Friday, July 8, 2011

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

We discovered a great gem today - the Beaty Biodiversity Museum on the campus of UBC.  Its impressive and well organized biological collections of natural history contain over 2 million specimens.

The centrepiece of the museum has got to be this incredible blue whale skeleton.  There are only 21 blue whale skeletons worldwide for public viewing.  This blue whale was found on the northwestern coast of PEI in 1987 - its remains weighing in an estimated 80,000 kg!
It's funny to think that God created the blue whales, the biggest animal ever, to live on a diet of these teensy weensy krill.  A blue whale eats about 2 to 4 thousand kilograms of krill a day!  The krill are caught when the water is filtered through the fringed baleen (the black fin-like shape in the last photo).

See those 2 smaller bones dangling underneath the huge vertebrate?  They are pelvic bones.  Now why does a blue whale who has no legs need pelvic bones?  Apparently the blue whale ancestors were land mammals before they adapted to the water habitat for food.  Who knew?!
Serena putting together the right flipper of the blue whale.  Because of the difficulty of unearthing and displaying such a huge mammoth, the blue whale was left buried in PEI for 2 decades until UBC was granted permission to retrieve it in 2007.
The museum is filled with rows and rows of cabinets with lots of windows displaying different specimens.  The whole exhibit is well organized by collections, and the time line on the wall gives visitors a sense of the dramatic evolutionary heritage and biodiversity of our world.
Can you guess which collection Serena was most interested in?  The Marine Invertebrate Collection, a.k.a. "the pretty shells" section, its other technical label.
My favourite is this Pallid Carrier Shell. Carrier shells collect debris and other shells or stones and attach them to their own shells for protection and camouflage.  Look how beautifully the "debris" are arranged!  The carrier shells must know a thing or two about interior (or exterior?) design.
Who knew sea snails could be predatory and venomous?  These cone snails shoot out harpoon-like teeth to hunt fish with a poisonous sting.  They are found in tropical waters and their sting can be fatal to human beings. Watch out the next time you want to pick up a pretty little shell...
It was fun to look through jars and jars of specimens in the Fish Collection.  Serena was thrilled to see this ramora.  If you ask her, she'll tell you that "Ramoras are very special because they latch onto other fish with this flat lined suction.  When they latch onto other fish, they get protection, free rides, and sometimes small free snacks!"

Serena continues to amaze me with all the information she stores in her little head.  She was able to identify more specimens (esp birds) than I could in the museum.

"That's a weaver bird's nest, mom."
"What?!?  How do you know?  Are you sure?  What on earth is a weaver bird?"
Check label.  She was right.
"See, mom?", followed by a sigh as she walked away.


  1. That looks like an amazing place to see
    You must have learned quite a bit.
    Wow we think you did great
    P.S. We can see her do the gesture!!!
    Thank you for all the great pictures.
    And the explanations.
    Nanny & Papa

  2. Awesome Serena and mum! Serena is definitely having a wonderful summer full of learning adventures:) God Bless Mrs D