About 30-40% of the visitors to the Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department are art or design students and professionals, who come over to get inspired by the variety of insect shapes, colours and patterns, and to talk to the museum curatorial staff about what interests them. Museum’s curators are especially pleased when such visits result in something tangible, such as an installations, original ideas for contemporary product and/or jewellery design, and, of course, pure examples of fine art.
Here we are pleased to present an interview with Robin Gregson-Brown, a Lepidoptera artist as he calls himself, from Derbyshire (recorded 20th October 2016). At the age of 80 and in retirement, Robin has embarked a new career of poetic artist of nature. And what could be more beautiful nature’s beautiful creatures than moths and butterflies? Hardly anything! Robin is fascinated by Lepidoptera all his life and now started to satisfy his passion by painting them in mixed media.
In collaboration with the Derby Museum and the Manchester University Museum, he has produced a series of spellbinding images of endangered and extinct butterflies, which were displayed once in his personal exhibition at the Derby Museum (22nd May – 5th June 2016).
Posted in Art Project, Arthropoda, Biodiversity, entomology, Insects, Manchester Museum, Museum Visitors, Nature Manchester, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »
Do butterflies migrate and if they do how long distances are they able to cover? How many British Lepidoptera species do migrate to the country? Why do butterflies and moths migrate? These and other questions related to migratory species of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) were discussed with an expert, Prof Laurence Cook of the University of Manchester (Manchester, UK).
The interview is presented here in two parts.
Watch interview, part one:
Watch interview, part two:
You can find useful information about two British migrant species (Painted lady and Humming-bird Hawk-moth) and the initiative ‘Migrant Watch’ online on the Butterfly Conservation site, here.
Posted in Arthropoda, Biodiversity, entomology, Insects, Manchester Museum, Nature Manchester, Research | Tagged entomology, environment, insect, manchester museum, university of manchester uk | Leave a Comment »
Writing a poem seems to be a mystery for many people, and it is indeed an act of creativity by those who are able to observe the world within or around them and to perceive it in a new way. A poem can be about anything, from old love memories to a crawling bug; it is about capturing a feeling that you have experienced. However, it’s hard to know where you should start. Helen Clare, a freelance writer and poet from Manchester, presents a possible approach to how to write a poem on the basis of, say, a visit to the Manchester Museum. If you want to know how to write a poem, this story is for you.
Below you can listen to the poem narrated and presented by Helen Clare. The printed text of the poem can be found here.
Posted in Biodiversity, Manchester Museum, Museum Visitors, Nature Manchester, Poetry, Public Events | Tagged Art project, campbell price, environment, manchester museum, Museum Visitors, Public Events, university of manchester uk | 2 Comments »
The Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) is a European species of salmonid fish, which consists of two distinct forms. One of them is purely freshwater, referred to Salmo trutta morpha fario; another is known as the Sea Trout (S. trutta morpha trutta) that migrates to the oceans for much of its life and returns to fresh water only for spawning. Here you can find some facts about the Brown Trout.
However, this fish species is also able to adapt to living in caves. In the UK, several populations of cave-dwelling Brown Trout have been found. Graham Proudlove, an Honorary Curatorial Associate at the Manchester Museum, presents a story of this unusual “cave” fish (see below).
Posted in Biodiversity, Manchester Museum, Research | Tagged Cave, environment, manchester museum, university of manchester uk | Leave a Comment »
In recent years, an increasing concern has been caused by the decline of butterflies in Britain. Almost half of the 59 resident species have reduced their ranges over the last 150 years, and five species have become extinct: Black-veined White (Aporia crataegi; c. 1925); Large Copper (Lycaena dispar, c. 1851); Mazarine Blue (Cyaniris semiargus, c. 1903); Large Blue (Maculinea arion, c. 1979); and Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros, 1980s?). Many of the remaining butterfly species continue to decline nationally or even have become extinct locally on many sites. One of such species is the Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus), which is scarce elsewhere in the UK with a high extinction rate (evaluated as 25%): i.e., the species no longer occurs in about a quarter of the localities from where it was recorded in the 1970s. In the UK, this species declined most severely from 1950 to 1980, but with relatively few extinctions occurring between 1980 and 1985 (data by Warren, 1993, for Central Southern Britain).
The main reason for extinction/declining of this and other butterfly species in the UK is a combination of habitat loss and fragmentation/isolation, and changes in habitat management (especially, in Forestry Commission and Public Authority sites). Butterflies are known to be highly sensitive to environmental changes and therefore they often decline whilst their larval food-plants are still widespread and abundant. However, any changes in butterfly populations are to be seen as early indicators of habitat changes that in the future will affect many other wildlife groups.
The Silver-studded Blue is more usually associated with heathland habitats, and a number of regional nature reserves have been specifically established to protect it. One of such sites is the Prees Heath Common Reserve (Shropshire), the last sanctuary for the Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus) in the Midlands.
Stephen Lewis, Officer at the Prees Heath Reserve, visited the Manchester Museum on 19/12/2014 in order to study historical records of the Silver-studded Blue from the Midlands on the basis of museum specimens. He also gave us a short interview about the conservation of the Silver-studded Blue in Shropshire (see below).
A more complete story of the Silver-studded Blue butterfly at the Prees Heath Common Reserve presented by Stephen Lewis can be seen in the following short video.
If you are interested in British Butterfly Conservation (the British Butterfly Conservation Society) and their currently formulated strategy for British butterflies please visit the society’s site.
Warren, M.S. 1993. A review of butterfly conservation in Central Southern Britain: I. Protection, evaluation and extinction on prime sites. – Biological Conservation, 64, 25-35; pdf-file online.
Warren M.S., Barnett L.K., Gibbons D.W. & Avery M.I. 1997. Assessing national conservation priorities: an improved red list of British butterflies. – Biological Conservation, 82: 317-328; pdf-file online.
Posted in Arthropoda, Biodiversity, entomology, Insects, Manchester Museum, Museum Visitors, Nature Manchester, Research | Tagged ecosystem scientist, entomology, environment, insect, manchester museum, university of manchester uk | Leave a Comment »
Lets Get the Party Started – Dig the City Grow Wild! Parade.
Thursday 30th July 9:30 – 11:30 am
Got Green fingers? Wild about Wild flowers? Well come along and join the party, as we take a “Meadow for a Walk” from Hulme Garden Centre into downtown Manchester.
Working with the City Council, National Trust and the National Wildflower Centre, Kew Gardens London are looking for Fun loving Flower People to help carry flower pots, shake some seed packets and join in the carnival atmosphere of dancers and performers as we get ready for Dig the City 2015.
Kew also need volunteers to help promote their Grow Wild! campaign for the duration of Dig the City (Monday 3rd – 7th August 10:30 – 4:30pm) so if you love gardening and nature, and can spare a few hours, you might be able to help us out (lunch, t shirt and free seed pack provided!)
For more information, contact
Manchester Project Coordinator for ‘A Tale of Two Cities’
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The Golden Orb-Weaving spider – Nephila clavipes (Linnaeus, 1767) of the family Nephilidae – is known from USA to Argentina. In Costa Rica, it occurs in lowland and premontane tropical rain forests. Females make large aerial webs in which they usually occupy the centre. Orb-web spiders are effective predators and can easily subdue prey that is significantly larger and heavier than the spider (see on photo).
Two females of Nephila clavipes with prey; Costa Rica.
One of the most peculiar characteristic of this species, as well as of other Nephila species, is an extreme sexual size dimorphism, where dwarf males can be many times smaller and lighter than the females (see on photo). Numerous hypotheses have been proposed to explain the factors that may give rise to such size dimorphism in spiders. Some of them are briefly discussed here.
In the case of Nephila, it is argued that that large size in females could be driven by selection on female fecundity (= the potential reproductive capacity), acting to increase the number of offspring produced. With the high level of juvenile mortality, the production of larger numbers of offspring is crucial for survival of the species. Thus such size dimorphism is almost always due to female gigantism rather than male dwarfism.
As was demonstrated for some African species [e.g., Nephila pilipes (Fabricius 1793)], females continue to grow after reaching maturity. The females mature at varying body sizes and instars and then continue to grow by molting the entire exoskeleton except their copulatory organs (=genitalia). Apparently, this is why in Costa Rica Nephila clavipes is represented by mature females of markedly variable body sizes (although, to date, a post-maturity molting has not been described for this species).
In a short video presented below (courtesy of Alex Villegas, Costa Rica) it is shown how a dwarf male of Nephila clavipes is approaching a giant female in its attempts to mate, alas unsuccessfully this tiem. Indeed, the male is to be careful in order not to be mixed up by the female with a potential prey.
Kuntner, M. & Coddington J.A. 2009. Discovery of the largest orbweaving spider species: the evolution of gigantism in Nephila. – Plos; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007516
Kuntner M., S. Zhang, M. Gregorič, and D. Li. 2012. Nephila female gigantism attained through post-maturity molting. – Journal of Arachnology 40(3):345-347. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1636/B12-03.1
Posted in Arthropoda, Biodiversity, Evolution, Manchester Museum, Spiders | Tagged manchester museum | Leave a Comment »