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National Museum of Natural History Species of the Day Collection

Last updated over 3 years 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.

  • 32316_88_88

    Stiphrornis pyrrholaemus

    Olive-backed Forest Robin

    The Olive-backed Forest Robin was discovered several years ago in west central Africa by Smithsonian ornithologist Brian Schmidt and colleagues.

    Sort value: 999

  • 12868_88_88

    Stevia rebaudiana


    In recent years, this plant has attracted great interest as the source of glycoside compounds several hundred times sweeter than sucrose.

    Sort value: 07.26

  • 45043_88_88

    Stegostoma fasciatum

    Zebra Shark

    Both the common and scientific names of this shark are derived from the appearance of the juveniles, which are dark brown with white zebra-like stripes, but adults are tan with brown leopard-like spots.

    Sort value: 999

  • 37748_88_88

    Sphyraena barracuda

    Great Barracuda

    Although these fish are definitely fierce predators worthy of respect, the reputation of the Great Barracuda as dangerous to humans is largely unearned.

    Sort value: 999

  • 05979_88_88

    Sphoeroides testudineus

    Checkered Puffer

    Like many other puffers, Checkered Puffers can be highly toxic as a result of tetrodotoxins and saxitoxins in their bodies, making them potentially quite dangerous to consume.

    Sort value: 05.30

  • 97868_88_88



    The two species of tuataras, both of which are found only in New Zealand, are reptiles that are close relatives of lizards and snakes.

    Sort value: 02.16

  • 92077_88_88

    Sphecius speciosus

    Eastern Cicada Killer

    Female cicada killers capture cicadas, paralyze them with a sting, and bring them back to their burrows to serve as food for their developing larvae.

    Sort value: 999

  • 14320_88_88


    Peat Moss

    Sphagnum mosses are a dominant component of bogs and other wetland ecosystems; they tend to acidify their environment and thus to direct future succession, i.e., the trajectory of the ecological community.

    Sort value: 10.19

  • 07060_88_88

    Solenostomus cyanopterus

    Robust Ghost Pipefish

    The ghost pipefishes (Family Solenostomidae) are skin-brooding fishes related to the true pipefishes and seahorses (Family Syngnathidae) (skin-brooding involves the attachment of developing eggs to the body surface of a parent).

    Sort value: 999

  • 49591_88_88


    Ghost Pipefishes

    The ghost pipefishes (family Solenostomidae) are skin-brooding fishes related to the true pipefishes and seahorses (family Syngnathidae) (skin-brooding involves the attachment of developing eggs to the body surface of a parent); they are found only in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, inhabiting shallow tropical waters associated with rocky crystalline reefs and vegetation.

    Sort value: 03.26

  • 59942_88_88

    Solanum tuberosum


    The potato, which originated in the Andes region of South America, has served as a staple food for many cultures throughout the world.

    Sort value: 999

  • 94992_88_88


    Peanut Worms

    Although the group Sipuncula has been recognized as a distinct phylum for half a century, in recent years molecular phylogenetic studies have provided strong evidence that sipunculans either fall within, or are very closely related to, the annelids (segmented worms).

    Sort value: 999

  • 88263_88_88

    Sialia sialis

    Eastern Bluebird

    After many years of population declines, Eastern Bluebird populations have increased in recent decades at least in part due to large-scale efforts to provide them with appropriate nest boxes for breeding.

    Sort value: 01.31

  • 11810_88_88

    Dendroica striata

    Blackpoll Warbler

    Blackpoll Warblers are among the most numerous breeding birds in the forests of far northern North America and are abundant migrants in the spring in eastern North America (and in the northeastern United States and Canadian Maritime Provinces in the fall) as they travel between their northern breeding grounds and their winter range in northern South America.

    Sort value: 12.02

  • 57821_88_88

    Dendroica nigrescens

    Black-throated Gray Warbler

    The Black-throated Gray Warbler breeds from British Columbia to New Mexico and winters in the southwestern United States and Mexico.

    Sort value: 12.05

  • 59810_88_88

    Dendroica dominica

    Yellow-throated Warbler

    The Yellow-throated Warbler, which breeds in the eastern United States and winters along the Gulf Coast and in the Caribbean and Central America, often forages by creeping along tree branches.

    Sort value: 01.20

  • 74754_88_88

    Dendroica angelae

    Elfin-woods Warbler

    The discovery of this small warbler in Puerto Rico in 1968 (formally described in 1972) was remarkable given that it was the first new bird species discovered in the Caribbean in four decades and the first new bird from Puerto Rico in the 20th century; it's narrow distribution, habitat, and similarity to the Black-and-white Warbler (a winter resident in Puerto Rico), probably all contributed to its evading detection for so long.

    Sort value: 12.04

  • 02247_88_88

    Sesamum indicum


    Sesame was one of the first oilseed plants to be used by humans; major producers include Burma, India, China, and a range of countries in Africa.

    Sort value: 12.18

  • 79248_88_88

    Serenoa repens

    Saw Palmetto

    Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens), the only species in its genus, is native only to the southeastern United States, where it is a major understory plant.

    Sort value: 10.03

  • 74956_88_88

    Sepia apama


    The Australian Giant Cuttlefish, the largest cuttlefish in the world, is a master of camouflage, but males adopt rapidly changing bright colors and striking patterns when trying to attract the attention of females for mating.

    Sort value: 999

  • 07020_88_88

    Selene vomer


    Lookdowns occur in shallow coastal waters over sand or mud in the western Atlantic from Maine to Uruguay, including Bermuda; in the northern and southern Gulf of Mexico; and in the Greater Antilles.

    Sort value: 06.27

  • 52734_88_88

    Sechium edule


    Chayote is a member of the gourd family, but unlike the familiar melons, gourds, squashes, and pumpkins, the fruits of which contain many seeds, the Chayote fruit contains just a single seed.

    Sort value: 09.03

  • 00153_88_88

    Secale cereale


    Rye is an important cereal crop in the cooler parts of northern and central Europe and Russia, cultivated up to the Arctic Circle and to 4000 m above sea level.

    Sort value: 11.02

  • 48509_88_88

    Scutigera coleoptrata

    House Centipede

    Although its appearance makes it an unwelcome guest in most homes, this centipede, which feeds on small insects and spiders, is generally harmless to humans.

    Sort value: 999

  • 17685_88_88

    Scotoplanes globosa

    Sea Pig

    This odd-looking creature, which is featured in the NMNH Sant Ocean Hall, belongs to a group of “sea cucumbers” (relatives of sea stars) that can be extremely abundant in the deep sea.

    Sort value: 999

  • 75321_88_88

    Sciurus aureogaster

    Mexican Red-bellied Squirrel

    This squirrel occurs naturally in a wide range of habitats in Mexico and Central America, but also has a long established introduced population in the Florida Keys (USA).

    Sort value: 999

  • 87400_88_88

    Sciaenops ocellatus

    Red Drum

    The Red Drum is an important game fish, popular with surfcasters, that is found from Massachusetts (U.S.A.) to northern Mexico.

    Sort value: 03.15

  • 15145_88_88

    Sceloglaux albifacies

    White-faced Owl

    The Laughing Owl, which was found only in New Zealand, was first described in the early 1840s, at which time it was apparently common and widespread, but with the subsequent influx of European settlers over the next several decades populations declined; the species was very rare by the end of the 19th century and has long been presumed extinct.

    Sort value: 04.08

  • 09213_88_88

    Sassafras albidum


    Although roots and bark from Sassafras (family Lauraceae), a common tree in the eastern United States, were once commonly used to flavor tea and root beer, a component known as safrole is now considered a suspected carcinogen, so other flavorings (or safrole-free extracts) are now generally used instead.

    Sort value: 03.11

  • 02953_88_88

    Sargassum C. Agardh


    Some Sargassum species are free-floating and occur in extensive rafts (e.g., in the Sargasso Sea) that harbor distinctive communities of organisms.

    Sort value: 999

  • 77957_88_88


    Although the planktonic larvae of Sacculina barnacles resemble the larvae of other barnacles, the adults are highly modified internal parasites of certain crabs, spreading through their bodies and often grossly distorting the host's normal morphology and physiology.

    Sort value: 11.09

  • 22432_88_88

    Sabal palmetto

    Sabal Palm

    Cabbage Palmetto (Sabal palmetto) has the most northern distribution of all the New World tree palms.

    Sort value: 10.02

  • 43372_88_88

    Rousettus egyptiacus

    Egyptian Fruit Bat

    These bats, which form colonies of thousands of individuals, are unusual among fruit bats in that they supplement their excellent vision and sense of smell with echolocation.

    Sort value: 08.15

  • 10770_88_88

    Rosmarinus officinalis


    Like many species in the mint family, Rosemary is gynodioecious, i.e., populations are composed of some plants with hermaphrodite flowers, which are functionally both male and female, and others whose flowers are functionally female, with the male organs reduced and sterile.

    Sort value: 09.09

  • 28287_88_88

    Rhododendron forrestii

    Rhododendron forrestii is a low-growing shrub found in the mountains of southeastern Tibet and adjacent China and Burma.

    Sort value: 999

  • 29518_88_88

    Rhinecanthus rectangulus

    Wedgetail Triggerfish

    The Wedgetail Triggerfish is a familiar icon—and the official state fish—in Hawaii, where it is known as the humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa.

    Sort value: 999

  • 05190_88_88

    Regulus calendula

    Ruby-crowned Kinglet

    The red crown of the tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet that gives it its name is present only on males and is often not visible in the field.

    Sort value: 03.04

  • 52157_88_88

    Quercus alba

    White Oak

    White Oak is a major hardwood tree of eastern North America.

    Sort value: 999

  • 19868_88_88



    Some dinoflagellates are photosynthetic and are critically important symbionts of coral, while others produce toxins that poison large numbers of invertebrates and vertebrates.

    Sort value: 999

  • 17781_88_88


    Colonial Tunicates

    Pyrosoma is a genus of colonial, pelagic (open-ocean) tunicates (although the relationship is not superficially obvious, tunicates are among the closest relatives of vertebrates).

    Sort value: 999

  • 20332_88_88

    Puntius tetrazona

    Tiger Barb

    The Tiger Barb, among the most popular of aquarium fishes, is thought to be native to quiet, clear streams of the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, and Borneo, but it is also found in many other parts of Asia, and because it has been introduced broadly, its exact origin is uncertain.

    Sort value: 03.02

  • 82032_88_88

    Puffinus tenuirostris

    Short-tailed Shearwater

    Short-tailed Shearwaters breed in enormous colonies off the coast of southern Australia.

    Sort value: 999

  • 84937_88_88

    Prunus simonii


    The nectarine is a cultivated Peach variety (which includes many different cultivars within it) that produces fruits lacking the fuzzy hairs of typical peaches.

    Sort value: 11.13

  • 16237_88_88

    Prunus laurocerasus


    Unlike the Bay Laurel and California Bay Laurel, both of which are in the family Lauraceae, the widely planted (and sometimes invasive) Cherry-laurel is in the family Rosaceae.

    Sort value: 03.10

  • 46127_88_88


    African Lungfishes

    To breathe air, the lungfish’s air bladder has evolved into a “lung," a highly vascularized pocket of the digestive tract in which gulped air can be stored to oxygenate the blood that runs through this organ.

    Sort value: 999

  • 47748_88_88

    Propithecus candidus

    Silky Simpona

    The Silky Sifaka, found only in northeastern Madagascar, is a large lemur that is one of the rarest of all mammals, threatened in its limited range by both habitat destruction and hunting.

    Sort value: 03.19

  • 75411_88_88 Biota > Synechococcaceae

    Prochlorococcus S.W. Chisholm, S.L. Frankel, R. Goericke, R.J...

    These marine cyanobacteria are extremely abundant and are responsible for much of the photosynthesis in the sea.

    Sort value: 999

  • 94259_88_88

    Pristina leidyi

    Populations of this tiny and delicate freshwater worm can reach extremely high densities in the summer as a result of its rapid asexual reproduction.

    Sort value: 999

  • 27358_88_88

    Prionace glauca

    Blue Shark

    This common oceanic shark is easily identified by its beautifully colored slender body, which is a deep indigo-blue across the back grading to a vibrant blue on the sides and to white underneath.

    Sort value: 07.11

  • 76190_88_88

    Primnoa resedaeformis

    Red Trees

    These deep-sea gorgonian octocorals may live for decades or even centuries.

    Sort value: 999