Saturday, August 4, 2012

More Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam

Following a look at the Whales of Doom, it's only right and proper that we take a look at what else one might find in the Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam. The museum is quite small - considerably smaller than the Dutch national natural history museum, Naturalis, in Leiden - but is still stuffed with plenty of interesting specimens. The 'lobby' of the original building (it's been extended) is tall but not especially wide, and this giraffe skeleton makes perfect use of the space. Thanks to the staircase winding around it, it's possible to take in this mount from numerous angles, both above and below, which is a real treat. The mammoth mural, just visible here, is very beautiful too (shame I don't have a photo!).

Most of the museum has a rather old-fashioned feel, which is by no means a bad thing. One room has long banks of glass-fronted cabinets absolutely stuffed with taxidermy and skeletal tetrapods, including an awful lot of birds (see below for a sample), with further specimens perched on top.

More information on the individual species can be found by reading cards nearby, which means that the taxidermy displays are gloriously free of clutter.

Opposite the taxidermy cabinets there are further displays of bird skeletons, mounted side-by-side for ease of comparison. If you wanted dinosaur skeletons, here they are! In fact, for us enthusiastic laymen who don't have easy access to bird skeletons, it's always useful to be able to peer at a good mount and see just how much like other theropods these animals really are under all the distracting feathers and soft tissue. (The animal in the foreground below, Ramphastos vitellinus, is known as the 'channel-billed toucan' in English.)

With that in mind, I thought this 'cutaway' parrot was very cool. Notice the neck in particular, and consider how it appears with the feathers covering it - necks lie, after all. (Update: BrianL has identified this birdy as being an Amazona species, most likely Amazona ochrocephala, although the taxonomy of said bird is disputed. Of course, I know sod all about parrots, hadn't noted down which one this was, and was far too bone idle to look it up. That'll learn me!)

So, no extinct dinosaurs here I'm afraid. However, there are plenty of other fossil animals represented, all of them discovered in or nearby the Netherlands. As one might expect, there is a cast of the famous Mosasaurus hoffmanii specimen from Maastricht among other mosasaur material and marine invertebrate fossils.

Space is tight in the gallery, but they've still managed to cram in a number of great specimens, including this impressive wooly mammoth skull, the obligatory Megaloceros (just a skull, mind) and a big cat (Panthera) jaw. Got to love a big cat jaw.

One of the most impressive mounts in the museum is this Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) skeleton. When alive, this elephant was a resident in the zoo in Rotterdam (Diergaarde Blijdorp). In death, its bones stand alone in the circular room that has become its mausoleum. It really is just the elephant in this room, and the lack of distractions really allows the viewer to appreciate this animal's might and majesty, even when reduced to its bare bones. Thanks to the circular nature of the room, it is again possible to walk completely around this skeleton and scrutinise it from a wide variety of angles. It certainly leaves an impression.

And finally...a jackalope.

If you're ever in Rotterdam, I thoroughly recommend giving this little museum a visit. Sure, there aren't any (nonavian) dinosaurs, but there are Whales of Doom, a lot of impressive extant animals, and Mark Witton postcards in the gift shop. Entry is only six euros, so there's no excuse!


  1. Yes, it is a fine museum. I went there when they had all sorts of Liaoning specimens on display. A real treat! I'm also rather fond of the large number of domestic dog skulls they have on display, to showcase the power of artificial and by extension natural selection. For shame, I've only been there once while I used to live quite nearby for six years! Time flies when you're busy.

    Anyhow, a minor point here: The *Panthera* jaw is referred to as *Panthera schreuderi*. This is a rather enigmatic big fossil cat that is often referred to as *Viretailurus schreuderi*. Yet, at present it seems to have been a puma rather than a pantherine, so it should be referred to as *Puma schreuderi*.

    The parrot seems to be an *Amazona ochrocephala* or *Amazona panamensis* (for those who recognise the latter as a distinct species. And then there's the possibility that some *Amazona ochrocephala* might actually be *Amazona aestiva*...but I disgress.) I think the proper name does it more justice than being identified as 'a parrot', which is awfully generic and non-descriptive. Having its exterior sawn in half of course does make it harder to identify!

    1. Damn, and there was I hoping I could get away with just referring to it as 'a parrot', having forgotten to make a note of which bloody parrot it is...curse you, Brian! ;)

    2. "There are many parrots in the world and none of them should be referred to lightly!" I half-jokingly misquote Gandalf.

      Honestly, parrots are great all-round.

    3. I've amended the post accordingly.

  2. The bird mounts are gorgeous - both the taxidermied specimens and the skeletals. And the inclusion of the "half-parrot" is such a great illustration of how internal anatomy and external anatomy interact. Very cool.

  3. As long as we are being pedantic, surely that's a rasselbock rather than a jackalope, no?

    1. ...or a wolpertinger.

      I want to know what the raptor-sheep thing on the right is supposed to be.

    2. I have no idea. The sign nearby just said that the museum had recently acquired this little collection, and that they were of 'unknown origin'. There was a bat-winged creature with what looked like the Papo 'Pteranodon' head glued on the end of a long neck that was absolutely hilarious, but unfortunately I didn't get a good shot of it.


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