Balaenoptera musculus; 1987; Tignish, PEI; Collected by Andrew Trites Blue whales rarely strand on beaches, and very few skeletons have been recovered for research or display. Worldwide, only 21 are available to the public for viewing.
The Beaty Biodiversity Museum is home to Canada’s largest blue whale skeleton, a magnificent specimen that illustrates the interconnectedness of all living things.
Ovibos moschatus; 1976; NT; Collected by Zonailo Family "Muskoxen are masters of the tundra and are some of the few large mammals able to survive every season of this harsh environment. Although management regulations have recently released them from the persecution of two centuries of overhunting, they still face an increasingly more immediate threat – habitat loss due to accelerating climate change. Since the Pleistocene, a changing climate has characterized the contracting range of the muskox. The herds that extended as far south as Kansas 20 000 years ago are now restricted to the northern rim of the continent. While muskoxen no longer roam as far south as the Okanagan valley, such ecological change has been drawn out over thousands of years of natural glacial cycles. Now it is occurring within a single muskox generation.” Julian Heavyside, Student at UBC.
Mirounga angustirostris; 1944; Pine Island, Haida Gwaii, BC; Collected by Ivor Johnson “The northern elephant seal is a quick moving giant and this being a bull seal it could have weighed up to 2300kgs and 4-5m. in length. These creatures have adapted to deep-sea fishing and have been known to hunt 300 to 800 meters below the surface. This hunting is only possible due to the high content of blood in the seal’s body that helps to store oxygen, males have been known to be underwater for up to 2 hours. This majestic creature once hunted to near extinction (20 left alive) has now bounced back to over 100,000 due to protection. We hope to travel to see the northern elephant seal in its habitat in BC.”
Justin van Westen.Social Worker; Avid Bone Collector; oldirtyhick on Instagram.
Ambystoma gracile; 1930; Mountain View Conservation and Breeding Society, Vancouver, BC; Collected by Gertrude M. Smith
Aepyormis maximus; Madagascar; Collected by Michael C Whitlock
“This display of egg shells makes me smile each time I see it. It is a clear physical demonstration of what I find so fascinating about evolution: that the process of ‘survival of the fittest’ leads not to one simple outcome but to diversity, here diversity in egg size.
The tiny egg is that of a hummingbird. After 2-3 weeks, a tiny hummer emerges from such eggs, weighing less than a dime.
The biggest egg is that of an elephant bird. The cracks in this shell give a clue that the egg shell was actually pieced back together. Elephant birds no longer exist — they went extinct ~300 years ago through over-hunting. Pieces of this egg shell were found in an old pile of food waste (a 'midden’) and glued back together. Elephant birds lived on Madagascar and were about 3 meters tall and 500 pounds — look around, that’s about the size of the museum cabinets!
While elephant bird eggs are thought to be the largest bird eggs that ever evolved, their size is perhaps not so surprising: the moms were HUGE!! Ditto for small hummingbird eggs: their moms were TINY!! Perhaps the most surprising egg in the world is that of the kiwi. Poor kiwi moms, their eggs can be up to ¼ of their body weight, That would be like a human mom giving birth to a 15kg baby. Ouch!
Before leaving the topic of egg diversity, the shiny brown tinamou egg is also special. Tinamou eggs come in a variety of colours, depending on the exact species: green, blue, brown. The blue eggs of the great tinamou (Tinamus major) even seem to change colour and are iridescent! Much better than any of the eggs that we’ve ever dyed!
Why all this diversity? Certainly flightless birds, including elephant birds, ostriches, and kiwis, can carry heavier eggs because they don’t need to fly. But why so big, or so small, or so colourful? Scientists are still trying to figure out the exact details. But for now, we can look at this display and be reminded of the diversity of life that has evolved on earth.”
Dr. Sally Otto, former Director of the Centre for Biodiversity Research at UBC.
Pavo muticus; Domestic; Collected by Plato Mamo
If you are a bird lover and want to get the inside scoop on avian collection and specimen preparation, check out the "Working with Birds" page here:https://beatymuseum.ubc.ca/research-2/collections/cowan-tetrapod-collection/working-with-birds/
Heterochone calyx; July 1, 2010; Between Vancouver Island, BC and Haida Gwaii; 400 feet depth
“Most people are familiar with the soft, squishy bath sponge but few will have touched the brittle, fingered goblet glass sponge. Its scaffold structure is primarily made from silica (SiO2). The glass sponge builds beautiful glass sculptures and form large reef ecosystems in deep waters off the BC coastline. Thought to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs, glass sponge reefs were discovered in 1987. A true treasure trove, the fingered goblet sponge is valued as a foundation species of these ecosystems, providing habitat for many amazing animals, including spot prawns and rockfishes. Spectacular!!”
Sheila Byers, Museum Interpreter at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum.
Pycnopodia helianthoides; BC
“Radiant beauty, Predator of the ocean floor, Many sprawling legs.
Sunflower Seastars are one of the largest, quickest and most voracious predators that roam the ocean floor. Their expandable stomach ejects from the middle of their body to engulf their meal whole and spit out the hard parts when finished. Many animals that are preyed upon by this sea star have evolved survival mechanisms to escape the grasp of its tube feet such as scallops clapping their shells together to quickly swim away.”
Danielle An, Vascular Plant and Algae Herbarium Assistant at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum.
Sphagnum pacificum; 1999; Vancouver Island, BC; Collected by GK Golinski
“Sphagnum species have antiseptic properties that were used during World War 1 and there was an industry of wrapping Sphagnum, not necessarily this one, in sterile cloth to use as battle front bandages. Learn more.”
Jack Maze, Professor Emeritus in Botany at UBC.
Hypocrea pulvinata; 2008; Observatory Hill, Vancouver Island, BC; Collected by Oluna Ceska
Amelanchier alnifolia; 1970; BC; Collected by Nancy Turner
Thuja plicata; 1950s; BC
“Affectionately called ‘Stumpy’ by museum staff and volunteers this magnificent western red cedar slab is one of the treasures of the Beaty Museum. While it has been part of the museum’s collection for the past 5 years, it has been a feature of UBC campus for more than half a century, spending time in the Biological Science building before arriving at the Beaty. The tree itself is believed to 775 years old when it was felled in the 1950’s. More information on Stumpy’s life at UBC.
The Beaty’s collection of authentic objects makes the museum special and putting people in touch with these real specimens is a key part of our approach to teaching and learning. The impressive size and irresistibly tactile nature of this centuries old Western red cedar makes it a real treasure and valuable educational resource. Stumpy plays an important role in engaging our visitor’s hands, hearts and minds - inspiring young and old to feel the wood grain and rough bark, to count the tree rings, contemplate Stumpy’s long life, and reflect on their own lives and relationship with the natural world.”
Jackie Chambers, Education & Outreach Manager at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum.
Limenitis archippus; 1901
Lapsias lorax; November 9, 2010; Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, Ecuador; Collected by Wayne Maddison
Cicindela purpurea audubonii; 1981; Penticton, BC; Collected by RA Cannings
Hippocampus white; South West Pacific
Since most of the males in the animal kingdom don’t have access to DNA tests, many species have found ways of ensuring their biological fatherhood. A great example of this comes from the seahorse.
By human standards, seahorse courtship is viewed as very romantic. They are monogamous with one partner for their whole lives. Every day they meet in the male’s territory and perform a sort of dance where they may circle each other or an object, change colour, and even hold tails. When the female is ready to transfer her eggs and the male is ready to accept, mating begins.
The female seahorse has an ovipositor, which is a tube through which the eggs can be deposited outside the body. The female will deposit her eggs into the male’s brood pouch; this is a pouch where the eggs can grow and receive all the nutrients and oxygen they need, much like fetal mammals do in their mother’s uterus. Once the eggs are in the male seahorses brood pouch, he will fertilize the eggs and allow them to mature for about 24 days. Then the male will give birth to self-sufficient offspring and the courtship and mating cycle will begin once again. Through this type of reproductive process, the male knows that the eggs in his brood pouch are his children. By Isabella Laird, former Administrative and Communications Assistant, Beaty Biodiversity Museum
Halysites sp.; 400 Ma
Marella splendens; 520 Ma; Burgess Shale, BC; Collected by Walcott
“Marrella splendens is the most common animal found in the Burgess Shale near Field, B.C.. Although it was initially described as an "odd” trilobite, Marrella was later assigned a class of its own. Complex morphology suggests it gave rise to shrimp, crab, and barnacles. Recently, Marrella has been proposed as the provincial fossil.“
Dr. Kirsten Hodge, Curator of Pacific Museum of Earth.
Started in 1924 by Dr. Merton Yarwood Williams, who was a founding member of what was then UBC’s Department of Geology. The collection began with the purchase of specimens from W.J. Sutton, a local mining engineer. It expanded substantially in the 1970s and 1980s with the curatorial efforts of Joe Nagel, curator from 1971 to 1995. The Fossil Collection is part of the Pacific Museum of Earth, Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, UBC.