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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: mmdc (26)

The Adventures of Ally, the albino Possum

Author
by Max
Publish date
21 November 2012
Comments
Comments (14)

One of the many questions we are asked in the Discovery Centre is about the many and varied birds and mammals people sight in their own surburban backyards.  One such enquiry came to us from Steve from East Brighton who had spotted an albino possum in his garden.

Ally, the albino possum Ally, the albino possum
Image: Steve Mitchelmore
Source: Steve Mitchelmore
 

In February 2012 Steve discovered an albino baby brush-tail possum in his backyard. He wanted to know how rare they were as he had been observing possums for years, and this is the first albino one he had seen. One of our experts responded with the following;

Albino mammals are not totally unknown; we have received specimens at about a three year interval on average. Once the gene is introduced into a local population then their occurrence becomes a bit more periodic although only about once in a generation. Because they are not camouflaged as well as their parents or siblings they are readily detected by predators and could be easily taken as prey. A true albino will also have poor eyesight due to the lack of pigmentation in the eye again making them susceptible to predation. It will be interesting to follow this young animal and see how it survives such traumas.

Ally, the albino possum Ally, the albino possum
Image: Steve Mitchelmore
Source: Steve Mitchelmore
 

To which Steve responded;

About three weeks ago I noticed the small tail and one paw protruding from the mother's pouch seemed unnaturally pale in colour, then last night the juvenile, creamy white with deep red eyes, was on its mother's back...

P.S. Regarding predators, do you know if Powerful Owls inhabit the East Brighton area?

To which our expert replied;

I am unsure about the Powerful Owl’s situation in East Brighton but I can say that they have been seen/heard in many Melbourne suburbs. So if the area concerned is heavily vegetated – that is with large trees then there is every possibility that one of these large owls will make its presence felt.

Early in July, Steve sent the following update;

... you mentioned that it would be interesting to follow her development and any 'traumas' she may endure.  She still comes by almost every night, having been AWOL on only six or seven occasions since late January.  She has the un-original name of 'Ally' (as in Ally the Albino)...  As for traumas, so far so good, apart from when she fell into the pool three nights ago.  Luckily the water level was so high following all the recent rain that she had no trouble getting herself out. 

Ally, the albino possum Ally, the albino possum
Image: Steve Mitchelmore
Source: Steve Mitchelmore
 

Then in late July, he sent in his last update;

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but . . . Sadly, Ally has not been sighted since Monday night...Some months ago she disappeared for three nights straight, but I won't hold my breath after seven.  I've made numerous calls to local vets, DSE, Wildlife Victoria...Animal Rescue etc. all to no avail and searches of neighbouring yards for fur or remains have also been fruitless... I'm still amazed she survived as long as she did.  Anyway, it was certainly an enjoyable (and educational!) six months.  She will be sadly missed. Once again, thanks for your time and response to my emails.

Got a question? Ask us!

UPDATE: Ally has been spotted again!

Links

WILD: Amazing animals in a changing world

Bioinformatics

Discovery Centre makeover

Author
by Siobhan
Publish date
2 November 2012
Comments
Comments (1)

What a change has been wrought in the Discovery Centre this week! A change to the structure of the Discovery Centre service has really been reflected in the physical space.

Discovery Centre The new look Discovery Centre.
Image: Siobhan Motherway
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We will no longer be offering a free internet and printing service, so the number of computers in the public space has been reduced down to one table – leaving two new tables full of interesting specimens to touch and explore. It has been lovely this morning to see family groups coming through and engaging with these collection objects that are at kid height!

Shell display A display of shells at one of the new Discovery Centre desks.
Image: Siobhan Motherway
Source: Museum Victoria
 

An area with comfortable couches and seats allows for reading or informal chats with museum staff, and desk space with power points gives those with their own devices a place to plug in, charge up, and connect to the free museum wifi (just look for "museumpublic").

We have a beautiful new "...ology" display being installed up the back of the centre – when that is finished, we'll have a row of cases each devoted to a different discipline from the natural and earth sciences.

Crab in display case A King Crab on display in the Discovery Centre's new "...ology" display.
Image: Siobhan Motherway
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Not everything is new, of course; we still have cases with skulls, spiders, worked stone tools – these collections have proven very useful over the years, allowing enquirers to do some of their own identification and investigation. And we - the intrepid Discovery Centre staff – are still here, ready to take your questions big or small! The Discovery Centre's new operating hours are 10am-4.30pm, Tuesday to Saturday. However, we're still available to take your questions online 24/7, at our Ask the Experts page.

Times, they are a changin’

Author
by Jo
Publish date
21 October 2012
Comments
Comments (0)

Things are changing down at the Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre and we thought we would let you all know what you can expect after November 1st.

Visitors looking at fossil display Visitors looking at fossil display : Discovery Centre: Melbourne Museum
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Discovery Centre has operated at Melbourne Museum since the museum opened in 2000, functioning as a library, providing free computer and internet access and responding to visitor enquiries. We have operated the centre at Melbourne Museum with our onsite visitors in mind, providing access to the museum’s collection.  From November 1st, this is going to be changing...

Points from the Indigenous Cultures Department on display Points from the Indigenous Cultures Department on display
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We will soon become a five day per week operation, open from Tuesday until Saturday from 10am until 4.30pm. We will still provide access to the museum’s collections but we are shifting our focus to the online experience. Many of you who have used our service in the past know that we encourage our visitors to check out the Museum Victoria website, and explore the vast amount of information made available. We will continue this focus with our new operating hours.

Visitors looking at skeleton specimens Visitors looking at skeleton specimens: Discovery Centre: Melbourne Museum
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We are also removing some of the computers, the printer and photocopier, and unlimited internet access. We want to encourage people to explore the museum resources online using both the public access computers and their own devices. The WiFi in the Discovery Centre is available and we are moving the furniture around to make the space more accessible for visitors using their own devices. We are still available to accept your online enquiries, even if the doors are closed.

Specimens on display: Discovery Centre: Melbourne Museum Specimens on display: Discovery Centre: Melbourne Museum
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

So, from November 1st 2012, the Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre will be open from 10am until 4.30pm Tuesday to Saturday. We will have four public access computers, and will no longer offer free printing and photocopying. We will however continue to offer a great space to explore the museum’s areas of collection and research and encourage everyone to come down and take a look at the new Discovery Centre!

NB – In order to prepare for these changes, the Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre will be closed from 2pm on 30 October and will reopen on 1 November 2012.  

Do centipedes have 100 legs?

Author
by Simon
Publish date
2 October 2012
Comments
Comments (3)

Your Question: Do centipedes really have 100 legs?

Despite a common name that means 100 legs, Australian species of centipede can have from 15 to 191 pairs of legs. Australia currently has 128 species of centipede out of a worldwide fauna of between 2,500 and 3,000 species.

Centipede fangs Centipede fangs
Image: Dr Ken Wlker
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Australian species range from around 10 mm in length up to 140mm for our largest, the Giant Centipede (Ethmostigmus rubripes). The world's largest species is Scolopendra gigantea which occurs in northern South America and can reach up to 300mm in length.

Centipede - Scolopendra morsitans Centipede - Scolopendra morsitans.
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Despite many people thinking that the venomous end of centipedes is at the rear, the venom claws are actually at the front end of the centipede. These claws are linked to venom glands which are used by the centipedes in hunting for prey and for defence. Centipedes can be fast-moving and voracious hunters with some species capable of catching and killing frogs, small reptiles and mice. Centipede reproduction can involve a period of antenna stroking or a ritualised dance and the eggs are guarded by the female in a number of species.

Mechanoreceptor on a centipede's antenna Mechanoreceptor on a centipede's antenna
Image: Dr Ken Walker
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Many people's experience of centipedes is to find one of the aptly named house centipedes running around in their bath. These centipedes are often an introduced species. Australia's centipedes are important predators in the invertebrate world and amazing animals to watch. Interestingly millipedes, whose common name means 1,000 legs, fall short in the legs area although some species count up to 350 pairs. Check out one of the distant relatives of centipedes and millipedes, the 100cm long Arthropleura model in the 600 Million Years exhibition at Melbourne Museum.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

Bugs!

CSIRO Centipedes of Australia

CSIRO. Chilopoda, centipedes

Australian Venom Research Unit, Centipedes

Sunshine Harvester employees

Author
by Nicole D
Publish date
19 September 2012
Comments
Comments (2)

Your Question: Do you have information on the employees at Sunshine Harvester? My grandfather travelled from Victoria to South America and then Europe in their employ. He was scheduled to go to Russia when WWI began and went to the USA instead, where our family remain today.

The legend fostered by the company is still alive in the images and memories of those who were linked by land, work, city, or machine to this enterprise.

Group portrait of employees at H.V. McKay Massey Harris Group portrait of employees at H.V. McKay Massey Harris
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The stories of the people who worked for Sunshine Harvester are captured in the Workers pages of the Sunshine Harvester Works website. These pages include information about the lives of generations of company employees and images of the staff and their families at both work and leisure. You may even see images of your grandfather and his family there.

H.V. McKay Pty Ltd, Farm Equipment Manufacture & Field Trials, Sunshine, Victoria, circa 1920s H.V. McKay Pty Ltd, Farm Equipment Manufacture & Field Trials, Sunshine, Victoria, circa 1920s
Source: Museum Victoria
 

As your enquiry hints, the company had a diverse export market, eventually supplying over 160 countries, including North America, South America and Russia and Sunshine Employees were sent to these countries from Australia to assist in running the business.

Museum Victoria holds a large collection of objects, documents and images relating to the history of HV McKay and Sunshine Harvester in which you can explore information about the company's history, products and glimpse the lives of its employees.

H.V. McKay Massey Harris, Farm Equipment Manufacture & Field Trials, Sunshine, Victoria, Jul 1950 H.V. McKay Massey Harris, Farm Equipment Manufacture & Field Trials, Sunshine, Victoria, Jul 1950
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Although the museum holds a wealth of information, including some company records, the employee and personnel files are in Australian Trade Union Archives at the University of Melbourne, which also holds a large collection pertaining to HV McKay and Sunshine Harvester.

  A corner of the foundry pouring molten metal A corner of the foundry pouring molten metal
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The article 'Resurrecting the Sunshine Harvester Works: Re-presenting and Reinterpreting the Experience of Industrial Work in Twentieth-Century Australia' tells the fascinating story of how the HV McKay and Sunshine Harvester collection came to the museum and how, along with the University of Melbourne Archives collection, it is used to tell the story of the company and its employees.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

Sunshine Harvester Works

...but is it real?

Author
by Wayne
Publish date
6 August 2012
Comments
Comments (0)

Your Question: ...but is it real?

"I love the Discovery Centre at Melbourne Museum and wanted to know more about the animals and fossils on display. Are they all real? "

Not all of the displayed material is 100% ‘real’, but a surprisingly large percentage of the displays are certainly real...although it depends on how you would define reality! Let me explain with a few examples:

Dinosaur Skulls

The two dinosaur skulls in the Discovery Centre (of Tarbosaurus and Centrosaurus) are both casts from real specimens, but aren’t themselves ‘real’. For many reasons, casts of dinosaur remains outnumber the real dinosaur fossils on display here at Melbourne  Museum, but you can see real dinosaur fossils in the Dinosaur Walk and 600 Million Years exhibitions in the Science and Life Gallery.

Centrosaurus skull The cast skull from the Cretaceous dinosaur Centrosaurus
Image: Wayne Gerdtz
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Cephalopod slab

Yes, this is also real, but it has had some enhancement – the fossils themselves have been cut and polished in contrast to the rough, unpolished rock in which they are embedded. It looks quite different to what the slab looked like originally, but it is certainly real – just a bit more polished, literally!

Cephalopod slab A slab of ancient sea bed sediemnts with cephalopod shells embedded.
Image: Wayne Gerdtz
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Mammal and Bird Mounts

We have a variety of these in the Discovery Centre, ranging from small local Honeyeater species to the impressive Jaguar mount. These are all real in the sense that the skins/hides are preserved from the original animals, but the remaining soft tissue such as eyes and muscles, are not real – just as you would expect for taxidermy animals.

DC Jaguar The Discovery Centre's mounted Jaguar specimen
Image: Wayne Gerdtz
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

600 Million Years – Victoria Evolves

Dinosaur Walk

Live Exhibits blog posts

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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