Zoology

Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis caroinensis)

Image of Carolina Parakeet study skin.
The Carolina Parakeet was the only native parrot species in eastern North America, with a range that stretched from Florida to the Great Lakes Region, across the Great Plains, and even into New York. Like most parrot species, this was a social bird that lived in large flocks.

Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

Image of a Cooper's Hawk study skin.
This study skin of a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) was collected in the northern Chicago suburb of Northfield, Illinois, in 1855 by Robert Kennicott, a well-known Illinois naturalist and one of the founders of the Chicago Academy of Sciences.

Stag-Moose Discovery More Than 10,000 Years Old

Image of the main beam of the antlers of an extinct Stag-Moose.
Most important discoveries are found after digging deep into the earth. One never thinks to look up. But that’s what happened when scientists drove by the Biddle Farm in northern Illinois and saw the large main beam of a set of antlers hanging in a garage. It was too big to be a deer or elk, so they stopped to take a look. What they discovered were antlers of an extinct Stag-Moose, an animal that died over 10,000 years ago. The family found the fossil while digging an irrigation pond years before but didn’t immediately recognize its significance. The family from Elburn donated the find to the Illinois State Museum in 1989.

Butterfly Transfer Prints

Image of moth transfer print.
Today, anyone can share color photos of butterflies and moths by simply uploading them to social media. It wasn't so easy 120 years ago, when technology to capture color photographs and print the pictures on a page was in its infancy.

Arrow Straightener

Even a piece of bone adapted for use as a tool is an opportunity for artistic expression. In this case, an arrow straightener, made from a bison’s rib bone, serves as a tiny canvas. It was found at the Kaskaskia Village site in Randolph County and collected in 1952.

Black Bear Skull

Image of Black Bear skull.
Like other large carnivores, the Black Bear (Ursus americanus) was gone from Illinois by the mid to late 1800s. Queto (Luella) J. Rennier of Champaign found this Black Bear cranium in the Embarras River in Jasper County and donated it to the Illinois State Museum in 2012. One of the bear’s teeth was sampled in order to obtain an age. The bear dates to about A.D. 1760, or 250 years before present, just before the American Revolutionary War and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The Colors of Birds

Image of Robert Ridgway's Color Standards and Nomenclature, 1912.
Combining science and art, ornithologist Robert Ridgway tried to bring scientific order to the description of the colors of birds. When he published this Color Standards and Nomenclature in 1912, it was actually his second version. The first one, Nomenclature of Colors for Naturalists, published in 1886, included hand-colored plates.

Mammoth Versus Mastodon

Image of Mammoth, Mastadon tooth comparison.
When it comes to Mammoths and Mastodons, the difference is more than a matter of pronunciation. They are very different prehistoric animals with distinct evolutionary and natural histories. While Mammoths are close relatives of modern elephants, Mastodons are only distantly related to the others. Mammoths and Mastodons inhabited separate habitats during the Pleistocene Era (2.6 million to 12,000 years ago). They are often confused, and their scientific names don’t help matters much. The American Mastodon is Mammut americanum, while the Wooly Mammoth is known as Mammuthus primigenius. 

Kirtland’s Water Snake (Clonophis kirtlandii)

Image of Kirtlands Water Snake model.
The Kirtland’s Water Snake shares some similar habitats and habits as the Massasauga Rattlesnake and is also under scrutiny as its numbers continue to decline. It is not venomous, but it uses crayfish burrows like the Massasauga and spends most of its life underground. Biologists hoping to survey the secretive snake often will use a cover board, a corrugated sheet of aluminum that is placed over a crayfish burrow.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus)

Image of Massasauga Rattlesnake model.
The Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake is a small, venomous snake recently listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It persists in only a few locations in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The Fish and Wildlife Service describes the Massasauga as “a small snake with a thick body, heart-shaped head and vertical pupils.”

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