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  • Archive for the 'Grant Museum of Zoology' Category

    Specimen of the Week 259 : Bird of Paradise

    By Jack Ashby, on 30 September 2016

    Less bird-of paradise skeleton. LDUCZ-Y1696

    Less bird-of paradise skeleton. LDUCZ-Y1696

    If natural selection can be summarised as “survival of the fittest”, how is it that some animals have evolved features that seem to be rather unhelpful to their survival? Deer antlers, peacock tails and babirusa tusks do not help an animal to stay alive. Darwin asked a similar question in The Origin of Species, and also came up with an answer – sexual selection.

    Sexual selection is a sub-set of natural selection, where the driving force is not on the animal to survive, but instead to have the most descendants. It is the mechanism by which species evolve weapons that help them fight off rivals; ornaments that make them more attractive to the opposite sex; or behaviours that ensure sexual encounters result in more or fitter babies. One of the best examples of absurdly ornamented animals are male birds-of-paradise. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month September 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 September 2016

    The ides of October are almost upon us which means many things. One of the least noteworthy things it means, however, is that it’s time for another underwhelming fossil fish of the month. In this confusingly titled series, we look at an underwhelming fossil fish from the Grant Museum of Zoology collection every month. Unlike the plastic dinosaur casts and errr more plastic dinosaurs casts, these poor fossil fish, which fill the drawers of museum collections, rarely make it into displays and exhibitions. If they do, like this recently spotted specimen on display at Scarborough’s Rotunda Museum, there’s not much to say about them beyond ‘Fish’. Or is there? (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 258 : Pteraspis models

    By Tannis Davidson, on 23 September 2016

    LDUCZ-V733d Pteraspis sp.

    LDUCZ-V733d Pteraspis sp.

    In a few days time the autumn term at UCL begins along with the many classes and practicals which take place in the Grant Museum.  In the first term of last year, the Grant Museum held 28 specimen-based practicals using 770 specimens.  Over 1300 UCL students from various departments attended these practicals as part of their course work.

    To celebrate the return of the autumn term, here’s a specimen which will be used several times in the next few months in the ever-popular Vertebrate Palaeontology and Evolution.  This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Silking a spider

    By Dean W Veall, on 22 September 2016

    spider3Glass sponges were the focus for Eleanor Morgan during her residency with us last year, but this guest blog Eleanor shares her latest project Gossamer Days: Spiders, Humans and their Threads. Eleanor traces the story of what happens when one making animal meets another, from the spiritual sticky spider fabrics of the South Pacific to the European desire to create spider silk underwear fit for a King.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 257: Baboon skeleton

    By Dean W Veall, on 16 September 2016

    Yellow baboon (Papio cynocephalus) skeleton LUCDZ- Z474

    Yellow baboon (Papio cynocephalus) skeleton LUCDZ- Z474

    Dear Specimen of the Week readers, Dean Veall here. This week’s specimen is literally skin and bones (obvs) . I’ve chosen an articulated skeleton and during my research I’ve also uncovered a pelt of the same species in our collection, but do they belong to the same individual. This week’s specimen of the week is the…..

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 256: the pickled pigeon

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 9 September 2016

    Happy Friday everybody! Today I have a slightly gross specimen of the week for you, in the form of this lovely

    LDUCZ-Y1713 Columba livia

    **pickled pigeon**

    (more…)

    Eighty years extinct: today is Thylacine Day

    By Jack Ashby, on 7 September 2016

    80 years ago today, on the 7th September 1936, the last known thylacine died. With it, an entire branch of the tree of life was cut off.

    The last living Thylacine in Beaumaris Zoo, 1933. (Image in the public domain, photographer unknown)

    Thylacines, or Tasmanian tigers, were the last surviving member of a family of wolf-like marsupials that once hunted across all of Australia – the mainland as well as Tasmania. Regular readers of this blog (particularly these annual Thylacine Day posts, which we celebrate in the Grant Museum every year) will be familiar with the thylacine’s story, so I won’t go into detail here.

    A very deliberate extinction

    In short, thylacines were accused by Tasmania’s powerful farming lobby of predating sheep, and thereby damaging one of the island state’s principal economies. As a result, in 1830, they established a bounty scheme to encourage people to exterminate them. This policy was later adopted by the government, who (under pressure from the farmers) opted to pay for the bounty scheme themselves from 1888 to 1909. Inevitably over those decades the world’s (then) largest surviving marsupial carnivore’s numbers plummeted. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 255: the cottonmouth head

    By Will J Richard, on 2 September 2016

    Hello! Will Richard here blogging away to bring you another specimen of the week. And this one is an excellent example of the classic head in a jar. Timeless.

    LDUCZ-X1336 preserved cottonmouth head

    LDUCZ-X1336 preserved cottonmouth head

    (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: August 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 August 2016

    August is typically the month that people occupy themselves with science until the sports season begins again in the autumn. In fact the word summer comes from the Proto-Germanic sumur which roughly translates as ‘the season in which we do not occupy ourselves with sports but instead spend a lot of time doing science’* So with so many people doing science this summer, and who aren’t engaged in sport or watching or thinking about sport, I’m hoping that we can fulfil the mission of this blog post series. The humble mission of this monthly blog series featuring underwhelming fossil fish from the Grant Museum collection is:

    all I’m asking you to do is look at it, observe it, take some time to ponder upon it and perhaps tell a friend about it. Together we’ll increase the global fossil fishteracy one fossil fish at a time.

    Regular readers of this series will know that this isn’t sell-out science. There’s no record breakers here. All we have is a rather dull fossil fish to contemplate. Will we learn something? Probably not. Will it pass the time? Depends how fast you read I guess. So without further ado, loosen your belt of expectation and let’s see this month’s fragmented fossil fish. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 254 : Tailless Whip Scorpion

    By George W G Phillips, on 26 August 2016

    Hello again all! This Friday I present to you the spectacular and highly misunderstood tailless whip scorpion as my Specimen of the Week. I hope not only to describe some of its most interesting features, but also to slightly alleviate the concerns of any aspiring rain forest explorers out there who may be of an arachnophobic disposition: this one’s harmless. (more…)