A cleared and stained backbone from a hatchling skate. Red staining indicates mineralised cartilage and blue staining indicates unmineralised cartilage.

Segmentation of the backbone

Kate Criswell, Postdoctoral Research Associate, writes: One of the key features that distinguishes vertebrate animals from our invertebrate cousins (such as insects and molluscs) is a backbone, or a series of vertebrae that run the length of the body. These vertebrae can range in number from only nine in frogs to over 300 in elongate animals like snakes and eels! They are important for providing … Continue reading Segmentation of the backbone

Pumpkin lantern lit from the inside featuring frog design

Proud Pumpkins: making sustainable choices

Follow our top tips on how to use and dispose of your pumpkin in a sustainable way; looking after you and the planet. Plus, we’ve got four awesome autumnal animal stencils and a step-by-step guide for carving your own pumpkin lantern. Sustainable pumpkins There’s plenty of things to do with the leftover seeds and fibres after pumpkin carving. Here’s some top tips on where to … Continue reading Proud Pumpkins: making sustainable choices

Oil palm (c) Valentine Reiss-Woolever

Palm oil boycotts may block the path to sustainability

Valentine Reiss-Woolever, a PhD student in the Insect Ecology Group, writes: Bamboo straws, Nordic flight shame, and reusable tote bags – environmentally minded consumption is increasingly common. A buzzword in recent years, “conscientious consumption” describes our attempts to spend money with an awareness of how our choices affect the world outside of ourselves. At the start of 2020, 64% of Germans said “living more sustainably” … Continue reading Palm oil boycotts may block the path to sustainability

Sloth craft finished, hanging from a branch in a tree

A Slumber of Sloths

This week we celebrate International Sloth Day (20th October) with a mossy mate that will hang from almost anywhere. Sloths are known for being a laid back mammal; feeding exclusively on leaves and moving rather slowly through the rainforest canopys of South and Central America. What you might not know about sloths is that many species live in symbiosis (mutally beneficial relationship) with mosses and … Continue reading A Slumber of Sloths

Amjad with purple hairstreak butterfly on his finger

‘Chasing butterflies’ at the Museum of Zoology

Amjad Khalaf, undergraduate student, writes: One of my fondest childhood memories is chasing butterflies and ladybirds in the garden and being fascinated by their vibrant colours as they flew around. Thinking back, that was one of the main reasons I became interested in biology; I often found myself wondering  why they looked the way they did and how they lived their lives that were so … Continue reading ‘Chasing butterflies’ at the Museum of Zoology

Badger mask complete with making materials

National Badger Day Mask

What’s black and white and likes eggs for dinner? The UK’s largest land predator of course! This week we celebrate the European badger; an omnivore that likes to snack on small mammals, birds’ eggs, worms, fruit and plants. Discover more about how scientists are Conserving Britain’s Carnivores here or delve into the details of a badger’s skull with our Exploring Skulls video: Creating your badger … Continue reading National Badger Day Mask

Nephila sp. Golden orb weaver and oil palm

New study assesses the impacts of oil palm replanting on arthropod biodiversity

Michael Pashkevich writes: Palm oil seems to be everywhere:  it’s probably in your shampoo, the instant noodles you ate for lunch and – if you’re wearing it – your lipstick. In fact, palm oil is the most traded vegetable oil worldwide, in part because it can be used in so many products. But the production of palm oil is highly controversial. This is because oil … Continue reading New study assesses the impacts of oil palm replanting on arthropod biodiversity

Photograph taken with lense half-way into river water

Can how we manage agriculture’s impact on insects and biodiversity?

Martina Harianja, PhD student, writes: Imagine that you were eight times as big as a grain of sugar, and you live in a fast-flowing stream. To get food, you need to swim against the current. What properties would need to accomplish this?  Semi-aquatic bugs in the genus of Rhagovelia offer a brilliant approach. Their body length ranges from two to four millimetres as an adult, and … Continue reading Can how we manage agriculture’s impact on insects and biodiversity?

Rhino craft collage

A ‘crash’ of rhinoceroses

Rhinos are big herbivores (plant-eaters) that have a huge impact on their habitat, by spreading around seeds and walking through, pushing and shoving the vegetation, which helps other animals in their environments. They have also had a big impact on human culture, appearing in all sorts of art for at least 700 years! There are five species of rhinos alive today, but sadly four of … Continue reading A ‘crash’ of rhinoceroses

Sticky post

Cambridge Urban Safari Trail

Go on safari in Cambridge’s urban jungle and search for animals of land and sea in the buildings. Follow the map and clues below to discover animals in the architecture of the city’s buildings. Our Urban Safari Trail can be followed on a smartphone here, downloaded to your own device, or printed at home before your expedition: Use the Cambridge Safari map and the clues … Continue reading Cambridge Urban Safari Trail

Two images showing the same butterfly species in wet season and dry season

Why do butterflies change their wing pattern with the seasons?

Sridhar Halali, graduate student researcher, writes: “While wandering amid the forests of India, I had always been struck by a few butterfly species, which seemed to exhibit different wing patterns in the wet and dry seasons. This is called ‘seasonal polyphenism’, and I found out subsequently that this phenomenon is one of the adaptations to the seasons experienced in the tropics. The wet season form … Continue reading Why do butterflies change their wing pattern with the seasons?

Yellow and black pom poms hanging in front of tree

Create a Bumblebee

Have you seen any bumblebees this summer? They often look more round and furry than other bees. They visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen, helping to pollinate plants as they go! Learn more about bumblebees from Ed Turner in the video below, or scroll down to get started on your Crafty Creature: Creating your bumblebee… You will need: Cardboard Wool or string(we’ve used yellow … Continue reading Create a Bumblebee

Looking over Stave Hill (c) Ella Henry

The lesser known ecological parks of London

Ella Henry, undergraduate student, writes: A concrete jungle. The constant chorus of cars and buses. Streams of artificial light from headlights, street lamps and buildings. Flocks of people everywhere. London, along with many other cities, is probably not the first place you would associate with the word ‘biodiversity’. Nevertheless, returning to London during the lockdown period has led me to appreciate its nature-engagement spaces, which … Continue reading The lesser known ecological parks of London

Tanmay with cuckoo finch

Perfect signatures and perfect forgeries

Tanmay Dixit writes: I am studying the African cuckoo finch, which as its name suggests behaves like a cuckoo: it lays its eggs in the nests of ‘host’ birds, namely warblers. The warblers have evolved to reject eggs of the cuckoo finch, which has resulted in the cuckoo finch accurately forging the complex patterns (‘signatures’) of their hosts. How should hosts respond? I am trying … Continue reading Perfect signatures and perfect forgeries