Museums & Collections Blog
  •  
  •  
  • Categories

  •  
  • Tags

  •  
  • Archives

  • Specimen of the Week 198: Ammonite-ee-hee*

    By Mark Carnall, on 27 July 2015

    In both sad and happy news, I’m off to pastures new at the end of August, leaving the Grant Museum after what will be ten years and off to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Although that’s still a while away yet, the schedule for the specimen of the week writing mean that this will be my last specimen of the week.

    Image of LDUCZ-R16 Asterocera obtusum from the Grant Museum of Zoology UCL

    LDUCZ-R16 A clue to this week’s specimen of the week

    One question I get a lot working at the Grant Museum is “What is your favourite specimen?”. My normal answer is that it changes from week to week depending on what I’ve recently been working on or the specimens I’ve become familiarised with which have been requested for use by researchers. However, I do have a soft spot for this week’s specimen of the week which has been used in teaching and research and hundreds, if not thousands of people have got hands on with this specimen in family and school handling activities. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it hadn’t already been featured in this blog series either.

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

    Specimen of the Week 196 : A Real Fossil Pterosaur

    By Tannis Davidson, on 13 July 2015

    LDUCZ-X1093 Rhamphorhynchus muensteri fossil

    LDUCZ-X1093 Rhamphorhynchus muensteri fossil

    In my last post, I wrote about our ‘Zittel wing’ pterosaur cast and mentioned that I was doing a bit of research on another Grant Museum Rhamphorhynchus specimen. Pterosaurs were flying reptiles from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period. They were the first vertebrates to evolve powered flight. While I admit to being biased toward our palaeontology collections, this second Rhamphorhynchus is a very special specimen – definitely one of the unsung highlights of the Museum. It’s rare, has a fascinating (if enigmatic) history and is a wonderful example of positive re-identification.  Why it hasn’t been given the full SOTW treatment I. Just. Don’t. Know. Without further ado, this week’s Specimen of the Week is…

     

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 191 : Rhamphorhynchus wing cast

    By Tannis Davidson, on 8 June 2015

    LDUCZ-X842 Rhamphorhynchus wing cast

    LDUCZ-X842 Rhamphorhynchus wing cast

    One of my favourite pastimes is to do a bit of research – on just about anything.  I enjoy investigative work and the process of discovery.  Luckily, the nature of my work at the Grant Museum ensures that there are plenty of opportunities to do museum-detective work.  It could be a case of matching up an archival record with an unaccessioned specimen or figuring out a valid taxonomic name for a mysterious beast in a jar.

    It is both a burden and a blessing to work with historic collections which have varying degrees of documentary information: while it would be preferable to have more/most/all information about an object, gaps in the data allow for additional research and new discoveries.

    Recently I was doing some research on another Grant Museum Rhamphorhynchus specimen and one thing led to another…and another…and another.  It turns out that there is a lot of history behind this week’s SOTW – and although it is ‘only’ a plaster cast – it is part of a famous lineage of one of the most famous fossil finds!

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 190: The Platypus Tooth

    By Jack Ashby, on 1 June 2015

    A slide showing a fragment of platypus tooth from the Grant Museum Micrarium

    A slide showing a fragment of
    platypus tooth from the
    Grant Museum Micrarium

    I have to admit that when I first encountered this object I didn’t recognise what it was until I read the label, which is scratched into the glass slide that houses it. I don’t feel too bad about that as it is essentially microscopic, and very few people have ever seen one of these specimens. It is among the very smallest objects in the Museum.

    Unsurprisingly then, it is on display in the Micrarium – our place for tiny things. This beautiful back-lit cave showcases over 2000 of the 20,000 microscope slides in our care – it broke the mould for how museums display their slide collections.

    I first wrote about the species featured on this slide in my first ever Specimen of the Week, but that was taxidermy – a real A-Lister compared to the miniscule, obscure fragment I have selected here. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 171

    By Mark Carnall, on 19 January 2015

    Scary MonkeyThis week’s Specimen of the Week is one of those animals that is easier to talk about in terms of what it isn’t rather than what it is. In a previous blog post I’ve written about the fun with naming and language that happens when common names meet scientific classifications and how we end up with eels which aren’t eels, crabs which aren’t crabs and the brilliantly named flying lemurs which don’t fly and aren’t lemurs.

    When it comes to fossil organisms there’s often even more fun to be had as it’s very rare that fossil groups are given common names so we end up having to refer to them by what living animals they aren’t or nearly are. This week’s specimen of the week is one of those organisms, I’ll do my best to try to explain what it is below.

    This week’s specimen of the week is…

    (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: December 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 19 December 2014

    Underwhelming Christmas of the yearGod rest ye merry fossil fish

    You’ll never be displayed

    For the selection criteria of specimens

    Isn’t biased in your way

    To save us all from excitement

    You’re here to save the day

    O drawers of underwhelming fossil fish

    Underwhelming fossil fish

    O drawers o-hof underwhelming fossil fish.

    It’s that time of the year when people of all walks of life come together to celebrate the passing of 12 months of underwhelming fossil fish and look forward to the next 12, hoping the fossils stay quietly unassuming, not too bombastic or boisterous and altogether middling-at-best. This year was particularly unexciting one for fossil fish with many stoically maintaining a state of fossiliferous.

    (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: November 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 26 November 2014

    It’s that time of year, reindeer who are different are being bullied by their peers, Jack Frost is biting noses again, Saturday morning TV is back to back toy adverts with the odd cartoon in between, Sainsbury’s remind us exactly why our ancestors fought and died in the Great War and Z list celebrities are turning lights on in high streets up and down the land. Yes of course, it’s November, a month so average they named it only once. But do you know what’s even less average than the month of November? It’s only UNDERWHELMING FOSSIL FISH OF THE MONTH, our monthly foray into the uninspiring world of forgotten fossil fish whose heyday, if they even had one, is long past. These fossiliferous fish now remain largely unused in museum stores and this blog series is a monthly window into their esoteric and marginal at best world.

    Last months’ fossil fish proved too underwhelming for many leading to a number of network executives to hint that a third series of underwhelming fossil fish may not be forthcoming. To recompense and please the execs, I’m bringing out the big guns. I’ve chosen a pretty exciting fossil fish for November. We will get that third season fanatic fossil fish fans.

    (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 140

    By Mark Carnall, on 16 June 2014

    Specimen of the Week: Week ThreeIt’s the 140th specimen of the week! That’s nearly three years of weekly Grant Museum specimen goodness! In order to celebrate this sort of milestone, and following on from Stacy’s worm theme, this week’s specimen is (probably) the oldest specimen in the Grant Museum. With a little further ado, representing deep time and a group of animals that despite their name aren’t particularly sexy, bordering on underwhelming (that’s the other blog series- Ed.). This week’s specimen of the week is…

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 122

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 10 February 2014

    It’s Valentine’s Day this week! I don’t subscribe to the modern idea that Valentine’s Day is a commercial farce designed to make you pay three times the price for one ‘romantic dinner’ out and 20 times the normal price for a rose of a specific colour. Well ok those are true, but Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to comprise either. Personally, I am REALLY hoping that this year someone loves me enough to get me membership to the British Arachnological Society for V-Day (link supplied in case you’re sufficiently moved, as it isn’t looking likely otherwise). But I’m not too sad as here at the Grant Museum I am surrounded by love. Such as in my choice of super lovey specimen this week! This Week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)