Wallace; the Forgotten Evolutionist?
This week our exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the death of the brilliant naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace has opened for exploration. But who was he?
Wallace was many things - an intrepid explorer, a brilliant naturalist, a social activist, a political commentator – overall a remarkable intellectual. By the time of his death in 1913, Wallace was widely praised as the 'last of the great Victorians'.
Wallace is most famously associated with co-discovering the process of evolution by natural selection alongside Charles Darwin. Yet we have all heard of Darwin, whilst Wallace has become more of a forgotten figure.
In his time Wallace travelled extensively, surviving malaria, numerous fevers and even shipwreck! He covered thousands of miles, lived with indigenous tribes and collected over 125 000 animal specimens. He also wrote widely on a range of subjects, publishing more than 800 articles and writing 22 books.
This exhibition attempts to explore some of Wallace's life and work, and in doing so raise our awareness of this remarkable man. The exhibition uses a mix of media, and has rich diversity of specimens on display, including specimens collected by the great man himself.
Associated with the exhibition are a range of workshops, talks and tours. Check out the website for an up-to-date list of ‘whats on’.
We really hope you enjoy the exhibition and welcome feedback on your visit
False Widow Spiders: not really that horrible…
There has been a great deal of press attention recently on the ‘false black widow spider’. Sadly allot of this information has been unnecessarily alarmist and often wrong. So what is this spider?
The term ‘false widow spider’ has arisen because the spiders look very like the real ‘black widow’ spider. There is good reason for this - the spiders are closely related and belong to the same taxonomic family, the Therididae.
This spider family is very large, and is made up of many different genre, or species groups, of spider e.g. ‘black widows’ belong to the genus Latrodextus, whilst the ‘false widows’ belong to a different genus called Steatoda. So whilst they are related, they are different enough to belong to different taxonomic species groups.
Of these two spider groups only Steatoda is found in the UK. In total we have seven species of Steatoda, six of which are native and one of which is an introduction. Of these species at least three get called the ‘false widows’ – these are S. bipunctata, S. grossa and S. nobilis. The only way these spiders can be accurately identified is by checking key diagnostic characters as the abdominal patterns can be very variable.
S. nobilis, and to a lesser extend, S. grossa are the species causing the concern. They can inflict a painful bite, and very rarely these bites can cause more severe medical issues. However these are not aggressive spiders and will only bite if trapped or badly handled.
So are there plagues of these spiders this year? Well certainly not to my knowledge. This time of year we have large numbers of the ‘orb web’ spiders around our homes and gardens and many of the so called ‘false widow’ reports are actually these common and harmless spiders.
Even if you have a species such as S. nobilis around your garden or shed, you still should not be worried. Contrary to press reports they do not gather to attack you. In fact they would rather be left alone in the quite, dark corners where you usually find them. This posting on the Natural History Museums website provides a sensible overview of these spiders and their habits.
If you do find a spider you are concerned about then I’m happy to try and identify it. If you can get a good image then do so, and email it across. If you have the spider and can get it to the museum then drop if off for my attention – the front desk aren’t always too happy about having live spiders delivered so make sure the lid is secure!
O Jyngl Brasil i Ddethol Naturiol
Parhau i ddathlu bywyd Alfred Russel Wallace...
Croesawyd dros 300 o fyfyrwyr Lefel-A i Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd ar gyfer digwyddiad arbennig ar y cyd ag Ysgol Gwyddorai’r Ddaear a’r Môr Prifysgol Caerdydd.
Ar wahoddiad Athro Dianne Edwards F.R.S, rhoddodd yr Athro Steve Jones F.R.S chyflwyniad dan y teitl ‘Ai anifail arall yw dyn?’
Trafododd yr Athro Jones y cyndeidiau sydd gennym ni a phrimatiaid eraill yn gyffredin, y dystiolaeth enetig dros esblygiad dyn, a gwahaniaeth barn Wallace a Darwin ar y pwnc. Mae’r Athro Steve Jones yn Athro Emeritws Geneteg yng Ngholeg y Brifysgol Llundain ac yn awdur nifer o lyfrau gwyddoniaeth poblogaidd.
A rhoddodd Theatr na nÓg yn berfformiad ardderchog o'u chwarae You Should Ask Wallace.
Aeth y ddrama â ni ar daith o blentyndod Wallace yng Nghymru i’w anturiaethau anhygoel i’r Amazon ac archipelago Malay, lle datblygodd ei theori am esblygiad. Ei ddarganfyddiadau ef sbardunodd Darwin i gyhoeddi ei waith arloesol ar y pwnc.
Bydd arddangosfa o fywyd Wallace yn agor ar 19 Hydref yn Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd.
Yn ôl traed Wallace
Yr wythnos diwethaf, teithiodd staff Amgueddfa Cymru a myfyrwyr lleol i Gwm Nedd i astudio bywyd Alfred Russel Wallace, ac i ganfod ysbrydoliaeth o’i anturio yn ne Cymru.
Dyma ni’n treulio diwrnod yn dilyn yn ôl ei draed o Bontneddfechan i raeadr Sgwd Gwladys, yn astudio daeareg a bioleg y daith, gyda chymorth arbenigwyr Amgueddfa Cymru.
Adeg ei farwolaeth ganrif yn ôl, cai Alfred Russel Wallace ei gyfri’n un o fawrion olaf Oes Fictoria. Mae Wallace yn fwyaf enwog am ddarganfod proses esblygiad drwy ddethol naturiol, ar y cyd â Charles Darwin, ond prin yw’r bobol heddiw sy’n cofio am Wallace.
Cafod Wallace ei ysbrydoli gan dirlun de Cymru, a treuliodd flynyddoedd lawer yn crwydro’r cymoedd yn mapio hanes natur. Bydd ffotograffau, fideos, brasluniau a chyfweliadau’r myfyrwyr yn dod yn rhan o arddangosfa yn Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd yn Ionawr 2014. Bwriad yr arddangosfa hon fydd adrodd hanes Wallace yng Nghymru, a gobeithio bydd yn sbardun i rywun arall fynd ati i anturio.
Cynhaliwyd y project hwn diolch i gefnogaeth hael un o Noddwyr Oes Amgueddfa Cymru
Bydd arddangosfa ar fywyd Wallace yn agor yn Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd ar 19 Hydref.
The Fern Paradise
A lovely pressed fern found between the pages of The Fern Paradise  by Francis George Heath. I'm always a little disappointed that we don't find more pressed flowers in our old botany books so this really made my day.
How long has it been lying quietly cocooned between these dry secure pages? Who picked a live and vibrant frond one summers day and slipped it away never thinking it would stay hidden for decades? Did the sun shine that afternooon? What news was ringing around the world? So many questions...
All photographs in this post taken by the author