Object of the Week – 30/05/13

This ghostly specimen can be found behind Banks’ cabin. What is it? (We like it a lotl)



Did you know what last week’s object of the week was?

1:60 scale model of HMB Endeavour

Well done if you recognised our model of HMB Endeavour, the famous ship commanded by Captain Cook (who was a Lieutenant at the time) that was the first European vessel to discover Australia. Our model was specially made for us by Norman Paulding, who presented it to the museum in October 2005. It took him 420 hours to make!

The actual ship was originally named The Earl of Pembroke and was bought by the Admiralty in 1768 to be converted into a vessel for scientific exploration. A new deck was fitted with extra cabins, one of which was occupied by a young Joseph Banks. In August that year it set sail for Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun. 

Research vessels like the Endeavour were small in size compared to other Navy ships. One of the benefits being that they can be hauled out of the water by the crew if any repairs are needed (no breakdown recovery service was available). This came in handy when the Endeavour was badly damaged on the Great Barrier Reef.

Object of the Week – 23/05/13

Ahoy there! Back to the usual format this week; whose stern have we caught on camera?


Did you know what last week’s object of the week was?

Heliconius Butterflies demonstrating mimicry

Well done if you correctly identified the specimen last week as a butterfly of the Genus Heliconius (the specimen shown was Heliconius charithonia). These beautiful butterflies are found in the tropics and have a characteristic shape with elongated forewings, and brilliant colour patterns of  black, red, orange, white and iridescent blue.

This group of butterflies was noticed by the explorer Henry Walter Bates who wrote the first scientific accounts of mimicry. They are an important group because they provide examples of both:

Batesian mimicry (harmless butterfly species have evolved to mimic the warning signals of poisonous Heliconius species and so avoid being eaten by predators)

Müllerian mimicry (two or more poisonous Heliconius species that live close together evolve to mimic each other’s warning signals and so reduce the number of both species that get eaten by predators)

Click here to read more about mimicry in nature.

Object of the Week – 16/05/13

The Genus this butterfly belongs to played an important part in the study of mimicry. Can you name the Genus?

Name that Genus!


Did you know what last week’s object of the week was?

Our Asian Elephant foreleg (Elephas maximus) towers over all visitors to the museum. Not surprising as the shoulder height of Asian Elephants is between 2.5 and 3 meters tall!

Asian Elephants are the largest living land animals in Asia. The males can weigh over 5.5 tons; to distribute this weight their feet have a large surface area with a tough layer of fat on the bottom to act as a shock absorber.

Asian Elephants are listed as Endangered, primarily due to habitat loss. They are also hunted for ivory.

Object of the Week – 09/05/13

Something is afoot in the museum. A very big foot. But whose is it?


Did you know what last week’s object of the week was?

Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera)

Well done if you knew the photo last week was of a Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera). We have several specimens upstairs in the museum which form part of a display on mimicry. 

The word ‘Ophrys’ is taken from the Greek word for eyebrow and ‘apifera’ refers to the bee-shaped lip of the flowers.

The Orchid visually mimics female bees and to a male bee it also feels and smells like one. Male bees try to copulate with the flowers and in doing to transfer pollen between them.