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News

  • World’s rarest fly rediscovered

    7 December 2010
    Mormotomyia hirsuta Female
    Mormotomyia hirsuta Female

    On a recent trip to Kenya, Ashley Kirk-Spriggs, Entomologist at the National Museum, and Bob Copeland (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Nairobi, were fortunate to re-discover the bizarre wingless fly, Terrible Hairy Fly (Mormotomyia hirsuta), which has only been collected twice before, in 1933 and 1948, although several expeditions have subsequently been unsuccessful in re-discovering the species.

    The fly belongs to a family of its own, the Mormotomyiidae, which is endemic to the Afrotropical Region.  The systematic position of this family within the higher flies has long been an anomaly and we now have suitably preserved specimens (collected during our trip) for molecular analysis. The situation regarding its systematic position can now at last be resolved.

    Mormotomyia hirsuta Male
    Mormotomyia hirsuta Male

    The species is known from only a single locality in the world and is the world's 'rarest fly'.  The flies are associated with bats and the larvae develop in the bat guano following heavy rains when this is washed from a cleft in the rock inhabited by the bats.

    The flies have the forewings reduced to tiny straps, and have enormously long legs, clothed in immensely long hairs which they use as a parachute to drift down from the roof of the rock crevice in which they live.

    This discovery represents a major leap forward in our understanding of the systematics of the higher flies and is causing a great deal of excitement within the dipterological community worldwide.

    Top photo:Mormotomyia hirsuta Female

  • New Boa constrictors for the live display

    28 October 2010
    New Boa constrictors for the live display
    New Boa constrictors for the live display

    The nearly 4-m-long female African Rock Python (Python natalensis) that was on display for many years, died in July 2010 after refusing to eat for some time. Owing to her popularity with the public it was decided to replace her with some other large constrictor. Boa Constrictors would be ideal for the display as neither their size nor feeding would be a problem. A male and a female Red-tailed Boa were duly purchased.

    The Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor) is one of the few animals whose common name is the same as its scientific name. It usually grows to about 2.5 m in length, although females may grow to 4 m, and weigh up to 27 kg.

    The distribution of the species Boa constrictor extends from northern Mexico, southwards to Argentina north of 35° S. It also occurs on many islands along the coast of Mexico and South America. The Red-tailed Boa is the most commonly kept captive species.

    It is sincerely hoped that the public will enjoy many pleasurable years of viewing our two new acquisitions.

    For more information visit; live displays.

  • Lectures on Biodiversity

    5 October 2010
    Lectures on Biodiversity - NASMUS
    Lectures on Biodiversity - NASMUS

    The year 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity. The series of public lectures presented by the National Museum, in partnership with the University of the Free State, comes to an end during October with the last two lectures presented by Prof. Seaman and Dr Zietsman.

    Prof. Maitland Seaman, Centre for Environmental Management, University of the Free State, will talk on the influence of climatic variability on wetlands of the dry west. The drier it is, the greater is the variability in climate. And if we have climate change, there’s the added probability of hotter conditions and greater evaporation rates, even if the rainfall stays the same. The survival strategies that organisms have are dependent on the ability, maybe genius, in handling temporal and spatial variability, connectivity and isolation (refuge). The presentation will attempt to illustrate the environmental context of the arid zone, and the general problems faced by natural communities, especially those of temporary pans.

    The last presentation in this series will be by Dr Ziets Zietsman, Botanist at the National Museum and well known nature photographer. He will present an audiovisual slide show titled “Kalahari biodiversity in a nutshell”. Dr Zietsman’s outstanding photos are not to be missed.

    The presentations will take place at 19:00 on Thursday 14 October in the Reservoir at Oliewenhuis Art Museum, 16 Harry Smith Street. Light refreshments will be served after the lectures and car guards will be present. Entrance is free, but as space is limited, please book in advance at direk [at] nasmus [dot] co [dot] za or phone Shirley at 051 447 9609.

    Foto: Ziets Zietsman

  • Lectures on Biodiversity

    27 August 2010
    Lectures on Biodiversity
    Lectures on Biodiversity

    The United Nations declared 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. The National Museum, in partnership with the University of the Free State, joins the international community in celebrating the International Year of Biodiversity by presenting a series of public lectures entitled Biodiversity: Past to Present. This series showcases not only the tremendous diversity of plants and animals, but also the research being undertaken to document and conserve living organisms.

    Biodiversity, which includes all living organisms on Earth, can be used as a measure of the health of biological systems and is also important as a service provider for essential ecological processes, such as pollination. Important factors to consider in conserving our biodiversity include accurate monitoring of plant and animal populations, determining the impact of events, the power of food web interactions, habitat boundaries, and the stability and resilience of life forms after a catastrophic event or disturbance.

    Dr Nico Avenant, Mammalogist at the National Museum, will present a talk on mammal diversity and the potential of using such diversity as an indication of environmental health. This will be followed by a talk by Prof. Nico Smit, Department of Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences, University of the Free State, on the question of whether game farming is compatible with biodiversity conservation.

    The lectures will take place on Thursday 16 September 19:00 in the Auditorium of the National Museum (36 Aliwal Street, Bloemfontein). Light refreshments will be served after the lectures and car guards will be present. Entrance is free, but as space is limited, please book in advance at direk [at] nasmus [dot] co [dot] za or phone Shirley at 051 447 9609.

  • National Science Week activities at the Museum

    26 July 2010
    Family Science day
    Family Science day

    National Science Week (2 to 7 August) is an initiative of the Department of Science and Technology (DST). It is intended to contribute to the awareness of science and to expose the public, educators and learners to science-based careers.

    Activities presented by the National Museum to celebrate National Science Week include science-based presentations to several school groups and on Saturday 7 August, a Family Science Open Day will be held.

    The Family Science Open Day will start with a Science Café at 09h00, with discussions on “The role of science in economic development”. At 11h30 a film on global warming awareness “An Inconvenient Truth – a global warning” by Al Gore will be shown. The last session, starting at 14:00 will feature a National Geographic documentary on human evolution, entitled “Tiny Humans – Finding Hobbits in Flores”.

    All activities will take place at the National Museum, 36 Aliwal Street, and is free of charge, but booking is essential. To book, contact Tebogo Mohlakane-Mafereka at 051 447 9609 or 082 941 7387 or tebogo [dot] mohlakane [at] nasmus [dot] co [dot] za.

  • Special exhibitions at the National Museum

    23 June 2010

    There are currently three special exhibitions at the National Museum.

    National Symbols – information and examples of South Africa’s national symbols.

    Soccer – the development of the game with particular reference to the Free State. Photos and memorabilia of Free State teams are on display.

    “In conversation” – an exhibition produced by the Nelson Mandela Museum, looking back on the lives of Nelson Mandela and Albert Luthuli.

     

  • May Lectures on Biodiversity

    23 April 2010
    Biodiversity
    Biodiversity

    The following lectures in the series on biodiversity, as a celebration of the International Year of Biodiversity, will take place on Thusday 13 May in the Reservoir at Oliewenhuis Art Museum, commencing at 19:00.

    Prof. Jo van As, head of the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of the Free State, will talk on “equal rights for parasites”. This will be followed by a talk on the vast number of fly species in Africa, presented by Ashley Kirk-Spriggs, entomologist at the National Museum.

    Refreshments will be served after the lectures. Attendance is free, but please book at direk [at] nasmus [dot] co [dot] za or call Shirley at 051 447 9609.

    Click here to download the programme here.

     

  • April Lectures on Biodiversity

    18 March 2010

    The United Nations declared 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. It is a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity for our lives. The National Museum, in partnership with the University of the Free State, will present a series of monthly lectures during the year, to which the public is invited.

    On 15 April Dr James Brink, Head of Florisbad Quaternary Reseach at the National Museum, will talk about the origin of modern large mammals in open grasslands, followed by a lecture by Dr Lloyd Rossouw, Head of Archaeology at the National Museum, on the use of plant silica as indicators of past environmental conditions.

    The lectures will be presented in the Reservoir at Oliewenhuis Art Museum, commencing at 19:00. Refreshments will be served after the lectures. Attendance is free, but please book at direk [at] nasmus [dot] co [dot] za or call Shirley at 051 447 9609.