GrrlScientist is a brainy blog I like, and the author, an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist, has recently completed a photo series of all the tile mosaics on walls of the New York City subway station at 81st Street and Central Park West, which is right outside the American Museum of Natural History. She's identified most of the colorful creatures by their scientific as well as common names.
There's a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), spreading its wings, and in a former life, its jaunty striped caterpillar self looping along near the floor. There's brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli), with long feathers and slender beak poised on one wall, and a red and yellow African reed frog (Hyperolius marmoratus), glommed onto another. Near the ceiling under a fluorescent light, an unidentified shark patrols a coral reef. A whiptail lizard (or is it a hatchling Knight anole?) curls its tail around the street number 81 on one wall. An octopus's garden appears on another wall, which GrrlScientist photographed for her cephalopod-loving friend's 92nd birthday. She took many of these images, by the way, while she was recuperating from a broken arm. Her entire archive of 81st St. subway art images is here. Her favorite is this moody blue coelacanth.
Not all the images are animals: one stairway leading down from the street to the uptown subway platform she dubbed "Journey to the Center of the Earth," because it depicts Earth's geologic layers; if you look closely you can see fossils embedded in them. GrrlScientist gives the backstory on the station and its amazing artworks:
New York's subway station at 81st and Central Park West (CPW), also known as the AMNH subway station, was first opened on 10 September 1932, and renovation of this station was completed in 1999... The art at this subway station was produced by the MTA Arts for Transit Design Team in cooperation with the Museum of Natural History and is a study of the evolution of life from the big bang to the present day. The entire collection at this station is entitled For Want of a Nail, which alludes to the interconnectedness of all life.
GrrlScientist tried to identify most of the species but in some cases she was stumped and asked her readers for their help, as was the case for this mystery snail species above. One of her readers responded:
That's Snailus Artdeco, driven to extinction back in the forties by greedy poachers who sold their shells for use as lampshades.
Photo: GrrlScientist, who has moved on to photographing the walls of the Chambers St. station