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Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

Natural History

November 2012

We have completed our work on the Wallace Palms!

Posted by Julian Carter on 29 November 2012

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This image is of a small section of the palm stem of Euterpe oleracea in its original condition prior to conservation work.

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Euterpe oleracea collected in 1881 by Wallace and Bates. Shown here after cleaning and prior to reattachment.

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The fruiting branches (racemes) of Euterpe oleracea had to be correctly re-positioned after cleaning. Annette is shown here carefully holding the branches in place prior to stabilisation.

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The finished product! The specimen has been stabilised and bound with original twine. Fragments and data labels are kept together with the palm.

» View full post to see all images

Over recent months, botanical conservators Vicky Purewal and Annette Townsend have been carrying out painstaking work on a series of eleven historical palm specimens. They were collected around 1850 by the renowned British naturalist and explorer Alfred Russell Wallace (1823-1913) during his travels in the Amazon. Wallace is best known for his studies on evolution, which helped trigger the publication of Charles Darwin’s ground breaking research ‘Origin of Species’.

The Wallace palms reside at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the curators there requested that Vicky and Annette, who are specialist conservators in botanical collections at AC-NMW, carry out the necessary conservation work. The specimens are over 150 years old and had to endure adverse conditions in the hold of a ship, and then later to contend with soot and pollution from Battersea Power station. The palms were understandably very fragile and in need of plenty of careful cleaning, re-structuring and repackaging so that their true splendour could be appreciated by all. The palms have been re-housed in custom made boxes so that they can travel back to Kew safely and are also now fit for display.

You will be able to see the palms for yourself on display at AC-NMW in Oct 2013, as RBG Kew will be loaning some of the collection for our Wallace’s bicentenary exhibition and celebrations.

Describing new worms

Posted by Julian Carter on 21 November 2012

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A new species of marine bristleworm, Dysponetus joeli.

Marine scientist Teresa Darbyshire has just re-discribed a new species of Polychaete (commonly called marine bristleworms).  Unfortunately, a recent description of the new species, Dysponetus joeli (Olivier et al. 2012) used damaged specimens and errors were made.
 
This is because Polychaetes react notoriously badly to being handled roughly which is usually unavoidable with large marine surveys. Collected specimens are often in very bad condition by the time they are identified.
 
However, hand collected specimens by Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales from survey work done in 2009 in the Isles of Scilly were found to be the same species but in very good condition.
 
Using these specimens and comparing them with the original specimens from the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle Paris, enabled the errors to be corrected. 
 
A re-description and revised species key have now been published - http://goo.gl/uAUqM.

Last chance for Animal & Plant Games

Posted by Peter Howlett on 21 November 2012

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Look out for the Animal & Plant Games coin

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The Cheetah is one of the animals in the trail.

Last chance to have a go at the Animal and Plants Games Trail

The Animal and Plants Games Trail is in its last remaining weeks at National Museum Cardiff. Look for the Cheetah coin symbol in our Lower and Upper Natural History galleries, Evolution of Wales, Natural World and Origins galleries to follow it.

You can also follow the trail by picking up one of the colourful Animal and Plant Games leaflets. They can be found on a stand near the entrance to the Evolution of Wales gallery, near the top of the stairs to the restaurant. Alternatively, you can ask in the Clore Discovery Centre.

But hurry, the trail will be taken down in the New Year and the leaflets are running out fast!

Animals and plants have to compete every day to survive. Strength, size, speed and agility can all help give them an advantage over competitors. Along the trail you can discover specimens of record breaking plants and animals such as: the famously fast Cheetah, the small but strong Dung Beetle, deadly Rosary Peas and record breaking cones from the Big Cone Pine!

A new species of fly for Britain

Posted by Peter Howlett on 19 November 2012

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Platypalpus nigricoxa: a new species of fly for Britain.

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The Wye Valley, a new species of fly for Britain has been found there.

A species of fly new to Britain has been found from the Wye Valley by scientist Adrian Plant, working at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales. Platypalpus nigricoxa is thought to be a boreo-alpine relict (left behind when ice retreated at the end of the last glacial period). Apart from the Wye valley, it is only known from the extreme north of Scandinavia, the Kola peninsula in northern Russia and some mountains in eastern Europe.

Natural History Halloween Open Day - more scary pictures!

Posted by Julian Carter on 13 November 2012

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Realistic wax models of fungi

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Dare to smell a fresh stinkhorn fungus?

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'Murder mystery' in the herbarium......

Following on from the last post about our Natural History Halloween Open Day, we thought you might like to see some more pictures of the event.

We had some freshly collected fungi on display, including an invitation to sample the smell of a fresh stinkhorn and to speculate on the significance of the smell to the biology of the fungus. We found it got some interesting reactions (although it’s not so fun being sat downwind from it!).

There were also some less stinky but realistic wax models of fungi. These were made in the mid 1900s by our in-house botanical model-maker, a practice that continues today.

A ‘murder mystery’ had also taken place in our herbarium (the plant collections), an area not usually open to the public. Whilst surrounded by our quarter of a million pressed herbarium specimens, you had to work out which plant was used to poison the victim!

If this has whetted your appetite, keep an eye on our Natural History collections Twitter feed @NatHistConservation for more behind the scenes sneak peeks. Also stay tuned to the What’s On guide on our main website for details of the next Open Day. More stories from behind the scenes can also be found on the 'Rhagor' pages of our website e.g. conserving wax models.

Natural History Open Day.

Posted by Julian Carter on 7 November 2012

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Friendly witches in the main hall!

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Big spiders from the collections!

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Looking into the main hall towards the end of a busy open day.

During half term we held a Natural History open day in the main hall at National Museum Wales, Cardiff. It was a great opportunity for us to chat to visitors about our work and show them parts of the collections not normally seen by the public.

The day had a Halloween theme, and visitors had the chance to engage with a wide range of material from the collections. This included solving a ‘murder mystery’ in the herbarium, comparing our UK bats to the size of the largest fruit bat or studying closely a bedbug!

It was a busy, but fun day for all the staff involved. Look out on the website for the next open day.

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