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DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: May 2012 (13)

Southern carnivorous dinosaur diversity

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
17 May 2012
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MV palaeontologist Tom Rich, along with colleagues Roger Benson, Patricia Vickers-Rich, and Mike Hall, today published a review of all the theropod dinosaurs known from early Cretaceous period deposits in southern Australia. In doing so, they present the first complete snapshot of local theropod diversity around 120-105 million years ago.

Theropods are a group of mostly carnivorous dinosaurs that walked on two legs and had three-toed feet. Included among the theropods are the infamous T.rex, the small and agile Deinonychus, the feathered Archaeopteryx and modern birds. Tom and his colleagues have been pulling theropod fossils out of Victoria's coastline deposits since the 1970s and in this review, they considered 37 bones and over 90 individual teeth. They conclude that the local Cretaceous theropod fauna comprised nine major groups (or taxa), including allosauroids, tyrannosauroids, spinosauroids and the recently-discovered ceratosaur.

fossils of therapod forelimbs Some of the fossils reviewed in this examination of southern therapod diversity. These are large theropod manual phalanges, or bones from the 'hands' of these dinosaurs.
Source: Benson et al.
 

evolutionary tree of therapod dinosaurs A summary cladogram (evolutionary tree) of the therapod dinosaurs, showing the relationships between the major groups within the suborder Therapoda.
Source: Benson et al.
 

Like the unique fauna of Australia living today, our prehistoric fauna was distinctive too, with some groups dominating the fossil record and others seemingly absent. In the past, palaeontologists have considered several explanations why the types of dinosaurs that lived in Australia were so different to the types found in other continents, even our nearby Gondwanan neighbours. Did certain groups evolve in other continents after Gondwana had split up, so those groups never dispersed to Australia? Or were there patterns of regional extinctions reflecting the differences in climate between the continents as they drifted apart?

As more fossils are uncovered and studied, the picture gets a little clearer. It now appears that many high-level dinosaur taxa, such as the tyrannosauroids and allosauroids, emereged earlier than previously estimated and were distributed all over the world during the Jurassic. This suggests they've been missing from Australian records simply because our dinosaur fauna is poorly known. The Australian fossil record is patchy – whether it's because the fossils have not been preserved or simply not discovered or properly interpreted yet – and often only one or two bones represent an entire group of animals.

However the isolation of Gondwana and Australia from the rest of the world, and the unique conditions here, did help shape a unique assemblage at the species level. During the early Cretaceous, Australia was still attached to Antarctica and was much closer to the South Pole than it is now. Earth's climate was much warmer, the poles were free of icecaps and Victoria and Antarctica were covered in lush, ferny temperate forests. Long periods of winter darkness and extended summer daylight influenced the evolution of endemic dinosaurs whereas in other parts of the world, their distant relatives were contending with quite different environments.

Australia's position near the South Pole 120 million years ago Approximate position of Australia 120 million years ago during the Cretaceous era.
Image: Ron Blakey. Altered by Cally Bennet and Fons VandenBerg
Source: Colorado Plateau Geosystems
 

The possibility remains that some dinosaurs, such as the long-necked quadrupedal sauropods, which were present in Queensland but have not been found in Victoria, could not survive in cool, dark Cretaceous southern Australia and and so they did not enter this area.

Links:

Benson RBJ, Rich TH, Vickers-Rich P, Hall M (2012) Theropod Fauna from Southern Australia Indicates High Polar Diversity and Climate-Driven Dinosaur Provinciality. PLoS ONE 7(5): e37122.doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037122

Monash University: The killer dinosaurs of south-eastern Australia

600 Million Years: Victoria evolves

Dinosaur Walk

MV News: Victorian tyrannosauroid found

Carpets vanishing before your eyes

Author
by Simon
Publish date
15 May 2012
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Comments (1)

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 

The rise and fall of mini-Melbourne

Author
by Adrienne Leith
Publish date
11 May 2012
Comments
Comments (1)

Adrienne creates and presents public programs at Melbourne Museum.

Most of our holiday activities for kids include a make-and-take aspect, where visitors go home with a memento of their own creation, such as an Egyptian pendant. Last holidays, we took a different approach, designing a communal and collaborative program to build a mini-Melbourne within The Melbourne Story exhibition.

We weren't sure if visitors would be happy to work on something that they couldn't take home, but we needn't have worried. Each day the mini-city grew and grew and grew, so much so that Whelan the Wrecker had to come in a few times to make room for the city's growth. (Ah, how art mirrors life!) By the end of the holidays, the entrance to the Melbourne Gallery was completely full.

Cardboard city Urban sprawl of the cardboard variety at mini-Melbourne.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Each participant received a cardboard square, two rectangles, a triangle, a person and three connectors to put the set together. From these simple components grew a huge array of city features. Memorable were the churches, art galleries, museums, dance studio, aquarium, South Vermont Primary School and about ten Herald Sun buildings. More personalised were the homes with family names (in English and Vietnamese) and street numbers. There were lots of boats, trains and trams but surprisingly no cars – however there was a submarine!

Buildings and residents of mini-Melbourne. Buildings and residents of mini-Melbourne.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The city was populated too, with little people sitting on or hanging off the buildings. The population explosion was very evident as the holidays progressed – the little people everywhere really made the whole scene come alive.

Mini Melburnians Mini-Melburnians in their cardboard city.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Participants were aged from about 18 months to grown-ups and of course not everyone approached the project the same way. Younger kids wanted to decorate and construct their own buildings, while older, kids, teenagers and adults banded together to make bigger and more ambitious group projects. The cardboard pieces were decorated with coloured textas and then constructed to individual designs. So much concentration and so many conversations!

Sadly, we couldn't keep the city but we did keep the little people, all 5,000 of them. We are now seeking an artist who might like to use them in an art work or installation so the people of our mini-Melbourne live on. If you have a new home for the mini-Melburnians, email me at Melbourne Museum.

Staff working on mini-Melbourne Museum staff preparing the cardboard components of mini-Melbourne.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The autumn holiday team included Lisa Nink, Bernard Caleo, David Perkins, Jen Brook, Alexandra Johnstone, Lauren Ellis and 46 wonderful volunteers.

Sweet tidings

Author
by Elise Murphy
Publish date
10 May 2012
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Sweet talker Elise Murphy is working with Emily Kocaj to organise the Sweets festival and exhibition. Elise is responsible for community festivals at the Immigration Museum and has a very sweet tooth.

The power of sweets to bring people together was affirmed on Sunday 18 March at the Immigration Museum, as over 2,255 visitors flocked to the Sweets festival and launch of the Sweets: tastes and traditions from many cultures exhibition. Six months in the making, the festival and exhibition showcased the satisfying results of collaboration between the Museum and the Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mauritian and Turkish communities in Victoria.

Indian dancers Sweets for the Gods, Tara Rajkumar’s Natya Sudha Dance Company
Image: Dylan Kelly
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Heidi Victoria, Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier and Assisting the Premier with the Arts, opened the sugar-fuelled occasion. Luscious treats made by community groups and local business owners showcased our rich cultural heritage alongside commissioned dance and music performances, cooking demonstrations from community members and stories, objects and films in the exhibition. By the end of the day, there wasn't a single sweet left in the Museum.

Women looking at exhibition showcase Heidi Victoria (second from left) viewing the Sweets exhibition with community members and MV staff.
Image: Dylan Kelly
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Turkish and Italian sweets Left: Visitor sampling Turkish sherbet | Right: Italian sweets stall
Image: Dylan Kelly
Source: Museum Victoria
 

It was a delight to see intercultural and intergenerational exchanges sparked by simple acts of sharing sweets and memories. "Energising, uplifting and reassuring," as Patricia Kimtia, President of the Cultural Historical Association of Rodriguans & Mauritians, suggests, "such richness and positive interaction restores hope that the fabric of our society is stronger than one may think and the sense of community prevails."

Women performing a Japanese tea ceremony Japanese tea ceremony demonstration with wagashi sweets
Image: Dylan Kelly
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Although the festival was a special one-day event, the exhibition will run until 7 April 2013 with opportunities for all to visit and share stories and recipes. The sweetest taste, the enriching experience of collaborating with community members and colleagues on this intercultural project, is one that will linger much longer.

Visitors enjoying sweets at the festival Visitors enjoying sweets at the festival
Image: Dylan Kelly
Source: Museum Victoria
 

On Their Own, where to next?

Author
by Jo
Publish date
7 May 2012
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Your Question: I noticed that the On their own exhibition about Britain's child migrants exhibition is closing, where is it off to?

On their own, the story of Britain's child migrants will be moving on from the Immigration Museum in Melbourne to the Western Australian Museum - Maritime in Fremantle, due to open on Saturday May 19th.

On thier Own exhibition On their own exhibition at the Immigration Museum.
Image: Kate Brereton
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The exhibition was very popular with visitors to the Immigration Museum, many of whom commented about the moving nature of the content. Sadly, it is a story that has gone unnoticed for many years, but we were glad to be able to host the exhibition and provide visitors with a rich understanding and experience.

On thier Own exhibition On their own exhibition at the Immigration Museum.
Image: Kate Brereton
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Lisa snapped some pictures today of the Museum Victoria Collection Management and Conservation team and the Australian National Maritime Museum Collection Management and Conservation team working on de-installing the exhibition, getting it ready for its move across the country.

On thier Own exhibition De-installing the On their own exhibition at the Immigration Museum.
Image: Lisa Collins
Source: Museum Victoria
 

On thier Own exhibition De-installing the On their own exhibition at the Immigration Museum.
Image: Lisa Collins
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Although the exhibition is leaving Melbourne, we still do have plenty of information for visitors in the Immigration Discovery Centre, and online. The exhibition website will remain active until November 2013, so there is still an opportunity for you to learn more about Britain's child migrants.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links

MV Blog post - On their own opens

On their own: Britain's child migrants

Ice Ice Baby

Author
by Mel
Publish date
3 May 2012
Comments
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Mel helps manage MV's Marine Invertebrates collections. In her spare time she works with honorary associate Mark O’Loughlin and others to develop her specialist knowledge of holothuroids, or sea cucumbers.

Ice was what I saw from my porthole each morning as I’d wake yet again to the realisation... Woohoo! I’m in Antarctica!

What a wonderful realisation it was. For nearly two months this summer my home was the British ice-strengthened research vessel the RSS James Clark Ross, and I loved every minute of my freezing, rolling, ice-crunching scientific voyage. On board at the invitation of the British Antarctic Survey and with the support of Museum Victoria, I was part of the biological research team tasked with collecting marine benthinc invertebrates from the shelf and slopes of the Weddell Sea in Western Antarctica.

View from the top View from the top of the RSS James Clark Ross
Image: Mel Mackenzie
Source: Museum Victoria

My regular work in the museum's Marine Invertebrate Collections held me in good stead to assist the biological team with our daily work of collecting, sorting, identifying, preserving, and DNA-sampling specimens as we brought these bottom-dwelling 'beasties' up in nets and sleds from the ocean floor. Our aim was to assess the biodiversity and evolutionary history of the area, and my particular focus was on sea cucumbers (holothuroids) which I have studied for a number of years now under the mentorship of Museum Victoria honorary associate Mark O'Loughlin.

James Rudd (ship’s doctor) The biology team
Image: Mel Mackenzie
Source: British Antarctic Survey

Relatives of animals such as the sea star, many sea cucumbers actually look more like sausages with tentacles (which explains their name), and have developed a variety of different feeding and reproductive methods to adapt to environments worldwide. They are diverse in Antarctic waters with over 180 species (including many undescribed) recorded south of the Antarctic Convergence, and as such, they make a good group for evolutionary study. Often coming up squashed in trawls they can be tricky to identify, but the key lies in a variety of identifiers from tentacle shape and number, to tube-foot arrangement and the tiny little skeletal remnants known as 'ossicles' which can be viewed in dissolved tissue under a microscope.

Sea cucumbers and bivalves clinging to urchin spines. Sea cucumbers and bivalves clinging to urchin spines.
Image: Mel Mackenzie
Source: Museum Victoria

With my previous experience of Antarctic sea cucumbers limited to pickled museum specimens, I was very excited to finally see these animals in living colour! They were amazingly diverse, from the tiny Psolids which clung to sea-urchin spines, to my favourite football-shaped 'sea-pigs' which the ship crew were delighted to see. We even got some footage (from cameras lashed to one of our collecting sleds) of different species feeding and moving about on the sea floor.

Along with sea cucumbers we saw many other amazing critters, from nets crawling with sea spiders to beautiful glass sponges filled with brittle stars and deep-sea fish with 'lights' attached to their heads... and that was just from below the water! On top we saw breaching Minke whales, majestic Emperors and curious (and chatty) chin-strap penguins against the always gorgeous background of floating icebergs. Stopping in the sub-Antarctic British Base at Signey to help close up for winter, we even had the chance to see (while firmly holding our noses) the huge elephant seals which roll their way around the camp.

Emperor penguin (left), Elephant seals Emperor penguin (left), Elephant seals at the UK’s Signy base
Image: Mel Mackenzie
Source: Museum Victoria

Links:

Skeletons of sea cucumbers, MV Blog post, April 2011

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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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