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Category Archives: Zoology

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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The Bluebird of Halfiness?

A recent web-based discussion about the identification of an odd-coloured bluebird reminded me of a similar odd bluebird in the Museum collections. There are three bluebird species in North America: Eastern, Western, and Mountain. Contrary to what one might expect from their names, Manitoba is home to the Eastern and Mountain Bluebird, the Western being found in Canada only on the other side of the Rockies from us. Males and…

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A valuable feather in the Museum’s “cap”

As curators of some sizeable collections (>100,000 in Zoology alone), we are frequently asked what the most valuable specimen or most important one among them might be. Certainly, the collection contains several items that are “one-ofs”, or are the biggest, or most colourful, or even worth a good deal of money in the marketplace. But value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. We recently received a request…

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Anniversary for a Museum Outlaw

Just outside my office on the 4th floor of the Museum is a big, hairy outlaw that can stare anybody down. It’s the mounted head of one of the original ‘outlaw buffalo’ of the Pablo/Allard herd of Plains Bison (Bison bison bison), the most significant of the private herds purchased by the Canadian government that helped to bring these magnificent animals back from the brink of extinction. By 1890, it…

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True Colours Shining Through – the building of an exhibit

Exhibits begin as the germ of an idea and often take on a life of their own. This was no different for the new Colours in Nature exhibit, now open in the TD Canada Trust Discovery Room. This space was set aside to showcase the hidden treasures of our collections that we ordinarily don’t have an opportunity to display; less that 5% of our collections are exhibited at any one…

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