Welcome zoology fans, it’s another installation of the Specimen of the Week and this time we have something I like to call the Badger bird. I call it that not because it has black and white stripes on its face (it doesn’t), but because it’s the closest the bird world has managed to get to a myopic, snuffling, nocturnal, earthworm-devouring, somewhat stinky, mammal. That’s right, it’s the
If natural selection can be summarised as “survival of the fittest”, how is it that some animals have evolved features that seem to be rather unhelpful to their survival? Deer antlers, peacock tails and babirusa tusks do not help an animal to stay alive. Darwin asked a similar question in The Origin of Species, and also came up with an answer – sexual selection.
Sexual selection is a sub-set of natural selection, where the driving force is not on the animal to survive, but instead to have the most descendants. It is the mechanism by which species evolve weapons that help them fight off rivals; ornaments that make them more attractive to the opposite sex; or behaviours that ensure sexual encounters result in more or fitter babies. One of the best examples of absurdly ornamented animals are male birds-of-paradise. (more…)
Happy Friday everybody! Today I have a slightly gross specimen of the week for you, in the form of this lovely
This Friday I have a specimen for you that I picked simply because I like it:
This is the skeleton of a white-rumped ocean-runner (a literal translation of the scientific name Oceanodroma leucorhoa), but it’s more commonly known as: (more…)
1. A Familiar Sight
(… and long may that remain so!)
You may recognise this week’s sociable and rowdy Specimen of the Week: the Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). Starlings are familiar to many Brits, and SOTW blog readers from Europe, Asia, Africa and even those in northern Australia may also recognise this tenacious bird. Despite declining numbers in recent years they remain one of the UK’s most common garden birds. Starlings are especially profuse in southern England, often being sighted in towns and city centres as well as more rural areas.
My turn to pick the Specimen of the Week came a bit late for Easter, so instead of an egg I thought I’d go for what comes afterwards…
200 weeks ago the Specimen of the Week was born, and here we are 198 specimens* later. For this auspicious occasion, I thought I should highlight one of the most important specimens in the Museum, both for historic reasons, and because it one of the things that visitors regularly ask about.
Indeed, we know it is one of the most popular objects as it scores the highest in our “filth left on the glass by visitors scale”. We agree with our visitors’ assessment, and have included it in our Top Ten Objects trail.
Sometimes a specimen can tell you a little. Sometimes it can tell you a lot. There has been much written on this blog about the perils and pitfalls of museum documentation. Sometimes there is no information with a specimen – no accession record, no acquisition information, no species name and (occasionally) no specimen. Objects get lost and misplaced. Historical records are incomplete or indecipherable. Specimen labels become separated from their object.
Alternatively, some specimens may have (dare I say it) too much information which may include multiple numbers, several differing records, erroneous taxonomic information or questionable identifications.
Caring for a collection entails many things but first and foremost is to identify the collection itself – through all possible means including the consolidation of any (and all) associated information. When luck prevails, one may find a scrap (literally) of information which ties it all together – a word or two which allows a specimen to be given a name, a record, a life!
Recently while going through the bird drawers, I came across an unaccessioned skull and mandible together with its associated information (unclear object number, outdated taxonomic name) including a small piece of paper with two words: “El Turco”. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…
Hello! It’s Will Richard here again, riding the blog flume that is Specimen of the Week. Last month I gave you an old man with a hole in his head, a family feud and the death of one of our closest cousins. Fun times… So this month I thought I’d have a look at something a little more optimistic. Something full of the promise of spring. A true story of hope, kindness and togetherness… at least that’s how I see it.
This week’s specimen of the week is…