Nov 5

As another series of the ever-popular Downton Abbey draws to a close, we have had a roam around the ARKive collection and uncovered some species that could be mistaken for some of the intriguing characters featured in the series.

Bates’ pygmy antelope (Neotragus batesi)

Bates' pygmy antelope image

Bates’ pygmy antelope is a shy, secretive creature, much like Mr Bates

It is doubtful that this secretive species was named after Downton’s favourite valet given that it comes from East Africa, but it does seem to share certain traits with the quiet Mr Bates.

The range of the male Bates’ pygmy antelope often overlaps those of two females. Sadly for our Mr Bates, it seems that the same could be said of him too, with his life being torn between his beloved Anna and his ex-wife, the venomous Mrs Bates.

Bates’ pygmy antelope favours areas of dense vegetation cover, but it can also be found along roadsides and in village gardens. It tends to move around several suitable feeding sites on rotation, spending just a month or two in each area. Is this perhaps why Mr Bates keeps coming and going from Downton?!

Painted lady (Vanessa cardui)

Painted lady image

The painted lady butterfly

This aristocratically named butterfly species shares a thing or two with the beautiful Lady Mary Crawley. As far as habitat requirements go, the painted lady tends to prefer open areas, just as Lady Mary is accustomed to large, lavish halls and vast expanses of family-owned land.

The painted lady is a migratory species, travelling from North Africa, central Asia and the Middle East to Europe, including the UK, to breed – a much longer journey than Lady Mary’s trips to London! Yet the continued appearance of the painted lady in the UK, and indeed within other areas in Europe, relies on the presence of suitable habitat.

Surely Lady Mary would sympathise with the plight of this species, given that her future ‘habitat’ situation is all up in the air at present – will she eventually inherit Downton and stay where she is happy? Or will she lose her childhood home forever and be whisked away by Sir Richard to somewhere far less suitable? Let’s hope that there is a happy ending for both Lady Mary and the painted lady.

Lords and ladies (Arum maculatum)

Lords and ladies image

This plant with arrow-shaped leaves has a striking appearance when in flower, much like our Lords and Ladies of Downton when dolled up in evening dress. Lords and ladies is found in woods and along hedgerows on calcareous soil, and is very common across the British Isles.

The ancestors of the inhabitants of Downton might well have appreciated this species, as historically its roots were used as a source of starch for collars and ruffs. However, fashion came at a price, as the toxic nature of the juices from lords and ladies used to leave the hands of laundresses terribly blistered.

Cook’s petrel (Pterodroma cookii)

Cook's petrel image

Cook’s petrel has an interesting, but rather smelly, defence mechanism

One of the smallest petrels, this species is named after the famous explorer Captain James Cook, and is only found in New Zealand. Due to declines in numbers, Cook’s petrel is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Despite being called Cook’s petrel, it would be doubtful that Mrs Patmore, Downton’s oft-flustered cook, would want one of these flying around her kitchen – what a mess it would make! Nor would she want to get too close to one of these birds should she ever come across one, as it has a rather nasty defence mechanism. Like other petrel species, Cook’s petrel has two stomachs. In the upper stomach it stores oil obtained from its diet, which mainly acts as a constant supply of energy. However, if threatened, chicks will regurgitate this foul-smelling, sticky mess all over an attacker. This affects the waterproofing or insulating properties of the predator’s feathers or fur, which could potentially be fatal to the attacker.

Thomas’ lidflower (Calyptranthes thomasiana)

Thomas' lidflower image

Thomas’ lidflower is a threatened species

Very little is currently known about the biology of the Endangered Thomas’ lidflower, a small, evergreen shrub which grows on just three islands in the Caribbean – but then again, how much do we really know about Downton’s own Thomas?!

With his scheming ways, we’re not sure they could handle more than one Thomas at Downton, but sadly there aren’t that many more Thomas’ lidflowers left in the world, with the population now believed to be fewer than 250 individuals. As a result of this, this species is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and may soon qualify as Critically Endangered.

Don’t forget that we have plenty more fascinating species on ARKive, so why not have a browse? If you can’t decide what to look for, why not try our ‘random species’ option under the Explore ARKive tab. Can you find any other species that remind you of Downton Abbey characters in some way?! If so, let us know!

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author