Object of the Week – 06/06/13

You may have had a close encounter with one of these recently. Do you know what it is? 

 

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

Axolotl

 

Well done if you recognised our Axolotl from the photo last week.

Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) are a critically endangered species of Salamander that are only found in one lake in Mexico.

Unlike most other amphibians they can reach maturity without undergoing metamorphosis. They retain their external gills and have the ability to regenerate limbs!

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.

Object of the Week – 25/04/13

Who has a beak like this?

 

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

Ichthyosaur head

The name Ichthyosaur translates literally as ‘fish lizard’. They were marine reptiles alive during the time of the dinosaurs, that on the outside appeared very much like a dolphin. The same streamlined shape that made the Ichthyosaurs so successful arose again in Dolphins and is an excellent example of convergent evolution.

The first complete Ichthyosaur fossil was found by 12 year old Mary Anning of Lyme Regis. She famously spent her life hunting for fossils on the coast of Dorset; she came from a poor family and the money they earned from selling fossils made up most of their income. 

Object of the Week – 18/04/13

This marine reptile has quite the stoney gaze. Do you know what it is? 

Look into my eye...

 

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

Snakeskin shoes

The photo last week was a close-up of our snakeskin shoes. It is one of many objects that were donated to the museum by the UK Border Agency.

Customs officers confiscate plants and animals that are illegally imported into the UK. These species are listed in the CITES appendices which you can search here.

Many people buy things like shoes and handbags on holiday without realising that their goods will be seized when they return home. Buying these goods means that poachers will continue to take endangered animals from the wild which could lead to their extinction.

Object of the Week – 11/04/13

You can find our object of the week on the table in Huxley’s study. Do you think you know what it is? (Hint: Image not shown to scale)

 

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

Sea mouse (Aphrodita aculeata)

 

Our photo last week was a close-up of the spines, or setae, of our sea mouse (Aphrodita aculeata). It is a marine worm in the class Polychaeta (=many bristles).

Although the sea mouse is generally brown in colour, the spines are iridescent and reflect light back in a rainbow of colours.

Scientists are studying the sea mouse because their spines are better at reflecting light than man-made optical fibres. Nature thinks of everything first! 

Click here to read more about this research.

 

Side view of the sea mouse

 

Object of the Week – 04/04/13

Our object this week is a marine animal that lives on the sea floor. On initial inspection it appears quite plain, but just wait until it catches the light …

 

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

Ostrich egg (looking a bit yellow here)

 Well done if you knew or guessed our object last week was an Ostrich egg. Ostriches (Struthio camelus) are the largest living birds on the planet and also lay the largest egg of any living bird (although it is not the largest in relation to body size).

Ostrich eggs on average are about 15cm long – you could just about hold it in one of your hands. Dominant males have a harem of females that lay their eggs together in a communal nest. There will be about twenty eggs in the nest and the male and females take it in turns to incubate them.

Easter Object of the Week – 28/03/13

This Sunday is Easter Sunday – Happy Easter to you all!

See if you know what this Easter themed object is. If it were made of chocolate it would be the largest easter egg in the world!

 

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

Rhinoceros beetle

The rather fabulous horns of this male rhinoceros beetle may look threatening, but you only need to be worried if you are another male rhinoceros beetle.

Rhinoceros beetles are in the Scarab beetle subfamily Dynastinae. Only the males have horns which they use to compete for females.

Rhinoceros beetles were featured in the BBC nature news pages last week. Click here to read the story.