Wellcome to the Jungle!

Part Eight: Should have gone to a well known chain of high-street opticians.

This is, for the time being at least, the last instalment of Wellcome to the Jungle. Next week will bring something different…but hopefully just as fascinating/eye-catching/inane (delete as appropriate). However if you’re not ready for the end just yet, you can find these images and more over on Flickr.

This Siberian white crane was meticulously painted on silk in the gongbi style in the 17th Century Ming period in China. As was the case with many creatures, the bird was used in traditional Chinese medicine; its flesh and blood having the effects of replenishing Qi and insufficiency detriment, apparently.

More specifically, the crane’s brain was said to nourish the liver and improve vision. Tasty. You never know, it may have worked. But should my eyesight deteriorate, I think I’ll pop to the optician before recreating Dawn of the Dead at my local bird sanctuary.

Al McCartney, Wellcome Images.

Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc 2.0 UK: England & Wales, see http://images.wellcome.ac.uk/indexplus/page/Prices.html.

Wellcome to the Jungle!

Part Seven: Wild Goose Chase.

If you’re reading this chances are that you might also be enjoying Ruth’s alternative take on evolution. Teapots morphing into herons and kippers into old men; it’s fun, but clearly mad. Surely no one would think it could actually happen?

Well, as per this early 17th Century depiction of the life-cycle of the barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis), apparently people did. Because the birds were never seen nesting, the only possible conclusion could be that they developed from barnacles attached to driftwood.

The theory was so widely accepted that Pope Innocent III was forced to publically prohibit the goose’s consumption during Lent, when people were enjoying what they (rather optimistically) thought was a fish. He was justifiably worried that there was a tiny chance that something that looked so much like a bird, could in fact be a bird. Genius.

Lovely story, but as you’ll hopefully have guessed, not very true. They were actually breeding in remote Arctic areas of Greenland and Svalbard, and we now know the goose to be 100% bird and 0% crustacean.

Al McCartney, Wellcome Images.

Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc 2.0 UK: England & Wales, see http://images.wellcome.ac.uk/indexplus/page/Prices.html.

Wellcome to the Jungle!

Part Five: A Missing Link?

I appreciate that historical scientific drawings aren’t always perfect representations of their subjects, but even considering this, the above 17th Century engraving of an orang-utan is a little disconcerting. Distinctly more human in form and posture, could this be a case of mistaken identity?

On the island of Sumatra there have long been stories of another ape, dubbed ‘orang-pendek’. With a name than means ‘short man’ (compared to orang-utan or ‘forest man’), it is reported to much more human in shape and behaviour than any other Indonesian primate. And though it is generally consigned to the field of cryptozoology, locals still report encounters and expeditions continue to seek it out.

Primates previously unknown to science like the Burmese snub-nosed monkey and the Arunachal macaque are still being discovered, so could this engraving be a lost clue to the existence of another in the orang-pendek? Or is it just another dodgy drawing?

Al McCartney, Wellcome Images.

Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc 2.0 UK: England & Wales, see http://images.wellcome.ac.uk/indexplus/page/Prices.html.

Wellcome to the Jungle!

Part Five: Crouching Horse, (not so) Hidden Organs.

I don’t really want to go all Rolf Harris, but did you guess what it is yet? It’s not instantly recognisable as Black Beauty, but I can confirm it to be an 18th Century anatomical diagram of a horse.

Thought to based upon the drawings of human anatomy compiled by Manṣūr ibn Ilyās, the 14th Century Persian physician, it details the digestive and nervous systems of its equine subject.

Al McCartney, Wellcome Images.

Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc 2.0 UK: England & Wales, see http://images.wellcome.ac.uk/indexplus/page/Prices.html.


Wellcome to the Jungle!

Part Four: Boa vs Python.

We’ve got more than our fair share off oddities in the collection, this being a prime example. The caption indicates that it’s a depiction of a finely moustachioed zoo-keeper feeding a boa to a python at the Zoological Society of London, under the watchful and rightly cautious supervision of a rabbit.

But all might not be as it seems. A more likely scenario could have involved an altogether accidental incident of ophiophagy; whereby both snakes started feeding on the same prey item at once. This makes sense, given the other, single rabbit that remains in the enclosure. The larger of the snakes, in this case the python, would then have continued to swallow past the bunny, consuming the boa in the process.

So perhaps it makes more sense that the diligent keeper is in fact desperately trying to save one of his prize exhibits from the belly of another. It’s certainly not unheard of, and is a very good reason to feed your serpents separately. Unfortunately we don’t have any live reptiles here at Wellcome, but the Trust has funded some rather high-tech ‘snakes’ in the past.

Al McCartney, Wellcome Images.

Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc 2.0 UK: England & Wales, see http://images.wellcome.ac.uk/indexplus/page/Prices.html.

Wellcome to the Jungle!

Part Three: Here Be Dragons!

Kung Hei Fat Choi! Today is Chinese New Year, and the start of the Year of The Dragon. This mythical creature is said to be a deliverer of good fortune, which certainly would be the case if you’d been the original recipient of the items depicted above. These ceremonial mosquito-net hangers from 19th Century Indonesia would have helped protect their owner from the blood-sucking vectors of a number of rather nasty diseases.

They probably wouldn’t, however, be of much use if you found yourself face-to-face with a real dragon. Don’t think that’s a very likely scenario? Try telling that to  residents of the island of Komodo, also in Indonesia.

Al McCartney, Wellcome Images

Image Credit Science Museum, London, Wellcome Images.

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 2.0 UK: England & Wales, see http://images.wellcome.ac.uk/indexplus/page/Prices.html.

Wellcome to the Jungle!

Part Two: Woopsie Doggies.

What could be misconstrued as a horrifyingly miscalculated attempt to recreate some sort of sea-lion-style show in an urban setting, is in fact an altogether more well intended educational display. Our canine star would, providing you were in attendance at 10:30am, show with exceptional flair and poise (probably) how to defaecate directly into the street, instead of on the pavement.

Still not convinced of its merits? Well, it was all an attempt to reduce the prevalence of a rather nasty infection, toxocariasis. Usually an asymptomatic parasite of dogs, Toxocara canis can also infect humans, causing anything from a cough to abdominal pain and even blindness, depending upon where the larval helminths migrate to in the body.

So, now it makes sense for your potentially infected pooch to go to the toilet somewhere where it’ll hopefully be washed straight down a drain, without coming into contact with people (or other dogs).

You’ll be happy to hear that only around ten human cases are reported in the UK each year and can find out more about the little beastie from NHS Choices. They helpfully suggest that  you ‘Don’t allow children to play in areas that are covered in dog or cat faeces’.

Just to be safe, you could probably extend that to cover places caked in other kinds of poo too. I know, what a killjoy…

Al McCartney, Wellcome Images

Image Credit Royal Veterinary College, Wellcome Images.

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 2.0 UK: England & Wales, see http://images.wellcome.ac.uk/indexplus/page/Prices.html.

Wellcome to the Jungle!

…we’ve got fun and games, ah la la la la lah, na na na na nah… No, wait, I got carried away. Actually we don’t really, sorry. Well, depending on what gets you going, maybe some fun.

Instead, in this new strand we’ve got animals, veterinary medicine and an assortment of terrifying diseases from the deepest depths of the Wellcome Images collection. Oh yeah, you’re excited now. Who wouldn’t be? You’re only human, unlike these guys:

© Wellcome Images

Part One: Medical marvel to mass murderer?

They’ve been injected with (potentially) pregnant women’s urine, blasted into space and are a vital model organism in biomedical research. Xenopus laevis (commonly known as the African clawed frog) has served humanity well over the last 80 years or so.

On the face of it, there’s no reason why they all shouldn’t look as smug as the animal grinning out at us above. But look a little further, past the impact on our own species, and you find compelling evidence of the species’ involvement in global biological warfare. Against fellow amphibians at that. I know, I can’t believe I trusted that ‘innocent’ little face either. The !**@$%s!

Shockingly, X. laevis has been implicated as the original disperser of the deadly Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis fungus - cause of Chytridiomycosis; an infectious disease decimating amphibians on a global scale. But as it was us humans who took them far from their African homeland for our own benefit, maybe it’s err…our fault? Oops.

Al McCartney, Wellcome Images.

© Wellcome Images. Please do not reproduce this image without prior consent. For further information contact Wellcome Images.