Last (visit before) Christmas!

Whether you’re heading home for the Christmas period or remaining here in St Andrews if you’re a student or a member of staff at the University of St Andrews we would love to see you! If you haven’t already discovered us, we are located just off South Street in the Bute Building in St Mary’s Quad.

Mus musculus muralis (B-H) St Kilda House Mouse, (BPM2347), image courtesy of the University of St Andrews

Now that the last week of teaching is over and the nights have drawn in, it’s that time of year to head outside for a festive walk around the town to see the Christmas lights, and pop into the Bell Pettigrew Museum for a peruse. As well as providing a welcome change of scene during these times, it gets you out and about for some fresh air on the way, you get to learn something new, see some fantastic creatures, and the best part is it’s completely free.

The Bell Pettigrew Museum has a superb Natural History collection with lots to see . Recently, we’ve been making Smartify tours of our collection, and our first tour  ‘Gone but not forgotten’ will look at the extinct species we have, awesome facts about them, and how to learn from the mistakes of the past.

When you’re visiting try to spot these extinct species which we’ll be featuring in our tour: The Tazmanian Wolf  , which looks like a cross between a wolf, tiger and a kangaroo!; a Galeocerdo aduncus Tiger Shark tooth; a block of coal which contains a fossilised plant called Sphenophyllum which has triangular-shaped leaves in a whorl; a huge dinosaur leg belonging to a Diplodocus .

Thylacinus cynocephalus (Harr.) Thylacine Tasmanian Wolf, (BPM2482), image courtesy of the University of St Andrews

Which, if you look closely has five-toed broad feet, with the thumb toe has an unusually large claw (no one knows what it was used for, perhaps you can have a guess at it or better yet doodle what you think it was used for!); the Passenger Pigeon, which was sadly hunted to extinction by humans, but the extinction of this bird influenced the conservation movement which led to people trying to safeguard other at risk species from extinction; and the Heath Hen which was also hunted to extinction by humans, and it’s extinction paved the way for future conservation efforts of other species ;  the St Kilda House Mouse  which is now extinct because this species of mouse lived specifically in inhabited homes on the island of St Kilda, so when the people moved away from the island the St Kilda House Mouse went extinct ; and the Moa which was one of the largest species of flightless bird to have ever lived (so far), weighing in at a whopping 230 kg ; And another extinct bird, the ever popular Dodo; and lastly, keep your eyes peeled for a White-Tailed Sea-Eagle (which was extinct in the wild and was then successfully re-introduced to the west coast of Scotland in 1975.


Haliaeetus albicilla White tailed Eagle (sea eagle), (BPM11017), image courtesy of the University of St Andrews

You could always take some photos with some fantastically colourful birds of paradise, or if you don’t have access to a camera bring some paper and do some speed sketching of objects you find interesting, try your favourite David Attenborough or simply enjoy looking.

So go on, book a visit to the Pettigrew,

And maybe brush up on your zoology before those inevitable Christmas quizzes!

You never know – we’ll keep our Diplodocus leg crossed that in 2021 we’ll eventually be able to open up to the public again!

Wishing everyone a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Museums team!