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Oh funny things!!

Posted by Erica McAlister Jul 19, 2012

Ok so I thought that I would just take you on a little tour through the collection this week as I have just been doing management stuff and attending meetings which although is good in many ways…it makes for a slightly poor blog piece.

 

So first off we have to actually go into the collection area itself. Much has been written on the new facilities here (I say new but we have been in here for nearly three years!) and they are great for the collections but slightly dull for general viewing.

 

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However, once inside, thecabinets are packed full of entomological goodness! We often give tours around the collections so I can not give away all my favourite specimens but I am always asked which is my cutest fly or what is my best specimen so here are some of my top-tastic creatures (and not all flies although obviously they are the best!)

 

Ok so fairly high up is the Kunga Cake as although it may sound nice due to the word Cake in the title – it is actually a food source comprised of crushed insects – infact just one type of insect – a non biting midge called a chironomid. Aren’t you stomachs just rumbling at the though of eating that! Very nutritious I believe though and to be fair, whilst collecting in Scotland I do always end up eating a load of midges anyway….

 

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Next is this grasshopper holding a mouse! No one is really sure about this object. The idea of catching a carnivorous grasshopper still retaining a mouse seems a wee far fetched but hey it’s a crazy world out there…

 

It is Ornithacris pictula pictula (Walker, 1870); but was originally illustrated as ‘Cyrtacanthacris rubella’ in George Grenfell and the Congo by Sir Harry Johnston, 1908, Vol. 1, p. 233. fig. 019 and description Vol 2, p. 939. (Thank you Judith Marshall!)

 

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Here are the original descriptions so if you don’t believe me….

 

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Next comes one for historical reasons.

 

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Now, it has relatively few legs left, one wing, the body is completely greased which all adds up to a specimen that we can not identify thorough traditional morphological analysis. However, look at the label closely and you can see that it came from Valparaiso, collected by a one C. Darwin…..hopefully one day molecular techniques will enable us to determine what this specimen is…maybe it is a new species

 

Ok let’s move on to the fantastic flies

 

Number three in my list is our collection of very large wax models. We've had them of quite few years, maybe since the 1950's and ours comprise of a medically important Diptera. Sadly one of them melted due to being placed on the window ledge (before my time) and another has flown away (so to speak) but the rest are still here and looking amazing. The lady who made the wax models made them anatomically correct – even the maggots (see below). We bring them out for shows etc and will get asked if they are life size (check out the size of my finger in the picture…..)

 

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Number two was a hard one to pick as I was not sure if it should be number one. I am incredibly biased to the Robberflies being such wonderful but vicious predators - any thing that can suck the living daylights out of its prey whilst on the wing gains respect in my books!

 

So below is an image of 2 Mallophora – a beautiful genus of Robberflies alongside a very large grasshopper (Orthopteroid). Read the little label attached to the specimens……

 

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And number one – probably the one to turn your stomach so if you are a tad squeamish please stop reading!

 

Here is the specimen. As you can see it is a glass unit containing a piece of kin from a cow. Read the little piece on the front….

 

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And now here is the back

 

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You have got to love entomology and the NHM!!

Erica McAlister

Erica McAlister

Member since: Sep 3, 2009

I'm Erica McAlister, Curator of Diptera in the Entomology Department. My role involves working in the collection (I have about 30000 species to look after and over a million specimens), sometimes in the lab, and thankfully sometimes in the field.

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