Photograph by Johan Karlsson
Whether they’re searching for an animal rarity or the remnants of a lost colony, National Geographic explorers can encounter some pretty frightful things in the field. Luckily, most are armed with courage, scientific curiosity, and an appetite for adventure. Find out more about their experiences with the spooky and unusual in this gallery.
In the fall of 2012, Simon Bearder and his colleagues embarked on a quest to solve the mystery of the rarely seen but often heard nocturnal African bushbabies, or galagos, in Tanzania. Their cryptic appearance still confounds scientists' understanding of their true species. By collecting data on their structure, behavior, and genetics, Bearder hopes to settle the taxonomic status of each population. The species pictured here has distinctive concave nails and a grooming claw on the foot.
Mummy in a Blanket
Photograph by Gordon Wiltsie, National Geographic
For nearly 800 years before their conquest by the Inca, the warlike Chachapoyan culture dominated the remote forests of northern Peru. Archaeologists discovered significant clues about these cryptic warriors from the numerous cliffside tombs in which the Chachapoyans interred their mummified ancestors. Gordon Wiltsie, concerned about the widespread plundering of the tombs, requested a grant from National Geographic to secure the ancient resting places from future looters.
Photograph courtesy National Geographic Television
Emerging Explorer Lucy Cooke, self-proclaimed champion of the "underloved" animals of the world, came across this baboon skull and animal "dead bits" in a market in Johannesburg, South Africa. The market offers popular traditional medicine cures, or muthi. In muthi practices, the properties of an animal are believed to transfer to the person in possession of its remains.
"Sleeping Beauty” Mummy
Photograph by William Allard, National Geographic
Rosalia Lombardo, a two-year-old Sicilian girl who died of pneumonia in 1920, seems merely to be sleeping in her glass coffin in the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Italy. With funding from National Geographic, Dario Piombino-Mascali examined her remains and discovered the secret chemical ingredients that embalmer Alfredo Salafia used to keep the body so well preserved.
Photograph by Dino Martins
When in the field, entomologist and Emerging Explorer Dino Martins comes across some clever—and creepy—insect behavior. He found this assassin bug nymph covered with dead ants in Entebbe, Uganda. As Martins explains, "The bug kills the ants, sucks them dry, then glues their bodies to its back for camouflage."
Photograph by Beverly Joubert, National Geographic
Big cat documentary filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert work in the nighttime, following and capturing the nocturnal activities of their subjects on camera. Dereck describes their lives as "basically ... a superlong episode of CSI, something like 28 years ... We've seen over 2,000 kills by these amazing animals." In this image captured by Beverly, a lioness defends herself from an attack by a male lion.
The Jouberts need your help this Halloween season to collect coins for big cats. Trick-or-treaters can help save the big cats from extinction by collecting money for National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative.
Photograph by Justin Schuetz
Could a parasite actually help a species? In 2011, National Geographic funded Mark Hauber and a team of international researchers from Hunter College to help them find the answer. The team discovered that the impact of the exotic pin-tailed whydah, a brood parasite, on the estrildid finch in Puerto Rico includes actually improving its host's ability to invade and establish itself in new habitats.
Cry From the Past
Photograph by Ivor Noël Hume, National Geographic
This fractured skull is presumed to belong to a colonist at Wolstenholme Towne, Virginia, an unlucky place to be a 17th-century British settler. The town did not survive the massacre of 1622, a surprise attack—or, as some historians surmise, an uprising—by Powhatan Indians. Archaeologist Ivor Noel Hume researched the site extensively in the 1970s, learning a great deal about early coffin construction and the armor used by colony soldiers.