While in Ottawa, I spent a couple of engrossing hours at The Canadian Museum of Nature. I don’t have a picture of the entire building (built around 1905), but here’s one from Wikipedia. The incongruous glass addition was put on between 2004 and 2010 to replace the original stone tower, whose weight was causing the building to settle into the local clay:
The building is festooned with Canadian-themed animals and decorations. Here’s a carved beaver, one of Canada’s two National Animals (the other is not a moose or a polar bear).
A wolf carved on the staircase inside:
And a moose-themed stained glass window:
Our first stop was the ongoing insect exhibit, with both live and pinned insects. I of course favored the live ones, especially the series of giant beetles. I have no records of what these three are (they’re all huge), but I’m sure readers can identify them. They were all nomming too—and their food looked like banana.
Another huge beetle with horns:
And a big golden one. I have no scale for these, as they were in glass cases, but they were at least two inches long.
The large creature below is a Malaysian jungle nymph (Heteropteryx dilatata). It’s famous for laying the largest eggs of any insect (up to half an inch long, or 1.3 cm), and Wikipedia adds this information:
Females reach a length of 25 centimetres (9.8 in), one of the world’s heaviest bugs, and the males a length of 10 centimetres (3.9 in). The females of this species are very aggressive and much larger, wider, and brighter-colored than the male. The female is lime green and has short, rounded wings, however their short length doesn’t allow them to fly. The males are much smaller and a mottled brown colour. Both sexes have small spikes on their upper bodies, more numerous in the female, who also has very large spines on her hind legs that can snap together as a scissor-like weapon.
This one is clearly a male.
Here’s a female (from Wikipedia); note the spikes:
And both sexes; the sexual dimorphism is clear:
Back to my photos: this one is of Mesohippus, one of the “transitional forms” in the evolution of horses. It lived 30-40 million years ago in what is now North America, and had three toes, having lost one from its ancestor. (Modern horses, of course, retain only the single toe, as the two side toes were lost.)
Its relative size from the link above:
And a shot I took of the toes. You can see that they’re already reduced, and wind up as the “splint bones” on the side of the leg of modern horses.
As I said, the toes became the split bones, a vestigial feature (prone to fracture and injury) attesting to modern horses’ descent from multi-toed ancestors:
On to whale evolution and the transitional forms. The Museum had a nice series showing whale evolution, and here’s one putative ancestor, Pakicetus, discovered and analyzed by Phil Gingerich and colleagues. It’s considered a “basal” cetacean because it has certain features of the ear found only in later and modern whales.
Once thought to be semi-squatic, Pakicetus is now thought to have been largely terrestrial, perhaps spending a bit of time in the water. Here’s a reconstruction:
A bit later in whale evolution we get Ambulocetus, which could clearly walk and swim. It’s thought to have been mostly aquatic, lurking like crocodiles in the shallows to strike animals on land. The rear limbs show modifications for movement in water:
Here’s a reconstruction of Ambulocetus:
The most recent fossil whale in the museum (beside the modern one shown below) is that of Dorudon, which was fully aquatic and lived about 40 million years ago. I didn’t take a photo of the entire fossil, but here are the rear legs, clearly vestigial (unconnected to the rest of the skeleton), but just as clearly the remnants of rear limbs:
Here’s a skeleton from the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt am Main:
And a reconstruction (from Wikipedia), showing the tiny rear limbs sticking out from the side. Modern whales have even smaller remnants of those limbs (see below):
Here are all three stages of leg evolution in one shot, in chronological order starting from the bottom:
Here’s a cool dinosaur fossil with head armor and spikes that point both backwards and forwards. I’m sure either Matthew (a dino aficionado) or a reader can identify it, as I’ve forgotten:
Reconstruction of a feathered dinosaur, probably a theropod:
And here’s a species that wasn’t a felid but shows convergent evolution with the “true” cats. I took a photo of the sign below so I could remember it:
A reconstruction of Hoplophoneus from Prehistoric Animals:
I was amused to find that the French word for “raccoon” (which of course is a New World mammal) is “washing rat”. It is not a rodent, but a procyonid.
Finally, the Museum had an entire skeleton of a blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), the heaviest animal known to have existed in all the history of life. It weighs about 180,000 kilograms (multiply by 2.2 to get pounds), or about 200 US tons. I photographed its vestigial limbs, which are unconnected to the rest of the skeleton:
Next post: Canadian noms!