Friday, January 11, 2013


John Gould's The Mammals of Australia (1845–63)

Tasmanian Tiger.
Odd creature, the marsupial wolf.  The last one was named "Benjamin" and died in the Hobart Zoo in 1936.  Benjamin was most likely female.  They became extinct in mainland Australia in the 19th century but had been extremely rare for centuries.  the last member of the surviving population on the Island of Tasmania was shot in 1930.

This wonderful piece is by Diana Sudyka, who it seems is also a bit obsessed with this creature. And I'm pretty sure will come up here in the future.
   Roughly resembling a medium sized dog with a stiff tale and striped hindquarters, there are a few key differences.  An example of convergent evolution (two unrelated species evolving similar traits to fill a similar niche) that evolved with qualities similar to the canine family.  It is easy to see how early European settlers compared them to a wolf.  They are marsupials, bearing young in a pouch, the same as kangaroos.  They have striped hindquarters, the obvious origin of the flimsy tiger comparison.  They were able to stand on their hind legs and perform a bipedal hop.  The gape of the thylacine's jaws is much wider than most mammal species.
"Benjamin" 1933.

Driven to extinction by human encroachment, the introduction of dogs and the bounty paid for their bodies.  Between 1888 and 1909 over 2000 bounties were paid out, and many more were believed to have been killed.  They were regarded as a pest species, but much of this may have been bad press and misunderstanding.  They were unable to take large prey (livestock) as they had weak jaws and preferred to take much smaller prey.  As early as 1928 there was a movement to preserve the species.

Since the last official sighting of a thylacine in the wild there have been hundreds of unconfirmed sightings.  Extensive searches have produced no evidence.  There have been several rewards offered of over $1 million  each, but the trapping of a thylacine is illegal under the terms of its protection.  There have also been over 15 years of stop and start genome research with the hopes that a population of could be restored through cloning.

The imagery of the Thylacine has been used widely in Tasmania from stamps to coats of arms.  It has been the subject of paintings and art works.  And this wonderful item.

A wooden toy from LAST toys by Alburno.  It is featured with the dodo and the Bai-ji dolphin with the  "the intention of bringing awareness to the extinction of animals that have disappeared or are disappearing due to men's wrong behavior.".  Which is a wonderful idea, but perhaps would make more sense with animals that are endangered as opposed to extinct.  Either way it is beautiful.

This beautifully illustrated image is by Peter Schoutens,  from A Gap in Nature, on the rather heartbreaking subject of extinction. Wonderfully written by Tim Flannery.

For more in depth information and footage please look up the Thylacine Museum.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Census of Marine Life

Well, this post has been a while in the making.  It was a very hectic Spring and Summer and hopefully I will have a little more spare time now to write the occasional posting.

But here is the Census of Marine Life in the smallest of nutshells, or the tiniest tip of a vast ice berg.
Described on the website thusly:

2,700 scientists
80+ nations
540 expeditions
US$ 650 million
2,600+ scientific publications
6,000+ potential new species
30 million distribution records and counting 

Essentially it is a massive catalogue of what the oceans contain.  The scope of this project is enormous bringing together scientists from different institutions in different countries to research as much ocean as possible over many expeditions.  The mind boggles.
And here are some of the poster children of such an effort.
This is a link to the COML gallery for more astounding images of recently discovered creatures of the sea.

Christmas tree worm (Spirobranchus giganteus) found at Lizard Island (Great Barrier Reef)
The blue tendrils are actually its breathing apparatus.

Credit: John Huisman-Murdoch Univ.
View inside the mantle of a Cirrate octopod (Stauroteuthis syrtensis). One of the few known bioluminescent octopuses.   Photophores (bioluminescent organs) are thought to fool prey by directing them towards the mouth.  Found in the Gulf of Maine at 800m.

Credit: David Shale

A golden lace nudibranch (Halgerda terramtuentiss).  Collected in the waters of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Credit: Corey Pittman, NOAA, PIFSC, NHIMN

Octopus specimen collected at the Great Barrier Reef's Lizard Island at a depth of 10-12 m

Credit: Dr. Julian Finn, Museum Victoria

Juvenile representatives of Antarctic and deep-sea octopuses.
Clockwise from top left: 
Pareledone charcoti, (credit: L. Allcock)
Thaumeledone gunteri, (credit: I. Everson)
Adelieledone polymorpha, (credit: L. Allcock)
Megaledone setebos. (credit: M. Rauschert)

And frankly the best for last.  Not only is the "Yeti Crab" spectacular to look at, it is so unusual it warranted a whole new family designation (Kiwidae) and  a whole new genus (Kiwa, for the mythological Polynesian goddess of shellfish).  Its species name, hirsuta, is from its hairy appearance.

Credit: Ifremer, A.Fifis 2006

And I realize that the Census for Marine Life has done a good deal more that provide us with a few new interesting creatures to look at...but isn't that the start of education?  That we can all be engaged with some images long enough that we might learn something.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I think I have a new favourite website.  The Smithsonian Ocean Portal.  I have had oceans on the brain for months, and now I know what I will be doing with all my free time for months to come.

This photograph miraculously depicts nine (NINE!!) different animals all collected by Smithsonian researchers involved in the Deep Reef Observation Project. Collected  60m (~200 ft) near Curaçao in the southern Caribbean, these gastropods and echinoderms are just a tiny (literally) example of the diversity of life in the oceans.

The article accompanying this photo, written by Cristina Castillo, also mentions The Census of Marine Life, "a 10-year international effort undertaken in to assess the diversity (how many different kinds), distribution (where they live), and abundance (how many) of marine life—a task never before attempted on this scale."
For more information and some mind boggling statistics, have a look at this.
For some mind boggling images please look here.

There is a post in the works on the Census for Marine Life.....
Hopefully coming this week.

Monday, May 28, 2012


In the series Obviously, Audrey Corregan, has photographed several taxidermied birds from behind.  These images won the photography prize at Hyeres de International de Mode et Photographie.  The angle from which they were photographed adds another dimension to the birds, as it is not at first obvious whether or not they are alive.  While taxidermy renders a previously dynamic creature static, this angle fills them with movement and mystery once again.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Well, here in Vancouver it feels like spring. And summer is on its way.

And this work seems so appropriate right now.
Regine Ramseier is an artist in Switzerland.  Her, work varies across mediums, from watercolour to soft sculpture to mixed media installations involving materials from the natural world.  In Windstille, which translates to calm, she has painstakingly collected hundreds of dandelions.  These she suspends from the ceiling of a gallery and the results are beautiful.

The soft dandelion seed heads create a beautiful avenue leading up to a window and the green space beyond.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Raw Colour

I was sent this link by the lovely Thea, whose blog deserves a posting of its own. But that will have to wait.

But what a beautiful project this is.

Raw Color describes this project, or series of projects, as A visual research about vegetables and their powerful color. Vegetables are dismantled and purified to their visual essence 'RAW COLOR'.

For the exhibition Dutch Domestics at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt the installation Liquid Palette was created.  The installation is composed a cabinet holding 130 containers of pigment derived from vegetables.  The pigments are both pure mixed in different ratios.

In Raw Color 1 the vegetable pigments are isolated and used to colour paper cards.  Each pigment seems to have been mixed with other substances, playing with transparency and subtle changes of texture and shade.
In Raw Color 2 some of the strongest pigments are added to ink cartridges, and prints made.  The inkjets prints are done with (C) Red Cabbage, (M) Beetroot en (Y) Pumpkin.
The juice causes a stripe in each of the images.
Raw Color 3 is a series of photographs that play with the results from the color cards.  It illustrates the ratios of the color mixing from Raw Color 1, but also references the classic color wheel.
And finally in Raw Textiles a collaboration was made with the design shop Edwin Pelser, to create an installation of silk scarves dyed with the vegetable pigments. 18 unique shades that were created by pure and mixed vegetable dyes.