Taxidermy Koala – The Language of Natural History

This article has been re-posted from the Grant Museum of Zoology blog, with permission of the author Jack Ashby.

With generic terms like mankind and Homo sapiens (“wise man”), people of all genders are well aware that it is the masculine that has dominated the vocabulary of humanity. Not so in the animal kingdom.

Across UCL Culture we are celebrating the centenary of some women first getting the vote in the UK in a number of different ways. In the run up to International Women’s Day, here on the blog our Specimens of the Week will be exploring themes like women in natural history, female specimens, and – in this case – the language of natural history. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

Koalas are one of many Australian mammals that are named after a characteristic that only females have. Their scientific name Phascolarctos means “pouched bear”. LDUCZ-Z65. (C) UCL Grant Museum of Zoology

***The Taxidermy Koala***

I find it interesting to think about animals that are named after features that only one sex has. How would you feel if your species was defined by a characteristic that you yourself didn’t possess?* My own passion is the mammals of Australia. Unlike many other groups (for example there are entire groups of insects that can only be identified by studying male genitalia), for those animals which are named for sex-specific features, Australian mammals are almost** universally named after things that only appear in females.

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NatSCA Digital Digest



Now that the 2015 NatSCA Conference is over, the next conference for your diaries is Refloating the Ark: Connecting the public and scientists with natural history collections on 17th – 18th June at Manchester Museum. The full programme, abstracts, and booking information can be found here.

Developing Skills for Collection Managers – 28th May 2015, NHM. An afternoon seminar and workshop run by Nick Poole of the Collections Trust, providing tips on putting collection competency frameworks into practice and improving collections skills.


Keeper, Science and Technology – National Museums Scotland. Applications close 31st May 2015.

Learning and Events Assistant – NHM, Tring. Applications close 31st May 2015.

As always, do keep an eye on the jobs page of the NatSCA website!

Around the Web

Watch the team at the Museum of Zoology, Cambridge decant their carnivore case in 2 minutes! Also check out this blog for a conservator’s-eye view of their current redevelopment project.

A good article about how the current financial crisis has left the natural history museum in Dublin in dire straits. A very sad story.

The International Institute for Species Exploration has released a list of the Top 10 New Species of 2015! The list is released on 23rd May each year, to coincide with the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy. Happy birthday Linnaeus!