Simon

DISPLAYING POSTS BY: Simon (5)

Simon

Simon is a Collection Manager in Entomology and helps answer research questions through Melbourne Museum’s Discovery Centre. He has always been amazed by insects. He likes a bit of chocolate, all things French and he throws a mean Frisbee.

Guide to Victorian butterflies

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by Simon
Publish date
10 September 2013
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Dr Ross Field, a former head of Sciences at Museum Victoria, has compiled a spectacular book on one of his passions: butterflies of Victoria. Butterflies: Identification and life history is the result of many years of painstaking work on Ross’s part and covers all aspects of the lifecycle of these eternally popular insects.

Egg Tailed Emperor Butterfly Lateral view of the Tailed Emperor Butterfly egg
Image: Simon Hinkley & Ken Walker
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Incredible images take readers through the lifecycle of each species from egg, through caterpillar and the food plant it eats, pupa and finally adult. The magnified images of the eggs are stunning and allow us to view and admire objects usually too small to notice. The eggs can be ornamented, ribbed, round or cigar shaped and come in a range of colours. Depending on the viewer some people see a range of jellies or blancmanges when they look at some of these images, (or maybe that’s just me). In fact a selection of these egg shots is touring selected Victorian cultural venues as part of The Art of Science exhibition.

  Caterpillar larva Tailed Emperor Caterpillar of the Tailed Emperor Butterfly
Image: Ross Field
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Collecting the eggs of numerous species for photographing was a big undertaking; Ross has spent many hours in a host of locations watching butterflies circle until they land to lay their eggs. A sample of the eggs were collected and brought back to Melbourne Museum to be photographed using our camera/microscope set up. Prior to this book, anyone other than an expert who collected an egg would have to wait until the egg hatched and the caterpillar had reached one of its later instars before being able to hazard a guess at the species. With this new guide, the ability for the general public to undertake identifications in the field is greatly expanded.    

Pupa Tailed Emperor Pupa of the Tailed Emperor Butterfly
Image: Ross Field
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The egg images might also raise questions such as why do butterflies from the Pieridae family tend to lay cigar shaped eggs? Why do the eggs of some species have a series of lateral ribs running around the surface? Is there an evolutionary advantage to laying sculptured eggs? In short, this comprehensive field guide gives a new vision into the fascinating world of Victorian butterflies and helps to educate and provoke our interest into further research and conservation. 

Adult Tailed Emperor butterfly Adult Tailed Emperor Butterfly
Image: Ross Field
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Butterflies: Identification and life history. A Museum Victoria field guide by Ross Field. Available in paperback from MV shops or as an eBook from  iTunes or Booktopia.

Melbourne Zoo: 10 steps to a butterfly garden

Amazing Australian ants

Author
by Simon
Publish date
1 March 2013
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There are a number of rituals that go hand in hand with growing up in Australia. It goes without saying that in getting out of the wading pool as a kid (before water restrictions of course), there were bound to be European honey bees gathering pollen and nectar in the clover. It was Murphy’s Law that you would stand on one with bare feet or get one caught in your thongs as you ran across the lawn. The resultant sting was extremely painful and the knowledge that in stinging you the bee has, in effect, ripped its own insides out and will soon die was of small comfort to distraught children.

Neighbourhood cricket on the road (remove wicket and players in the event of a car), falling out of trees and buying firecrackers at the local milk-bar were all great fun for those of us of a certain age.

Bull ant family Bull ant Queen, Worker, larva and pupa
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Another rite of Australian childhood is to be stung by a Bull ant or Jumping Jack. This genus of ants numbers around 90 species, and almost all are endemic to Australia. These ants have extremely good eyesight and will come out to meet what they see as threats to the colony they are defending.

Bullant - Myrmecia sp. Bullant - Myrmecia sp.
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Jumping Jack - Myrmecia pilosula Jumping Jack - Myrmecia pilosula
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Minibeast Wildlife
 

Often the nest is fairly well hidden and one sure fire way of finding out you have a nest of these ants is an inadvertent drive-over with the lawnmower. This usually serves to enrage the inhabitants, who will spill out to defend the colony to the death. Bull ants and Jumping Jacks possess powerful venom, and also an impressive pair of mandibles or jaws. These jaws are used to grab the offending finger, leg, ankle, knee or toe while the sting at the end of the abdomen is injected into the skin - sometimes multiple times.  Note that a small percentage of the population can experience an allergic reaction to a sting from ants in this genus, and you should seek medical advice in such an event.

Bee sting (close up) SEM Bee sting as seen through a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)
Image: Ken Walker
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Bull Ant sting SEM Bull Ant sting as seen through a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)
Image: Ken Walker
Source: Museum Victoria
 

These amazing Australian ants were captured in May Gibbs’ Snugglepot and Cuddlepie along with other Australian wildlife such as goannas, snakes and kookaburras. Bull ants and Jumping Jacks are to be admired for their tenacity and also undertake a great job in cleaning up the environment. The female workers collect live and dead insects to take back to the colony to feed the young.

Links:

Bugs Alive!

Australian Museum, Bull ants

CSIRO Ants

Australian Venom Research Unit

Do centipedes have 100 legs?

Author
by Simon
Publish date
2 October 2012
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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

Carpets vanishing before your eyes

Author
by Simon
Publish date
15 May 2012
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Your Question: What is eating my carpets?

Some of us with a wool or wool blend carpet have had the unpleasant experience of noticing our carpets slowly receding from the wall. Closer inspection of this phenomenon shows numbers of hairy carpet beetle larvae to be the cause of the loss.

Varied carpet beetle Varied carpet beetle
Image: e_monk
Source: Used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 from e_monk
 

There are a number of different species of introduced and native carpet beetles.  As adults carpet beetles are small and usually dark, often with patterned scales on the body. The adults feed on pollen and can often be found on the window ledge trying to get outside to feed. The larvae can often be hard to see so finding the adults on window ledges can be a good pointer as to the likely presence of the larvae. As the adults feed on pollen, they won’t cause damage to property but of course will be looking to lay more eggs to maintain the population.

Despite their common name, these tenacious insects will feed on a variety of things such as carcasses, feathers, felt, textiles of an organic nature and pet hair.

Anthrenus verbasci Carpet beetles Anthrenus verbasci on a flower head
Image: Ombrosoparacloucycle
Source: Used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 from Ombrosoparacloucycle
 

These beetles can originate in bird or mammal nesting which may be in the roof or walls from where the larvae and adults find their way down into the house. Neither the larvae nor the adult beetles bite people but if left unchecked they do have the ability to cause damage to a variety of objects containing organic matter such as carpets, felt on pianos, clothing made from wool, insect collections and animal mounts. There is also the possibility for the shed larval skins to cause some irritation to people.

  Dermestidae: Anthrenus sp (larva) Dermestidae: Anthrenus sp (larva).
Image: Jacobo Martin
Source: Used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC 2.0 from JMDN
 

While these small beetles do a great job in nature of helping to break down and consume organic matter it is wise to prevent them from dining out on your expensive woollens. Undertake regular vacuuming concentrating under furniture or areas that are not often disturbed. Keep an eye out for any build up of pet hair and lint which can also support populations of these beetles.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

CSIRO: Guide to the control of clothes moths and carpet beetles.

CSIRO: Carpet Beetles 

Tjukurrtjanu to travel

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by Simon
Publish date
5 March 2012
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Your Question: Which Museum Victoria exhibition is going to Paris this year?

The stunning Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art exhibition, a collaboration between the National Gallery of Victoria and Museum Victoria in partnership with Papunya Tula Pty Ltd, is off to France. This exhibition was on show at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia and is now being carefully packed to be sent to Paris for display at the Musée du quai Branly in October this year.

Big Pintupi Dreaming ceremony 1972 Anatjari Tjakamarra, Big Pintupi Dreaming ceremony 1972
Image: NGV
Source: National Gallery of Victoria © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
 

It is a wonderful example of cooperation between public institutions and generous private lenders to bring together and showcase over 200 paintings completed between 1971 and 1972 from the Papunya region of the Western Desert. This initial production of paintings represented the founding of the Western Desert art movement and led to an explosive growth in the Aboriginal art movement. Museum Victoria has loaned numerous artefacts for this exhibition from its extensive collections. Tjukurrtjanu also presents 150 objects, including 78 painted and incised shields, spear throwers, pearl shell pendants, stone knives, head bands and ephemeral body ornaments, that establish the paintings pre-existing Western Desert iconography.

Group of decorated shields from Central Australia Group of decorated shields from Central Australia
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Musée du quai Branly is a recent addition to the museum scene in Paris, opening near the base of the Eiffel Tower in 2006. It has a collection of some 300,000 objects and is well known for its beautiful external ‘living walls’ featuring a variety of living plants and mosses. The museum exists to display and promote the indigenous cultures of Oceania, Asia, Africa and the Americas. It already holds collections of Aboriginal art from the north and central desert regions of Australia; bark paintings from Arnhem Land collected in the 1960s, contemporary acrylic paintings and a ceiling spectacularly painted by Indigenous artists.

Old Man’s Dreaming at Mitukatjirri 1972 Charlie Wartuma Tjungurrayi, Old Man’s Dreaming at Mitukatjirri
Image: NGV
Source: National Gallery of Victoria © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
 

The Tjukurrtjanu exhibition will show a Parisian and European audience how Aboriginal people use art to tell their stories and to ensure the continuation of their culture.

  Exterior of Musee du quai Branly Exterior of Musee du quai Branly, Paris
Image: Andreas Praefcke
Source: Wikimedia Commons
 

Australian artists have had huge success in overseas markets over the years, the Tate Gallery in London holds works by Sidney Nolan; Russell Drysdale enjoyed overseas acclaim as do current Australian artists such as Ron Mueck with his hyper-real sculptures. Yet it can be argued that Australia’s Indigenous artists and their art are currently the best known examples of Australian art in the rest of the world. Indeed, this is the first time that an art exhibition solely developed by the NGV and Museum Victoria has been accepted in a major European venue.

Links:

National Gallery of Victoria - Tjukurrtjanu

Museum Victoria: Collections and Research – Indigenous Cultures

Papunya Tula Artists

MV Blog: Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art

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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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