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Category Archives: Zoology

A-toad hunting we will go

As we enter June, Manitobans spend time outside gardening at home or swimming at the cottage, except for herpetologists (reptile and amphibian scientists) when June is time to look for toads! This is a good month to be listening for Great Plains toads (Anaxyrus cognatus) and plains spadefoot toads (Spea bombifrons) as males gather in wet spots to call and attract mates. These two species are almost unknown to most…

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A BIRD IN THE HAND: Museum Collections and Conservation

During this cold March, the new Prairies Gallery is a comfortable place to explore the diversity, adaptations, and life histories of some of Manitoba’s wildlife. For many visitors, especially the young, the exhibits often provide the first close look at the details of insect wings and wolf teeth, the first chance to explore life underground, or to experience the wonder of just how many other animal species are fellow Manitobans….

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The Mighty Chickadee – How a Handful of Feathers Conquers Winter

A Manitoba winter, especially this one, without the friendly, buzzy, “chick-a-dee-dee” calls of our neighbourhood black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) would be that much harder to endure. The prolonged cold spells, incredible wind chills, and many blizzards made these birds and their cheery presence even more welcome at our backyard feeders. But while we were entertained watching from behind the window of a warm house, these tiny, 14-gram balls of fluff…

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The enduring diorama – Museum pronghorns still going strong after 50+ years

The Museum opened our newly renovated Prairie Gallery just last spring with spectacular new exhibits on the intriguing and engaging natural and human history of southern Manitoba. The addition of ground squirrels and their burrows, a riverbank bison bone bed, a homesteader stone house, an old school room, and hundreds of new specimens and artifacts, along with life-sized animations, prairie soundscapes, and feature videos provide exciting immersive experiences. But some…

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Legacies of Confederation – Outlaw #5, Canada, and Bison Conservation

Celebrating Canada’s first 150 years does not usually involve thinking about the environment or biodiversity, and certainly Confederation is a human history event. But human actions have an impact on our environment and the creation of Canada was no exception. Our latest exhibit, Legacies of Confederation: A New Look at Manitoba History, offers an opportunity to explore those impacts, those legacies, from a natural history perspective. Given the massive changes…

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Tracking Down Canada’s Last Passenger Pigeon

September 1st of 2014 marked the grim anniversary of the death of the last passenger pigeon on Earth. It’s extinction is probably the only one for which an exact hour of demise is recorded; the last individual was a captive bird, named Martha, that expired at 2pm local time at the Cincinatti Zoo. The disappearance of this species is almost impossible to comprehend, as it was once the commonest bird in North…

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Hallowe’en is scary…FOR BATS!

Hallowe’en is upon us and all the traditional ghosts, goblins, witches and bats are making their annual appearance. The Museum just hosted a very successful members’ night that included trick-or-treating for kids. But a recent (unfortunate) offer of a real bat to our Zoology collections has me thinking that we need to re-evaluate the inclusion of bats as a Hallowe’en symbol – they just don’t belong at this time of…

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People find the darndest things – first confirmed barn owl for Manitoba this Century

When thinking of Manitoba’s owls, the great gray (our provincial bird) is usually the first to come to mind, whereas of the 12 species recorded for the province, the barn owl (Tyto alba) would likely be the last. Although barn owls have one of the widest ranges of any owl species, occurring in temperate and tropical regions around the world, they are very rare anywhere in Canada, and especially so on…

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The clam that sank a thousand ships

  Unless you happen to be chowing down on some steamed clams at the time, a discussion of important influences on human history is unlikely to include a clam as part of the conversation.  But the eating habits of one small group of highly evolved clams has altered the travel plans of Christopher Columbus and Sir Francis Drake, changed the outcome of naval battles, and has inspired folklore and poetry….

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The Arizona-Manitoba Connection

For many Manitobans, the only connection we might have with Arizona involves a certain hockey team that left Winnipeg in 1996 for warmer climes. There are, though, other connections that involve organisms from the natural world other than coyotes as mascots! I recently returned from a family vacation to southern Arizona where we were hoping to catch up with some of the local bird and lizard specialties, as well as…

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