Bangor University Museum
Last updated: 21 February 2012
In this week's show, Adam discovers the stories and the science behind a few of the exhibits in Bangor University's Museum.
Broadcast Tuesday 21st February at 7pm
One of Bangor's best kept secrets is a treasure store of beasts, bones and rocks housed in the Brambell Laboratories at Bangor University. It's the University's Natural History Museum and it dates back to the 1880s when James Dobbie, the University's first Professor of Chemistry and Geology, decided to create a permanent home for his collection of rocks and minerals. It's still regularly used by University staff and students but the public are only allowed in by special request or on open days.
For this week's Science Cafe Adam explores the cave of wonders that is Bangor University Museum, discovering the egg collection, a gorilla's skull, a narwhal's tusk - and even a two-headed lamb.
Adam is welcomed to the Museum by Prof. Deri Tomos from the School of Biological Sciences. Deri has known the Museum for forty years and regularly uses is to help teach his students. He sets Adam a quiz, identifying skulls by their size, shape, teeth and how muscles attach to them. Adam manages to identify both a gorilla and a rhinoceros. He also shows Adam what looks like a unicorn's horn but turns out to be the tusk of a narwhal, a small whale, and explains that every narwhal tusk that's ever been found has the same left-handed twist. There are no right-handed narwhals!
Geologist Mike Roberts shows Adam just a few of the Museum's extensive collection of rocks and minerals. Many of them have been collected locally and illustrate Wales' historical importance in the mining of iron, copper, lead and even gold.
We also hear from Dr. Charles Bishop. He's an expert on bird flight and migration and he uses the Museum's bird collection how different species are adapted to different types of flight, from the wide scimitar-shaped wingspans of soaring seabirds like gannets and albatross to the compact, manoeuvrable wings of woodland and garden birds. Charles also tells Adam about his research into the biology of bar-headed geese which migrate across the Himalayas, sometimes reaching the height of Mount Everest itself.
Finally, Adam takes a look into some of the drawers containing the Museum's collection of over 12000 birds' eggs - all collected before the practice was made illegal in the 1950s. Nigel Brown explains how and why eggs acquire different colours and even different shapes. Birds which live on cliffs, for example, lay eggs which are broad at one end and narrow at the other so that they roll round in a circle instead of rolling off the ledge!
A new look for BBC Radio online: listen live on your computer - and now on your smartphone.