Whose Life Cycle is This? By The Nature Collection for British Wildlife

Life Cycles

Animals all have very different life cycles. Some lay eggs, some give birth to live young, some such as insects, go through several stages until they finally become a full size adult.

These will show some of the life cycle stages from different UK animals, which I have either seen, found or been given as exhibits, so what I have is very random!

Mammals give birth to live young. They do not lay eggs. The mothers produce milk for their young and parents often provide food and shelter for their young for the first few years, until they can support themselves.

Birds lay eggs in a nest, which they build or excavate every year. They lay eggs in clutches of between 1-10. Smaller birds such as Blue tits lay several eggs in a clutch but larger birds like owl, just lay 2 or 3. The parents look after and provide food for their chicks for the first few weeks or months of their life. It varies for different species of bird.

Most Reptiles lay eggs, with a soft, leathery shell. They lay their eggs on land.

Adders are unusual in that although they are snakes, they incubate the eggs inside their body and give birth to live young.

Slow worms are also 'ovoviviparous', which means that they lay eggs internally. The eggs hatch inside the female slow worm's body, and the young stay there for a while, living off the yolk of the egg. The female will then give birth to live young.

Common lizards also give birth to live young. Sand lizards lay eggs which they bury in the sand to keep warm.

Amphibians, theĀ frogs, toads and newts, lay large batches of eggs in water. The young grow up in the water but as adults can also move and breathe on land

Let's look at some stages from a few life cycles and see if you can identify the animal, they belong to before the photo of the adult appears!

Can you classify the animals as Mammal, Bird, Reptile, Amphibian or Invertebrate? (Invertebrates are animals without a backbone such as worms, slugs, spider and insects.)

Creamy egg about 1.5-2cm long, which has hatched out. Hard now as it has dried out but it was soft.
One day old hatchling, Grass snake
Grass snake
Spotty, spiky caterpillars
Peacock butterfly

The butterfly life cycle is egg > caterpillar > chrysalis > butterfly

Shed skin of an underwater nymph. The adult dragonfly has climbed out and left its skin behind! It is called the 'exuvia'.
Migrant hawker dragonfly
Prickly baby!
Large, round egg
Fluffy owlets
Tawny owls
Tiny lizard
Common lizard, growing a new tail!
Empty egg sac
On the soil. Can you see anything running away?
A fluffy egg sac. Spiderlings spreading out!
Garden spider
Larvae living in dead wood for up to seven years!
Male Stag beetle
Black eggs, protected in slimy jelly. Frogspawn
100's of black tadpoles in the water
Tiny frog or toad
Common frog
I can see you!
Two small, fluffy cubs
Brown hair for camouflage, while young
Red fox
Bright blue, speckled egg with a hard shell
Song thrush

The butterfly / moth life cycle is egg > caterpillar > chrysalis > butterfly/moth

Silk moth cocoons. Not British but interesting because the threads around the cocoon are what we use to make the material, silk. People farm Silk moths, to make silk.
Soft, creamy eggs on dead wood
Soft eggs in a sticky clump
Black slug
Museum case for the Adonis blue butterfly. The male is blue to attract a mate and the female brown, for camouflage when laying the eggs
Drawer of Fritillary butterflies at the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity in the Natural History Museum. See the caterpillar skins.
Oval, white egg with spotted feather nearby
4-5 chicks hatch and grow up in a nest hole, inside the tree.
Great spotted woodpecker, drilling holes in the trunk to search for insect grubs
Red deer calves have spots when they are young, for camouflage.
Red deer giving milk to her calf. The camouflage spots are fading.
Red deer, female with no antlers
Ball shape on dead wood
Creamy eggs inside, like treasure
Garden spider, eating a wasp!
Stripy-faced cub
Young cub coming out of his underground sett
Yellow eggs on a cabbage leaf!
Large white butterfly with huge, compound eyes and a long tongue, sucking up nectar!

All the birds' eggs shown here, are replica eggs, made by a craftsman to look like real ones. It is illegal to take any bird's eggs away from a nest.

Photographer & Wildlife Educator

I am Susanna Ramsey and I have a unique collection of natural history objects relating to British Wildlife. Over the last ten years, I have assembled an extensive range of skulls, skeletons, bones, skins, feathers, wings, antlers, insect specimens and taxidermy, all from animals in the UK.

During 2010-2018, I took my Nature Collection into local primary schools to display and run workshops for the children, linking the exhibition to science topics in the National Curriculum such as Adaptations, Bones, Classification, Food Webs, Habitats, Life Cycles and Local Wildlife.

In 2018-2020, I worked with the leading schools' catalogue, TTS ,to create a range of Educational Resources for primary schools, nurseries, after school clubs and families. To find out more about these products, see below.

I am passionate about encouraging children and adults, to discover the beauty of our local wildlife.

Young froglet

Exhibits and Thanks

Almost all of the animals in my collection were either found by myself, Susanna Ramsey, or donated by friends and family to The Nature Collection, as an educational resource. Huge thanks for all the tiny, carefully-wrapped bundles of feathers and bones, to Steve and Sam Read, John Lock, Chris Matcham, Franko Maroevic, Tim Howard, Jan Wilczur, Simon Richards, Peter Veniard, Paula Redmond, Phil Davis, Bob & Sally Black, Jo & Frank Sheppard and Katie Ramsey. Many of these people are naturalists and experts in their field; I am indebted to them too, for all that they have taught me about our local wildlife.

Over the years, I have been lucky enough to be a regular visitor to the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity at the Natural History Museum, London. The unimaginably-vast collection of British insect specimens, stored in row upon row, of metal, floor-to-ceiling cabinets has been a massive inspiration to me. There is something infinitely satisfying about the way every species has its own box, within a drawer, within a cabinet and that each can be found within minutes, by the care and expertise of the staff. To witness the incredible number of UK species of moth, beetle, butterfly, fly, grasshopper etc, is simply mind blowing and I feel so privileged to be able to visit and photograph some of the specimens!

I have used the photo stacking equipment at the Angela Marmont Centre to take highly-detailed photos of some of the specimens to put into slideshows for my primary school workshops. When I was young, I always wanted to be an archaeologist and it was my ambition to work in a museum; to sit in the Centre, using the equipment and handling the specimens, listening to the chatter of the experts at work, has been a dream come true. I am so grateful to the staff at the Centre for their encouragement and for always making me feel so welcome.

Thanks also to Tonja Grung, of Made from the Dead Taxidermy, for sharing her incredible knowledge, patience and skill. I will never forget our amazing sessions on animal taxidermy.

The delicate skeletons were cleaned to perfection by a colony of flesh-eating, dermestid beetles, skilfully managed by Edward de Geer.


If you know children who are interested in nature, are a teacher, or would like to learn more about British Wildlife yourself, explore the range of British Wildlife products recently created by The Nature Collection and the leading schools' catalogue, TTS.

The products are perfect for use in primary schools, nurseries, after school clubs, forest schools or at home with friends and family. Click on the links below to find out about each product.

Look & Learn Cards: British Birds, Mammals, Minibeasts

Food Webs Activity Pack

Classification: British Wildlife & Natural History

Identification Wheels: British Birds, Mammals & Minibeasts

Discovery Bags: British Birds, Mammals, Minibeasts

Playground Signboards: Birds, Mammals, Minibeasts

Birds ID Wheel, Food Webs pack, Mammal Look & Learn cards
Created By
Susanna Ramsey


Susanna Ramsey