Skip navigation
You are here: Home > NaturePlus > Blogs

Blog Posts

Blog Posts

Items per page
1 2 3 4 Previous Next
0

The easy answer to that one is – lots!

 

Seriously though, this is a harder target to hit than one might think. As part of our project on Peruvian endemics, Tiina, Paul and I decided that a checklist of the species of Solanum in Peru would be something botanists here would find useful – so we set about generating this from the Solanaceae Source database. Sounds easy…

 

Solanum is one of only a handful of flowering plant genera with more than 1,000 accepted species, and applying the general rule of thumb that there are about 3 names for every accepted species (a result found by my colleagues at Kew Gardens in a paper in 2008) means we have a lot of names to look at! I have written about synonymy before, but just to recap –a species might have more than one name for various reasons:

 

  • communication in the early years of science was not so hot and botanists might not have known that the species had been described already
  • or so few specimens were available that botanists described the extremes of variation as different species and now with more collections we can see a continuous range of variation
  • or opinions can differ as to what constitutes a species!
  • or …

 

This doesn’t mean earlier botanists were wrong, it just means we need to reassess the evidence from time to time, especially as more collections are made in previously poorly collected areas.

 

This plethora of names means that without some sort of ordering and rationalization the day-to-day identification of plants for tasks such as environmental assessments or national park inventories can become inconsistent. Hence the checklist…

 

So now having generated a list from the database (and Maria Baden, our dapper driver from last year’s trip - having edited it and tidied it up!!) we are now checking the list against the entire national herbarium – species by species. It’s a big job.

 

IMG_7131_resized.jpg

Besides checking, we are adding new data points to the database, especially for common species, so we can get accurate estimates of range size and distribution in-country - here is Tiina puzzling over the VPN connection as the day begins...

 

As we go, we find that some species that appear in the list are there due to misidentifications – like Solanum aturense, a name put on a couple of collections that are really the related Solanum leucopogon – and out they go. On the other hand, new records here mean that species are added to the list – like Solanum cajanumense, that for some reason just wasn’t in there.

 

Tiina began at Z and I began at A – yesterday we met in the middle at about Solanum multifidum. Done… a complete marathon of identification, databasing and comparing – but the list is now backed up by data from the national herbarium and we have re-identified and re-curated most of the Solanum collection in this, the Peruvian national herbarium. Now I just need to look at the unidentified specimens some more and then we can move on to the next phase of the work – more tidying up … It is almost ready for publication now.

 

So how many specimens are there? We’ll count and get back on that, but as we work here there are new Peruvian species being described by other workers – so it’s a moving target. One of my goals is to find specimens in the unidentified piles that correspond to these new ones so the holotype specimen (the gold standard) can be deposited in a Peruvian herbarium – this is one important way botanists from northern institutions can help our colleagues in South America prove the value of their collections to their government sponsors.

 

Marathon over for now, tomorrow is our day for visiting the folks at the Environment Ministry to discuss our permits and to see colleagues at CIP (International Potato Center) to discuss future work on crop wild relatives. Should be a good day…

1

Author: Sue Bassett

Date: 21/02/14

 

 

With environmental awareness, survival skills and effective team processes topping the agenda, the incoming AHT winter team got stuck straight into Antarctic Field Skills training following our arrival on the ice last week. This included a couple of days out on the ice shelf (in spectacular weather, thankfully), forming teams to carry out a variety of tasks and learning or refreshing some vital skills.

 

Image 1 (Small).JPG

Getting started and discussing the design

 

After selecting appropriate layers of clothing for the minus 12-degree temperature, preparing our individual sleep kits and pitching our polar tents, we set about designing and building our kitchen in which to shelter from the breeze, light our stoves and boil water to prepare our dehydrated dinners-in-a-bag. Using saws and shovels to cut and lift ice blocks, we simultaneously created a pit and constructed walls, not forgetting some seating and a bench for cooking. Being somewhat easier than it sounds, before long our far-from-perfect but nonetheless perfectly adequate little ice-kitchen took shape.

 

Image 2 (Small).JPG

Looking good - the team relaxes in the ice-kitchen

 

In we piled, and some reasonable curries and pasta dishes (and considerably better camaraderie) were enjoyed late into the bright sunlit night.

 

Good training … good fun!

 

Image 3 (Small).JPG

N-ice work!

0

This week we have 15 new book additions covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website

0

Artist Chrystel Lebas and Museum biologist and botanist Kath Castillo are exploring the E J Salisbury collection at the Natural History Museum and Kew Gardens Archives. They hope to use Salisbury’s images of Scottish landscapes to reconstruct environmental change over the last 50 years.

 

img1.jpg

Article in the New Scientist 11 June 1959, Courtesy of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew Library & Archives.

 

Chrystel and Kath began looking for clues that could reveal more about Salisbury’s research on ecology and botany through his methods of recording data, his travel journals and field notes. Delving into the 30 boxes of Salisbury’s documents has also revealed a small collection of hand written quotations, puns and limericks.

 

The Salisbury archive at Kew Gardens is currently in the condition in which it was received and will be fully conserved when resources allow.

 

img2.jpgMuseum biologist and botanist Kath Castillo and Artist Chrystel Lebas, researching the E J Salisbury collection at Kew Gardens. Photograph by Bergit Arends, project curator.


img3.jpg

One of the notebooks found in Kew Library & Archives reveals a wealth of information including experimental data and research annotations on ecology. Courtesy of the Royal Botany Gardens Kew Library & Archives.

 

Funding from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation permitted Kath Castillo to join Chrystel on her research in Scotland. Kath, who joined the project in September 2013, provides the necessary scientific knowledge (botanical and ecological) that enables geographical and botanical determinations in the field, based on Salisbury’s recorded images in the same locations.

img4.jpgKath and Chrystel on fieldwork in Scotland, October 2013 (Photographs by Bergit Arends).

 

Kath and Chrystel began the research and comparative study in Rothiemurchus Estate, a privately owned Highland estate within the Strathspey, northeast of the river Spey, in theCairngorms National Park.

 

img5.jpg

Kath and Chrystel comparing and searching for Salisbury’s locations from his landscape images in Rothiemurchus Estate. Photograph by Bergit Arends.

 

The project engages with environmental change, particularly in the Scottish landscape, and creates new understandings of the artistic and scientific gaze onto the natural environment and its representation. The project is supported by a grant from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundationand the University of the Arts London.

 

img6.jpg

Kath holding one of E J Salisbury’s photographs against the Rothiemurchus landscape. Photograph by Bergit Arends.


img7.jpg

Above left: Kath identifying a specimen. Right: Chrystel photographing ‘Vaccinium vitis-idaea on remains of pine bole in Rothiemurchus forest’. Bottom: Chrystel recording a view of the fens at twilight.


The Salisbury collection has, until recently, remained un-catalogued and undervalued. A collaborative approach to these materials is important as the plates represent an important piece of landscape and wildlife photographic history – UK natural history and photographic history knowledge and expertise will be essential to unlock the arts and science potential of this collection.

 

The images represent a unique record of landscapes that may have changed dramatically. They are an irreplaceable piece of the scientific information that may be used to investigate environmental change, either through natural processes or the hand of man.

0

caribbean mammal.jpg

 

Ian Barnes

Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum

 

Friday 21 of February 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)


Until very recently, the Caribbean hosted one of the world’s most diverse insular land mammal faunas, with approximately 100 endemic species of rodents, insectivores, sloths and monkeys found on the major islands of the Greater Antilles. However, Caribbean mammals have experienced the most severe post-glacial extinctions of any mammal fauna, and today only 15 putative species, mostly highly threatened capromyid rodents, survive in the region. In marked contrast to other insular regions which still retain a significant component of their pre-human mammal fauna (e.g. Madagascar), there have been only limited attempts to reconstruct either the colonization history of the insular Caribbean by different mammal lineages, or inter-island patterns of Quaternary mammalian phylogeny and biogeography.

 

In order to better understand the origins and evolution of this fascinating and formerly highly diverse fauna, we have been working on the recovery and analysis of DNA from a wide range of Caribbean mammal remains. The conditions in most Caribbean Quaternary sites are however not well suited for the preservation of organic molecules, despite their relatively recent age. In this talk I will discuss our ongoing work, with a focus on our efforts to utilise next generation sequencing on this poorly preserved material.

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

0

Access to the Ornithology and Rothschild Libraries at Tring will be restricted for the months of March and April 2014. 

 

Please give a minimum two weeks notice of your intention to visit by sending us library@nhm.ac.uk or telephoning 0207 942 5460. 

 

It will not be possible to give access to rare/original material unless circumstances are exceptional.

 

Thank you

0

After a week of full-on media attention and VIP events, our Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition is open to the public. Its first few days of opening for the February school holidays has seen it bustling with visitors.

 

bill-bailey-emily-smith-vip.jpg

Comedian Bill Bailey and the Museum's Emily Smith celebrate the opening of our Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition at the VIP event last week. Bailey is one of six well-known figures to have their genetic ancestry traced for a film that features in the last part of the exhibition.

 

The exhibition is full of amazing archaeological finds, all beautifully displayed against spectacular backdrops, and here are a few pictured below you shouldn't miss.

cones-1500.jpg

Seeing is believing: they may not look like much but these cones of pine and spruce date back to more than 800,000 years ago. They're from Happisburgh on the Norfolk coast and would have greeted the first human pioneers to Britain.

 

Standing in the presence of some of Britain's earliest human remains and artefacts in our dramatic story of evolution, surrounded by the animals these early ancestors pursued for survival and the tools they used to eek out their existence, it's hard to not be awestruck.

 

neanderthal-swanscombe-skull-1500.jpg

The Swanscombe skull. This skull belongs to an early Neanderthal woman and is about 400,000 years old. She could have been the earliest Neanderthal in Britain.

 

canine-hippo-1500.jpg

Trafalgar Square jaw-droppers: a hippopotamus canine from 125,000 years ago that was uncovered in 1960. This remarkable find is displayed next to other animal fossils and specimens against a stunning backdrop of a modern-day Trafalgar Square.

 

But it's not only the ancient treasures that grab your attention. Some of the show stoppers are in fact the products of very modern humans, such as the specially commissioned models of a Neanderthal and Homo sapiens made by twin Dutch artists, the Kennis brothers, along with several ground-breaking short films made by our excellent Museum film unit. Featured footage includes the big discovery of ancient human footprints on the Norfolk coast - the oldest to have been discovered outside of Africa - and the exhibition's final film tracing the genetic ancestry of famous names like Bill Bailey and Dr Alice Roberts.

 

neanderthal-visitor-1500.jpg

The exhibition's public face: Ned the Neanderthal, so named by you in an Evening Standard competition, is undeniably an attention-grabber in the exhibition's central room. Ned stands near to the other life-size model of a Homo sapiens. Both are incredibly life-like and offer visitors the chance to compare and contrast the two species.

 

Also look out for and take hold of the touch objects in the gallery, including flints, human skull casts and more.

 

heads-casts-1500.jpg

Touch obects: compare the head casts of the four human species thought to have lived in Britain in the past million years and featured at the start of your exhibition journey.

 

We will be adding more films and a great prize draw to the exhibition website soon, so check back in the next few weeks.

 

0

Grouse1.jpg

Hein van Grouw

Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum

 

Wednesday 19 of February 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

 

Grouse are subject to three peculiarities that have caused a lot of taxonomic confusion in this group of birds in the past. These phenomena are hybridisation, sex-change plumages and colour aberrations. While these occurrences are usually rare in birds, they appear to be quite common in grouse. Up to now it is unknown why the phenomena are so frequent among these birds and if there is an evolutionary explanation. This talk presents insights into an ongoing research project on grouse specimens in natural history museums that re-analyses our knowledge of such aberrations.

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

1

From 1 December we tweeted a picture of one of our microfossil Christmas card themed slides every day until Christmas in a successful advent series. This brought our collections to a new audience and showed that reaching a wider exposure on Twitter is reliant on retweets from major players such as the Museum's main account, @NHM_London, and good timing of tweets. Other factors included the relative aesthetic beauty of some slides compared to others and may have reflected the skill of the slidemakers concerned.

 

Tweeted_christmas_slides_slide_only copy.jpg

Some of the Earland and Heron-Allen Microfossil Christmas Card images tweeted last December.

 

Despite this increased exposure of our collection we did not have an increased number of visitors, enquiries or loans, some of the more traditional key performance indicators. We reached an audience who would not normally be able to visit the Museum and if they could, would not see microfossil specimens on display. In this post I look at the question 'can Twitter actually benefit our collections?'

 

What is Twitter?

 

Not all my readers will be familiar with Twitter so here is a short summary of how it works. Users post online pictures and/or text of no more than 140 characters. Each user decides who to follow and can choose to read a feed consisting of all the messages posted by other users that they follow.

 

If someone posts a message that looks interesting, it can be flagged as a 'favourite' or be 'retweeted' and re-sent to all your own followers. Users can post replies to messages, engage in conversations or search for subjects being discussed under a particular hashtag (we used #microfossiladvent).

 

How did it work for us?

 

We had over 450 retweets for our pictures and gained 150 new followers to our feed. Before we started, we had about 450 followers to our twitter feed that we had been running for about a year. The increase in followers by 150 in less than a month was therefore significant, and the trend in the increase in our number of followers has reduced to a steady trickle since then.

 

Why were some tweets more successful than others?

 

It was immediately obvious that two main factors were responsible for enhanced interest in the pictures, firstly weekend tweets hardly ever got retweeted compared to the weekday ones. The second and most striking correlation was that pictures retweeted by @NHM_London had significantly more retweets than all the others. This feed is followed by nearly 500,000 people so this is hardly surprising.

 

Tweeted_christmas_slides_round_only copy.jpg

Three more tweeted images, all roughly the size of a thumbprint in real life. The middle one was most popular as it was retweeted 45 times and caused my phone to buzz continuously in my pocket for a couple of hours during a meeting!

 

Another issue we considered was whether some images got retweeted because they were more visually appealing than others? Half the slides tweeted were made by Arthur Earland and the other half by Edward Heron-Allen. Was one maker more adept at making pretty slides than the other and got more retweets? (For details of their relationship and more information about these slides see my post on Microfossil Christmas Cards). We found that, taking into account the issues stated above, Earland's slides were on average twice as popular as Heron-Allen's.

 

Who is our Twitter audience?

 

Usually we would make our collections available to academic enquirers who would request a visit, a loan or send an enquiry for details about the collection. Twitter has opened up a completely new audience. Some of our academic stakeholders do follow us but they are in the minority and many on our list of followers will never visit the Museum because they live too far away and even if they did, they wouldn't see any of our microfossil collection on display.

 

What has it done for our collection?

 

If you consider the traditional 'key performance indicators' (KPIs) of visitor days, numbers of specimens loaned and enquiries, then Twitter has done very little for our collection that can be measurably demonstrated. What it has done is to bring the collection out to a new audience, making it available and relevant much more widely. Has this engagement been little more than having a number of people agree that pictures of our collection are pretty? Possibly. Can this engagement actually be measured?

 

What can Twitter do for us?

 

An interesting post on the London Museums Group site by Digital Analyst Elena Villaespesa looks at quantifying the impact of Twitter on an exhibition at the Tate Modern. They have used Twitter as a communication tool to engage in conversation with visitors and research their audience. To do this they have analysed the number of comments under a certain hashtag as well as the number of visitors who participated with meaningful responses. Social media analysis software is available to help with these analyses if there is a large amount of data.

 

Another post that has caught my eye recently was by Sarah Miller who blogged on how Twitter has been used as a cultural resource outreach tool. She lists as positive outcomes for her Twitter campaign:

 

  • de-mystify what you do
  • highlight current research and events
  • open up communication
  • engage with other professionals
  • build community

 

In a previous blog I looked at the benefits of blogging about collections and showed that it has enhanced the profile of the collection in the national press, helped with its management, encouraged donations, enabled fundraising and produced research collaboration offers. Looking at our Twitter feed over the last year we can point to examples of all these 'traditional KPI related' outcomes. However, I think that with our advent Twitter campaign we have built an excellent platform for measureable future engagement. Looking at numbers of retweets we are receiving is a good sign but there is much more we can do in future by engaging in conversations with a wider audience.

 

Twitter_example.jpg

An example of an interaction that followed a #FossilFriday tweet of a specimen from our collection.

 

Whether you follow Twitter or not you can see all the messages posted by us on our NHM Micropalaeontology Twitter feed and learn more about how museums use social media by looking at the London Museums Group site (see a guest post by fellow NaturePlus blogger, Librarian Hellen Sharman).

 

If you are a Twitter follower then why not check out our contributions to #FossilFriday or keep up to date with micropalaeontology collections, research and teaching by following us @NHM_Micropalaeo.

2

Well, here I am again – back in South America and back on the hunt for Solanaceae. This time the trip will focus on tomato and potato wild relatives for the Museum’s Natural Resources Initiative - we will be collecting the plants and their associated insects to look at patterns of distribution through a variety of lenses. I have joined Tiina Särkinen from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh for a week of work in the herbarium on our massive checklist of Peruvian Solanum species before the rest of the Museum team arrives. I’ll be joined this time by

  • Mindy Syfert, who began to work with the team in September, but hasn't been in the field yet!
  • Erica McAlister (aka FlyGirl), who has been here before...
  • Dan Whitmore, another newbie to the team and to Peru.. he also does flies...

 

Our aim is the mountains of Central Peru; we will be accompanied by Paul Gonzales (who you might remember from the 2012 southern Peru trip…) whose bachelor’s thesis was done in our first target area, so we are in good hands!

 

Our aim for this field work is to collect all the insects associated with individual Solanaceae plants (concentrating on the wild relatives of tomatoes and potatoes) – this will give us a data set that can be sliced in many ways – by geography for example, are the insects the same in any given area? Or do they differ between species in a locality? Is locality more important than host plant?

 

Or maybe the evolutionary relatedness of the plants influences the insect community – are close relatives hosting similar insect communities? I am sure you can think of more questions, as I am sure we will once in the field.

 

Meanwhile, however, I am in Lima with Tiina, working hard in the herbarium on compiling an updated list of all the Solanum species that occur in Peru. Yesterday I went through all the unidentified specimens and thankfully managed to identify many if not most, so we are getting there! Tomorrow we start at opposite ends of the alphabet and work through the list to the middle, checking distributions against the collections in the herbarium to be sure we have not missed anything. Oh, and we will certainly be writing a few new species descriptions and making some decisions about what to call the new species we have found… more about that tomorrow.

 

Today though is Sunday and a day for visiting old friends. It is autumn in Lima and the sun is out and skies are clear, so after a great lunch with my old friends Blanca León and Ken Young of the University of Texas who live in Peru part-time (Ken is on sabbatical now and is fortunate to be living here full time for the moment!) and Asunción Cano of the Floristics section of the Peruvian national herbarium, a walk on the cliffs over the Pacific seemed a good idea.

IMG_7122_resized.jpg

Ken, Blanca and Asuncion on the cliff tops with the blue Pacific behind!

 

This area is called Miraflores and is growing fast – particularly with high rise apartment buildings. A few old houses remain though, nestled amongst the towers...

 

IMG_7129_resized.jpg

The land is so valuable that few old houses remain - the tower block on the left is unfinished - the contractor ran out of money... Sometimes the owners of these lovely old houses sell and then get a flat in the new block.

 

The cliffs down to the Pacific from this part of Lima are precipitous; at the bottom is a shingle “beach” – but the sea is full of people, all beginning surfers learning to ride the beautiful long waves that crash on this shore. When I lived in Peru many years ago, this seafront was not a very salubrious place to be, but it is now totally transformed – a cliff-top park full of families and people out strolling in the sunshine. What better way to pass a Sunday afternoon!

 

IMG_7124_resized.jpg

Lots of surfers in the sea, a shingle beach and cormorants on a lamp post - I could be in England but for the blue of the sea and the warmth of the sun...

0

In my ongoing quest to uncover the most fascinating and curious specimens and stories from behind the scenes at the Museum, I recently came across this lovely tale that I think epitomises the inquisitiveness, perseverance and patience that it takes to be a good scientist. Let me recount it for you:

 

In 1973 Dr Peter Whitehead, head of marine fishes at the Museum, began a personal quest that would soon take on international (and interdisciplinary) significance.

 

Whitehead, an expert in clupeids - herrings, anchovies and their numerous relatives - was attempting to track down the original painting of a fish called a piquitinga. The painting was used as the basis for a woodcut that accompanied a description of the species by the naturalist Georg Marcgraf in Historia naturalis Brasiliae in 1648. Marcgraf's brief Latin description and poor quality woodcut was then used by Carl Linnaeus and later taxonomists, who variously identified it as a herring or as an anchovy.

 

piquitinga_woodcut_700.jpg

The woodcut of piquitinga from Marcgraf's Historia naturalis Brasiliae (1648). Detail was lost from the original painting when the book illustrations were made.

 

 

Whitehead was determined to get to the bottom of the classification once and for all. He knew that Marcgraf's original paintings were part of a collection known as Theatri rerum naturalium Brasiliae given to Friedrich Wilhelm, Elector of Brandenburg, in 1652. The Elector's library formed the basis of the subsequent Royal Library, which later became the Prussian State Library in Berlin.

 

During the Second World War, allied bombing made Berlin unsafe, so hundreds of boxes of material were removed from the library and allegedly sent to a Benedictine monastery in Silesia called Grüssau. And that's where the trail went cold.

 

The materials were not returned to Berlin after the war, and the monastery (now known as Krzeszów) nor the major libraries in Poland knew anything of their whereabouts.

 

Whitehead admitted that 'the search took on something of an obsession'. Indeed, there are two bulging folders in the Museum's archives - known as the Grüssau file - filled with reams of correspondence relating to the matter.

 

During his years of detective work Whitehead discovered that as well as the natural history artworks he was looking for, the Prussian State Library had also held many important musical manuscripts by artists including Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and Mendelssohn. These too were evacuated during the war and had not been seen since. He said:

For a year or more I was quite unaware that I had joined one of the biggest and hitherto more frustrating searches for treasures lost during the last war.

Whitehead called on the Polish Ministry of Culture to help, and despite an 'immediate search of all Polish libraries', nothing was found. Undeterred, he 'redoubled his efforts' and began contacting Polish libraries himself.

 

The breakthrough came in March 1977 with a 'matter-of-fact' letter from Jan Pirozynski at the Jagiellon Library in Krakow: 'I am very glad to be able to tell you that the problem of the lost manuscripts has been cleared up. I have been authorised to tell you that the manuscripts exist... I hope this will be satisfactory to you for this moment'. Understandably, Whitehead was 'absolutely delighted' to hear of the 'miracle'.

It was not until September 1979 that I was able to visit the Jagiellon Library. A trolley was wheeled in bearing seven large volumes. Lifting one of the Theatri, the librarian opened it at a marked page: "There!" he said with a flourish, "There is your piquitinga!" It was a magnificent oil painting and immediately resolved all doubts - it was the small herring Lile piquitinga.

piquitinga_painting_700.jpg

The oil painting of piquitinga from Theatri rerum naturalium Brasiliae, vol 1, p161. Remarkable for its realism, it immediately proved that Marcgraf's fish was the herring Lile piquitinga.

 

 

Also contained among the many boxes Whitehead was responsible for tracking down were original scores, in whole or in part, of Beethoven's 7th, 8th and 9th symphonies and his 3rd piano concerto; Mendelssohn's violin concerto and incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream; various Bach cantatas; and Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, Marriage of Figaro, and more than 90 other pieces which represented nearly a quarter of all his works known to survive in manuscript.

 

So that is where Brazilian fish and brilliant composers meet - in boxes in a Polish library, undiscovered for more than a generation.

That Marriage of Figaro, Cosi fan tutte, Beethoven's 9th and piquitinga should reappear after almost 40 years in wooden crates was unbelievable.

1

While some of us are head down searching for first flowers, others are alert to life higher up: Wildlife gardener, Daniel Osborne, who often spots some of the Wildlife Garden's less common sightings shares his winter observations:

 

“For those prepared to venture out in the cold, observing birds in winter has a charm all its own. While many of the enigmatic summer species will have migrated south, and none of the spring breeding displays or nesting behaviour will be in evidence, birds in winter are no less engaging.

 

There are still many species around. Blackbirds, robins, finches (including colourful flocks of goldfinches), tits, wrens, dunnocks and many corvids are common in gardens throughout winter. They are more or less non-migratory, but movement within these species does occur - from the colder north, and even from the countryside into cities.

 

1 - 33[1] robin (Custom).JPG  

One of our resident robins (Erithacus rubecula)

© Mark Humphries

 

Some species, such as fieldfares and redwings, are encountered only in winter when they leave their summer breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Siberia. Redwings have been recorded in the Garden this year, as in previous years, and a pair of mistle thrush have chosen to make the Garden their home this winter, as reported in our December post.

 

2 - NaturalHistoryMuseum_PictureLibrary_045435_IA[1] (Custom).JPG

Redwing (Turdus iliacus) have been spotted in the Garden during the past month
© Phil Hurst

 

Due to the scarcity of food, many different species will flock together in winter feeding parties. Excellent viewing opportunities are afforded by the absence of foliage on the deciduous trees.

 

3 - Great tit 270209 08 (Custom).jpg

A great tit (Parus major) in the Wildlife Garden

© Derek Adams

 

And birds are increasingly willing to visit garden bird feeders.

 

New%20Image%20greenfinch%20and%20bluetit%20on%20feeder%202004_JJ[1] (Custom).JPG
European greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) and blue tit (Parus caeruleus) on our garden bird feeder

© Derek Adams

 

5 New Image bridfeeder moorhen 2004 (Custom).JPG

Our resident moorhens (Gallinula chloropis) ensure nothing is left to waste below the feeders...

© Derek Adams

 

5B - 101[1] moorhen (Custom).JPG

... Though some can get left behind.

© Mark Humphries

 

 

The feeders in the Garden are usually in regular need of refilling during the winter months, although not too much this winter so far. The relatively mild temperatures appear to be offering a continued availability of natural food, and it is interesting to note that the blackbirds only recently started feeding on the rowan berries that they usually pluck in August with precise bursts of hummingbird-like hovering.

 

6 - _DSF4489 (2) (Custom) blackbird on rowan in summer.JPG

Blackbirds (Turdus merula) feed off rowan berries most summers ... but not last summer

© Derek Adams

 

Blackbirds are seen frequently at all times of year in the Garden. They are common, and easily identified, the males a uniform black with a bright orange bill and eye, the females a diffuse brown as seen above and further below.

 

7 - 28 Black bird[1] (Custom).JPG

Male blackbird in the Wildlife Garden
© Mark Humphries

 

They have the habit of cackling noisily when they take off and slowly bringing their tails up to the vertical when they land, making them identifiable even at distance.

 

8 New Image female blackbird (Custom).JPG

Female blackbird
© Derek Adams

 

The males are territorial and will often proclaim their territory from the same branch. It's my estimate that the Garden is the site of at least three different male blackbird territories. One male has a spot in the apple tree in the orchard area from which he can regularly be heard singing. At this time of year they will be re-establishing their territories and, like all birds, looking for enough food to survive.

 

Winter is undoubtedly a time of great hardship for birds. Severe or extended cold has disastrous effects on bird numbers. But it can also be a time of unrivaled avian spectacle. Starling murmurations are among the most celebrated natural phenomena and reach a peak during winter, when the birds roost most communally.

 

9 - NaturalHistoryMuseum_PictureLibrary_047242_IA (Custom).jpg

Common starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - sadly uncommon in the Wildlife Garden - our last sighting was in 2009

© Tim Munsey

 

Some parts of Britain entertain huge influxes of swans and geese. Waders and wildfowl flock in huge numbers on the coastlines. And for me, in London, there is always the hope of seeing, in my opinion, the most beautiful of birds, waxwings.”

 

Thank you Daniel!

 

Waxwing%208%20%20002[1] (Custom).JPG

A waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) - one that is definitely on our Garden wish-list!

© Phil Hurst 

 

We'll be sharing more of our bird sightings with you later in the year

Caroline

0

It has been a while since I last posted about our Moroccan adventure last year, (please excuse me) I've been rather busy in the collections and hosting students and researchers. I will bring you up to speed with some of that in later blogs!

 

Back to Morocco! We had been in Morocco for several days now and were loving every minute of it. Myself and Zoe will both be blogging about our trip to Goulmima as we both had strong interests in the area and the fauna. See Zoe's blog for her view of the day!

 

The day started off by looking around a fossil and mineral shop/museum which was attached to the hotel where we were staying. They had lots of great things and some great casts, if only I had enough room at home to have a Triceratops skull in my living room!

 

Tri SKull.jpg

Triceratops skull (reconstruction).

 

fishshop.jpg

Some fish from Morocco available to buy in the fossil shop.

 

After we had left the museum we were on the road again. Everyday we were travelling to different localities and seeing something new. It was great to see so much of the Moroccan landscape, it was amazing. The geology and landscapes which we were driving through changed everyday.

Me &Zoe Goul.jpg

Myself and Zoe ready for the day ahead!

 

Drive1Goul.jpg

Driving to Goulmima.

 

Drive2Goul.jpg

Just one of the many pictures I have of the Moroccan landscape.

 

Zoe was definitely the most excited about the trip to Goulmima as you get lovely ammonites from there. I was also interested in going there as amongst the ammonites you get fish in calcareous nodules and I knew we had nothing from that area in the collections so I was intrigued to find out more about the site and what we could find.


We stopped at a few sites on our drive but we didn't find any vertebrate material. Our team found some invertebrate material, bits of shells and ammonites, so after a while we moved onto another site.

 

Me Asfla1.jpg

Me at the Asfla 1 site. It was a steep climb to the top of the hill behind me!

 

The next site, Asfla 2, proved to be more fruitful. We discovered partial pieces of ammonite and Plesiosaur bones, but still no fish. Althought they were only scrappy bits of Plesiosaur we still collected them as they will be useful in the handling collections and in the Angela Marmont Centre (where you can bring fossils to have them identified) in the Museum.

 

Mark Asfla2.jpg

Mark at Asfla 2 site, trying to sniff out some Plesiosaurs!

 

Our last stop was a village settlement where most of the residents make a living out of fossil hunting, particularly from Goulmima. The rocks here are Cretaceous in age - about 90 million years old. Here were were taken by our local guide and shown some amazing specimens. What particularly caught the eye of TEAM FISH were the famous fish in nodules to be found in Goulmima!

 

These fish are called Goulmimichthys and are part of the class of fish commonly known as ray-finned fish (you can still find ray-finned fish swimming in the seas today e.g. cod). These fish are elongate and had numerous small spiny teeth. Some of the specimens we saw even had some soft tissue preservation, which is amazing. It is very rare you get soft tissue (muscles, skin etc.) fossilised, as it is usually eaten by predators or rots away very quickly after the animal dies.

 

Goulmimichthys looks very similar to fish (Rhacolepis in particular) that are found in the Santana Formation in Brazil. There has not been a huge amount of research done on Goulmimichthys and because we do not have any fish material from that area in Morocco in the collection we decided to purchase all of the specimens that` you can see in the picture below. The other flatter fish you can see are Ichthyodectes, which had a large mouth with pointed teeth. It was a fast swimming predator at this time.


I am actually going to start doing a research project on these fish which I am quite excited about. We are going to have the specimens CT scanned. This is a powerful machine which allows us to look inside the nodules (similar to an x-ray) instead of cutting the nodules (and the fossil) in half. I have not done this before so I am looking forward to learning new skills. Hopefully by doing this we can better understand how Goulmimichthys relates to other fish like Rhacolepis  from Brazil.

 

morocco-resize-feb14.jpgTEAM FISH: David Ward, Martha Richter, Zerina Johanson and myself.


morocco-resize2-feb14.jpg

Fossil fish mostly in nodules collected from Goulmima. This picture does not do them justice, they are more beautiful when you see them for real!

 

We did very well visiting the local collectors and seeing what they had. We gained many new specimens for the Museum's collections and made some good contacts with the local collectors.

 

From here we headed to our next hotel and packaged up our specimens to be shipped back to the UK.

 

My next blog about Morocco will be a guest one from our ore curator who was with us talking about pretty pink minerals!

0

Gallicolumba-luzonica,-luzon-bleeding-heart-and-another-dove_011477_Comp.jpg

 

Love flows from our bookshelves........ (examples from our book collection)

 

Birds Britannia : how the British fell in love with birds

 

Darwin : for the love of science

 

For love of birds : the story of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, 1889-1988

 

For the love of animals : true stories from the famous

 

For the love of bees : the story of Brother Adam of Buckfast Abbey

 

"For the love of gardens" : a biography of H.B. & L.A. Dunington-Grubb

 

 

 

Hug the bug : for love of true bugs

 

In a desert garden : love and death among the insects

 

Incoming! or, Why we should stop worrying and learn to love the meteorite

 

The infested mind : why humans fear, loathe, and love insects

 

The life and love of the Insect

 

Life, love, and reptiles : an autobiography of Sherman A. Minton, Jr., M.D

 

The lost history of the canine race : our 15,000-yearlove affair with dogs

 

A love affair with birds : the life of Thomas Sadler Roberts

 

Love among the butterflies : the travels and adventures of a Victorian Lady


Love, labour & loss : 300 years of British livestock farming in art


The love of elephants

 

The love of Nature among the Romans during the later decades of the Republic and the first century of the Empire.

 

The love of roses : from myth to modern culture

 

Love, war & circuses : the age old relationship between elephants and humans

 

My love must wait : the story of Matthew Flinders


An obsession with butterflies : our long love affair with a singular insect

 

Orchid fever : a horticultural tale of love, lust and lunacy

 

The poetical language of flowers; or, the pilgrimage of love.

 

The ten trusts : what we must do to care for the animals we love

 

Under water to get out of the rain : a love affair with the sea

 

Wild love affair : essence of Florida's native orchids

 

 

To learn more about our collections please visit the Library & Archives home page where you will find both our online Library and Archive catalogues as well as our art themed pages.

 

The image used above is a watercolour from the John Reeves Collection of Zoological Drawings from Canton, 'Gallicolumba luzonica, luzon bleeding-heart and another dove' large Series plate 32, and is available via the NHM Picture Library site.

 

Learn more about John Reeves and his collection.

0

So Last week I performed a HUGE 9 minute set for a Museums show off. People from all over the museums and libraries sector come and present a skit on something about their work or their museum. Now I choose to highlight the wonderful creatures that are maggots. They are all over my desk, I get sent them in the post, yesterday I, alongside a colleague, were hunting for them in the wildlife garden, I was rearing them from poo in the towers – in fact, maggots are very dominating in my job. And quite rightly so.

 

So I thought that I would convert that into a blog about these fantastic things and why the collections and the staff at the Natural History Museum are so important with maggot research! I have briefly touched upon maggots before but i thought that I would go into some more detail.

 

 

Let’s first clarify what a maggot is. The term maggot is not really a technical term and if you type in ‘what is a maggot’ on Google you get this!

 

maggot definition.jpg

 

To this date I have never heard someone describe something they yearn for as a maggot but who can say what will happen tomorrow with language fashions.

 

The maggot is a juvenile or, as I prefer to call it, the immature stage of a fly. These vary in form across the order from the primitive groups of flies (Nematocerans) to the more advanced groups (Brachycerans). The primitive groups have a more defined form in having a distinct head capsule with chewing mouthparts and we refer to these as Culiciform (gnat shaped).

 

mossi larvae.jpg A mosquito larva which is culiform (gnat shaped).

 

Those more advanced flies whose larvae are without a head capsule and mouth parts that have just been reduced to hooks are called Vermiform (literally meaning worm shaped); and it is the later group that we generally call maggots!

 

blowfly maggots.jpgA slightly more informative picture of some Vermiform larvae - the maggots of a blowfly.

 

We can label describe these head capsules further into three types;

  • Eucephalic (distinct capsule and mandibles)
  • Hemicephalic (incomplete capsule and partly retractable mandibles)
  • Acephalic (no distinct capsule with mouthparts forming a cephalopharyngeal skeleton)

 

trichoceridae larvae c Matt Bertone.jpgA trichoceridae larvae (eucephalic) © Matt Bertone.

 

 

dipteraathericidae hemicephalic.jpgAn Atherceridae larvae (Hemicephalic).

 

muscinastabulans_t2.jpg

And a housefly maggot (Acephalic larvae).

 

 

However for the purpose of this blog I will use the term maggots to include all Dipteran Larvae as there are some very important (and incredibly attractive) larvae from some of the more primitive groups. And they differ from most other insect larvae by the lack of jointed legs on their thorax. Beetles larvae are grubs, Butterflies and moths are caterpillars, bugs just have mini-versions of the adults, but they all have jointed limbs.

 

tipulidae drawings.jpgAbove are some of the more incredible images of a cranefly larva. But these are not the heads of the cranefly larvae but rather their anal or posterior spiracles (breathing tubes). Anytime I need cheering up I flick through images of posterior spiracles.

 

cranefly-larvae-resize-12feb14.jpgMost people just view the larvae from either above or parallel but these are from bottom on! (these above diagrams are from the brilliant book by Kenneth Smith on Identification of British Insects) but as you can see some of the more interesting features are from this angle.

 

These spiracles form part of a breathing system that enables the maggot to breathe whilst feeding. These vary across the fly group with there being 7 different set ups of the spiracles.

maggot-spiracles--resize-12feb14.jpgLocation of spiracles on the body of a maggot, shown with dots and circles.

 

The above diagram from top left to bottom middle shows (by dots and circles) where the spiracles are on the body. Some systems are very common such as the amphinuestic set up being found in most Diptera whilst others are very specialised such as the proneustic systems (only found in some fungus gnats). Some of them have taken their spiracle and run with it (as it were). Check out the rat-tailed maggot below (larvae of a hoverfly).

 

rat tailed maggot.jpg

Rat-tailed maggot (larvae of a hoverfly).

 

The mouth can concentrate on ingesting food solidly – just imagine 24/7 eating. Now the maggot stage is the one designed for eating. I often wonder what it would be like to have the lifestyle of a fly – born, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat, mate, die…..and therefore they don’t have to have all of the equipment of the adult.

 

As I have already mentioned the larvae of Diptera do not have legs as other groups do such as the moths or the ants. This is because they are highly specialised examples of precocious larvae i.e. examples of very early hatching. And this is what arguably has lead to the most diverse range of habitat exploitation of all insects. They are plastic; they can squeeze themselves into tiny holes and between surfaces and therefore take advantage of so many different food sources.

 

In the wonderful book by Harold Oldroyd – The Natural History of flies - there is a sentence that states that the larva and adult are more different from each other than many Orders of Insects. And so in many ways with many species you could argue that flies fit two lifetimes into one as they are often completely different, both in form but also in diet and habitat.

 

Maggoty enquiries

 

The Diptera team have been talking maggots a lot recently. One of us, Nigel Wyatt, is something of an expert already on most things maggoty, working on most commercial, consultancy and public queries relating to maggots.

 

I had one recently from a friend of mine. She is a vet and one of her colleagues works with Police Dogs. Her colleague was a little confused and concerned about a maggot that was defecated by one of the dogs as she had not seen one so large before. My friend immediately thought of me and sent it to the Museum in a little tube of alcohol. Despite the alcohol it was quite fragrant by the time it arrived on my desk but it was easily identifiable as a cranefly larvae. Now cranefly larvae are incredibly versatile in terms of their habitat – they live in moss, swamps, ponds, decaying wood, streams and soil but as I far as I know the inside of a dogs alimentary canal is not a known habitat. They consume algae, microflora, and living or decomposing plant matter, including wood and some are predatory but parasites they are not. This one had miraculously come through the entire digestive tract of a dog without being destroyed. No harm done except to ones nasal cavities.

 

However, cranefly larvae or leatherjackets as they are sometimes called have caused some problems to lawns due to them consuming grass roots. Wikipedia – the great font of scientific knowledge cites from Ward’s Cricket's Strangest Matches ‘In 1935, Lord's Cricket Ground in London was among venues affected by leatherjackets. Several thousand were collected by ground staff and burned, because they caused bald patches on the wicket and the pitch took unaccustomed spin for much of the season.’

 

Apart from the staff who help with identifications we are helping further with outreach by helping with development of a new, hotly awaited book on British Craneflies. Alan Stubbs (not the retired footballer but the rather more impressive Dipterist and all round Natural History Good Egg) and John Krammer (retired teacher and superb Cranefly specialist) have been working on this fantastic tome for a while now and we have all been trying and re-trying the keys to ensure that they work. Preparations of gentailia, wings and larvae have been undertaken at the Museum on both Museum specimens and ones donated by John, and images and drawings of these been done. Carim Nahaboo has been drafted in for some of the drawings so expect great things.

fly-artwork-resize-12feb14.jpg

This is an adult Dolichopodidae but it is a fine example of Carim Nahaboo's artwork.

 

Flies and their offspring have a terrible reputation. People are disgusted by most of them. However, they are essential both for our health and habitat but also for telling us what is happening.

 

Dr Steve Brooks and his group at the Museum work on Chironomidae (non-biting midges), and more specifically the immature stages – their larvae. Chironomid larvae are quite primitive and as such have a complete head capsule which is … as the larval stages develop they shed their head capsules and grow new ones, and these discarded ones can be used to determine the environmental conditions of the habitat both now and in the past as well as monitoring heavy metals.

 

hgrimshawi-48125-1.JPG Head capsule of a chironomid, which can be used to determine past environmental conditions.

 

I first came to the Museum as a professional grown up thanks to Steve as I was conducting a study using Chironomids as indicators of environmental health as they are fantastic bioindicators. Many Chironomid species can tolerate very anoxic environments as they, unlike most insects, have a haemoglobin analog which is able to absorb a greater amount of oxygen from the surrounding water body. This often gives the larvae a deep red colour which is why they are often called blood worms. Although slightly fiddly as you have to dissolve the body in acid, the use of head capsules for identification (image above) is fairly straight forward. The little crown like structures that you can see are actually rows of teeth and these are very good diagnostic features. Steve has worked for a long time on the taxonomy of these species and his (and his groups) expertise has been used globally.

So as well as looking funky we can use them to tell us many things about the world of today and yesterday. More on maggots in the future.

2

Author: Meg Absolon

Date: 11/02/13

 

 

What an exciting week it's been for AHT on the ice! A shift change has brought four fresh conservators to Scott Base for the winter-over season and a much anticipated home-coming for the summer conservators and carpenters. For a short time we’ve been a group of nine AHT staff at Scott Base.

Photo 1 (Small).jpg

Sue, Sefanie, Aline and Meg after fuel refill, Invercargill

 

The 2014 winter-over team consists of Lead Conservator Sue Bassett (AUS), Stefanie White (IRE), Aline Leclercq (FRA) and Meg Absolon (AUS). Following a whirlwind of introductions, inductions and field skills training we're all excited and ready to unpack artefacts from Scott's Discovery Hut for conservation treatment. And just to top off a fabulous first week in Antarctica, a pod of Orcas swam past the dining room at dinner time. Thanks for the welcome!

 

Photo 2 (Small).jpg

Aline, Stefanie, Meg and Sue just landed

0

She's 400,000 years old and her faceless skull is now mounted in an elegant display case in readiness for the Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition opening at the Museum on 13 February.

 

neanderthal-skull-piecies-black-1500.jpg

Could this 400,000-year-old skull, belonging to an early Neanderthal woman, be one of the first Neanderthals in Britain? The skull is one of more than 120 specimens and objects on show in the Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition.

 

The early Neanderthal woman's skull was found in Swanscombe, Kent and, despite its age, it reveals a great deal. Her brain left its mark on the surrounding bone. Faint impressions of folds and blood vessels show it was a similar size as a human's brain today.

 

Neaderthal-skull--reviese-1500.jpg

The back of the Swanscombe skull has characteristic Neanderthal features, including a small pit where the neck muscles attached to the skull.

 

You'll see this striking specimen assembled as one exhibit in the exhibition, but look closely and you'll discover it actually comprises three parts.

 

Observing Museum curator, Rob Kruszynski, steadily hold the three skull pieces together at a recent photo shoot we attended, I listened intently as he recounted how remarkably well they fit together. Especially when you consider that they were found at different times in Swanscombe.

 

neanderthal-skull-pieces-1500.jpg

The central skull section (occipital) was found in June 1935 in Swanscombe, Kent, by a local dentist A. T. Marston. The left part (parietal) was found at Swanscombe in March 1936 also by Marston. And the right parietal was found years later in 1955, by archaeologists J. Wymer and A. Gibson. Select images to enlarge.

 

Being so close to this ancient woman's skull and watching Rob handle it so carefully, I found myself wondering who she was and what her life must have been like? Did she die alone or with her family around her? We don't know as much as we would like about Neanderthal lifestyles because nothing was written down, but we do know that they sometimes buried their dead, that it's likely they did have some form of communication and that they lived together in family groups.

 

neanderthal-wioman-graphic.jpg

This graphic reconstruction of a Neanderthal woman model appears in the exhibition. © PS Plailly/E Daynes/Science Photo Library

 

'There is analysis going on now on a large family group of possibly 12 Neanderthal individuals discovered in a cave site near to El Sidrón in Spain's Asturias,' Rob tells me. 'All had been cannibalised. And evidence suggests there were six adults (three males and one female), three adolescents between 12 and 15 years of age, two juveniles between five and nine years of age, and one infant, and that they were related.

 

'As of 2012, over 1,800 Neanderthal fossil remains and 400 tools have been recovered at El Sidrón, making it one of the largest collections of Neanderthal fossils in Europe to date.'

 

These El Sidrón finds are nowhere near as old as our Swanscombe skull, as they only date back to about 42,000 to 50,000 years, but they have been invaluable in revealing the Neanderthal's own story.

 

Our scientists and archaeologists continue to unravel more about our prehistoric ancestors with such amazing discoveries about the men, women, children, animals and objects they uncover and analyse.

 

0

Tibet plateau.bmp(Image from Wikipedia)

 

Robert Angus

Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum

 

Friday 14 February 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

 

This is an illustrated account of my travels on the north-eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau in June 2013. The extent of the Plateau is shown with its division into the various Chinese provinces, including the Xizang Autonomous Region. My objective was to collect and do research on various beetles, and this was fundamental to the design of the trip.  Some of the research will be discussed in a future seminar. This one is to illustrate the landscape and the sheer fun of it.

 

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

0

Lichen Sri Lanka.jpg

 

 

Gothamie Weerakoon

Department of Botany, University of Sri Jayawardenapura, Sri Lanka

 

Wednesday 12 February 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)


Corticolous lichen species are identified as indicators of disturbance for seven vegetation types in central mountains of Sri Lanka (four disturbed, and three undisturbed matched by habitat). Ordination of lichen communities (six sites / type for 42 sites) showed distinct species composition in the vegetation types. Disturbed and undisturbed sites differ; undisturbed sites have higher species richness of both trees and lichens. Canopy cover, bark pH, distance to an undisturbed site, and years since disturbance, were all correlated with a disturbance gradient. Indicator species analysis (ISA) was performed on three different sets of site groups: seven vegetation types, three groups of sites with different disturbance levels, and two groups of sites near to vs. far from an undisturbed site. Twenty species were strong indicators of undisturbed sites from all three ISA analyses; three species indicate moderately disturbed sites; five species indicate very disturbed sites. Six additional species were weaker indicators of disturbance level. Thirty-four species were strong indicators for a single vegetation type. Most indicators of disturbance level are visually distinct. Parataxonomists could be trained to identify them in the field; these will be the most useful indicators for land managers.

 

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

0

Tien Shan 2.jpg(Image from Wikipedia)

 

Dmitry Konopelko

Geological Faculty Saint Petersburg State University, Russia

 

 

Tuesday 11 February - 4.00 pm
EARTH SCIENCES SEMINAR ROOM

 

The presented results are part of a bigger project on Hercynian post-collisional magmatism in the Tien Shan carried out during the last two decades. Results are presented for two vast terranes of the Tien Shan which previously were inaccessible due to their remoteness or political reasons: the whole Tajik part of Tien Shan and the Alai ridge in Kyrgyzstan. In both areas the main types of granites and alkaline rocks including carbonatites were sampled. In Tajikistan special attention was paid to subduction-related granitoids that were studied for comparison with arc magmatism elsewhere in Tien Shan.


Four samples of subduction-related granites from the Gissar ridge in Tajikistan yield ages showing active subduction under Gissar block that continues from 321 to 300 Ma. This is similar to ages of subduction-related granites in the Middle Tien Shan terrane in Uzbekistan (315-300 Ma). The ages of 17 post-collisional intrusions including alkaline rocks and carbonatites in both terranes are in the range from 300 to 274 Ma. Some of the alkaline complexes have slightly younger ages but none formed in post-Permian time as shown on some regional geological maps. Post-collisional rocks of the Alai ridge have crustal isotopic Pb-Sr-Nd compositions supporting suggestion that the basement of the Alai segment comprises a Precambrian micro-continent. Similar crustal signatures were previously reported for other terranes of the Tien Shan in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.


The features of the post-collisional intrusions in Tajik Tien Shan and Kyrgyz Alai ridge match well the general characteristics of the post-collisional magmatism in Tien Shan: (1) Early Permian Hercynian post-collisional magmatism culminated after the closure of the Paleo-Turkestan ocean and affected the whole region across terrane boundaries, (2) The majority of post-collisional intrusions were emplaced within a relatively short time span between 295 and 280 Ma, (3) Ages of intrusions emplaced syn-kinematically into the regional shear zones, and ages of alkaline intrusions indicating regional extension also match the 295-280 time span, (4) Similar ages were reported for the major orogenic gold deposits in the Tien Shan, (5) The post-collisional intrusions are geochemically diverse and their volume varies from one terrane to the other. This suggests different scenarios of post-collisional development in various terranes of the Tien Shan.

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

0

This week we have 32 new book additions covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website

0

Author: Josiah Wagener

Date: 05/02/14

Temperature: -2C

Sunrise: None. It's up all the time

Sunset: 20 February 2014

 


This summer I spent several days conserving the Fleuss vacuum pump found on the bench in the science corner of the Cape Evans hut. This is a hand powered single cylinder vacuum pump made of cast iron and cast brass.
Pump before treatment (Small).JPG

Fleuss vacuum pump before treatment © AHT/Josiah Wagener


The pump would most likely have been used for drawing a vacuum in a bell jar in order to run chemical experiments at 0 pressure, or to draw chemicals through a filter system for experiments. It was made by the Pulsometer Engineering Co. of Reading, England, from a design patented by Henri Fleuss who was famous for inventing self contained diving apparatus in the late 19th century. He called this model the Geryk after the German scientist who invented the general style of vacuum pump in the 17th century.
Makers plate (Small).JPG

Makers plate © AHT/Josiah Wagener

 


The pump was heavily corroded, having been exposed to over a century of high humidity and regular freeze/thaw cycles. Most of the ironwork had been painted black at one time and part of the vacuum bulb and the pump cylinder had been painted red, however, only flaking traces of the paint remained.
Pump after treatment (Small).JPG

Fleuss vacuum pump after treatment © AHT/Josiah Wagener

 

Remnants of mercury in the bottom of the bulb and the valve chamber of the pump has resulted in chemical degradation amalgamation leaving some of the metal porous and crumbly. We are unsure of the purpose of the mercury, and would be interested in any knowledge our readers can give us as to its purpose within the pump.


One unfortunate side effect of contact with mercury is that the solder and brass of the vacuum bulb has become very fragile and has cracked around the base.
Cracked bulb (Small).JPG

Cracked bulb © AHT/Josiah Wagener


To conserve the item, the rust was reduced with hand tools and abrasive pads then the remaining rust was converted with a tannic acid solution. The resulting dark surface was coated first with acrylic lacquer and then with microcrystalline wax. A brass rod splint was fashioned to hold the cracked bulb in place.


The treated pump will resume its place on the end of the science bench, now stable and protected for many more years.
Pump on workbench (Small).JPG

Fleuss vacuum pump on workbench © AHT/Josiah Wagener

0

seaweed.jpg

 


Juliet Brodie and Jo Wilbraham: Department of Life Sciences, NHM

 

Friday 7 February 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)


The seashores and shallow seas around Britain support an important component of UK biodiversity with over 650 species of red, green and brown seaweeds which represent c. 7% of the described seaweed flora of the world.  However, over 55% are Data Deficient according to IUCN criteria, there is increasing evidence that large brown habitat-forming seaweeds (kelps and fucoids) are disappearing, and invasive seaweeds species are increasing.  Seaweeds remain an under-recorded group with over 50% data deficient, yet there is an urgent and increasing need for good quality, verifiable data on past and present species occurrence to inform on e.g. environmental change, potential pressures from harvesting, loss of habitats, increases in non-native species (currently c. 6% of the UK flora). 

 

Data from the NHM seaweed collection provide crucial evidence points for mapping changing patterns in species distribution around the UK but regional museums often hold important collections from their local area which will help fill in current spatial and temporal data gaps.  So we set about capturing from UK national and regional museum collections specimen data against a target list of seaweed species in order to provide data on distribution of species over time around the UK, and to make these data widely available via a purpose built website which provides a unique resource for disseminating information about these species.  Fourteen institutions participated, 8334 records were received of which 4334 were newly generated. 

 

We will describe this model project, discuss the findings in relation to temporal and spatial change, detective work, social history, taxonomy, the role of Queen Victoria and her children, and the detrimental impact that the Victorian collectors had on some of our more charismatic seaweeds.  We will also demonstrate the web site: http://seaweeds.myspecies.info/.

 

This project was funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund.

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.htm

0

This week we have 22 new book additions covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website

0

Watch a video recording by the British Humanist Association of a talk about Wallace's life and work and his discovery of evolution by natural selection. I presented this talk at Ancestor's Trail 2013 on the 25 August 2013:

 

 

2

The re-housing of the Museum’s hawkmoths collection, one of my curatorial responsibilities, has been the subject of the last couple of posts. I talked about the transferring of specimens from outdated or transitory drawers into new, more permanent drawers, and of the amalgamation of the old Museum’s collections with newly acquired material, with particular reference to the collection of hawkmoths (Sphingidae).

 

I have also introduced some of the species from the Museum’s extended sphingid collection, consisting of around 289,000 specimens and, in this post, I would like to briefly tell of the history of the Museum's collection of hawkmoths. However, before I start delving into the past, I’d like to finish with the introduction of some of the species of hawkmoths I began in the previous post… so here are some other fascinating sphingids.

 

Cephonodes_hylas last edited.jpg

Some hawkmoths have a short and stout body, transparent wings, a distinct pattern and behaviour that make them look like bees or wasps.

 

This is Cephonodes hylas, a daily flying moth, widely distributed in Asia where it is often found in urban parks and gardens attracted by Gardenia, one of the caterpillar's food plants. When the adult moth emerges from the pupa, the wings are entirely covered with greyish scales. These come off in a little cloud after the first flight.

 

Hemaris fuciformis last edited.jpg

Another hymenoptera look alike is Hemaris fuciformis.

 

This little and pretty hawkmoth, with its plump body covered by yellowish and reddish hairs, and its transparent wings, looks very much like a bumble bee, and it flies rapidly like one too! This specie is widespread all over Europe eastward across northern Turkey, northern Afghanistan, southern Siberia, northern Amurskaya to Primorskiy Kray and Sakhalin Island. It has also been recorded from Tajikistan and northwest India.

 

Sataspes infernalis last edited.jpg

Sataspes infernalis is another daily flying hawkmoth that very convincingly mimics a carpenter bee.

 

Its wings are devoid of scales and are darker, more opaque and somehow iridescent compared to the previous two hawkmoths. This species is distributed in India, West China, Burma and Borneo.

 

Compsulyx last edited.jpg

Eye-spots are a common feature on the wings of Lepidoptera and hawkmoths are no exception. This stunning hawkmoth is Compsulyx cochereaui, an endemic species of New Caledonia.

 

Smerinthus ocellata last edited.jpg

Eye-spots are also found on the hind-wings of the species of hawkmoths belonging to the genus Smerinthus.

 

This genus includes 11 species and one of them is the eyed hawkmoth (Smerinthus ocellata). In the resting position the fore-wings cover the hind-wings with the eye spots, when the moth feels threatened, the fore-wings are suddenly pushed upward revealing the hind-wings decorated with intense blue and black 'eyes' on a pinkish and brown background.

 

The flashing of these false eye-spots may help in startling a potential predator giving the moth a chance to quickly fly away. The eyed hawkmoth is distributed across all of Europe (including the UK), through to Russia as far east as the Ob valley and to eastern Kazakhstan and the Altai. It has also been recorded in north and western China.

 

Pseudandriasa mutata last edited.jpg

Pseudandriasa mutata is a rather atypical sphingid

 

It doesn’t look particularly streamlined nor are its wings elongated like those of a typical hawkmoth. In fact when in 1855, Francis Walker - while studying specimens and describing new species from our Museum - came across a specimen of this hawkmoth, he recognized it as a new species but named it Lymantria mutata, thinking it belonged to the family of moths called Lymantriidae (Tussock moths).

 

Hayesiana triopus last edited.jpg

Hayesiana triopus is a lovely daily flying sphingid with translucent wings and a discontinuous pinkish-red belt and orange spots on a black abdomen.

 

The underside of the body, particularly of the thorax, abdomen and hind wings is reddish orange. This moth is a fast flyer but its rapid movements seem rather clumsy and, apparently, it's not particularly precise when aiming the proboscis into a flower. It is distributed in Nepal, northeastern India, southern China, and Thailand.

 

Callionima inuus last edited.jpg

Callionima inuus is certainly a very elegant hawkmoth thanks to the decorations on its forewings.

 

The scale pattern forms motifs which resembles a cover of cobwebs blended with small, dark and light brown wavy markings; there is also a patch of silver scales in the shape of a plump and twisted “Y”. The pattern is beautiful, but most of all indispensable, for perfectly disguising this moth in the environment where it lives. This species is well distributed in the entire Neotropical region, from Mexico to Argentina.

 

Phylloxiphia oberthueri last edited.jpg

Another master of disguise is Phylloxiphia oberthueri.

 

When in the resting position, hanging from a plant, this hawkmoth looks very convincingly like a bunch of dry leaves. This species is distributed through West Africa.

 

Hypaedalea insignis.jpg

Doesn’t Hypaedalea insignis look like the vehicle of a superhero character?

 

An innovative hawkmoth bat-car! But again, this pattern has not evolved to impress we humans; the amazing discontinuous and wavy lines and blotches, coloured with different tints of brown and grey, are all essential for making this hawkmoth hard to spot against the vegetation. This moth is distributed in West Africa.

 

And now, the history bit...

 

The Museum's collections are based on Sir Hans Sloane’s collection which was purchased by the British Museum in 1753. Amongst them were his entomological holdings, with around 5,500 specimens including Lepidoptera, and thus were the earliest Sphingidae housed in the Museum.

 

Sloane Coll. last edited.jpg

A drawer with specimens of Lepidoptera from the original collection of Sir Hans Sloane. The hawkmoths in this drawer (Smerinthus ocellata in the top left, Agrius convolvuli and Sphinx ligustri bottom left and right respectively) were collected more than 350 years ago and are amongst the oldest Lepidoptera specimens in our collections.

 

Afterwards, the earliest and most significant benefactors who presented Lepidoptera - and particularly Sphingidae - to the Museum were, Horsfield, the Honorable East India Company, and Museum appointees like Edward Doubleday.

 

Later 19th Century benefactors of major significance were Bates, Wallace, Stainton, Zeller, Bainbrigge-Fletcher, Hewitson, Leech and Godman and Salvin. And in the 20th Century the sphingids holdings of the Museum were to be enriched with the collections of Lord Walsingham, Swinhoe, Moore, Joicey, Levick, Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, Cockayne and Kettlewell, Inoue and others.

 

List of donors.jpg

Some of the most significant donors of Lepidoptera (and particularly of Sphingidae) to the Museum.

 

The date of acquisition, the number of specimens and some of the history behind each of these valuable collections of moths and butterflies is often well documented, but it is much more difficult to know the exact number of specimens of any particular family that came with any of them. However, we know that the majority of the hawkmoths - around 45,000 specimens - came to the Museum in 1939 when Lord Rothschild bequested approximately 2.5 million specimens of Lepidoptera.

 

Rotschild Sphingidae Last edited.jpg

Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild was a keen naturalist who went on to amass one of the greatest collections of animals ever assembled by an individual. In 1939 around 2.5 million specimens of butterflies and moths from the Rothschild collection, were entrusted to the Museum in thousands of drawers. Two of these drawers, containing hawkmoths, are shown in the picture.

 

The Sphingidae collection, like the majority of the other Lepidoptera families, has since 1904 been housed in the Museum in 4 separated blocks:

 

Main Coll. Dr1.jpg

The Main Collection.

This is the reference collection and contains drawers with type specimens and representative series of any particular family, often of the oldest material. In the picture, one of the main collection drawers with the hawkmoth Callionima inuus.

 

Supplementary dr1.JPG

The Supplementary Collection.

 

It contains other specimens, belonging to any particular family, of identified material which arrived later and for which there was not space in the main collection. In the picture, one of the supplementary drawers with the hawkmoth Agrius convolvuli.

 

Accession Dr1.jpg

The Accession Collection.

 

It contains unsorted and often unidentified material which was later added to the family. In the picture, one of the accession drawers with different species of hawkmoths from the original Rothschild Collection.

 

British Coll. Dr1.jpg

The British & Irish Collection.

 

It contains specimens of the 20 species of Sphingidae occurring in the British Isles. In the picture, one of the British and Irish Collection drawers with the hawkmoth Daphnis nerii.

 

Only relatively recently we began to amalgamate all specimens from the main, supplementary and accession collections into one collection for each family. Each of the 5 curators in the Lepidoptera section is responsible, amongst other things, of the re-housing of one or more families of moths and butterflies.

 

With a collection of almost 9 million specimens and around 135 families of Lepidoptera to take into account the work to do can seem endless; it will certainly take a long time and a lot of effort before this is accomplished, but slowly and surely we are improving the care, storage and accessibility of our collections.

 

In August 2008, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Rothschild family, the de Rothschild family, the John Spedan Lewis foundation, Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust and members of the public, the Museum was able to acquire one of the largest private collections of Sphingidae, the Jean-Marie Cadiou collection.

 

And it’s about this prodigious private Collection, containig a staggering total of around 230,000 specimens, the majority of which are sphingids, that I will be telling you in my next post. Make sure to come back then.


Thanks for reading.

3

... blasted open at long last!

 

When alighting at the top of our globe escalator in the Red Zone's Earth hall, from now on visitors will be greeted by an explosion of colour and dramatic installations as they enter the new Volcanoes and Earthquake gallery.

 

volcanoes-room-1500.jpg

Volcanoes and Earthquakes, our new permanent gallery, blasts open today, 31 January.

 

Alex Fairhead, interpretation manager for the new gallery, gives us an introduction:

 

''The earthquakes are back. Eleven months after our older The Power Within gallery was closed for refurbishment and, after two years in the planning, today sees the opening of Volcanoes and Earthquakes - a new, free permanent gallery in the Museum. In the exhibition we showcase about 120 specimens and objects. With these we explore the origins, geology, scientific understanding and human impact of our planet's most powerful natural forces.

 

earthquakes-room-1500.jpg

The new gallery has three themed zones: volcanoes, plate tectonics and earthquakes.

 

'For the gallery's design, we took inspiration from the structure of rock strata and continental plates and you can see that in the jutting, layered walls. The exhibition leads visitors through three themed areas: volcanoes, plate tectonics and earthquakes. The final encounter is inside the Museum’s renowned earthquake simulator, a re-creation of the supermarket scene during Japan's 1996 Kobe earthquake.

 

heat-suit-visitor-1000.jpg

A heat suit worn by volcanologists towers tall in the centre of the gallery. It can withstand temperatures of up to to 1,000˚C.

 

'There are a few surprises for visitors as they make their way through the gallery. The pink flamingo's feathers hide a volcanic secret, a 4,000 year old copper dagger holds the key to Cyprus’ underwater origins, and a giant catfish that was once thought to be the cause of earthquakes looms large.

 

giant-catfish-1500.jpg

In Japanese mythology, the giant catfish was considered to be the cause of earthquakes.

 

'It's a gallery that was always popular with families and schools and we've really enhanced the content for this audience in the transformation. There are interactive quizzes and games, CGI films, touch objects includng a meteorite and lava bomb, and an in-depth explanation of the science behind these epic natural phenomena that have literally rocked our world.'

 

eartthquake-shaking-1500.jpg

A shaky final encounter in the gallery's Kobe supermarket earthquake simulator.

 

The Volcanoes and Earthquake gallery is a free permanent gallery. To visit, the nearest Museum entrance is our Exhibition Road entrance.

 

Come and be blown away.

 

0

In his ground-breaking book On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin set out the theory that small anomalies, or tiny variations, between individuals can give one or the other a competitive advantage. Generation after generation those tiny advantages are passed down, or selected, until the species eventually changes.

 

Of course not all anomalies offer an advantage. And it is that aspect of nature at the Museum that I am here to give you a glimpse behind the scenes of today.

 

In the last row of one of the Museum's many specimen store rooms, in a section that houses the Comparative Anatomy collection, is a cabinet in the far corner labelled 'miscellaneous'. As the name suggests, it contains various types of specimens from different sources, but they all have one thing in common. That is: they're all a little bit different, a bit strange, anomalous. It truly is a cabinet of curiosities.

 

Let me introduce you to a few of the stars of the shelves:

 

cojoined-340x500.jpgPerhaps the most beautiful specimen is the co-joined duck foetus with two bodies and one head, necks arched out, almost forming a heart shape. Its bones are highlighted red by a process called Alizarin staining.

 

 

pigs700x600.jpg

These two malformed piglets - the one on the left came to the Museum around 1899, the one on the right originates from China circa 1903 - both feature a 'fleshy protuberance', or additional nostril, above their snout.


 

facelesscat-340x500.jpg

Two cats for you now. The newborn kitten above is what's known as agnathous, or 'without jaws'; although in this case, without face is probably more appropriate.

And below we have the legs of a four-week old kitten that is polydactylous, or has more than the normal number of digits. Its six-toed foot is shown.

catpaw-440x500.jpg

 

 

extrafootedchicken-340x500.jpg

Here we have a five-week-old chicken with three legs and four feet.

Of course its not impossible for a fowl to live with an additional appendage or two. Remember Stumpy the four-legged duck?


 

twoheadsnake-300x500.jpg

And finally we have this small viper with two heads, found in Aberystwyth, Wales.

 

 

And here's an additional little titbit for you: did you know that the Museum cares for the national eye collection? Well, we do. The bisected specimens were given to us by the London Ophthalmic Hospital before it closed in 1988.

 

eyecollection2-700.jpg

0

Bird-display.-A-perspective-view-of-the-grand-saloon-and-gallery-of-the-Leverian-Museum-NHMPL-036756.jpg

 

It seems extraordinary now, but if you had entered a lottery in 1786, you might have won a whole museum. The tickets were priced at one guinea each, and the museum up for grabs was that of Sir Ashton Lever, collector of natural history and ethnographical specimens.

 

The museum was based in Leicester Square, London, and contained approximately 27,000 items. Leicester House, a large mansion, cost Lever £600 a year to lease, and when it opened in February 1775 he charged visitors half a guinea to enter, a large sum at the time. Despite the cost, the Leverian Museum proved popular. Those who visited found sixteen rooms of specimens interspersed with corridors lined with cases containing even more items. One room was separate and was billed as containing “very curious monkies and monsters”; ladies were warned that they may not have wished to enter for fear of being disgusted. As well as the specimens, there was a library containing books on natural history. Interestingly, advertisements at the time specify that good fires were to be found in the galleries – not something that one would expect to find in museums now!

 

 

 

 

As well as the general public, artists and natural historians of the time came to draw and study the exhibitions. Lever added to the collections frequently, stocking the cases with zoological and ethnographical items brought back from expeditions such as those of Captain Cook, from exotic locations such as the Americas, Africa and the Far East.

 

 

[Image above] – “Bird display. A perspective view of the grand saloon and gallery [of the Leverian Museum] from A Companion to the [British] Museum (1790) by Sir Ashton Lever.” NHM Picture Library Ref 036756

 

 

Mandarin-Duck-by-Sarah-Stone-NHMPL_024290.jpg

 

 

 

Sarah Stone (ca.1760-1844), the daughter of a fan painter, began painting at the museum in the late 1770s. Her baptism certificate has not been found, so the precise date of her birth is unknown.  She came to the attention of Lever and was commissioned by him to formally record specimens. Her artwork is considered of great importance as it gives some idea of the species collected by explorers and of the long-since demolished museum. Some of the animals she painted are now extinct, or have endangered populations.

 

The Library at the Natural History Museum has a large collection of Stone’s watercolours. Many of the known paintings and drawings in existence (over 900 in total) are of birds, such as the image above of a mandarin duck, Aix galericulata.

 

Stone’s use of colour and shadow, delicate brushwork and faithful representation of her subjects made her work distinctive and admirable at the time. Although these qualities are still prized, some of her drawings can look ‘stiff’ to modern eyes. In particular, the sloth on the left in the picture below looks incapable of climbing its branch. However, this may also be the fault of the taxidermy techniques of the period.

 

[Image on right]   “Mandarin duck, Aix galericulata. Sarah Stone, 1788.” NHM Picture Library Ref 024290

 

 

 

 

So who did win the museum? For five weeks after the lottery, no-one knew. Finally James Parkinson, a barrister, came forward to claim his winnings. The chosen ticket had belonged to his late wife and he had only come across it when sorting through her estate.

 

He owned the museum for twenty years, though kept the ‘Leverian’ name, and oversaw a move to a different site in Albion Place, south of Blackfriars Bridge. Most of Stone’s drawings are dated to before Parkinson took over the museum. In 1806, the collections were broken up and sold at auctions lasting for sixty five days (excluding Sundays and the King’s birthday). Interestingly, two of the lots were Stone’s own watercolours of the specimens.

 

The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) webpage hosts some books which contain paintings by Sarah Stone. Some examples are here:

http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/29568342

http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/29568322

 

 

You can also see more of Sarah Stone’s artwork in the forthcoming Images of Nature Gallery exhibition on women artists, which will be on display the Museum from March 2014 and is accompanied by a book by Special Collections Librarian Andrea Hart. Keep a look out for forthcoming blogs providing more information about the new exhibition next month and then throughout 2014/2015.

 

 

Bibliography:

Jackson, C.E. (1998). Sarah Stone: Natural Curiosities from the New Worlds. London: Merrell Publishers Ltd.

 

[Image below] – “Pale-throated three-toed sloth, Bradypus tridactylus. Sarah Stone, c. 1781-1785.” NHM Picture Library Ref 024334

 

Pale-throated-three-toed-Sloth-by-Sarah-Stone-NHMPL_024334.jpg

0

rB>C @50 - The Golden Anniversary of Hamilton’s Rule (or helping your relatives is good for you)

 

hosted by the NHM in collaboration with UCL, the CEE and Imperial College London

 

 

Darwin's birthday Party 2014 picture.jpg

 

                                                                    

The nocturnal social wasp Apoica pallens – Darién, Panama (photo Sandy Knapp)

 

 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014, 4:00 pm

Flett Lecture Theatre, The Natural History Museum

(reception follows)

 

 

Our topic this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the original 1964 paper in which W.D. (Bill) Hamilton first articulated what is known as Hamilton’s Rule (i.e. that helping your relatives makes evolutionary sense, even if it doesn’t benefit you directly )

 

 

Laurent Lehmann (Université de Lausanne, Switzerland) - Hamilton’s 1964 legacy: the rule that rules them all and the myth of inclusive fitness maximization

 

This talk will present the key steps to derive the rb-c>0 rule and discuss the two results obtained by Hamilton in his 1964 paper: (1) an equation describing allele frequency change under natural selection expressed in terms of phenotypic cost and benefit and a genealogical concept of relatedness; and (2) a result about the maximization of inclusive fitness. The first result has been extended to all conditions and provides the rule that rules them all. The second result applies only under narrow conditions and points to a mismatch between Hamilton's aim for inclusive fitness and what has been proved over the last 50 years.

 

 

David Haig (Harvard University, USA) - All-inclusive fitness: the enduring legacy of W. D. Hamilton

 

W. D. Hamilton’s concept of inclusive fitness revolutionized the way we think about social interactions. Individuals were shown to have an interest in each other’s well-being to the extent that they shared common genes. His insights have had unexpected medical applications to understanding conflicts within genomes between genes inherited from fathers and genes inherited from mothers and to understanding how sibling rivalry can be expressed in the mother’s womb during the early stages of pregnancy.

 

 

Full information including a flyer and map for this event can be found at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/cee/events/darwin-birthday

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.html