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  • 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. Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 253 : Moroccan phosphate fossils

    By Tannis Davidson, on 19 August 2016

    LDUCZ-V1467 Moroccan phosphate fossil label

    LDUCZ-V1467 Moroccan phosphate fossil label

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is not one, but 48 individual specimens which make up a display box highlighting various fossil teeth from Morocco.  Display boxes of this sort are not uncommon as they are a visually appealing way to showcase numerous small specimens not to mention an entrepreneurial solution to add value to otherwise inexpensive individual fossils. The Grant Museum’s display box is a rather nice example of this type containing fossil teeth of 19 different species of fish and marine reptiles: Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 252 – The babirusa skull

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 12 August 2016

    Happy Friday everyone! This week I’ve chosen a specimen of the week that has been used as an icon for the Grant Museum of Zoology and which represents one of the weirder looking critters with which we share the world – a species so strange that it grows its teeth through its face and on the rare occasion, back into its own head. That’s right, it’s the…

    LDUCZ-Z111 Babyrousa babyrussa skull

    LDUCZ-Z111 Babyrousa babyrussa skull

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 251: the electric eel

    By Will J Richard, on 5 August 2016

    Hello blog-folks. Will Richard here picking another favourite from the 68,000 options that make up the Grant Museum. And this time it’s a shocker. Literally.

    LDUCZ-V252 preserved electric eel

    LDUCZ-V252 preserved electric eel

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Why Pokémon Go is a gift to museums

    By Jack Ashby, on 2 August 2016

    Pidgeotto on the loose in the Tanks at Tate Modern (C) Jack Ashby

    Pidgeotto on the loose in the Tanks at Tate Modern
    (C) Jack Ashby

    As a museum person and member of UCL’s Digital Humanities team, I was recently asked to make a brief contribution to an article in The Guardian about the impact of Pokémon Go on museums. I argued that the new smartphone game has been a gift to the museum sector, and I thought I would expand on that here.

    Since it was released in the UK last month, Pokémon Go has been nothing short of a phenomenon. It is impossible to walk down a street and not spot people gazing at their screens as they try to catch digital creatures or stock up on supplies as they pass Pokéstops. It is the Pokéstop aspect of the game that I believe is the gift that museums have been given.

    The gift of Pokéstops

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Project Pickle – Conserving our Specimens Preserved in Fluid

    By Emilia L Kingham, on 1 August 2016

    Fluid preserved specimens newly conserved

    Fluid preserved specimens newly conserved

    Over the past year, UCL Museums’ conservation team have been focussing our efforts on the the specimens preserved in fluid at the Grant Museum. We’re calling it Project Pickle*.

    Before we could start conserving the objects we had to establish the scale of the task, so we could decide how to plan the work. We went through the entire fluid specimen store, surveying a whopping 3,787 specimens to determine what treatments each of them needed.

    This initial phase took many months to complete and involved the help of student volunteers and a student placement. The result of that survey means that we can now quantify how many specimens are in good, fair, poor or unacceptable condition with the aim to prioritize conserving the specimens in the worst condition.  So why do fluid preserved specimens need conservation and how do they get to be in an ‘unacceptable condition?’

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 250: Model of a crayfish embryo

    By Tannis Davidson, on 29 July 2016

    In honour of the 250th Specimen of the Week, as well as the new wax model display in the Museum, it seemed fitting to choose a show-stopper of a specimen which is so fabulously bizarre that you might describe it as being out of this world.

    This odd ball regularly puzzles the onlooker as to its identity and often reminds folk of a certain ‘perfect organism’ whose ‘structural perfection is matched only by its hostility’ *.

     

    The wait is over, science fiction fans. This week, we pay tribute to the most magnificent, perfectly evolved predator to scare us from the silver screen… Read the rest of this entry »

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: July 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 28 July 2016

    Welcome to the 44th underwhelming fossil fish of the month! I did some calculations and that’s 3.6666666666667 years of underwhelming fossil fish. Lesser websites would call that a cause for celebration but for UFFotM, we don’t let such astonishing milestones get in the way of a dry and boring examination of a fossil fish from the Grant Museum of Zoology’s collections.

    As you probably undoubtedly know, London Art Week was earlier this month and the Victoria and Albert Museum won the 2016 ArtFund Museum of Year Award so this month’s underwhelming fossil fish is brought to you in the style of a “gallery-based celebration of pre-contemporary art” in solidarity with our colleagues across the Arts sector and in the hope of an award too.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    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. Read the rest of this entry »

    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?*

    Read the rest of this entry »