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  • 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…)

    Petrie Menagerie: The Aquarium and Reptile House

    By Edmund Connolly, on 30 August 2013

    Our animal companionship has grown, with horses meandering along Egyptian groves, alongside languid hippos and regal lions. Returning to our first specimen, the hippo, we will dive once more into the waters to cavort in an aquarium of fish and chill in the boreal shades of a reptile house.

    Petrie Menagerie #5: The Aquarium and the Reptile House

    Egypt has two major water sources: the Nile which acts as a spine for the country, running down into Africa, and the Mediterranean sea. Both were essential for the trade routes, travel and artefacts that Ancient Egyptians are so famous for. In addition, these important bodies of water held swarms of fish, which were a key element of the Ancient Egyptian diet. Reptiles appear in Egyptian iconography principally as snakes, scorpions and crocodiles[1] in a host of iconographic, religious and spiritual incarnations.

    An Egyptian flat fish

    An Egyptian flat fish

    (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 Ninety-Seven

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 19 August 2013

    Scary MonkeyThree blogs away from the big 1-0-0! In the run up to the 100th blog I am going to bring to you the top ten specimens at the Grant Museum, as voted for by…. me. I have employed strict criteria with which to segregate the top ten from the other 67,990 specimens that we have in our care…

    1) It must not be on permanent display, giving you a little behind-the-scenes magic, if you will, as the specimen will then go on display for the week of which it has been named ‘Specimen’. Oh yes. That’s almost as good as our exhibition It Came From The Stores. Almost.

    2) It must have at some point in the past made me say ‘woooo’ out loud (given my childlike disposition for expressing wonderment at the world at large, this is not necessarily a hard qualification for the specimen to achieve)

    3) I must know (at least in a vague sort of a way) what species the specimen is, as SotW is researched and written within a strict one hour time frame.

    With that in mind, at Number Four, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)