Monday, January 25, 2010

A pile of planarians

I don't have enough plastic eyes right now, so they're half done... but look what you've got to look forward to in the shop! (the yellow one is available now)Next up: two headed planarians.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter invertebrates

It's a beautiful sunny day, so my roommate and I decided to go explore the arboretum. It's the largest green space in Montreal (well in the summer, anyway, haha) and is only a few minutes from campus.

We went to see what sorts of creatures we could find in the snow...

Saw lots of little bagworms, this piece of bark also had the shed skin of a spikey caterpillar
This little guy appears to be a mycetophilidA beautiful male Pityohyphantes costatus ... just look at those pedipalps!Spent about 20 minutes trying to photograph this fly, and this is the best I got. It's only about 4mm long - after some investigation we have determined it is in the family Lonchopteridae, most likely the genus LonchopteraThis Harmonia axyridis was either dead or just very cold.Teensy tiny little pupae - probably a mothAnd finally - a collembolan! That was the goal of our entire trip, to see some snow fleas. I finally fell into the snow to really look, and we started seeing them everywhere. They are SO CUTE! We saw a variety of sizes and got to watch them jump around... we were squealing like little girls. I'm sure we got some strange looks from the passing skiers.

They were likely either Hypogastrura nivicola or harveyiWe will have to do this more often :)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Study Skin Preparation - making a REAL stuffed animal

This post contains images of a mouse being skinned for educational purposes

I had a fantastic lab today! In my Science and Museums class we're learning about how natural history museums operate and the importance of specimens. So today we learned how to correctly prepare study skins - of mice.

We each started with a freshly (and humanely) killed lab mouse. I picked a girl. Isn't she cute?

Click "read more" only if you're prepared to see the rest of the photos!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Ah yes, the most adorable of flatworms (Phylum Platyhelminthes, Class Turbellaria, Order Seriata, Family Planariidae).

I received a custom order for a planarian, and I remembered... I was going to make more of them for my shop!
(The purple is the custom order, the yellow will be available in my shop soon)

I think I'll make a rainbow assortment, some of them having extra heads - as all you biology students out there know, if you cut a planarian into pieces, it will grow back into several planarians! And if you slice the head in half, it will grow two heads. Like this:
I've made them for my shop before and they sold right away. I'll wait until I can buy more black plastic eyes, though, as I think they're much nicer than using felt circles.

So keep on the lookout! If you have a specific color or mutilation in mind for a custom order, just let me know.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Whew, this beast took quite a lot of work. I told myself I wanted to make larger, more complicated and artistic pieces... and here we are. What a cute face, right?
The body scales are partly machine sewn, partly hand sewn, all hand cut of course and positioned to (sort of) alternate like real scales. Got to love the orange tie die fleece I found.To get a sense of the size:
This stuffed specimen is life size, as Panderichthys was about 90 to 130 cm long, a tetrapodomorph from the Devonian period. It had a very large, wide head (I wanted to be sure to portray that) which, among other characters, clearly places it as a transitional form between fish and tetrapods.

Analysis of the fins of Panderichthys show that the distal radials can in fact be considered homologues of tetrapod digits, suggesting that early tetrapod digits were a reworking of available elements and not a novel invention (Boisevert et al. 2008). Other limb changes, like a flattened and elongated humerus with enlarged ridges, show that fins were starting to become stronger and likely aided in pushing against the substrate (Clack 2009). However the skull was still attached to the pectoral girdle by a series of bones, limiting the head's range of movement (Coates et al. 2008). In many ways, Panderichthys was very much still a fish, but skeletal changes were underway showing a transition to a lifestyle in shallow aquatic environments.

Boisevert, C.A., Mark-Kurik, E. and Ahlberg, P.E. 2008. The pectoral fin of Panderichthys and the origin of digits. Nature 456: 636-638.
Clack, J.A. 2009a The Fin to Limb Transition: New Data, Interpretations, and Hypotheses from Paleontology and Developmental Biology. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 37: 153-179.
Coates, M. I., Ruta, M. and Friedman, M. 2008. Ever since Owen: changing perspectives on the early evolution of tetrapods. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 39:571-592.

Four pounds of stuffing

In case you can't imagine what that looks like, here you go:Working on finishing up Panderichthys, and will attempt Tiktaalik after that.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tetrapodomorph Evolution series (update #1)

I've decided to focus my work by creating series or collections of plushies based on various themes. If you go to my shop, in the sections you'll see some of the ones I've been brainstorming (partly based on what I've already made).

One of them, Tetrapodomorph Evolution, was inspired by a term paper I wrote for my herpetology class last semester. My topic was on the evolutionary transition of fins to limbs, from sarcopterygian (lobe finned) fish to amphibians. I wrote about the skeletal changes that took place based on the fossil record, and the ecological pressures the creatures may have experienced to encourage them to leave the water. "Tetrapodomorph" is the catch-all name for these organisms that were on the way to becoming tetrapods (tetrapods being organisms walking on four legs).

Of course, a few weeks after I complete my paper, this paper comes out in Nature, mixing up the whole thing.

But regardless, I'm making a series of plushies based on some of the major fossil tetrapodomorphs central to our understanding of this transition.
Cladogram showing relationships of tetrapodomorphs according to a current consensus (Clack 2009)

I started with a devonian lungfish, Dipterus. Lungfish are the sister group to tetrapods, and part of the sarcopterygian clade, not shown in the diagram above.
It's about 17" long, a cute little thing. All the scales were hand sewn.

Next I made Eusthenopteron, still very fish-like but with more complicated skeletal structure in the fins/lobes. This plush is considerably larger, 25" long.
I have it hanging by a thread, here, to show off the fins nicely.

I'm currently working on Panderichthys, which has a considerably flatter head and different body shape, looking less fish like. It's going to be quite large and quite fat, and I've run out of stuffing, so when that appears will depend on when I can go shopping. Here is a preview, though.
A word of warning to those who may be interested in buying these plushies - they will NOT BE FOR SALE UNTIL THEY ARE ALL COMPLETED. I'm not sure just how may I will make, but when I'm satisfied, I will be looking for galleries (or perhaps even museums) that might be willing to display them. If not, or at the end of their display, they will then be available in my shop.

If you wish to have a version of your very own right away, please contact me!

Clack, J. 2009. The Fish-Tetrapod Transition: New Fossils and Interpretations. Evolution: Education and Outreach 2(2): 213-223.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I'm back!

Hello again everyone! After putting aside my shop and most of the internet due to schoolwork and grad school applications, I'm back to sewing and juggling my time once again. Busy schedule, working on lots of school projects, but I shall try to make time for my business and a bit of fun.

I've already got a jump start on custom orders, so if you have something in mind, feel free to contact me! or send a convo through etsy

Custom order guidelines:
My prices depend on the size and complexity of the species in question. Therefore it can be quite difficult to give general price ranges.

However, these are my general minimum prices:
Small (6" to 9"): $35
Medium (10" to 15"): $50

Large (16"+): $80

The prices go up from there depending on how many body parts and details there are, especially if it requires a lot of hand sewing. However there is also some flexibility, like if you just want a big long worm, it'll be less than $80.

I take requests for most types of animals, including insects, arachnids, other invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, fish, aquatic invertebrates, and extinct creatures. I generally don't do mammals or birds unless they're really quite fascinatingly strange. I do NOT do make believe creatures or puppies, kittens, bunnies, etc.

For quotes or more details please contact me.

***************How it works******************
I prefer to sell through my shop on
It's very easy to sign up (you just need an email address)
For etsy custom orders you MUST USE THE CUSTOM/ALCHEMY FEATURE. This way Etsy gets the appropriate fees. You can click the "Request Custom Item" on my etsy page to fill out details.

If you absolutely don't want to use Etsy, I can send paypal email requests.

I ONLY ACCEPT PAYPAL AS PAYMENT. For custom orders I require either: full payment up front, or: half payment up front, and the rest upon completion.

*****Shipping and taxes******
Shipping may either be from Canada (where I am at college) or from the US (if I have a chance to visit home and bring your order with me). I will be sure to let you know which shipping methods are available, as shipping from Canada costs more.

New York State residents: There is sales tax. It depends on your county, so if you place an order please alert me if you're in NY and give me your address so I can calculate sales tax.

There are NO REFUNDS OR RETURNS on custom orders. I work diligently to keep up communication, and I always post photos before the creature is sent, so any objections may be worked out. So far this has not been an issue.


I also have some grand plans for my shop... including bringing more focus to my work. I'll post updates on how my series/collections of themed plushies progress.