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    Specimen of the Week 209: Mammoth tusk

    By Tannis Davidson, on 12 October 2015

    LDUCZ-Z2978 Elephantidae

    LDUCZ-Z2978 Mammuthus primigenius

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is one of the first objects to be seen upon entering the Museum. Majestically, it sits just behind the front desk cradled in a graceful arc of perfect balance and symmetry. It is the largest fossil in the Grant Museum’s collection and although incomplete, measures over 1.7m in length.  What a beaut!  This week’s specimen is…



    Specimen of the Week 208 (Four years!): The four-eyed opossum

    By Jack Ashby, on 5 October 2015

    Preserved four-eyed opossum.  LDUCZ-Z1596

    Preserved four-eyed opossum.

    As those of you who can divide 208 by four – or have read this post’s title – will have realised, four years ago this week Specimen of the Week was born.

    The main aim of this series is to shed light on parts of the collection that you might not spot among the thousands of specimens in our dense displays. Occassionally we do want to give extra attention to a “hero” specimen, but by and large it’s the also-rans that get featured.

    Some might think that this honour should be reserved for animals at the lower end of the human-centred pecking order (fish and invertebrates, for instance), but there are many mammals that go unloved too. This one is no exception. It is so unloved that its Wikipedia page comprises of only five lines.

    This week I’m featuring the first animal that came to mind when I tried to think of something related to the blog’s age: Four.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Glass Delusions opens today

    By Jack Ashby, on 1 October 2015

    Photogram #2 by Eleanor Morgan

    A photogram created by exposing photo-sensitive paper with the Grant Museum’s glass sponge specimens sat directly on it. (C) Eleanor Morgan

    Glass Delusions is a new exhibition at the Grant Museum featuring works by the Museum’s Artist in Residence, Eleanor Morgan. Using prints, drawings, videos and objects Eleanor explores the slippery boundary between living and non-living materials.

    Over the past year, Eleanor has been drawing inspiration from our collection of glass sponges. These are intricately formed deep-sea animals that naturally build themselves out of glass – the are 90% silica, which they draw out of the sand in their environment.


    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: September 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 September 2015

    I’M BACK! Last month’s rumours of the end were nought but a dramatic device! I may have left UCL and although it was easy to turn my back and walk away from colleagues I’d worked with over the last decade, I couldn’t leave the underwhelming fossil fish behind so this communiqué comes from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

    For first time readers, the mission of this blog series is to turn our attentions to the spectacularly unspectacular fossil fish in the Grant Museum each month. These fish, like so many others in museum collections, are uncelebratable, unrelatable and originally collected for research no longer referenced or cared about. Every museum has specimens like these. Are they useless? Why do we have them? Why should you care? None of these questions will be answered here, instead I ask that you clear your mind, read on, and one by one we’ll improve global fishteracy, one underwhelming fish fossil at a time.

    This month, in order to celebrate the return of the series I’ve been sent images and a description of personally hand-picked out something particularly unspecial in time honoured tradition for this series. Extra points for you if you stay awake/alive til the end of this one, it’s a slog.

    Specimen of the Week 207: Threetoothed pufferfish

    By Dean W Veall, on 28 September 2015

    LDUCZ-V1552 Triodon macropterus

    LDUCZ-V1552 Triodon macropterus

    Hello Specimen of the Week readers. Dean Veall here. I’ve chosen a specimen that’s often caught my eye but I was never too sure about what type of fish it actually was. It is possibly the specimen in the Museum with the least representative name. I give you this week’s Specimen of the Week …. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 206: The leopard skull

    By Will J Richard, on 21 September 2015

    LDUCZ-Z334 leopard (Panthera pardus) skull

    LDUCZ-Z334 leopard (Panthera pardus) skull

    Hello! Will Richard here. Taking my turn to bring you another specimen of the week. And what can I say about this week’s specimen?

    Very little… on with the blog!

    This week’s specimen is…

    **the leopard skull**


    Specimen of the Week 205: The Plesiosaur

    By Tannis Davidson, on 14 September 2015

    LDUCZ-X227 Thalassiodracon hawkinsi  Copyright UCL Photo by Colin Dunn of Scriptura

    LDUCZ-X227 Thalassiodracon hawkinsi (C)UCL. Photo by Colin Dunn of Scriptura

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is one of the largest single objects in the Grant Museum, but it is one which is often overlooked. Tucked away along the wall behind the large elephant skull, many who visit the Museum miss it as they are drawn to the illuminated cave which is the Micrarium. The warm glow of over 2300 backlit microscope slides attracts the eye, but also diverts attention from the dim end-of-corridor/rope-barrier/back-entrance-to-the-office area which is home to the specimen of which I speak.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is…


    Happy 79th Thylacine Day: What they knew in 1896

    By Jack Ashby, on 7 September 2015

    79 years ago today , on the night of 7th of September 1936, the last known thylacine died of exposure, locked out of the indoor part of its enclosure in a Tasmanian zoo. This followed a government-sponsored cull based on pressure from the farming lobby, who incorrectly blamed the thylacine for the failure of the sheep industry. Happy Thylacine Day.

    Thylacine as depicted in Wood's Illustrated History (1872?). Engraved by W. Coleman, after Robert Kretschmer (1865)

    Thylacine as depicted in J.G. Wood’s The Illustrated Natural History (1872?). Engraved by W. Coleman, after Robert Kretschmer (1865)

    Here at the Grant Museum, as holders of a significant collection of specimens, we like to commemorate Thylacine Day. Here you can read how we have commemorated previous Thylacine Days – including the story of their extinction, and how it’s being echoed today in the UK’s unscientific badger cull (which restarted last Friday).

    I recently bought book from 1894* – A Handbook to the Marsupialia and Monotremata – a species by species account of what was then known about those groups by Richard Lydekker. Lydekker was a significant figure at the Natural History Museum, London, and incidentally was born about 100m from us here at UCL. Here is what he had to say about thylacines: (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 204: The ringtail skeleton and tail skin

    By Jack Ashby, on 7 September 2015

    The ringtail skeleton. Bassariscus astutus. LDUCZ-Z1116

    The ringtail skeleton. Bassariscus astutus. LDUCZ-Z1116

    For the past couple of weeks we’ve been closed to the public while works began to replace our ancient heating system. This means that my favourite parts of the Museum (basically where the marsupials are) have been out of bounds, and so I’ve had to branch out somewhat beyond my usual cabinet to select my Specimen of the Week.

    I’ve kept it topical, to link with recent zoological (specifically genital) social media trends, and also to an animal that shares its name with a group of marsupials.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 203: Mastodon jaw fragment

    By Dean W Veall, on 31 August 2015

    Fragment of mastodon jaw with molar

    Fragment of mastodon jaw with molar

    Hello Specimen of the Week readers, Dean Veall here. Unfortunatley we had to be closed over the last week (and also this coming week) for some essential heating works. As part of the process we needed to empty some of our cupboards, (I say we, mostly Tannis Davidson, Curatorial Assistant), in the emptying I came across this week’s specimen of the week and what a treat of a specimen it is with a great name and backstory. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…….