I was looking for something interesting that would work in a relatively small format. Then I remembered the bighorn skulls I had come across at the museum. I had not been sure about drawing one, but looking at them again, I decided to give it a try. Visually, those horns are extremely interesting, and biologically, they are an impressive adaptation. Have you ever tried walking around with ten percent or so of your body weight strapped to your head? I can’t say I have, but I am fairly sure my neck would object – and that’s before I tried to head-butt other people
[Children, do not try this at home. This skull is built for head butting. Yours is not.]
After all that bone (more likely to come up soon!), I finally decided to indulge my inner botanist and do the obvious: Draw a plant. The aim was not to create an artistic masterpiece, but a clear depiction of the organism that shows key features – the type of picture you may find in a text book or field guide. The plant I picked is Lathyrus japonicus, the beach pea. If you are unfamiliar with the beast, its English name really says it all: It is a member of the pea family (Fabaceae) that tends to grow on beaches, and in regions where it occurs, you will often find it climbing across rock or wood on the upper shore line. It has bright purple flowers that tend to stand out, so is easy to spot.
Here is another drawing that resulted from my recent forays to the museum: the skull of a male black bear. The texture of the bone is amazing, and judging by the teeth, this animal had seen a few things.
When I started out studying biology, I thought I was going to be a Zoologist, and one of my favourite courses was Chordate Evolution. This was, in essence, a vertebrate survey course that covered everything (fossil or extant) from tunicates to modern mammals. It meant hours of looking at specimens and diagrams, memorizing Latin names, and trying to understand concepts like changes in skull structure between major vertebrate groups.
Given the opportunity, I still love to re-visit the material, and I recently had a chance to spend some time in the Royal BC Museum, looking at bones. On a behind-the-scenes tour, one the first things that jumped out at me (figuratively speaking) were the whale specimens.