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Natural History

January 2014

Collections Review at Carmarthen Museum

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 27 January 2014
Weaver bird nest
Vasculum

On Friday, Adrian Plant and I, along with Christian Baars, took part in a Collections Review at Carmarthen Museum as part of the Esmee Fairbairn ‘Linking Natural Science Collections on Wales’ project. The museum, was in a lovely old house, the old Bishop’s Palace, just outside Carmarthen. We spent the day in the natural history store, systematically going through all of the boxes to see what was in each one and assess it’s condition and potential importance. As not all of it had been accessioned even the curators were not sure what might be there and we had a very interesting time never knowing what might be in the next box. Amongst the specimens we found were a collection of weaver birds’ nests and a ‘vasculum’ (metal box containing botanical specimens) containing an old seed collection along with the original bill of sale. Hopefully, some of these specimens may now find their way out to public display at some point in the future.

 
Blog by Teresa Darbyshire

Dydd Santes Dwynwen

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 24 January 2014
True Heart Cockle
Sweet Violet (Viola odorata)
Purple Heart Urchin (Spatangus purpureus)
Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)

To celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen we have searched our Natural History Collections at the Museum for some love related specimens:

The True Heart Cockle, found on reef systems in the Indo-Pacific.

Fioled Bêr/Sweet Violet (Viola odorata), which represents faithful love in the language of flowers.

The Purple Heart Urchin (Spatangus purpureus), a large heart-shaped urchin often found buried in sands and gravels. This is one of the specimens on display in the Life in the Sea Gallery.

Or for an alternative Dydd Santes Dwynwen, how about the Love-lies-bleeding plant (Amaranthus caudatus). This example was collected in Roath Park, Cardiff back in 1924 and is now in the National Welsh Herbarium at National Museum Cardiff.

More information on Dydd Santes Dwynen

Post by Sally Whyman, Jennifer Gallichan and Katie Mortimer-Jones

Exploring Insect Diversity in Thailand

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 16 January 2014
Dr Adrian Plant sampling a stream on Doi Inthanon
Bog in moist hill evergreen forest, Doi Inthanon
Doi Phahompok National Park
Moist Hill Evergreen forest Doi Inthanon
» View full post to see all images

(Searching for the ‘missing millions’) 

To an explorer of biodiversity, especially invertebrate biodiversity, tropical forests remain largely unknown and unmapped territory. I study the insect Order Diptera (flies), and while some 150,000 species have already been found and described world-wide, perhaps 2-10 million (maybe more!) remain completely unknown to science and a large proportion of these will undoubtedly be found in tropical forests. As Principal Curator of Entomology, much of my research effort is devoted to finding and describing the ‘missing millions’ (taxonomy), understanding how and where they evolved (phylogeny and biogeography) and investigating the roles they play in modern ecosystems (ecology).

One of my favorite areas to work in is southeast Asia, particularly Thailand where my studies have already described about 70 new species of fly in the group known as Empidoidea (dance-flies and their allies). I recently began a project with Wichai Srisuka, my colleague in the Entomology section of the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden in Thailand, in which we are using Malaise traps (a tent-like structure into which insects fly and can be trapped) to sample dance-flies and other insects on two of Thailand’s highest mountains; Doi Inthanon and Doi Phahompok. The samples collected will no doubt contain many new species for me to describe for the first time and should also yield valuable data on how communities of insects on the mountains vary with altitude. The summit slopes of Doi Phahompok and Doi Inthanon are covered in a type of thick luxurious wet forest known as Moist Hill Evergreen in which many endemic species occur (an endemic species is one entirely confined to a particular locality). Our earlier results suggest that although these two mountains are only 150km apart and have many similarities in their fly fauna, both have many endemic species on them too. By comparing the degree of ‘endemicity’ on the two mountains we hope to better understand some of the historical processes that gave rise to the exceptional biodiversity of these areas.

When scientists try to identify geographical areas of conservation importance they like to map not only diversity (essentially, how many different species there are) but also endemicity. Knowing exactly where biodiversity and endemicity hotspots are enables conservation planners to better target their efforts. In the tropics, knowledge of diversity and endemicity is largely confined to a few groups of plants and vertebrates. Unfortunately, these creatures represent only a small fraction of the variety of life so prioritizing conservation efforts using them alone is imperfect. Furthermore, measures of plant and vertebrate variety are not effective surrogates of invertebrate diversity whereas knowledge of invertebrate diversity does in fact tell us much about that of other animals and plants. We are slowly starting to produce maps of invertebrate endemicity which we hope will provide better tools to help conservation authorities in Thailand prioritize their conservation efforts.

Dr Adrian Plant

Vintage postcard heaven!

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 15 January 2014

From an original watercolour by E. W. Trick

Published by Valentine's & Sons Ltd

 Some people really are very kind. An anonymous donor left a little packet of these delightful Welsh postcards in one of our departmental pigeon holes. They will be sent over to the Archives Department at St Fagans: Museum of National History but I couldn't resist posting a small selection of them here first.

 

From an original watercolour by Edward H. Thompson

Published by Valentine's & Sons Ltd

 

"CARBO COLOUR" postcard

Published by Valentine's & Sons Ltd

 

Published by E. T. W. Dennis & Sons Ltd, London and Scarborough

 

From an original watercolour by Brian Gerald

Published by Valentine's & Sons Ltd

 

From an original watercolour by Edward H. Thompson

Published by Valentine's & Sons Ltd

 

 

The cards are mostly landscape views of Llangollen but this bright little quartet was also included

 

 

Seven of the more picturesque cards were published by Valentine's & Sons Ltd as part of their "Art Colour" series and there is a good a bit of information available on the company via the links below: 

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb227-ms38562

http://www.collections.co.uk/postcards/publishers/valentine.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Valentine_(photographer)

Other publishers include E. T. W. dennis & Sons [London and Scarborough], N. P. O. Ltd [Belfast], J. Arthur Dixon Ltd. [G.B.], Judges Ltd. [Hastings, England], Walter Scott [Bradford], J. Salmon Ltd. [Sevenoakes, England], and Photo-Precision Ltd. [St Albans]. 

 

Unfortunately, none of the cards has been written on.

 

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