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  • Archive for the 'Grant Museum of Zoology' Category

    Specimen of the Week 249: the Galago

    By George W G Phillips, on 22 July 2016

    Hello all! George Phillips here, presenting my first specimen of the week: the galago. The specimen you see before you is Demidoff’s dwarf galago (Galago demidoff), an omnivorous, nocturnal bushbaby native to the rainforests and wooded savanna of Central and West Africa. With a hearty abdominal incision for better internal distribution of preservative fluid, this handsome fellow has likely been a valuable addition to the teaching collection at the Grant Museum over the years. On many occasions I’ve witnessed visitors’ delight at this specimen’s majestic stance and slightly alien features.

    Demidoff’s dwarf galago (Galago demidoff) LDUCZ-Z2899

    The smallest primate in Africa

    Weighing as little as 46 grams with a body length of just ten centimeters, Demidoff’s dwarf galago is the smallest primate found in Africa. (more…)

    What’s the difference between snakes and legless lizards? Specimen of the Week 248

    By Jack Ashby, on 15 July 2016

    Sloworms are legless lizards. LDUCZ-X206

    Slow worms are legless lizards. LDUCZ-X206

    Slow worms – They don’t have a leg to stand on

    Not all legless reptiles are snakes, like this slow worm which is just one of the many kinds of legless lizards. The complete or near loss of limbs has evolved in lizards a great number of times. Some entire lizard families are legless. Some families contain a few species with tiny vestigial limbs, while the rest are limbless. Some families are mostly “normal” four-limbed species, with limblessness, near limblessness, or two-leggedness having evolved in certain lineages independently. The biggest lizard family – the skinks (of which there are 1500 of mostly leggy species) – has groups that have lost their limbs on numerous occassions in Africa, Europe and Australia. In most cases of legless lizards, some remnant of the hindlimbs is visible, often by the precence of scaly flaps.

    Getting legless

    Leglessness evolves when the legs become a hindrance rather than a help in an animals’ locomotion, and in lizards this is normally to do with burrowing. Essentially lizards have found that it is more effective to “swim” through the soil, pushing their way through little gaps with their heads. If you think about it, this makes sense because lizards’ arms aren’t that close to their snouts, so using them to dig can be a it awkward. This is one also one of the main hypotheses for how and why snakes evolved. Swimming is also a driving factor for losing limbs.

    How do you tell a snake from a legless lizard?*

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 247: the pickled dissected monkey head

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 8 July 2016

    Happy Friday, Grant aficionados! Welcome back to the high-point of the week, where Saturday is almost within reach and we get to share a gem from the collection for your delectation.

    This week that particular gem is the…

    LDUCZ-Z445 pickled dissected monkey head

    LDUCZ-Z445 Sapajus sp.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 246: King Scallop model

    By Dean W Veall, on 1 July 2016

    Hello Hello, Dean Veall here. This week I bring you a snappy little character, well not exactly little, this is the KING of all snappy characters of a mollusc based persuasion. The king scallop (Pecten maximus) is this week’s Specimen of the Week.

    LDUCZ-Q330 - King scallop model (Pecten maximus)

    LDUCZ-Q330 – King scallop model (Pecten maximus)

     

    (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: June 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 June 2016

    It has been a month. That is for sure. But I tell you who won’t be worrying about their future, or screaming into a brown paper bag, or asking if anyone competent is actually in charge of anything at a time when that kind of thing seems very important. Underwhelming fossil fish in museum drawers that’s who.

    That’s right, we’re back with our monthly series, taking time away from the chaotic world to look at and if you’re feeling sassy perhaps shrug a shoulder or two at an underwhelming fossil fish from the Grant Museum of Zoology’s collections. The worst a fossil fish has to look forward to is nothing as fossil fish cannot contemplate anything. They are made of stone. Those lucky fishy fossily fellows.

    This month’s fossil fish, out of pure chance, is from John o’ Groats. John o’ Groats used to be a man but it is now a village in Scotland. John o’ Groats currently lies on Britain’s northeastern tip and is famous for being one end of the longest trip you could take between two British settlements, the other end being Land’s End in Cornwall. This fossil was once a complete fish but sadly the taphonomic processes have ‘made it great again’ meaning it is now fragmented, no longer whole and far less interesting for it too, fortunately for us.

    This month we’ve got overlabelling highlighting historical less-than-best practice in museum labelling which I know is at the forefront of all of our minds at the moment. Let’s have a look shall we?

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 245: The peregrine falcon skull

    By Will J Richard, on 24 June 2016

    Hello folks! Will Richard here bringing you a record breaking specimen of the week. It is part of our Best of the Beasts trail and by the end of this blog I hope you’ll all see why. It’s the…

    LDUCZ-Y1721 peregrine falcon skull

    LDUCZ-Y1721 peregrine falcon skull

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 244: The historic wax flatworm

    By Tannis Davidson, on 17 June 2016

    LDUCZ-D44 Fasciola hepatica

    LDUCZ-D44 Fasciola hepatica

    Since its inception in 1828, the Grant Museum of Zoology collections have always been used for teaching.  This continues in the present day and the Museum welcomes students from across UCL for a wide variety of specimen-based practicals, course work and research projects.

    Today we maintain detailed lists of specimens which are used in classes but I’ve often wondered what the early object-based teaching practicals looked like and which specimens were used.

    Fortunately, the Museum has some relevant archives which have identified an extraordinary specimen that had been used in teaching at UCL 130 years ago.  It is not only one of the oldest specimens in the collection, but also one of the most beautiful.

    Take a journey back in time with this week’s Specimen of the Week…

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 243 – Dolphin Foetus

    By Rachel H Bray, on 10 June 2016

    1. Unpredictable as usual

    The Grant Museum is a haven for the unexpected. As is often the case with the collection (at least, for me anyway), just when you’re expecting to see an animal that you feel fairly au fait with… the museum presents you with specimens that are: dissected, bisected, exploded, stained, crammed with others in a jar or injected with alizarin. So as a case in point, here is the rinsed skeleton of a dolphin foetus.

    LDUCZ-Z3092 - Dolphin Foetus Image

    LDUCZ-Z3092 – Dolphin Foetus

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 242 – the Marsupial Lion

    By Jack Ashby, on 3 June 2016

    Thylacoleo skull cast LDUCZ-Z3167

    Thylacoleo skull cast LDUCZ-Z3167

    1) Large lion-shaped predators were living in Australia until around 50,000 years ago – lion-shaped, but not lions. This is because there were no wild cat species in Australia*, and up until 3-5000 years ago when the dingo arrived with Polynesian traders, all large Australian mammals were marsupials. One such beast was Thylacoleo carnifex, the “marsupial lion”. Alongside this big predator lived “marsupial rhinos” (diprotodons), giant kangaroos, giant echidnas, “marsupial tapirs” (Palorchestes) and giant wombats (Phascolonus). All in all, Australia used to have much bigger animals than it does now.

    2) It is believed that marsupial lions diverged from the branch of the marsupial tree that led to wombats and koalas. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: May 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 May 2016

    WARNING, WARNING! We got a looker this month boys and girls. Underwhelming fossil fish come in all shapes and sizes, some are virtually nothing, others inspire great works of art but once in a while we get one that is surprisingly and distinctly fish shaped. It’s still not very interesting to anyone but the most love blind of the fossil fish fanatics and for that we shall dutifully analyse, precisely and scientifically, via the well established ‘Top Trump categories’ method the ways in which it is uninteresting.

    For those of you unsure as to how you got to this part of the Internet and still not quite sure what’s going on, you’ve arrived at the latest entry of Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month. Fossil collections are full of specimens of animals you won’t have heard of, can’t really imagine and even if you could imagine them, they weren’t really worth the effort in the first place. We could sex them up a bit by making up animals like those naughty fossil reptile palaeontologists but this is not the fish way. Instead we’ll celebrate them the only way we can, with an analysis of their rather dry and esoteric history.

    If you are of a delicate fortitude or can’t handle too much fossil fish at once, I’m going to ease you into this month’s let down specimen… (more…)