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National Museum of Natural History Species of the Day Collection

Last updated 12 months ago

This Collection contains a complete archive of all creatures featured on the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History's "Species of the Day" feature on its home page ( since 20 April 2010. The sort field contains the month and day of the last time a creature was shown. Those shown more than a year ago have '999' in the sort field.

To nominate a species, please leave us a comment in the Newsfeed with your suggestion, including why you think it would make a great Species of the Day! If you can paste a link to the species you are interested in, that would also be helpful.

  • 86630_88_88 Animalia > Columbidae

    Zenaida macroura

    American Mourning Dove

    Among the most familiar of North American birds, the Mourning Dove (named for its mournful call) has adapted well to living around humans and is widespread and abundant despite extensive hunting.

    Sort value: 04.11

  • 21639_88_88 Animalia > Acanthuridae

    Zebrasoma flavescens

    Yellow Tang

    Although the coral reef-associated Yellow Tang appears conspicuously bright yellow to us, at the depths where it is found the wavelength difference between this yellow and average reef color is negligible, helping the fish blend into the background.

    Sort value: 999

  • 33236_88_88 Animalia > Otariidae

    Zalophus californianus

    California Sea Lion

    California Sea Lions are the best known eared seals (family Otariidae, members of which have external ears and are able to pull their rear flippers up under their bodies and use them to move around on land).

    Sort value: 999

  • 71125_88_88 Animalia > Petrosiidae

    Xestospongia muta

    Giant Barrel Sponge

    These long-lived sponges often dominate Caribbean coral reef communities.

    Sort value: 999

  • 97715_88_88 Animalia > Icteridae

    Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus

    Yellow-headed Blackbird

    Yellow-headed Blackbirds breed mainly in marshes and flooded grasslands in western North America.

    Sort value: 10.21

  • 54548_88_88 Bacteria > Anaplasmataceae

    Wolbachia pipientis

    Wolbachia pipientis bacteria infect many insects, spiders, mites, isopods, and nematodes (roundworms), often manipulating the sex ratio of their hosts to their own benefit; some nematode parasites of humans seem to require infection by Wolbachia for their survival and reproduction.

    Sort value: 999

  • 26884_88_88 Plantae > Welwitschiaceae

    Welwitschia mirabilis


    Welwitschia belongs to a group of seed plants, the Gnetales, that share some striking similarities with the angiosperms (flowering plants), but are now believed clearly to be gymnosperms (the seed plant group including all the non-flowering plants).

    Sort value: 999

  • 47078_88_88 Animalia > Canidae

    Vulpes vulpes

    Red Fox

    Red foxes are the most widely distributed wild carnivores in the world, occurring in North America, Asia, Europe, and North Africa; they are also widespread in Australia, where they were introduced around 1850 so that fox-hunters would have something to hunt.

    Sort value: 06.09

  • 27857_88_88 Plantae > Vitaceae

    Vitis vinifera

    Wine Grape

    This species is by far the most economically important Vitis species and accounts for most commercial grape plantings, not just for wine.

    Sort value: 11.04

  • 79566_88_88 Plantae > Sapotaceae

    Vitellaria paradoxa C. F. Gaertn.

    Shea Tree

    Shea Tree is native to the Sahel region of West Africa and is a key species in traditional agroforestry systems and an important source of edible oil (shea butter), which is derived from the seeds; shea butter is also used in cosmetics, skin emollients, and pharmaceuticals and has become increasingly popular outside Africa for these uses in the past several decades, increasing its value as a cash crop.

    Sort value: 02.07

  • 87358_88_88 Animalia > Vireonidae

    Vireo griseus

    White-eyed Vireo

    The White-eyed Vireo breeds in the eastern United States and northeastern Mexico and winters from the southeastern United States south to northern Central America; these small birds typically skulk in dense thickets in which they are often difficult to spot, but they produce a loud and distinctive song.

    Sort value: 01.18

  • 96804_88_88 Animalia > Vireonidae

    Vireo flavifrons

    Yellow-throated Greenlet

    Despite its bright yellow "spectacles", throat, and breast, the Yellow-throated Vireo can be difficult to spot as it moves about in the foliage high up in a tree.

    Sort value: 01.19

  • 03582_88_88 Animalia > Camelidae

    Vicugna vicugna


    The long-legged and fleet-footed Vicuña is apparently the wild ancestor of the domesticated alpaca.

    Sort value: 999

  • 76350_88_88 Plantae > Fabaceae

    Vicia faba

    Broad Bean

    Fava (or Broad) Bean is a temperate crop which originated in the Mediterranean region or southwestern Asia, along with the Garden Pea, Lentil, and Chickpea (although the Fava Bean was probably domesticated later than these others).

    Sort value: 09.02

  • 26584_88_88 Animalia > Vespidae

    Vespa crabro

    European Hornet

    This wasp has a reputation for packing an unusually potent sting, but in fact is not especially dangerous to people (except those allergic to bee and wasp venom) and is actually notably unaggressive away from its nest.

    Sort value: 999

  • 02368_88_88 Animalia > Glossoidea


    Vesicomyid clams are often found in sulphide-rich habitats in the deep sea.

    Sort value: 999

  • 19407_88_88 Animalia > Parulidae

    Vermivora bachmanii

    Bachman's Wood Warbler

    Bachman's Warbler, which bred in the bottomland forests and canebrakes of the southeastern United States and wintered almost exclusively in Cuba, was first collected by the Reverend John Bachman in South Carolina and formally described by his friend John James Audubon shortly thereafter in 1833; its existence was subsequently largely forgotten for half a century until it was rediscovered in the late 19th century and by the latter half of the 20th century it was headed toward extinction (the last undisputed sighting was of a single bird near Charleston, South Carolina, in 1962).

    Sort value: 01.07

  • 72455_88_88 Animalia > Varroidae

    Varroa destructor

    Varroa Honey Bee Mite

    This parasitic mite, first recognized as a distinct species only a decade ago, is probably the single most serious threat to honeybees in much of the world.

    Sort value: 04.30

  • 07729_88_88 Animalia > Varanidae

    Varanus komodoensis

    Komodo Dragon

    The Komodo Dragon is the largest lizard in the world.

    Sort value: 999

  • 57691_88_88 Animalia > Trichomycteridae Bleeker, 1858


    Candirus, Vampire Catfishes

    The catfishes in this subfamily have the unusual habit of feeding on the blood of larger fish.

    Sort value: 09.30

  • 32682_88_88 Plantae > Ericaceae



    Vaccinium is a genus of around 500 species of deciduous and evergreen dwarf, prostrate, or erect shrubs, vines, and trees in the Ericaceae (heath family) that includes blueberries, cranberries, lingonberries, and bilberries.

    Sort value: 01.14

  • 87237_88_88 Animalia > Phrynosomatidae


    Side-blotched Lizard

    The side-blotched lizards are among the most abundant and commonly observed lizards in the deserts of western North America.

    Sort value: 12.13

  • 36585_88_88 Animalia > Ursidae

    Ursus maritimus

    Polar Bear

    In recent years the Polar Bear, which is featured in the NMNH Sant Ocean Hall, has become the “poster child” for organizations concerned about the impact of anthropogenic climate change on biodiversity.

    Sort value: 08.01

  • 83219_88_88 Animalia > Upupidae

    Upupa epops


    Brooding female Hoopoes produce a foul-smelling oil that may deter predators as well as provide protection against feather-degrading bacteria and pathogens.

    Sort value: 999

  • 44309_88_88 Plantae > Lauraceae

    Umbellularia californica

    California Bay Laurel

    California Bay Laurel is the source of a much prized wood often known as myrtlewood.

    Sort value: 03.09

  • 45309_88_88 Plantae > Ulmaceae

    Ulmus americana

    American Elm

    Once a very popular shade and street tree in the United States, the American Elm suffered a dramatic decline with the introduction to the U.S. of Dutch elm disease, a fungus spread by a bark beetle.

    Sort value: 01.17

  • 77359_88_88 Animalia > Ocypodidae


    Fiddler Crabs

    Fiddler crabs are a group of around a hundred small, semi-terrestrial crabs in the genus Uca that are distinctive in the extreme size difference between the left and right claws in males; male fiddler crabs wave their "major claw" (the large claw) to attract females and repel male rivals.

    Sort value: 12.12

  • 66923_88_88 Animalia > Chordata



    Although they may not look much like us superficially, tunicates are among the very closest relatives of the vertebrates.

    Sort value: 999

  • 34910_88_88 Plantae > Liliaceae



    Although tulips are closely associated in the minds of many with The Netherlands, various wild tulip species occur naturally in temperate regions across southern Europe and central Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East.

    Sort value: 09.29

  • 30745_88_88 Plantae > Poaceae



    More wheat is produced annually than any other cereal crop.

    Sort value: 11.01

  • 92258_88_88 Plantae > Fabaceae

    Trifolium repens

    White Clover

    White Clover is one of the three-leafleted clover species that occasionally produces a leaf with four (or more) leaflets, i.e., a "four-leafed clover". It exhibits a well studied geographic polymorphism for cyanogenesis (the release of cyanide following tissue damage), with plants that do not produce cyanide predominating in colder climates for reasons that are not yet clear.

    Sort value: 03.17

  • 87833_88_88 Animalia > Arthroleptidae

    Trichobatrachus robustus

    Hairy Frog

    Males of this large West African frog species have hair-like dermal papillae.

    Sort value: 999

  • 75614_88_88 Animalia > Talitridae

    Traskorchestia traskiana

    Pacific Beach Hopper

    This amphipod is commonly encountered along beaches on the Pacific coast of North America.

    Sort value: 999

  • 31072_88_88 Plantae > Lythraceae

    Trapa natans

    Water Chestnut

    Water Chestnut is viewed by humans quite differently in different parts of the world: it is cultivated for food in Asia, it is a species of conservation concern in Europe and Russia, and in the northeastern United States, where it was introduced in the mid-1800s, it has spread widely and is viewed as a nuisance weed.

    Sort value: 02.10

  • 48891_88_88 Animalia > Toxotidae



    Archerfishes are best known for their ability to capture non-aquatic insects by shooting a jet of water with remarkable precision to knock their prey into the water, often as the prey sits on a perch above the fish.

    Sort value: 06.06

  • 87691_88_88 Animalia > Todidae

    Todus todus

    Jamaican Tody

    The Jamaican Tody is one of just five bird species in the family Todidae, none of which occur outside the Greater Antilles in the West Indies.

    Sort value: 999

  • 53531_88_88 Animalia > Noctuidae

    Thysania agrippina

    White Witch

    The White Witch has the largest reported wing span (if not wing area) of all lepidopterans (butterflies and moths).

    Sort value: 03.24

  • 88104_88_88 Plantae > Lamiaceae

    Thymus vulgaris

    Garden Thyme

    Thyme is a native of southern Europe, although it now grows more widely both wild and in cultivation.

    Sort value: 09.10

  • 02815_88_88 Plantae > Malvaceae

    Thespesia populnea

    Portia Tree

    This tree has a pantropical distribution, occurring mainly along seacoasts.

    Sort value: 999

  • 31728_88_88 Bacteria > Thermaceae

    Thermus aquaticus

    Enzymes derived from this bacterium have played a critical role in the modern revolution in genetic research, genetic engineering, and biotechnology.

    Sort value: 999

  • 95667_88_88 Animalia > Neritidae

    Theodoxus niloticus

    This neritid snail is apparently found only in the Nile River in Egypt.

    Sort value: 999

  • 25095_88_88 Animalia > Auchenipteridae

    Tetranematichthys wallacei

    Wallace's Catfish

    This catfish, first described in 2006, was apparently collected a century and a half earlier by Alfred Russel Wallace, although only a recently discovered drawing survives as evidence.

    Sort value: 06.02

  • 06293_88_88 Animalia > Bovidae

    Taurotragus oryx


    Common Elands once ranged widely across southern and East Africa, but they now occupy only around half of their historical range.

    Sort value: 09.28

  • 23294_88_88 Animalia > Tapiridae



    Tapirs are one of the three groups of "odd-toed" hoofed mammals (the other two groups being the horses and rhinoceroses).

    Sort value: 11.29

  • 84710_88_88 Animalia > Thraupidae

    Tangara seledon

    Green-headed Tanager

    The Green-Headed Tanager of southeastern South America is one of several extravagantly multicolored tanagers found in eastern Brazil.

    Sort value: 999

  • 85229_88_88 Plantae > Fabaceae

    Tamarindus indica


    Tamarind is widely planted in the tropics and subtropics not only for its fruit pods, with their sour edible pulp, but also as an ornamental shade tree.

    Sort value: 02.06

  • 31549_88_88 Animalia > Romaleidae

    Taeniopoda reticulata

    Lubber Grasshopper

    The striking coloration of these grasshoppers is believed to be a warning to predators that they are toxic; when threatened, they display their bright red underwings, arch their abdomen, and march about.

    Sort value: 999

  • 75300_88_88 Plantae > Sapotaceae

    Synsepalum dulcificum

    Miracle Berry

    Miracleberry is best known for its red berries, which contain a glycoprotein known as miraculin; miraculin has the remarkable property of modifying sour tastes into into sweet, although it is not itself sweet.

    Sort value: 07.25

  • 54809_88_88 Animalia > Syngnathidae

    Syngnathoides biaculeatus

    Alligator Pipefish

    The Alligator Pipefish is thought to be the most heavily exploited pipefish in traditional Chinese medicine.

    Sort value: 999

  • 59254_88_88 Animalia > Syngnathiformes


    Pipefishes and Seahorses

    Males in this fish family (which includes seahorses, pipefishes, and seadragons) carry the fertilized eggs either in a ventral pouch or on their tails and protect the eggs until they hatch.

    Sort value: 06.12