American Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History

5 Gorgeous Old Pictures of Seashells

American Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History

Fun fact: The American Museum of Natural History’s Department of Conchology started with a donation of 50,000 shells from John Clarkson Jay, grandson of founding father John Jay, in 1874. Today, the museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology contains approximately 350,000 molluscan specimens, which came from both scientific expeditions and private donations. But the museum also has a pretty interesting shell resource: Its Rare Book room, which includes over 14,000 volumes. This is where the museum turned to create its new boxset, The Seashell Collector, which has adjustable/removable dividers to help store and display shells, 15 postcards, a journal, and a booklet with illustrations and information. Here’s just a taste of the beautiful images you’ll find in the set.

1. Nautilus

This image, created by engraver G.W. Knorr, appeared in the 1757 book Vergnügen der Augen und des Gemüths… (Pleasure of the Eyes and the Mind), published from 1757-72. The nautilus is an Indo-West Pacific species that feeds on fish and crustaceans, and, according to The Seashell Collector, “nearly perfectly approximates the logarithmic spiral, which was first described mathematically in 1638 by French philosopher/mathematician Rene Descartes. The logarithmic spiral’s curve has the unique property of maintaining its shape as its size increases, a property that is elegantly manifested in the shape of the nautilus shell.”

2. Great Atlantic Sea Scallop (Pecten maximus)

Also called the St. James shell, you can find the great Atlantic scallop—the largest scallop in Europe—in the lower right hand corner of this illustration, which comes from French naturalist Jean Charles Chenu’s Illustrations conchyliologiques ou description et figures de toutes les coquilles. In nature, these filter feeders are found at depths up to 820 feet in the Mediterranean and in the eastern Atlantic from Portugal to Angola. According to The Seashell Collector, “The shell of St. James became the emblem of pilgrims visiting the apostle’s tomb at Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and a mark of devotion in medieval church carvings and illuminated manuscripts.”

3. Clear Sundial Snail (Architectonica perspectiva)

This sea snail is found in sandy waters across the Indo-Pacific, according to The Seashell Collector, and its shell “has beautiful spirals in white, black and brown ... the body of the snail perfectly matches the patterns on the shell.” Scientists believe the snail eats sea anemones and sea pens. This illustration appeared in malacologist L.C. Keiner’s 12-volume series Species general et iconographie des coquilles vivantes…, published from 1834 to 1880.

4. Miscellaneous marine snail shells

This illustration appeared in Le conchyliologie, or Histoire naturelle des coquilles de mer… by Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d’ Argenville and published in 1780.

5. Queen Conch (Lobatus gigas)

These animals can grow to be a foot long and weigh up to 5 pounds—so it makes sense that part of their name would be gigas, which is Latin for giant. They can live up to 40 years and are found in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Atlantic from Bermuda to Brazil. This illustration appeared in Chenu’s Illustrations conchyliologiques ou description et figures de toutes les coquilles; you can see a live one in action here.

All images courtesy the American Museum of Natural History.

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College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy
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One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

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North America: East or West Coast?
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