Dogue de Bordeaux
Stuffed between 1899 and 1921
This Dogue de Bordeaux, or French mastiff, is part of the original collection of dogs created by Joseph Künstler, director of the Museum in the early 20th century.
Joseph Künstler, director of the Muséum de Bordeaux from 1898 to 1921, created a very unusual collection of stuffed dogs. At a time when natural history museums were devoting themselves to the “kingdom of nature”, what we know as biodiversity today, Künstler widened the scientific scope of his establishment. Among other innovations, he acquired nearly 150 specimens of various species, for technical teaching purposes. Approximately 70 dogs were stuffed, while the other exhibits consisted of skeletal mounts and skulls. To obtain these specimens, Künstler sent out a circular letter to pedigree dog owners.
Künstler was particularly interested in the Dogue de Bordeaux breed, for which he determined the second standard in 1910. Native to Asia, the Dogue de Bordeaux would appear to have been introduced into Europe during Antiquity. A member of the Mollosoids group (Bulldogs, Boxers, etc.), the breed make excellent guard dogs.
Initially thought to be sacred treasures, then terrestrial rocks struck by lightning, meteorites were not known to come from outer space until the 19th century
This specimen is a fragment from the Toluca meteorite discovered in Mexico by Spanish conquistadors in 1776. It is thought to have fallen to Earth over 10,000 years ago.
It was used for centuries by the local population, unaware of its extraterrestrial origins, for making metal objects. Composed of iron and nickel, its original total mass is estimated to be three tonnes!
On its polished surface you can see geometric structures known as Widmanstätten patterns which are figures made by long nickel-iron crystals.
Learn more about this meteorite in the Handbook of iron meteorites.
Stuffed specimen in a defensive posture (2007.4727)
Found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world, the Diodon hystrix has one astonishing characteristic: its scales are modified into spines. This means that when the porcupinefish is threatened, it inflates its body making the spines stick out, hence its name of porcupinefish.
The Diodon also secretes a paralysing neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin, if its physical protection is no deterrent to more fearless aggressors. It has a nocturnal activity between sunset and sunrise when it feeds on crustaceans and marine gastropods. By day, it rests under a rock or in a crevice.
Find out more information about this unusual fish here.
Stuffed specimen (2007.4777.1)
This species of lizard growing up to around 20 centimetres in length is native to Southeast Asia where it can be found in secondary forests and tropical rainforests. It is active during the day and is arboreal, which means it lives exclusively in trees. The flying dragon is an insectivore, feeding mostly on ants. Despite its name, the lizard does not fly with wings in the anatomical sense of the term. They are, in fact, membranes supported by its elongated ribs that extend outwards. The flying dragon uses its ‘wings’ to glide from tree to tree, but is not capable of powered flight like birds or bats. At rest, the flying dragon folds its ‘wings’ down the length of its body.
See a clip from a report featuring the flying dragon here.
Japanese spider crab
Stuffed specimen (2010.453.1)
This giant crab is the largest living arthropod. It can achieve a leg span of up to 3.5 m and live as long as 100 years in deep water off the coast of Japan. Its age can be estimated from the size of its first pair of legs, which continue to grow through its lifetime. The Japanese spider crab can be found at depths of 600 m where it forages for crustaceans, molluscs and fish to eat.
This specimen was donated to the National Museum in Paris in 1869 by A. Milne-Edwards, an expert on crabs. In his letter, he pointed out that one of the legs was missing, but suggested making a cast from the opposite leg, and that ‘the trickery would hardly be noticed’. Look for the plaster leg the next time you visit the museum!
You can also see living specimens in the aquarium in La Rochelle: https://www.aquarium-larochelle.com/preparer-sa-visite/encyclopedie-especes/crabe-araignee-geant-du-japon