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  • Specimen of the Week: Week 153

    By Jack Ashby, on 16 September 2014

    Scary MonkeyAs a scientist, with Vulcan-like levelheadedness, my outlook on the natural world is totally free of emotion. My interactions with it are purely perfunctory, in order to amass and analyse cold data, motivated solely by the advancement of scientific understanding of solid facts. The world is only there to be databased. It is irrelevant whether facts are “interesting” or not, all that matters is if they are useful for detecting some larger pattern. Anyone who says otherwise is a panda-hugging sentimental fluff-monger…

    Wouldn’t it be weird if ecologists thought like that? On the one hand science is supposed to be independent of emotion, but on the other most of us are only in it because of our emotional attachment to the subject matter (animals and ecosystems).

    Normally on this blog I take the chance to rave about the animals that amaze and excite me. This week I’m going to highlight one that I utterly despise*.

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

    Specimen of the Week: Week 119

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 20 January 2014

    This specimen needs no introduction but as I need a short paragraph to entice you in, I shall tease you with some enigmatic facts. This species has an intense and masochistic defense mechanism that belongs in a Hammer Horror film from the 1950′s. Its biology seems as otherworldly as the green blood of a Vulcan. Its name may surprise you, but do not be misled, this creature is a Pandora’s box of delicious and disturbing facts. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 116

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 30 December 2013

    Only two days left to conjure up all manner of good intentions and promises to yourself that you’ll be determined to keep until the first slip and then give up until the following New Year. Last year my New Year’s resolution was to start at one end of my (many) bookshelves and read my way through my ‘library’. I did pretty well, until I got to a boring book and then tailed off. In retrospect, I should have thrown the book out and kept going. This year I think I’ll make life a little easier on myself and make the resolution to watch more DVDs. With 48 hours left until the resolutions need to be made, here is a suitably New Year’s Eve-y specimen to get you in the mood. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 102

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 23 September 2013

    As the weather has become decidedly wetter, my thoughts this week turned to creatures (very much unlike  myself) who might appreciate such things. The obvious train of thought skipped all lesser creatures and went straight to sharks, but I’m not allowed to turn the blog into Sharks R Us, so I went for something else with teeth, attitude, and unashamedly resembling a retro computer game character. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    How To: Be a Cannibal

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 29 August 2013

    Do you having any burning desires to have something explained by someone on the inside? This blog series is a How To Guide for the museological musings of a Museum Assistant. The fourth along this (hopefully) long and happy blogging path is…

     

    How To: Be a Cannibal

     

    At first response you may think it’s easy to be a cannibal, you just have to eat someone of the same species as yourself. Technically you would be right, however there are ways and means to accomplish such a task. The natural world is a wealth of cannibalistic techniques and methods that will give the inquisitive mind a plethora of inspiration. Let’s look at a few in the hope of encouraging your inner cannibal to spread its wings.

     

    A number of amphibians are known to practice cannibalism. Cane toads for example are known to eat eggs of their own species when they are just tadpoles. Most importantly it provides them with a nutritional boost, but it is also thought to be done in order to reduce the competition. They seem to be choosy eaters however as they don’t appear to eat their siblings. Researchers believe that as cane toads have a short incubation length as well as a long period between clutches, eating your own siblings would decrease the number of offspring any single female would produce. Awfully well thought out for a tadpole with a brain the size of a pinhead. They both locate and differentiate between eggs using an impressive sense of smell.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Seventy-Three

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 4 March 2013

    Scary Monkey WeekAfter all the excitement last week of the celebrity Jar of moles, this week I thought we’d look at a lesser known species that quite frankly, blows my zoologist mind. It lives like a fairy tale character but looks like an extra from Alien. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Sixty-Two

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 17 December 2012

    Scary MonkeyAlthough this week’s specimen is an amazing looking animal it was in truth, chosen purely because of it’s super cool name which is so much fun to say. It’s scientific name that is. I don’t like to let the cat out of the bag too early as I know you sit on the edges of your seats waiting to hit that button that says ‘more’ which takes you to the big reveal (unless  you use one of the many routes onto this blog which doesn’t facilitate that option) but I’m not sure I’ll be giving too much away by telling you the Scientific name for which this animal was elected Specimen of the Week. Do an impression of a snake as you say this word: Ichthyophis. Icccchhhhthyophissssss. Ah, brilliant. If you don’t already know from that, this week’s Specimen of Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Fifty-Eight

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 19 November 2012

    Scary MonkeyNot selected solely because I realised I had seriously neglected the amphibians over the last 57 Specimen of the Week posts, the specimen we are going to discover this week is a super species that attracts many a question from museum visitors. Is it a snake? Is it a lizard? Is it a caecilian? Noooooooooo, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Fifty-One

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 1 October 2012

    Scary MonkeyAs a zoologist there is nothing in the natural world that creeps me out. The word anus became part of my everyday vocabulary when teaching undergraduates comparative anatomy and I have dealt first-hand with plenty of what comes out of the anus throughout my years of animal encounters. I used to let my pet snails, which are slugs with better real estate, crawl all over me and there isn’t a creepy-crawly in the world that I would shy away from. However, there is one thing, one animal, one bizarre twist of evolution, which leaves me with a wrinkled nose and squinted eyes as I try to blur the vision in front of me into a more suitably unrecognisable smoosh of distant colours. But, not being one to be prejudice against gross things, you now get to share in my experience. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)