anthropoids were changing.
Catopithecus, one of many anthropoids his team has uncovered, has a skull the size of a small monkey's, a relatively flat face, and a bony enclosure at the rear of its eye sockets. At higher latitudes, forests gradually gave way in many places to grassland meadows and savannas. Horses, for instance, emerged as little leaf-eaters in the forests but later developed molars that are much better adapted to eating grass. As the crown gets ground down, new crown will emerge from the jaw to replace it.Early in the Miocene, Africa's long isolation ended when it and Arabia came back into contact with Eurasia. Later, around ten million years ago, North American mammals—camels, horses, and dogs—began to arrive. Almost every animal that roams the Serengeti today is a relative newcomer to the continent.Africa gave back as well. Elephants and their relatives spread across the globe, reaching as far as the tip of Patagonia.But geology and climate changed the world once again for mammals as the Miocene drew to a close. The Sahara began taking over North Africa, and savannas spread across much of the continent.The changing climate restricted the range of the primates to the equatorial zone. Then, around seven million years ago, at least one offshoot of the African apes began walking on two legs.As that bipedal ape evolved into what would become us, other mammals came and went.
Most had to adapt to yet another global climate change about 2.5 million years ago, triggered in part by the formation of the Isthmus of Panama. Its formation blocked east-west ocean circulation and encouraged the Gulf Stream to grow stronger. As the Gulf Stream pumped more warm water closer to the North Pole, precipitation increased.
Heavy snows became glaciers two miles (three kilometers) thick, which advanced and retreated in a series of more than 20 ice ages. Because big bodies retain heat better, many mammals, such as the woolly mammoth, grew larger.
The animal would starve to death in a fruit and veggie shop."Those big mammals, such as the marsupial lion and the killer kangaroo, disappeared between 100,000 and 20,000 years ago. Few controversies rage more fiercely in paleontology than why the megafauna vanished—not just in Australia but also in North America, where mammoths, horses, camels, and dozens of other large Ice Age mammals all vanished by about 11,000 years ago.
Others say it was humans, arguing that newly arrived Homo sapiens killed off the giants with their spears.We humans may or may not have killed off the giant mammals of the Ice Age. But we are unquestionably threatening innumerable species today, as we expand relentlessly into ever more of their habitats. If somehow we could rewind time to the dawn of anthropoids, what different path could we have gone down?One answer lies some 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) from the Serengeti's vibrant mammalian spectacle, in the rain forests of Indonesia, Borneo, and the Philippines. There lives the tarsier, which the Carnegie Museum's Beard cites as an example of the primate road not taken. But they're the nearest living relatives of higher primates."Tarsiers share a common ancestor with all anthropoids. We know this because like all higher primates, tarsiers lack a tapetum lucidum—the reflective layer in the eyes of nocturnal animals. The tapetum lucidum is critical to vision in low light levels and is what makes the eyes of night creatures glow when a flashlight shines on them.Unlike most of their anthropoid relatives, tarsiers went back to a nocturnal lifestyle at some point and had to compensate by evolving enormous, spooky eyes. Hunting, development, and the destruction of the rain forests have constricted the tarsiers' habitat.In Borneo, where tarsiers are considered bad luck, few villagers worry about that.
The forest is full of the same kinds of fruit-bearing trees that helped primates thrive in the vast forests then emerging around the world. The heavy air seems to press moisture into my skin, and my pores fight back with gushes of sweat.
That's because even here, under the best nighttime viewing conditions—the simulated light of a full moon—tarsiers are difficult to spot. I try to be patient.Finally, like lightning, one flashes out of nowhere to grasp a cricket with both hands and land gracefully on a slender branch. You can't look into the big eyes of our distant cousin without feeling awed by the distance we have traveled away from each other. Our intelligence may pose grave dangers to the world's wildlife and to ourselves, but it also lets us feel wonder. The jury's still out on where that will take us.Then, faster than a moth's flutter, the tarsier is gone.



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