Object of the Week – 25/07/13

Darwin spent eight years studying this group of animals. Do you know what this is?


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

Manuscript page on loan from College Library

Well done if you recognised the object last week was our original manuscript sheet from Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. It is one of 42 surviving sheets that make up the only handwritten original copy of the manuscript that was Darwin’s most influential work.

Our sheet was given by Darwin to Ann Thankeray Ritchie, the daughter of the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray. We know she visited Darwin in 1882 just seven days before he died.

Don’t worry if you can’t read Darwin’s handwriting because we have a translation next to it. But you’ll have to visit the museum to see it!

Object of the Week – 18/07/13

It may not look like much, but this piece of paper is one of our most treasured objects. Do you know what it is?


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

Song Thrush striking a snail against their anvil

Well done if you identified the Song Thrush from the photo last week, caught mid snack with its favourite food the brown-lipped snail (Cepaea nemoralis). There is a great variety in the colour and banding pattern on the snail’s shell, (it is highly polymorphic) and this is partly due to the feeding habits of the Thrush. 

Song Thrushes break open the shell of a snail by hitting it against a hard stone called an anvil. Thrushes are territorial and return to the same anvil, leaving the broken shells of their prey scattered nearby. This allows us to build up an accurate picture of their diet.  

Thrushes hunt by sight and select whichever snails have the least effective camouflage. This is dependent on their habitat and also the time of year. For example;,snail populations that live in woodlands with lots of dark leaves on the ground would favour snails with shells that are darkly coloured shells with lots of banding. In this way different populations of polymorphs continue to exist in their respective habitats.

Object of the Week – 11/07/13

Bonus points this week if you can name the bird shown and the species of snail!


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

Ichang Deer

Well done if you identified the skull last week as that of our Ichang Tufted Deer (Elaphodus cephalophus ichangensis). 

This deer was shot in 1904 by A. E. Leatham on the mountains near Ichang, Hupei province, China. He believed it to be a new species and so brought the animal to the Natural History Museum in London. It was determined to be a new species and named Elaphodus ichangensis.

It was later found that an identical skull had been left in the museum two years previously by a Mr F. W. Styan. Now that the scientists had the skin of the mystery animal they were able to publish a description; unfortunately for Leatham his specimen could not be used as the type specimen

Leatham chose not to leave his specimen to the Natural History Museum in London, so we are fortunate enough to be able to display it in our museum. Now it can be seen by all our visitors shortly after they arrive.

Object of the Week – 04/07/13

Alas, poor object of the week. We know you well because you’re one of the first objects encountered upon entering the Museum. What are you again?


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

Sea Turtle

Well done if you knew that last week’s object was a Sea Turtle! Did you connected the four renaissance painters with the districts in Germany that have turtles on their coat of arms? Or did you just know it was a sea turtle?

Like our snake skin shoes, this object was given to the museum by the UK Border Agency. They had confiscated it from someone entering the country that did not have the proper import license.

There are seven living species of sea turtle; we think this is a green Sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) which is classed as Endangered by the IUCN. Turtle soup made from the fat of the green turtle was once a popular dish and something of a status symbol, as it was very expensive and difficult to prepare.