Victoria Herridge has a degree in Biology and a PhD in Palaeontology from University College London. An award-winning science communicator, Victoria’s research at the Natural History Museum (NHM) has focused on the evolution of island mammals during the Pleistocene period, a time more commonly known as the last Ice Age. Her internationally recognised work helps us understand evolutionary responses to extreme climate change.
You can follow Victoria’s fascinating research via her Twitter feed, @ToriHerridge. She is also a crucial cog in the Trowelblazers website, a celebration of women archaeologists, palaeontologists and geologists.
Victoria’s first book for Bloomsbury, titled The World’s Smallest Mammoth, is being published in 2015. To learn more about the research that gave rise to it, have a look at this video. Here’s a flavour of what to expect …
Few of the millions of tourists basking on a Cypriot beach or hiding from the sun inside a Sicilian villa each year realise that not so long ago – before the Romans or Greeks ran the show, but not that long before – their Mediterranean paradise was a very different place. Perhaps are recently as 10,000 years ago, these islands abounded with an extraordinary animal: an elephant, just like the living version, with big ears and long straight tusks, but differing in one amazing way – it was roughly the size of an Alsatian. These tiny tuskers shared their island homes with a suite of similarly bizarre beasts, including mini-hippos, giant swans, mega-hedgehogs and micro-elk.
Victoria Herridge tells the story of the discovery of these animals and their lives in The World’s Smallest Mammoth (which, incidentally, she recently discovered on the island of Crete). The book begins with fearless fossil hunter Dorothea Bate, who at the turn of the 20th century became the NHM’s first female curator. Very much a lone woman in a man’s world, Bate headed for the Med and discovered a number of dwarf species. Following the work of Bate and other pioneers, biologists realised that evolution follows some very strange paths indeed on islands, and there have been many amazing discoveries over the last 20 years. In a rich text peppered with observations from her own research on elephants and other extinct island fauna, Victoria explores why these beasts evolved time and again, how they evolved, behaved and looked, and ultimately what happened to the last of them.
The amazing story of these animals provides the foundation of a book that you will simply have to read.