#askthecurators Natural Science Special

A busy bank holiday and half term has filled up our #askthecurators board with some really great questions. Our curators have been hard at work trying to answer some of your questions.

We’ve had so many questions we’ll have to do two blogs! First up our visitors during the school holidays have been particularly interested in some of the animals on display in What’s in Store: The Curator’s Choice, so we’ll start with a Natural Science special!

spidersWe have a case on display in What’s in Store, with a collection of spiders. Jack asks Where did the spiders come from?

That’s a really good question Jack these spiders were all found in Cumbria, in shipments of fruit. If you look really closely you will see that most of them came in crates of bananas. Most of the bananas in Britain come from South American countries like Columbia, Equador and the Dominican Republic – so it is very likely that is where the spiders came from too!

Molly and Megan would both like to know a bit more about spiders, Molly asked How many different species of spiders are there? And Megan told us I have learned and read about spiders and I want to know more about spiders.

Its great to see people so curious about spiders as often people are scared of them, so here’s our top five spider facts for you Molly and Megan.

  1. There are about 37,500 species of spider that have been identified and named, but new species are discovered all the time.

    Goliath Birdeater Spider

    Goliath Birdeater Spider

  2. Spiders live on every continent in the world, except Antarctica
  3. The biggest species of spider is called a Goliath birdeater and can grow to 28cm wide.
  4. The smallest species of spider is called the Patu marplesi and is only half a millimetre wide!
  5. Spiders repel water, making a layer of air between themselves and the water – meaning they don’t get wet and can float or even survive under water!

Daisy Ditchburn has asked Do you have more about frogs? Unfortunately Daisy we don’t have a great deal about frogs, there is some information in the Wildlife Dome, but to tide you over, here’s our favourite frog fact:

For centuries the frog has been considered lucky in Scotland. So you may see stone frogs in gardens and they often given as housewarming gifts.

sharkOur porbeagle shark is also making visitors curious about sharks.

The porbeagle shark is one of around 50 species of shark that live in UK waters, another British shark is the basking shark, Archie asks What do basking sharks eat? The basking shark eats plankton it is one of only 3 planktivore sharks. Plankton are small animals and plants that float in the water.

An anonymous young visitor asked What do sharks do? That’s an interesting question, and all species of shark are a bit different. Porbeagles like the one in our exhibition spend their days swimming, if it were to stop it wouldn’t be able to breathe. The porbeagle shark is also interesting because it may be one of the few fish species that plays, they have been spotted chasing one another and passing floating objects to each other.  

Jessica Gourdino asked How many sharks are there in the world? No-one is quite sure how many sharks there are in the world, there are about 450 known species, some are critically endangered but others are quite numerous. It is also thought that there are many other species of shark living in very deep water which has not yet been discovered. It was recently estimated that 100 million sharks are killed every year by people, for food and sport.

The fastest shark, the mako

The fastest shark, the mako

The slowest shark, the greenland

The slowest shark, the greenland

And one visitor asked the tricky question Will there ever be a boy born that can swim faster than a shark? What a brilliant question! And here is something resembling an answer! The fastest swimmer in the world in Frederick Bousquet, who swam at an average speed of 5.34 miles per hour, over 50m. The fastest shark in the world is the shortfin mako shark which can reach speeds of about 60 miles per hour, so it is very unlikely a human will ever catch up with the mako. However the Greenland shark travels at about 0.3 miles per hour, and is thought to have a top speed of 1.7 miles per hour. So even a slow human swimmer could outrun a Greenland shark!

dolphinStaying in the water, our dolphin skull has attracted a couple of good questions Katie asked Is the dolphin’s head real? and Grace asked Do you have the rest of the dolphin and how big is it?

The dolphin’s skull has come from a real dolphin, more specifically a Common dolphin. It was collected in 1975 We do not have the rest of the skeleton, but an adult Common dolphin would have reached between 1.9 and 2.5m and weighed about 80-150kg.

There will be more of your questions answered in our next blog, if you have a question for our curators then leave a note in What’s in Store: The Curator’s Choice, or tweet us @TullieHouse using #askthecurators


Posted on May 29, 2015, in Collections, Exhibitions and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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