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American Museum of Natural History

5 Gorgeous Old Pictures of Seashells

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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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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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fun
How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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