Friday mystery object #295 answer

Last week I gave you a bit of detail about a particular collection at the Dead Zoo in Dublin, which we don’t have much information about. In particular I was interested in your opinion on this specimen:


The general consensus was that it’s a parrot, which I totally agree with and the there was discussion of Lorikeet and Parakeet based largely on the size. Palfreyman1414 noted that the skull was longer than you normally see in a parrot – which is true, but that length is mainly coming from the bill, and you have to keep in mind that parrots have a weird hinge on the upper part of their bill, which allows more mobility. This specimen has simply been prepared with the bill in a slightly elevated position, creating a misleading sense of a length in the skull.

The morphology of the  mandible is quite useful in distinguishing parrots, and to me this looks like it may belong to a Cobalt Winged Parakeet Brotogeris cyanoptera (Salvadori, 1891) although I’ve not seen a scale or  for any other speciemens, I’m just basing it on the  morphology of that distinctive mandible

So many thanks for all of the suggestions!

Friday mystery object #289 answer

Last week I gave you this object to have a go at identifying from the Grant Museum’s Micrarium:


There were all sorts of suggestions, but it turns out that the very first comment by Chris was correct – these are the mouthparts of a Honeybee Apis mellifera Linneaus, 1758.

Honey Bee showing its mouthparts in situ. Image by Jon Sullivan

Honeybee showing its mouthparts in situ. Image by Jon Sullivan

These are more than just feeding apparatus for the bee, they also act as radiators to help it cool by evaporating fluids when they get overheated. The mouthparts also play a role in honey production, since honey is formed from nectar that is partially digested and regurgitated through them.

Bees are in the news a lot at the moment, due to their importance as pollinators (Honeybees are estimated to contribute around £165 billion of ecosystem services to global agriculture) combined with problems like colony collapse disorder in the USA and severe population decline of Honeybees and bumblebees in the UK.

There are opportunities to get involved in survey work  to help work out what’s happening, so why not get involved?

Natural Interest: Using Natural Science Collections to Engage Audiences

In a few weeks I’ll be delivering some training in Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr Tydfil, which will look at using natural science collections to engage a range of audiences. If you think this might be of interest the details are below.


Date & time: 11 March 2015 10am for a 10.30 start to 4.30pm

This free course is funded by CyMAL and provided through the Linking Natural Science Collections in Wales partnership project. It is open to staff and volunteers working in museums in Wales and beyond. NB a charge of £10 for catering will be made for those working in museums outside Wales. Any cheques to be payable to ‘Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales’.

It is suitable for anyone who:

  • Wants to think creatively about how to use natural science collections
  • Is already working with natural science collections
  • Is interested in making links to local landscapes/wildlife groups
  • Wants to tackle current issues such as biodiversity and climate change
  • Wants to make links between natural science collections and social/industrial history etc.

Aim: To offer insight into creative ways of using natural science collections to engage key audiences.

By the end of the course participants will have:

  • details of useful resources
  • ideas for using their collections
  • greater confidence in their ability to use natural science collections to engage with key audiences, including schools, communities and specialist groups.

Training Methods: A blend of presentations, practical exercises, informal discussion and one to one consultancy.
Preparation: Please come with an idea of what is in your natural science collections (eg geology, zoology, shells etc.)
Registration Registration requests are limited to 2 per organisation however we are happy to waitlist any others in the event the course is not fully subscribed. Please contact to book a place.

100 a day in May

I don’t know about you, but my job can be quite sedentary. Lots of time spent in front of the computer or looking at skulls, very little time getting any exercise – obviously not counting my stint as Extreme Curator

Every so often I try to get off my backside and do something approaching exercise, but because I am fundamentally lazy, I can find it hard to get motivated.

Last year I forced myself to do the Push-ups Challenge (100 push-ups a day for 6 weeks) and by the end of the challenge I was feeling far stronger, more toned and significantly more self-satisfied, because I’d stuck to my goals.

One of the things that helped me was to share my progress each day on Twitter as way of keeping track of the challenge. What I hadn’t expected was the support and encouragement that came from people online, which really made me feel like I wanted to complete the challenge.

I’ve decided to do a version of the challenge again this year, during May and I hope to encourage other people to take part. The hashtag on Twitter is #100aDayInMay and if you feel like doing some exercise with some training buddies to offer support and encouragement, why not join in?

The rules are simple:

  1. try to do 100 push-ups a day. Both full and half push-ups are fine, and you can split them into as many sets as you need. 20 sets of 5 are as good as 5 sets of 20 in this challenge. Ideally, by the end of May you’ll be able to do fewer sets of more push-ups, maybe with some harder variations included – like doing full push-ups as well as/instead of half push-ups, or elevating your feet if you want to really challenge yourself.
  2. don’t injure yourself. Use good form on your push-ups and if you have any medical issues please check with your doctor before trying the challenge.
  3. share and support! Anyone can decide to do some push-ups, but it’s more fun and more motivational if you share what you’re doing with the other people taking part (you can find them on this list).  If you want to join in, just send a tweet containing the hashtag #100aDayInMay saying that you’re taking part. Remember that other people like to be encouraged too, so don’t forget to support the others taking part.

Finally, here’s a video explaining good form in both full and half push-ups (although the guy’s bum seems to be raised a little bit too high for perfect form):

I hope you feel like joining in!