Museum collections are invaluable scientific and education tools that celebrate the past, define the present and inform the future. Embedded in our cupboards, shelves and freezers is hidden information waiting to be teased out by current and future scientists. Our collections provide opportunities and access for CU students to gain real world experience in preparation for careers essential for solving the challenges of tomorrow.

Each and every week, here and on Facebook, we will focus our lens to highlight the history of a single cataloged item from our vast collection of more than 5 million objects. Each WoW will post on Wednesday—offering something new to anticipate for the next 77,000 years!


Monarch butterflly view from underside

Monarch butterfly

July 28, 2021

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are perhaps one of the most well-known insects in North America. They are easily recognizable by their bright orange wings with black veins and their jet-black abdomens speckled with white spots. Males can be distinguished from females by the two black spots in the center of their hind wing, which females do not have. Can you tell if this Wonder of the Week is a male or female? The caterpillars of this species, found on milkweed, are striped yellow, black and white. The chrysalis is light green with yellow spots along the edge.

Pressed plant with thin leaves and small blue flowers

Blue Larkspur

July 21, 2021

Blue Larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum) is one of nearly a dozen species of this genus in Colorado and is a native of western North America. Delphinium comes from the Greek word for dolphin, which may refer to the shape of its flower bud, or perhaps the nectaries inside the flower that attract bees and hummingbirds.

Black and white bee about 9 mm long

Leaf-cutting bee

July 14, 2021

Like most bees, this leaf-cutting bee, Megachile brevis, is solitary, with each female building her own nest cells out of bits of leaves and petals without the help of a worker caste.

Red beetle with black spots

Convergent Lady Beetle

July 7, 2021

There are 80 species of lady bird beetles in Colorado, and the Hippodamia convergens or Lady Beetle (like this species found in Delta County), is the most frequently observed across North America.

Fossilized coral in cone shape with small circle surface pattern

Rugose Coral

June 30, 2021

This fossil is a rugose coral, found in Jeffersonville, Indiana and collected by R.D. George in the early 1900s. The numerous concentric rings detailing the fossil’s surface are not representative of the true external surface the rugose coral once exhibited in life, but instead are a form of Chalcedony called Beekite.

cream colored shiny cowrie shell

Tiger Cowrie

June 23, 2021

The tiger cowrie is a species of large sea snail that lives in warm reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific Ocean. These snails can be found from off the eastern coast of Africa all the way to the Hawaiian Islands.

Canyon Lizard specimen looking from above

Ballinger’s Canyon Lizard

June 16, 2021

Ballinger’s canyon lizard is a subspecies of spiny lizard whose range extends from Southwestern Texas into Northern Mexico.

blue winged grasshopper

Blue-winged Grasshopper

June 9, 2021

Saussure’s Blue-winged Grasshopper (Leprus intermedius) is one of several species of grasshopper exhibiting blue wings, but this species can be further distinguished from those similar by its strong blue pigmentation on the underside of the thorax and abdomen. Named after the accomplished Swiss entomologist and taxonomist Henri de Saussure, these...

clam worm thumbnail

Clam worm

June 2, 2021

These strange worms are a type of polychaete worm that belong to the family Nereididae commonly known as clam worms. Polycheate worms are set apart from other marine worms by bristles (known as cheate) on their parapodia that they use to move and burrow into the sand. Parapodium is a Greek word which translates into para  beside  + podia  feet.  During mating cycles, which...

passenger pigeon

Passenger Pigeon

May 26, 2021

The passenger pigeon ( Ectopistes migratorius ) once migrated in flocks of 3 to 5 billion, numbers great enough to black out the sky, but by 1914, the last of its kind, named “Martha,” passed away at the Cincinnati Zoo. Martha had been the last passenger pigeon alive in captivity, while the last known wild...