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  • Specimen of the Week 351: The carrion crow

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 13 July 2018

    Hello everyone! I’m very sad to say that this is my last Specimen of the Week post because my internship finishes at the end of July. My final specimen is a carrion crow, and it was collected from a road on the Isle of Anglesey, Wales in 1993, and then donated to us in 2008 by the Museum of London. The purpose of the donation was “to fill a gap in the bird teaching material”. Read on to find out more about this magnificent bird…

    Taxidermy carrion crow, Corvus corone LDUCZ-Y1533

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    Specimen of the Week 335: The Chinstrap Penguin skull

    By Jack Ashby, on 23 March 2018

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is a guest edition by Front of House Volunteer and UCL Student of History and Philosophy of Science, Leah Christian.

    A couple of weeks ago we gave you a skull from the flamingo, a bird that prefers the warmer climes. Now, let’s look at a bird that would feel right at home in the United Kingdom this week…

     

    A chinstrap penguind skull. LDUCZ-Y1577

    A chinstrap penguind skull. LDUCZ-Y1577

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    Specimen of the Week 329: Flamingo skull

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 9 February 2018

    Hello, it’s Nadine Gabriel with another Specimen of the Week. This is a skull of an American flamingo, one of the six species of flamingo and the only species that naturally inhabits North America. The fiery-coloured plumage of this long-legged bird is sure to brighten up the dark winter days, so read on to find out more…

    Skull of an American flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber LDUCZ-Y147

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    Specimen of the Week 271: Helmeted guineafowl

    By Dean W Veall, on 23 December 2016

    Dean Veall here. ‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas and all the Museum, not a creature was stirring (on account of them being dead and all), not even a mouse, (because that particular specimen was preserved using an experimental freeze drying technique). Festive greetings blog readers. I’ve chosen the guineafowl for my specimen this week, which has (sort of, ish) festive connections. The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), was often confused with the more familiar guineafowl in the 1600’s when European settlers reached America, due to the the featherless heads and similar colouration of the plumage.  And with that tenuous festive link, this week’s Specimen of the Week is:

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    Natural Creativity: Sex and Trickery opens at the Grant Museum

    By Jack Ashby, on 18 October 2016

    ‘Natural Creativity: Sex and Trickery’ is our new exhibition – opening tomorrow 19th October –  at the Grant Museum. It explores the myriad of elaborate shapes, sizes and crafty behavioural tactics some animals have evolved in order to survive, reproduce and pass on their genes.

    Through intricate drawings by the artist Clara Lacy, ‘Natural Creativity’ asks the question, why is the natural world so colourful and varied? Lacy has drawn species with highly unusual sexual behaviours or mechanisms for determining sex. It is commonly assumed that animals are born either male or female then reproduce as adults, but things can get much more interesting. Some species change sex over their lifetime, become a grandmother before giving birth, or trick others into thinking they belong to the opposite sex.

    Ocellated wrasse (C) Clara Lacy.

    Ocellated wrasse (C) Clara Lacy.
    The ocellated wrasse has an unusual mating system – different males use different strategies in the attempt to pass on their genes. The genetics of these strategies is being researched at UCL. “Nesting males” are brightly coloured and work to court females, defend nests and care for their young. These males attract the most females, but other males have evolved different routes to mating success.
    Small males become “Sneakers”. They surreptitiously approach Nesting males and females while they are mating, and then release their own sperm into the water.
    Medium-sized “Satellite males” cooperate with a Nesting male, helping them chase Sneakers from the nest. This means that they are tolerated by Nesting males, and spawn while the Nesting male is mating.

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    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…)

    Specimen of the Week 200: The dodo

    By Jack Ashby, on 10 August 2015

    Grant Museum dodo bones

    Grant Museum dodo bones LDUCZ-Y105

    200 weeks ago the Specimen of the Week was born, and here we are 198 specimens* later. For this auspicious occasion, I thought I should highlight one of the most important specimens in the Museum, both for historic reasons, and because it one of the things that visitors regularly ask about.

    Indeed, we know it is one of the most popular objects as it scores the highest in our “filth left on the glass by visitors scale”. We agree with our visitors’ assessment, and have included it in our Top Ten Objects trail.

    Possibly ranking as our most blogged about species, it’s about time that this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: 184

    By Dean W Veall, on 20 April 2015

    Scary-Monkey-Week-Nine Hello dear Grant Museum blog followers, Dean Veall here again bringing you Specimen of the Week 184. This week’s specimen of the week is the result of a recent rummage through the drawers of the collection. Through my contributions for the series I have often gone in search of a specimen that doesn’t get to be seen by the public very often and today’s specimen is indeed one of those and it also revisits an emerging avian tendancy I had not realised I had until I started writing these blogs. This week’s Specimen of the Week is….. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 182

    By Will J Richard, on 6 April 2015

    Scary MonkeyHello! Will Richard here. This month I have decided to dictate my blog to a footman, as I’m feeling very royal. Last month one (which is royal for “I”) wrote about a queen. And so, continuing in that grandiose tradition, this month one would like to write about a king. Not a pretend king like one (I think when speaking royal you can also use “one” to mean “me”) but a proper king. His Royal Highness himself…

    This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 174

    By Dean W Veall, on 9 February 2015

    Scary MonkeyHello dear readers, Dean Veall here. I came across this week’s Specimen of the Week whilst writing another Specimen of the Week many months back and thought I would save it for a cold February Monday as just like that specimen it has a irrescedent sparkle on its wings that will hopefully banish those Monday blues. It is also a species that many of us will have likely come across as we have peered whistfully out of our windows whilst writing romantic prose (no? Just me) in Winter when this species stands out the most. If you did spot this species as you were looking out the window on the last weekend of January you were probably one of 315,000 who were taking part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. *Spoilers* With that tidbit I should probably tell you that this week’s Specimen of the Week is…….

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