3 days to Beachwatch!
BEATCHWATCH – Saturday 21 September
10.30am – 12pm. Amgueddfa Cymru staff will be running fun family activities for the public to help them learn about the biology and geology of Ogmore beach. They will be looking at rock pools, strandlines, rocks and fossils along the shore.This year we will also have a fun ART activity involving plaster of paris and seashells. These morning activities are now fully booked, but you can still come along in the afternnoon to help out with the beach clean.
1pm – 2.30pm. Help with the Marine Conservation Society’s annual beach clean (Open to all).
Where: Ogmore Beach, Vale of Glamorgan. Meeting on the beach at Ogmore beach car park – down the ramp in front of the lifeguard centre.
Suitable for all ages, hope to see you there.
A species new to science!
A new species of marine bristleworm (polychaete) has just been described in a collaboration between Amgueddfa Cymru and the East China Sea Fisheries Research Institute, Shanghai. The species is a type of shovelhead worm, a group that get their name from the flattened head region used to burrow within sand. The new species was discovered in the Jiangsu Province of the Yellow Sea. The new species is called Magelona parochilis Zhou & Mortimer, 2013 and was published this month in the scientific publication, The Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom.
Kunstformen der Natur
Step into a wonderland of colour, a celebration of the natural world in all its artistic and symmetrical glory...
Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was an eminent German zoologist who specialized in invertebrate anatomy. He named thousands of new species, mapped a genealogical tree relating all life forms, and coined many now ubiquitous terms in biology. A popularizer of Charles Darwin, Haeckel embraced evolution not only as a scientific theory, but as a worldview. He outlined a new religion or philosophy called monism, which cast evolution as a cosmic force, a manifestation of the creative energy of nature.
Haeckel’s chief interests lay in evolution and life development processes in general, including the development of nonrandom form, which culminated in the beautifully illustrated Kunstformen der Natur - Art Forms of Nature, a collection of 100 detailed, multi-colour illustrations (lithographic and autotype) of animals and sea creatures prints. Originally published in sets of ten between 1899 and 1904, and as a complete volume in 1904.
The overriding themes of the Kunstformenplates are symmetry and organization, central aspects of Haeckel's monism. The subjects were selected to embody organization, from the scale patterns of boxfishes to the spirals of ammonites to the perfect symmetries of jellies and microorganisms, while images composing each plate are arranged for maximum visual impact.
Kunstformen der Natur played a role in the development of early twentieth century art, architecture, and design, bridging the gap between science and art. In particular, many artists associated with the Art Nouveau movement were influenced by Haeckel's images, including René Binet, Karl Blossfeldt, Hans Christiansen, and Émile Gallé.
Our copy of Kunstformen der Natur [photographed here] is a complete bound volume of all ten fascicules and sits in our folio section. It was donated to us in 1919 by the first Director of the National Museum of Wales [from 1909 to 1924], William Evans Hoyle. Hoyle’s trained as a medical anatomist and developed a life long interest in 'cephalopods'. Our BioSyB Department now holds Hoyle's cephalopod collection [over 400 of them] along with many other specimens and publications.
Haeckel biographical information:
Hoyle biographical information:
All photographs in this post taken by the author.
The Ghost Orchid
The Ghost Orchid Epipogium aphyllum is an extremely rare species found in a very small number of sites within the UK. The plant feeds by parasitising fungi, rather than through photosynthesis and as a result is largely colourless, hence its name. It was deemed extinct in 2005 but a new specimen was found in 2009 and was later collected after being eaten through by a slug. The National Museum Wales Herbarium has seven specimens of this orchid, five courtesy of marauding slugs.
The specimen pictured was also cut down by a slug but this is even more rare, because of the way it has been preserved. This specimen was collected in 1982 and placed into a solution of formalin. The specimen arrived on my desk last week and I have since provided new labels, a new jar and it is now in a new preserving fluid of 10% DMDM Hydantoin and 0.5% glycerol increase its longevity and improve visual clarity. By preserving this specimen in fluid its 3 dimensional morphology is clearly demonstrated and the fluid gives it an even more ghostly appearance.
Dr Victoria Purewal, Botanical Conservation Officer
Celebrating the tercentenary of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713-1792)
In 2013 the tercentenary of the birth of the Third Earl of Bute is being celebrated across Britain with a series of events and new publications. Curators from Amgueddfa Cymru have contributed to a special publication published by Friends of the Luton Hoo Walled Garden, at one of Bute’s former residencies. Maureen Lazarus will also give a lecture at Luton Hoo in the autumn.
Bute was a powerful figure in eighteenth century Britain, both as a politician and as a botanist. He was a friend and confidante of George III who encouraged him to become a politician. In May 1762 he became Prime Minister. However, Bute proved an unpopular leader. Bishop Warburton wrote at the time “Lord Bute is a very unfit man to be Prime Minister of England, first, he is a Scotchman; secondly, he is the King’s friend; and thirdly he is an honest man.”
After a year of political turmoil and dissention, Bute resigned his post. He retired from public life to his house at Highcliffe in Hampshire with his vast botanical library. Here he rekindled his former enthusiasm for botany. Bute worked on several botanical publications and was strongly influenced by the renowned Swedish taxonomist Carl Linnaeus. Bute’s best known publication is entitled Botanical Tables containing the different familys of British Plants distinguished by a few obvious parts of Fructification rang’d in a Synoptical method (1785). Its aim is to explain the principles of Linnaeus’s new and controversial taxonomic system. Angueddfa Cymru is fortunate to own a complete set of this rare and exquisite publication.
John Miller (1715-1790) became the main artist of the Botanical tables, a huge task of over 600 illustrations detailing the sexual organs and their number to comply with the Linnaean system. The volumes cover the whole range of plant life from mosses, lichens and seaweeds to fungi and grasses, flowers and trees. Twelve copies of the Tables (each consisting of 9 volumes) were printed by Lord Bute at his own expense at a cost of £1,000.
In his retirement, Bute was quite isolated. He was closer to European rather than British botanists, perhaps partly as a result of his travels on the continent but probably partly due to his unpopularity in Britain. Curiously, he was never elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London or of the Society of Antiquaries, something which his role as a patron alone ought to have virtually assured him. In spite of this rejection, botany was, no doubt, a satisfying way for him to spend his time in later life in order to avoid the melancholy he referred to in the introduction to Botanical tables.
Bute was particularly keen to explain the taxonomic system to women since he felt that this “delightful part of nature” was peculiarly suited to the attention of the fair sex. Botany, under their protection, would soon become a fashionable amusement. True to this aim Bute presented seven out of the ten copies to women including Queen Charlotte and Catherine II, Empress of Russia.
In 1994 Amgueddfa Cymru acquired a complete copy of the Botanical tables. The curators of the collection, as part of their background research, decided to trace all 12 copies. So far ten sets have been traced, seven of which can be identified with their original recipients. Full details of this project may be found in this paper; Lazarus, M.H. and Pardoe, H.S. (2009) Bute’s Botanical tables: dictated by Nature. Archives of natural history 36 (2): 277–298.
Heather Pardoe and Maureen Lazarus
Beans on Toast
3 primary schools took part in activities exploring the new Beans on Toast exhibition at the National Museum Cardiff last week.
Pupils from Windsor Clive Primary School, Trelai Primary School and Ysgol Wirfoddol Abergwili explored where in the world our food comes from and how we can make sustainable choices about the food we buy. They then worked with an artist to create a 'World Food Stall' display to encourage discussion on the issues of food security back in school.
Funding was received to work with the artist through the British Ecological Society.
The exhibition will be open until 29 September 2013. Contact the Learning Department 029 2057 3240 if you would like to take part in future activities.
Theatre of insects
Thomas Moffet [Moufet, Muffet] (1553-1604), was a physician and naturalist. After graduating from Cambridge, he travelled abroad, gained the degree of MD in 1579 from Basel University and eventually established a successful medical practice in Frankfurt. In 1580 he visited Italy, where he studied the culture of the silkworm and developed an absorbing interest in entomology. By 1588 he had returned to England and secured a good practice, first in Ipswich and afterwards in London. On 22 December of that year he was admitted as a candidate of the College of Physicians, then became a fellow and eventually censor. In 1589 he was appointed to a committee responsible for compiling the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis (1618) for the College of Physicians.
Moffet combined real literary aptitude with his interests in natural philosophy, publishing the lengthy poem, The Silkworms and their Flies, in 1599.
Theatre of Insects was published posthumously. In 1590 he had completed a compendious work on the natural history of insects, partly compiled from the unpublished writings of Edward Wotton, Conrad Gesner and Moffet’s friend [and fellow physician] Thomas Penny. After Moffet’s death, this still unpublished manuscript (BL, Sloane MS 4014) came into the hands of his apothecary [Darnell], who sold it to Sir Theodore Mayerne, who published it in 1634 as Insectorum, sive, Minimorum animalium theatrum. It was translated into English by J. Rowland as The Theatre of Insects, or Lesser Living Creatures and appended to Edward Topsell’s History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents (1658).
We hold copies of both the 1634 and 1658 editions; the copy photographed here is one of the earlier editions.
These books, along with many other early natural history works, were bequeathed to the Library by Willoughby Gardner in 1953 [for more details visit our website or see The Willoughby Gardner Library: a collection of early printed books on natural history, by John R. Kenyon, published by Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru / National Museum Wales, 1982]
It has been supposed, on the basis of Moffet’s interest in spiders that his daughter Patience was the ‘little Miss Muffet’ of the nursery rhyme; although some sources state this unlikely as the rhyme did not appear in print until 1805.
Biographical information taken from Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
A species new to science!
The first results and new species have now been published from the project on the Polychaetes of the Falkland Islands. The project, which started in 2011, intends to document the polychaetes (marine bristleworms) of the intertidal region around the islands, information that will help inform marine environmental work and improve future identification of the group in the area. Further details of the project can be found in a Rhagor article here and earlier blogs here that documented the fieldwork.
The new species, Micromaldane shackletoni, was named in recognition of the Shackleton Scholarship Fund who support the work. The species is of particular interest as it is a simultaneous hermaphrodite, which means that it produces eggs and sperm at the same time that fertilise internally. The larvae are then brooded inside the animal's tube until they are large enough to leave and build their own tube. This method of reproduction has only been reported once amongst other species in the same genus. To document the stages of reproduction involved using a scanning electron microscope to look in detail at the eggs and sperm (see photo) from inside the body, the developing larvae and other structures on the adult bodies (see photo of head). Animals are only 0.3mm wide and around 11m long. The species description and details have been published in the scientific journal Zootaxa.
Hunt for the black lugworm
This week, three members of the department travelled to Whiteford Burrows on Gower to hunt for the black lugworm Arenicola defodiens. This species is less common than the blow lug Arenicola marina that most people may have heard of or seen previously, tends to be larger and, as the name suggests, is darker in appearance (see picture).
Digging for these animals is difficult as their burrows go deep into the sediment so we used a ‘bait pump’ to try and suck them out (see picture)! Success was variable but we did manage to collect a few of each species.
The black lug was first described in 1993 from shores in South Wales including Whiteford Burrows, so this area is considered the ‘type locality’ for the species. As we didn’t have any specimens of the black lug in our collections, we felt it was important to collect a few for future reference and potential research possibilities. Some material was also preserved in 100% ethanol for possible future genetic work.
Peregrines on City Hall clock tower 2013
June 7 Update
Eventful couple of days. Received a call yesterday that a young Peregrine was on the ground near City Hall. Directions weren't brilliant so had to go hunting around and finally found a young male hunkered down at the edge of one of the footpaths in Alexandra Gardens, under some overhanging vegetation. Amazingly you could walk past within a couple of feet and it didn't move. He was duly picked up and taken back to the roof of City Hall at the base of the tower where he was fitted with a BTO ring and a colour-ring Blue FH, the first photo is of him looking lass than happy with his experience but hopefully it will keep him out of trouble until he can fly strongly enough to gain height.
Then this morning I had another call from the RSPB to say that a young Peregrine was on a statue in King Edward VII Avenue. I met up with Phil Pinder and there was the bird sat on the statue (second photo). This one was unringed so we knew it was a different bird to yesterday, I tried to catch it so it could be ringed but wasn't quite quick enough and it flew off strongly. Which is a good thing as it suggests it should survive. Apparently it had been seen feeding earlier so it's good to know that the parents are feeding them even quite some way from the tower.
No sign of the young female today though.