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  • Grant Museum Show’n’Tell: Soda Lakes

    By Dean W Veall, on 5 November 2014

    Dean Veall here. Over the last year I’ve been hosting our new lunch hour event series Show’ n ‘ Tell, with PhD students from across UCL sharing some of their amazing research and choosing just one object from our collection of 68,000 to tell the the assembled audience what they know about it. If you couldn’t make it to our last event, fear not, Irrum Ali from UCL Communications and Marketing came along and here’s what happened.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 156 (The Evolution of Life on Land)

    By Jack Ashby, on 6 October 2014

    Scary MonkeyIt’s the third birthday of the Specimen of the Week blogs, so this one is a special one, tackling one of the biggest events in global history (no exaggeration). It’s also the start of winter term at UCL, and that means that Grant Museum returns to doing the very thing our collections were first put together for – spending the day teaching students about life.

    This term every week we have a palaeobiology class where the students learn about vertebrate life from the beginning – looking at each group in turn as they evolve in the fossil record. That has inspired my choice of specimen this week.

    As an Australian mammal nerd, it’s often tempting to think that nothing interesting happened between the appearance of multi-cellular life a little over 500 million years ago, and 200 million years ago when the first platypus-ish things appeared*. However, sometimes it’s important to think about where it all began: the fishy animals without which there would be no you, no me, no internet cats, and no platypuses.

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

    Specimen of the Week: Week 133

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 28 April 2014

    This is it. I’m not going to start wearing one white glove and singing high pitched songs. I mean, this is my last Specimen of the Week blog. Wait, wait, before you start writing petitions and protesting outside the Grant Museum, the Specimen of the Week is continuing, it is just me who is not. Not in a life or death way, I am moving up the ladder and to a new museum, thus tearfully leaving my beloved Grant Museum in the hands of my lovely colleagues. This blog series will also be left in their hands so, fear not, you will still have a fantastic start to every Monday morning. I have chosen the very best specimen in the collection for my last SotW blog (so it’s downhill from here for everyone else. HAH). I really hope you enjoy it. This week’s last-authored-by-Emma Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 128

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 24 March 2014

    Here at the Grant Museum we love all species of animal. We are not racist, sexist, size-ist, species-ist, or any such ist at all. It was not us that named this animal, but if it had been us who gave it this particular common name, it would have been through love and appreciation, and not meant in a derogatory way. For there is nothing wrong with being how this animal is described in its common name. Nothing at all. In fact, I can relate. Ok, caveat over, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 121

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 3 February 2014

    The most important thing everyone needs to know about today is that it is my lovely sister’s birthday. Unfortunately/fortunately she is not a specimen in the Grant Museum and so writing about her doesn’t really fit in the remit of Specimen of the Week. It’s fine though as I have another (genuine) specimen to awe and inspire you instead this week, it is one of the most respectable animals in its kingdom (the animal one). This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Underwhelming fossil fish of the month: January 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 January 2014

    It’s the first underwhelming fossil fish of the month for 2014 and in order to usher in the new year I’ve picked a particularly unspecial fossil fish for your eyes only. If you want to be underwhelmed even more then all the UFFoTM posts can be found under this handy tag. First up though, what does this look like to you?

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-BFvhevMmi1Q/TPr116uuHQI/AAAAAAAAAOI/wg6S_ZMH444/s1600/rorschach-test-dog.jpg

    A pretty butterfly?

    Wow. Well from your response I can tell you have some serious psychological issues that need dealing with. The above image isn’t actually a fossilised Rorschach inkblot (named after the comic book character with the same name in the Watchmen). The keen eyed amongst you will have spotted that it’s actually this month’s fossil fish of the ahem month albeit digitally tweaked. You know you’re in for a treat when the most interesting aspect of it is that it resembles an amorphous splodge and tenuously at that. Read on in the vain hope that it gets better than this. (more…)

    True and False Animals

    By Mark Carnall, on 10 January 2014

    When the language of biology meets common parlance there’s often a lot of confusion. Biological nomenclature (often called the scientific name, we are Homo sapiens sapiens* for example)  is by and large controlled using strict rules, format and notations but there aren’t quite so strict rules when it comes to the common names of animals or groups of animals. Some animals we refer to by their taxonomic name, for example; Tyrannosaurus rex, Hippopotamus, Octopus** and Bison. For other animals however, their common, useful to most people and widely understood names create all kinds of problems for the pedantic as I’ve written about before when is comes to sea stars vs starfish. My colleague Jack Ashby wrote about when it comes to seals and sea lions. Consider also that a musk ox is a goat-antelope, horseshoe crabs aren’t crabs at all and the Grant Museum favourite: flying lemurs aren’t and don’t.

    The idea of ‘true’ and ‘false’ animals can also be misleading and a lot of pub discussions/arguments/bets come from animals which aren’t what they are often called or even named. How do some animals end up as the ‘true’ and ‘false’ versions of their group. Let’s have a look at some ‘true’ animals and see how the philosophical concepts of truth has ended up in our zoological lexicons.
    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 109

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 11 November 2013

    Having waved goodbye with a heavy heart to the baby eagles that hatched on my balcony and fledged during the summer, Saruman (hamster) and I were alone. Don’t get me wrong, he keeps me busy. He is as naughty as a mammal gets. The other day after an episode of particularly noteworthy naughtiness, I put Return of the King on the television and showed him exactly what happens to Sarumans that misbehave but instead of admitting the error of his ways and repenting, he went to bed and ignored me for the rest of the evening. Sigh. Anyway, despite having the right hand of Sauron keeping me on my toes, I felt the need to expand my family. Let me therefore introduce you to General Grievous, Darth Maul, Mumm-Ra and Grun the Destroyer – my new variable platyfish (picture to follow). We don’t have this species at the Museum but in their honour I will tell you about something else a little fishy. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 107

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 28 October 2013

    Last week we had an amazing set of activities at the Museum for our event Life Under the Waves, where visitors could touch a sawfish snout, stroke a dolphin and smell a triggerfish (maybe only I did the last one). To protect our specimens we place them on a soft foamy mat that cushions them against the hard surface of the table. After clearing the specimens away, I noticed that one of them had left a fascinating set of depressions in the foam. Highly amused by this, I tried to photograph it to share it with you, but it just looked like I’d taken a picture of a table. So, I will tell you about it instead. This week’s Specimen of the Week is: (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 104

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 7 October 2013

    Good gracious it is week 104. Those with good maths skills and a knowledge of how many weeks there are in an average Earth year would conclude that this is therefore the two year anniversary of the Specimen of the Week blog. PARTY. To celebrate, I elected to be allowed to write about a species within the most exciting, dynamic, elite group of animals known to man. (Only the fifth SotW to be on this group, out of 104. I think that’s very restrained). This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)