Museums & Collections Blog
  •  
  •  
  • Categories

  •  
  • Tags

  •  
  • Archives

  • Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month December 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 December 2017

    2017 is nearly done but there’s just enough time to make it just that little bit more underwhelming than it already was otherwise. If you’ve arrived here by some strange quirk or questionable Googling and missed the previous 59 underwhelming fossil fishes, then there’s still time for you to back out. There’s no shame in it. You can still keep a clean sheet, boredom-wise. If you insist on carrying on then let me tell you what’s in store. Each month we take a look at one of the incredibly uninspiring fish fossils from the Grant Museum of Zoology collection. The goal of this apparently fruitless task is to increase the global fossil fishteracy one fossil fish at a time. It’s a Sisyphean task because, gosh darnit, these fossil fish are hard to care about.  (more…)

    The Giant Ammonites of the Jurassic Seas (… and UCL)

    By Ruth Siddall, on 19 December 2017

    I am once again delighted to be invited to write a guest blog for UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology, and this one is about the extraordinarily large ammonites encountered in Portland Limestone. As avid readers of former Grant Musuem Curator Mark Carnall’s ‘cephalopod column’ in The Guardian will already be aware, cephalopods are a group of marine molluscs and amongst them live and lived the giants of the invertebrate world. Represented today by octopuses, squids, cuttlefishes and nautiluses, and extinct taxa represented by ammonoids and belemnoids, cephalopods have been a dominant invertebrate species in our seas since the Ordovician, 480 million years ago.

    A giant ammonite (Titanites giganteus) in the Grant Museum. LDUCZ-R205

    A giant ammonite (Titanites giganteus) in the Grant Museum. LDUCZ-R205

    We have all heard of the giant squid, the somewhat shadowy and rarely observed Architeuthis dux which can reach lengths of up to 13 m, but this is not the only example of gigantism in cephalopods. Indeed, it is something that occurs regularly in this group throughout the fossil record. Although evidence exists for fossilised giant squid, these are rare as the soft-bodied animals do not preserve well. However nautiloids, ammonoids and belemnoids with their hard shells do preserve very well. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month November 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 November 2017

    First halves are overrated. Be it team sports, plays, movies or books, the first half sets the scene, introduces the characters, gets the ball rolling but it’s really the second half which delivers the climax, the conclusion, the crescendo, a twist, the point or the moral. A good second half will stick with you, make you think. You’ll never get last minute drama, an eleventh hour save or a Cinderella story in a first half. It’s all about the second half. The same is absolutely not true of fossil fish at all. There’s tail fins, sure, but it’s all about what’s up front for fish. I don’t even know why I raised it in the first place really. But now you’re thinking about how cool the second half of things are and well, it’s not gonna be the case in this month’s underwhelming fossil fish, our periodic foray into the fossil fish collections of the Grant Museum of Zoology. Break your hopes down, here’s this month’s fossil. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 317: The Belemnite Fossil

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 17 November 2017

    Hello everyone, it’s Nadine Gabriel with another mollusc for you in this week’s Specimen of the Week. This specimen is a member of an extinct order of cephalopods that lived from the Triassic period (250-201 million years ago) through to the end of the Cretaceous period, becoming extinct around the same time as non-avian dinosaurs (~66 million years ago). These cephalopods were very common in the ancient oceans so they’re quite abundant in Jurassic and Cretaceous deposits all over the world. However, since the preservation of soft tissues is rare, it’s usually just the bullet-shaped rostrum that’s preserved. Not so in this week’s Specimen of the Week… (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month October 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 October 2017

    One stormy October night many years ago now, I was working late at the Grant Museum of Zoology on my own. The only sound in the museum was the pattering of rain on the windows and the occasional rumble of thunder in the skies above UCL. Engrossed in writing the latest underwhelming fossil fish of the month blog post, I heard the front door of the museum open and the slap of wet footsteps across the floor of the museum to the office. Expecting it to be a colleague who had forgotten something or a security guard checking up on who was in the building. I turned in my seat to see who was coming just at the footsteps stopped. “Hello?” I asked. No response. I got up to see who had come in to find the museum empty. Slightly bemused, I checked the front door of the museum. Still locked. There was also no sign of wet footprints on the floor. Just then a crack of lightning very nearby caused all the lights in the museum to temporarily flicker and almost some soiling of underwear. “It’s nothing”, I told myself trying to calm down and went back to my desk. What was there when I got back sent a chill down my spine and caused the hair on my neck to stand on end. There, sat on my desk, was none other than… (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month September 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 2 October 2017

    Welcome to this month’s EXCLUSIVE September 2017 underwhelming fossil fish of the month, your one stop shop for monthly underwhelming fish fossils delivered direct to your eyeballs in exchange for only the most precious resource you have, your time. Always ticking away. Always edging towards oblivion.

    This month we’ve got a real spectacle lined up for you. This fossil fish was a SUPER MEGA PREDATOR that struck fear into the hearts of animals that saw it. This fossil fish is so impressive, it has inspired generations of artists, toy manufacturers, video game developers and the people who make stamps, minters? Stampers? Those people anyway. These fossils often form the core of museum displays and make for the most memorable visits…..

    NOT!

    That’s right we’re bringing back the 90’s positive setup followed by an obnoxious NOT. This fossil is almost the complete opposite of exciting, in fact the least underwhelming aspect of it is how it looks and it looks like this. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 304: Fossil Box 12

    By Tannis Davidson, on 11 August 2017

    Fossil Box 12

    Fossil Box 12

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is, depending on how you count it, one single entity known as Fossil Box 12. It is also 89 individual specimens that have recently been transferred from UCL’s Geology collection. In total, 12 boxes containing 408 vertebrate fossils were transferred to the Grant Museum.

    The new material is a welcome addition to the Museum’s fossil vertebrate reference collection and will be available for use in teaching and for research. Some of these specimens have already made their social media debuts such as Gideon Mantell’s Iguanodon bones and several fossil fish featuring on the Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month blog.

    Fossil Box 12 was chosen as this week’s Specimen of the Week to celebrate the new fossils as well as all the work that has gone into documenting the new acquisitions.  (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 302: Gideon Mantell’s Iguanodon bones

    By Hannah Cornish, on 28 July 2017

    The specimen this week might be small, but it’s pretty important in the history of natural history. These two little pieces of fossil bone are from the collection of the early 19th century surgeon and palaeontologist Gideon Mantell. Specimen of the week is…

    Iguanodon Bones from Gideon Mantell's collection LDUCG-X1606

    Iguanodon Bones from Gideon Mantell’s collection LDUCG-X1606

    (more…)

    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…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month June 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 June 2017

    It’s the end of June, which can mean one thing and one thing only. It’s time for another underwhelming fossil fish of the month brought to you from the Grant Museum of Zoology. I know, I know it seems like only the day before yesterday since we featured the last totally underwhelming fish fossil but time waits for no fish so we’re back once again. with the renegade master.

    For the uninitiated there’s still time to back out. This blog series aims to look at fossil fish from the Grant Museum of Zoology and ask, why? Why did someone collect this? Why is it still in a museum? Who cares about this stuff and most importantly, is reading this a good use of my time?

    No! No it is not dear reader but contemplating the dry and uninteresting world of a fossiliferous fish might just distract you enough from the knowledge that you and everyone you know is made of meat or offer some comfort to the inevitable fact that the heat death of the Universe will render everything we and descendent generations do utterly pointless.

    I’ve stalled as much as I can, I’m afraid, it’s now time for this month’s underwhelming fossil fish to be unveiled. This is your last chance to get back to contemplating your inherently meaty nature. (more…)