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  • Archive for the 'Grant Museum of Zoology' Category

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month December 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 December 2017

    2017 is nearly done but there’s just enough time to make it just that little bit more underwhelming than it already was otherwise. If you’ve arrived here by some strange quirk or questionable Googling and missed the previous 59 underwhelming fossil fishes, then there’s still time for you to back out. There’s no shame in it. You can still keep a clean sheet, boredom-wise. If you insist on carrying on then let me tell you what’s in store. Each month we take a look at one of the incredibly uninspiring fish fossils from the Grant Museum of Zoology collection. The goal of this apparently fruitless task is to increase the global fossil fishteracy one fossil fish at a time. It’s a Sisyphean task because, gosh darnit, these fossil fish are hard to care about.  (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 323: The harp seal

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 29 December 2017

    It’s Nadine Gabriel with a Christmas dose of Specimen of the Week! As it’s only a few days after Christmas, I decided to choose a somewhat festive specimen for this week’s blog, so here’s an animal from (near) the North Pole – the harp seal!

    Skull and mandible of a juvenile Pagophilus groenlandicus, LDUCZ-Z304

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 322: The Primordial Skull

    By Tannis Davidson, on 22 December 2017

    Season’s greetings! As presents appear under Christmas trees, the anticipation and excitement grows as recipients wonder what treasures lie wrapped among the dropping needles. In the spirit of mystery giving, this week’s Specimen of the Week is one to puzzle over in curiosity: what could it be? It is already unwrapped, stripped down, revealing all. However, even when seen, it is not obvious what it is… (more…)

    The Giant Ammonites of the Jurassic Seas (… and UCL)

    By Ruth Siddall, on 19 December 2017

    I am once again delighted to be invited to write a guest blog for UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology, and this one is about the extraordinarily large ammonites encountered in Portland Limestone. As avid readers of former Grant Musuem Curator Mark Carnall’s ‘cephalopod column’ in The Guardian will already be aware, cephalopods are a group of marine molluscs and amongst them live and lived the giants of the invertebrate world. Represented today by octopuses, squids, cuttlefishes and nautiluses, and extinct taxa represented by ammonoids and belemnoids, cephalopods have been a dominant invertebrate species in our seas since the Ordovician, 480 million years ago.

    A giant ammonite (Titanites giganteus) in the Grant Museum. LDUCZ-R205

    A giant ammonite (Titanites giganteus) in the Grant Museum. LDUCZ-R205

    We have all heard of the giant squid, the somewhat shadowy and rarely observed Architeuthis dux which can reach lengths of up to 13 m, but this is not the only example of gigantism in cephalopods. Indeed, it is something that occurs regularly in this group throughout the fossil record. Although evidence exists for fossilised giant squid, these are rare as the soft-bodied animals do not preserve well. However nautiloids, ammonoids and belemnoids with their hard shells do preserve very well. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 321: the Wall of Mice

    By Jack Ashby, on 15 December 2017

    One of the most extraordinary collections in the Grant Museum relates to one of the most Ordinary of Animals. Since its creation, it has been kept behind the scenes. The man who created it, over decades of barely believable dedication and hard work, would probably never have imagined that anyone would firstly want to display it, and secondly find a way to do so.

    Mice Space at the Grant Museum - a wall of 4000 mice skeletons.

    Mice Space at the Grant Museum – a wall of 4000 mice skeletons.

    Personally, I have a real interest in pondering the differences between what gets selected for display in museums and what doesn’t (I published an article in The Conversation about it this week), and in the Grant Museum we have a lot of experience of finding ways to display collections that were not intended for the public eye (our Micrarium is a great example of this). This week’s Specimen of the Week definitely fits these themes… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 320: the wolffish head

    By Will J Richard, on 8 December 2017

    Hello e-readers! Will Richard here bringing you an almost festive Specimen of the Week. Though, if I’m honest, there is absolutely nothing festive about half a fish head.

    LDUCZ-V1464 wolffish head

    LDUCZ-V1464 wolffish head

    (more…)

    Ordinary Animals in the Classroom

    By Tannis Davidson, on 6 December 2017

    The Grant Museum’s current exhibition – The Museum of Ordinary Animals: The Boring Beasts that Changed the World ­­- explores the mundane creatures in our everyday lives. Here on the blog, we will be delving into some of the stories featured in the exhibition with the UCL researchers who helped put it together.

    Guest post by Dr Brendan Clarke (UCL Science and Technology Studies)

    Some biological principles are hard to understand from words and images alone, because life exists in three dimensions. This is where museum specimens come in.

    However, some features are too small to observe in real life. Alongside microscope slides, wax models of enlarged embryos were widely used to teach biology between 1850 and about 1950. Most of the wax models in the Grant Museum collection represent exotic material – hard to obtain or to handle – like this series of human embryos produced by the Ziegler studio in Germany c1880:

    LDUCZ-Z430 Ziegler Studio wax model series showing the development of the external form of human embryos

    LDUCZ-Z430 Ziegler Studio wax model series showing the development of the external form of human embryos

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 319: The Camberwell Beauty

    By Hannah Cornish, on 1 December 2017

    Specimen of the week this week is a rare visitor to our shores, with a slightly misleading name. Today we venture south of the river in search of…

    Nymphalis antiopa (Camberwell Beauty, or the Grand Surprize) LDUCZ-L3333

    Nymphalis antiopa (The Camberwell Beauty, the Mourning Cloak or the Grand Surprize) LDUCZ-L3333

    (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month November 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 November 2017

    First halves are overrated. Be it team sports, plays, movies or books, the first half sets the scene, introduces the characters, gets the ball rolling but it’s really the second half which delivers the climax, the conclusion, the crescendo, a twist, the point or the moral. A good second half will stick with you, make you think. You’ll never get last minute drama, an eleventh hour save or a Cinderella story in a first half. It’s all about the second half. The same is absolutely not true of fossil fish at all. There’s tail fins, sure, but it’s all about what’s up front for fish. I don’t even know why I raised it in the first place really. But now you’re thinking about how cool the second half of things are and well, it’s not gonna be the case in this month’s underwhelming fossil fish, our periodic foray into the fossil fish collections of the Grant Museum of Zoology. Break your hopes down, here’s this month’s fossil. (more…)

    Ordinary Animals and sex: choosing the right partner

    By Jack Ashby, on 29 November 2017

    The Grant Museum’s current exhibition – The Museum of Ordinary Animals: The Boring Beasts that Changed the World ­­- explores the mundane creatures in our everyday lives. Here on the blog, we will be delving into some of the stories featured in the exhibition with the UCL researchers who helped put it together.

    Guest post by Professor Judith Mank (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment)

    In many animals, females are pickier about choosing their mates than males are, since they invest more in their offspring than males do. By choosing high quality mates, females give their offspring a good chance of inheriting their fathers’ beneficial traits. This will help the young in their own search for mates, thereby increasing the chances that the original female’s genes will be passed down through the generations.

    Common guppies, Poecilia reticulata, by Clara Lacy, 2016.

    Common guppies, Poecilia reticulata, by Clara Lacy, 2016.

    (more…)