Archive for April, 2010

The Saint Helena earwig (Labidura herculeana) is the world’s largest earwig from a small volcanic island in the South Atlantic. Its body length ranges from 36 to 54 millimeters. The largest known specimen is a male of about 78 mm long. The creature is also known as ‘Dodo of the earwigs’, since it is endemic to a small island and may even be extinct due to habitat loss as well as predation by introduced animals and birds. The earwig has not been seen alive since 1967 though there were three unsuccessful expeditions organized and sponsored by the London Zoo in order to find it. This species is listed as Endangered by the World Conservation Union. The full story of the earwig can be found here.

The Manchester Museum has got only two specimens, one male and one female, of this unique creature (see photo).

The male and female of Labidura herculeana from the collection of Manchester Museum.

Dmitri Logunov, the Curator of Arthropods at the Manchester Museum, and two Manchester based artists, Ian Clegg and Angela Tait, are talking about the story of the Giant Earwig; watch here.


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Queen Alexandra’s birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae) is the largest butterfly in the world.  The wingspan is of 180–210mm in females, and 170–190mm in males. Butterflies fly high during the day, visiting flowers, often high up in forest canopy, and feeding on nectar. The species is restricted to approximately 100 square kilomteres of coastal rainforest in SE Papua New Guinea and therefore is listed as endangered by the IUCN, completely restricting its sale. Its major threats are habitat destruction due to the ever encroaching oil palm and timber industries and low egg fecundity (a few tens of eggs per female). Some say that the best hope for conserving Queen Alexandra’s birdwing may be its commercial breeding in captivity.

This species was described by lord Walter Rothschild in 1907, who named it in honour of Queen Alexandra, the wife of King Edward VII of the UK. The Manchester Museum’s specimens were collected by the famous collector Albert S. Meek from Papua New Guinea, commissioned to go there by Lord Rothschild. The photographed specimens are from the Longsdon Papilionidae collection received by the Manchester Museum in 1937-1938 by bequest of David Longsdon. Most probably, these specimens were purchased by Longsdon from one of the London natural history dealers, who obtained them from A.S. Meek.

A female of the Queen Alexandra's birdwing from the Manchester Museum.

A male of the Queen Alexandra's birdwing from the Manchester Museum.

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Elephant Beetle (Megasoma elephas) is a large striking beetle, belonging to the scarab family and originating from the lowland rainforests in Central and South America. Beetles range between 70-120mm long (or over). The males are usually two/three times bigger than females and their weight can exceed 50-70g.

This is 35 times bigger than the weight of the smallest known mammal, Thailand’s bumblebee bat, which is 11mm long and about 2 grams weight.

The Elephant Beetle males have the large, graceful horns, protruding from their heads, like a trunk of the elephant (this is why their name). The males’ horns purpose is to fight other males for feeding or breeding sites.

Elephant Beetle’s larvae develop in large decaying logs and take up to four years to develop into an adult beetle. The life span of an adult beetle is around four months. Habitat destruction by the man, particularly clear-cutting when large trees are removed, is the main threat to this beetle in nature.

The photographed male is just one specimen from the large Manchester Museum’s collection of scarab beetles, numbering over 3,000 species.

The large male of the Elephant Beetle; it may take up to 4 years to reach maturity.

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