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  • How To: Beat a Shark in a Fight

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 2 January 2014

    How To: Beat a Shark in a Fight

    Let’s not pussyfoot around with some measly small-spotted catshark or krill sucking basking shark. Let’s dive straight into the deep end and talk about the legend… the great white shark. Should you ever find yourself face to face with one of the most awe-inspiring predators in the world with no way out, here are some handy tips on how to beat a shark in a fight.

     

    Rub its nose

    Great white sharks have very sensitive snouts. The snout is covered in tiny pits called ampullae of lorenzini which if you get close enough, look like little black dots. These pits are filled with a jelly-like substance that allows the shark to sense electromagnetic fields given off by muscle contractions. Short of stopping your own heart and being stiller internally than a corpse, the best way to work around this ‘sixth sense’ of the great white shark is to over stimulate the ampullae of lorenzini by rubbing them. In smaller species, divers have discovered they can place sharks in a state of ‘hypnosis’ which they call tonic, by rubbing these pits. The shark becomes motionless and can even be manipulated in the water. So, work your best massage skills on the nose of the great white shark and it might put its lights out long enough for you to make a dash for it. (more…)

    How To: Be a Bad Zoologist

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 3 October 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. This edition will explain in detail…

     

    How To: Be a Bad Zoologist

     

    Put on your Dr Alan Grant hat and find your best palaeontological hammer and chisel. Go to some remote location rarely visited and poorly studied. Find a perfectly preserved fossil specimen that is a missing link, hugely important to mankind and that will in one rocky lump, answer a million questions that have been burning amongst the scientific community for decades. Dust it off, polish it up, put it on your mantlepiece, and don’t mention it to a soul. Or you could flog it to another private collector, just so long as it never sees the light of day, or the inquisitive eye of an expert. (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…)

    How To: Tell Your Heroes From Your Villains

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 2 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 third along this (hopefully) long and happy blogging path is…

     

     

     

    How To: Tell Your Heroes From Your Villains

    When I was a child I was watching some gangster film or other with my Dad when he commented to me on how bad guys always drove black Jaguars. From that day on, for quite a while, I couldn’t fathom why the Metropolitan Police didn’t roam the streets of London arresting everyone who drove a black Jaguar. As it turns out, your personal moral code doesn’t have such stringent influence over your choice of vehicle and subsequently it is, in reality, much harder to tell hero from villain. The same is true of Museum goodies and baddies. They come in all manner of shapes, sizes, and with various numbers of legs (they aren’t all human after all). The way I see it, at the Grant Museum there are three main categories of creature that have influence over the state of the Museum; humans, babies, and things that fly. Not that I am insinuating that all babies aren’t human. Some are. (more…)

    How To: Find Your Head

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 10 July 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 second along this (hopefully) long and happy blogging path is…

     

    How To: Find Your Head

    There are a number of reasons, you may have been concerned about this, as to why at the Grant Museum you could have come to lose your head. When the collection was in its embryological state, over 180 years ago, it first came in to being as a cohesive group of objects under the guise of being a teaching collection. This is still a focus of the collection today (hence our ‘weird’ opening hours) and subsequently no specimen is safe (except a very select few) from the threat of being handled by keen, and reluctant, students alike. Several of these teaching practicals require specimens to be de-taxonomised (stripped of identification) which has led to all sorts of potential for human re-taxonomising errors over the years. This open access extends to researchers and academics who also wish from time to time to don the nitrile gloves of handling. Plenty of scope for your head being put back in the wrong box or your label being reattached to the wrong specimen. (NEVER by the current Museum Assistant). (more…)

    How To: Be a Good Museum Pest

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 20 June 2013

    Do you having any burning desires to have something explained by someone on the inside? This new blog is a How To Guide for the museological musings of a Museum Assistant. The first along this (hopefully) long and happy blogging path is…

    How to: Be a Good Museum Pest

    There are two types of creepy crawlies that you get in museums; ones that don’t eat specimens (i.e. creepy crawlies that fair poorly at being museum pests) and ones that do eat specimens (these typically do well at being pests).  First, you need to decide which you are. If the thought of eating dried cartilage, wooden drawers, paper labels, certain glues, feathers, or fur turns you off… go away, you’re a rubbish pest. However if the opportunity to chow down on the internal remnants of an animal skull makes you salivate, then continue reading my friend, this how to guide is for you. (more…)