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  • 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…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    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

    Read the rest of this entry »

    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. Read the rest of this entry »

    UCL GeoBus at the Grant Museum

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 2 June 2016

    For one day during the Easter holidays, the Grant Museum was taken over by the GeoBus, a new and exciting outreach project from UCL Earth Sciences and coming to schools all across London soon.

    Making fossil casts for visitors to take home with them.

    Making fossil casts for visitors to take home with them.

    GeoBus as a concept started out at St Andrews University back in 2011, the brainchild of Dr Ruth Robinson. The main idea behind the project was to create a bridge between schools, higher education institutes and industry, to show how Earth Science is cross curricular and to include current research in fun and exciting workshops visiting schools. GeoBus UCL is about to launch and we decided to give the public a taster of what might be on offer. Read the rest of this entry »

    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… Read the rest of this entry »

    Spectacular Revolution

    By Martine Rouleau, on 27 May 2016

    Blog post for UCL Art Museum, Revolution under a King exhibition by Dr Susannah Walker, UCL Art History Department.

    LDUCS_A_Versaille

    Anonymous, A Versaille a Versaille, 1789, etching and engraving, UCL Art Museum

    Despite its Enlightenment origins, one of the French Revolution’s legacies is a rich strain of macabre imagery that has entered popular culture: Marie-Antoinette’s hair turning grey at the prospect of the guillotine. The assassinated radical journalist Marat slumped in his bath. The apocryphal tale of the bals des victimes where survivors of the Terror were said to have worn short hair and a red ribbon at the throat in reference to the guillotined head.

    The dark humour of popular prints may be at the origin of this cultural response. One bitterly ironic anonymous image of Revolutionary leader Robespierre imagines “having had all the French people guillotined [he] beheads the executioner with his own hand.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 241 – White-rumped ocean-runner

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 27 May 2016

    This Friday I have a specimen for you that I picked simply because I like it:

    LDUCZ-Y1540_IMG33 - Oceanodromus_leucorhoa-skeleton

    LDUCZ-Y1540 Oceanodromus leucorhoa skeleton

    This is the skeleton of a white-rumped ocean-runner (a literal translation of the scientific name Oceanodroma leucorhoa), but it’s more commonly known as: Read the rest of this entry »

    Skullpture at the Grant Museum opens today

    By Jack Ashby, on 26 May 2016

    For our newest exhibition – Skullpture at the Grant Museum – twelve sculpture students from UCL’s Slade School of Fine Art have been invited to develop works in response to the Museum’s collections, science and history.

    The new artworks – which relate to death and decay, extinction, cloning, and animal behaviour – have been placed among the Museum’s own skeletons, skulls and specimens preserved in fluid. The exhibition engages with animal and human encounters and transforms the historic zoological museum in ways that will leave visitors questioning whether some of the installations are playful or serious.

    Dead as a Dodo © Will Spratley. A collection of rubber-chicken like dodo models, strung up as if in a butcher's window.

    Dead as a Dodo © Will Spratley. A collection of rubber-chicken like dodo models, strung up as if in a butcher’s window.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 240: Porcupine quills

    By Dean W Veall, on 20 May 2016

    LDUCZ-Z2237 Porcupine quills

    LDUCZ-Z2237 Porcupine quills

    Hello all, Dean Veall here. This week I bring you my specimen of the week. I can imagine what you’re wondering… has Dean chosen some sticks from the highly popular children’s game Ker-plunk? Has the acquisitions policy at the Grant Museum gone out the window? Well look closer dear reader, and you will see that these are in fact quills from a porcupine!

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 239: Bohemian fossil amphibian cast

    By Tannis Davidson, on 13 May 2016

    LDUCZ-W385 with overlay of illustration

    LDUCZ-W385 Cochleosaurus sp. with overlay of original illustration from Fauna der Gaskohle und der Kalksteine der Permformation Bohmens 1879-1901

    Try to imagine life 310 million years ago.  It is the Carboniferous period – a time when the Earth experienced its highest levels of atmospheric oxygen leading to the growth of vast forests which would eventually be laid down and become the coal beds characteristic of this period.

    Primitive amphibians were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates including the Temnospondyls which were mostly semi-aquatic and typically larger than most modern amphibians. Superificially, most resembled crocodiles with broad, flat heads and had scales, claws and bony body plates.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week celebrates these early amphibians with a lovely example cast from the famous fossil gas-coal of the Czech Republic… Read the rest of this entry »