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  • Specimen of the Week 342: Alizarin stained sole

    By Christopher J Wearden, on 11 May 2018

    Happy Friday to all Specimen of the Week readers. For my first specimen of the week post I decided to get started with an animal that could be considered ‘exotic’ due to its distribution (tropical Australia and New Guinea) and relatively unknown status (most people will tell you couscous is a food, not an animal). For my second post I’ve chosen a well-known animal which can be found much closer to home, it’s the…

    Our Alizarin stained sole. LDUCZ – V393

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    Specimen of the Week 328: Sawfish Rostrum

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 2 February 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. Read on as she reveals that her Specimen of the Week is…

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    Specimen of the Week 320: the wolffish head

    By Will J Richard, on 8 December 2017

    Hello e-readers! Will Richard here bringing you an almost festive Specimen of the Week. Though, if I’m honest, there is absolutely nothing festive about half a fish head.

    LDUCZ-V1464 wolffish head

    LDUCZ-V1464 wolffish head

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    Ordinary Animals and sex: choosing the right partner

    By Jack Ashby, on 29 November 2017

    The Grant Museum’s current exhibition – The Museum of Ordinary Animals: The Boring Beasts that Changed the World ­­- explores the mundane creatures in our everyday lives. Here on the blog, we will be delving into some of the stories featured in the exhibition with the UCL researchers who helped put it together.

    Guest post by Professor Judith Mank (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment)

    In many animals, females are pickier about choosing their mates than males are, since they invest more in their offspring than males do. By choosing high quality mates, females give their offspring a good chance of inheriting their fathers’ beneficial traits. This will help the young in their own search for mates, thereby increasing the chances that the original female’s genes will be passed down through the generations.

    Common guppies, Poecilia reticulata, by Clara Lacy, 2016.

    Common guppies, Poecilia reticulata, by Clara Lacy, 2016.

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    Specimen of the Week 299 : The Cephalaspis Model and Mould

    By Tannis Davidson, on 7 July 2017

    LDUCZ-V730 Cephalaspis salweyi model on mould

    LDUCZ-V730 Cephalaspis salweyi model and mould

    This week’s Specimen of the Week pays tribute to one of the most influential natural history model makers of the 20th century, Vernon Edwards. A retired Navy commander, Edwards collaborated with scientists at the British Museum (Natural History) throughout the 1920’s – 1950’s creating reconstructions of extinct animals and geological dioramas.

    His work was based on the latest palaeontological evidence and the combination of accuracy and high artistic quality ensured the popularity of the models which can found in museums, universities and collections around the world.

    The Grant Museum is fortunate to have several painted plaster models made by Vernon Edwards – all of them models of extinct Devonian fish –  as well as one of the original moulds. This blog previously highlighted Edwards’ Pteraspis models but this week’s model specimen is… (more…)

    Specimen of the week 274: the Greenland shark gut

    By Will J Richard, on 13 January 2017

    Hello computer-folks. Will Richard here, blogging again. And this time I’ve chosen a pretty amazing fish… or at least a bit of it.

    Greenland shark

    Greenland shark. Image by NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program; in the public domain.

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    Specimen of the week 269: the dogfish

    By Will J Richard, on 9 December 2016

    Hello people of the internet. Will Richard here blogging away about a favourite of mine from the Grant Museum’s collection. This week I’ve chosen a specimen that’s a little bit of everything: dog, fish, cat and shark. That’s right folks, so good they named it twice, it’s the…

    LDUCZ-V1081 lesser-spotted dogfish

    LDUCZ-V1081 lesser-spotted dogfish

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    Specimen of the Week 268: The carp – How things got fishy

    By Jack Ashby, on 2 December 2016

    This week in The Conversation I wrote that there is no biological definition of fish that doesn’t involve humans. However the group that most people recognise as the fishiest are the ray-finned fishes. They have fins supported by a series of fine flexible rods. It is the ray-fins that have gone on to be the dominant vertebrates in the seas, lakes and rivers: there are around 30,000 species. This makes them by far the most diverse vertebrate group, and I’d like to explore how that happened. Among them is this week’s Specimen of the Week:

    Common carp skeleton LDUCZ-V543

    Common carp skeleton LDUCZ-V543

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    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month November 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 November 2016

    These are troubling times. Troubling and worrying times. Hope is an endangered species. You can feel it can’t you? Spin the wheel of woe, the only consolation possible is that you guessed correctly what destroyed the privileged civilisation as we know it. Was it climate in the end? Was it hatred? Was it intolerance? It doesn’t matter now of course. You’ll realise then what you suspect now, childish notions of justice winning out in the end were just that. There is no beacon of light on the horizon. In fact, the future is so pitch black in its nothingness that the next step could be the one into the abyss and you wouldn’t even know. So look to the horizon now, it’s petrifying isn’t it?

    Petrification is also the process by which some organic matter exposed to minerals over a long period is turned into fossils. Welcome to this month’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month our monthly foray into the Grant Museum’s underwhelming fossil fish collection on a monthly basis. Month. (more…)

    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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