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  • Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month January 2018

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 January 2018

    Welcome to January’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month. Normally in this introductory bit, before the jump, I try to do a bit about some topical event and then tentatively link it to this month’s fossil fish. Increasingly, this gets harder to do as topical events aren’t so much celebrity talent judging shows or how a politician struggles with eating a sandwich but is altogether more bleak and “Isn’t the world awful?” Ha, ha, ha, ha, here’s a fossil fish is a tough gig.

    Last week, the Doomsday Clock was moved two minutes to midnight, the closest the clock has been to Doomsday ever and as close as it was in 1953. In the summary of the setting of the clock for 2018 it’s not just the threat of nuclear war but cyber warfare and climate change which are reasons for the clock edging closer to midnight.

    But what are you gonna do about it? Kids have got to go to school tomorrow, bills have got to be paid and those selfies, by definition, won’t take themselves. There’s a paper thin wall between civilisation and anarchy when the distraction of the rat race changes to a basic fight for survival and we’re closer than ever to bursting through that wall. In post-apocalyptic movies and TV shows there’s often a protagonist who wakes from a coma to find the world changed. Society shattered. The slept through the apocalypse trope is so heavily used because when society collapses, when the rules go out of the window, it will be swift and brutally violent and deeply disturbing. Which might be too real for audiences. Especially these days. There won’t be a warning and before you know it, you’ll be throttling a friend or colleague to death for the last bag of skittles. It’ll likely be on a day that starts just like today.

    But until that happens, here’s another underwhelming fossil fish to idly pass the time. Tick. Tock. (more…)

    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…)

    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…..


    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…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month May 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 May 2017

    GOOD NEWS ALERT. Thanks to the transfer of some fossil material from UCL Geology Collections to the Grant Museum of Zoology, the Museum is now definitively the unique home of underwhelming fossil fish on the UCL campusTM. This transfer will keep the series going for a further 40 years on top of the next 70 years of underwhelming fossil fish of the month until the series is forced to examine an fossil fish that may be of interest.

    For those of you unfamiliar with the monthly format, it works in exactly the same way as reality TV talent contest shows like the X Factor does. Except instead of people, there are only fossil fish and instead of searching for outstanding entertainment talent to slowly homogenise week on week into formulaic flash-in-the-pan popular music success we’re searching for indistinguishing blandness. Also, there aren’t judges or voting or live shows or broken dreams or insufferable presenters or music or six chair challenges or sad stories about dead grannies or guest appearances by pop stars who have an album or a tour to promote. Other than that, it is exactly the same.

    This month to commemorate the influx of new old material into the museum, our talent scouts have picked out one of the new kids. Let me underwhelm you with it. Voting is now closed. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month April 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 2 May 2017

    Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the monthly union of a fossil fish and the acknowledgement of how underwhelming this fossil fish is, in holy blogimony, which is an honourable estate, that is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently and soberly.

    This month’s fossil fish, is what we call in the palaeontological trade “a bit of alright”, that is, it is aesthetically rather on the ‘girl you gonna make me sweat’ end of the fossil fish scale. Don’t claim you haven’t been warned as this month’s underwhelming fossil fish is revealed before you as it will be in three, two, one… (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month March 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 March 2017

    It’s the end of March which means only one thing. Well it means many things but in the specific context of this monthly series that explores the underwhelmingest of fossil fish, which to be honest is most fossil fish, from the collection at the Grant Museum of Zoology it means its time for a new one.

    But don’t confuse this perfunctory progress of the seconds, minutes, hours, days and months as an excuse for any kind of celebration. That’s not what we’re here for. Instead we are here to review a not-very-interesting fossil fish, unloved by all but the most…. no, just unloved by all. Why might we do this? Well as the French say, “C’est la fin des haricots”.

    So without further ado, as the Germans say, “Wer weiß, warum die Gänse barfuß gehen”.


    Underwhelming fossil fish of the Month December 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 December 2016

    2016 was the most overwhelmingly underwhelming year of the last twelve months.

    But it wasn’t the only thing that disappointed in month by month instalments. Yes, of course I’m talking about the Grant Museum of Zoology’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month blog series. The monthly foray into the drawers and drawers of underwhelming fossil fishes at the Grant Museum brings you the finest worst selection of least best fossil fish. We ask the tough questions such as why are these fossils here? Which way around is this one supposed to go and what does this label say. This is the blunt edge of science right here.

    Of course, I’ve got an especially unspecial fossil fish to round off the year. Vast expense was spared to bring you just another underwhelming fossil fish to mark one step closer to your inevitable end. First up though, it’s END OF YEAR ROUND-UP FILLER CONTENT. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: January 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 January 2016

    January 2016 was a big month for palaeontology in the media. This month you may have caught a programme on fossil Mesozoic vertebrate finds featuring one of the most beloved natural historians, some might go as far to say, ‘National Treasure’. No, I’m not talking about David Attenborough and some big dinosaur, that’s the easy route to media coverage. I’m talking about our very own underwhelming fossil fish on Radio 4’s Inside Science programme. If you’re new to this blog series, the humble goal is to increase global fossil fishteracy one underwhelming fossil fish from the Grant Museum collections at a time.

    You might expect that with the boost in coverage, we’d have some timely underwhelming fossil fish merchandise to shill, a calendar perhaps or a pack of underwhelming fossil fish Top Trumps cards. However, as I’ve told numerous producers this week who tried to secure the underwhelming fossil fish of the month film rights, this is not the UFFotM way. We’re going to be ploughing on ahead with yet another uninteresting fossil fish, not one that’s any more or less underwhelming, just another un-noteworthy, comme ci, comme ça fossil. No fuss and especially no muss. (more…)

    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…)

    18th Grant Lecturer: Anjali Goswami

    By Dean W Veall, on 14 November 2014

    Dr. Anjali Goswami out on field work

    Dr. Anjali Goswami out on field work

    Dean Veall here. On Tuesday this week Team Grant celebrated what would have been Robert Edmond Grant‘s 221st birthday in the a suitably zoological manner raising a glass of sparkling cider (non-alcoholic, of course!).  The formal celebration of Grant’s life and his contribution to science is coming up next Tuesday 18th November with our annual Grant Lecture, now in its 18th year. This year we are incredibly excited and pleased to welcome Dr. Anjali Goswami, Reader of Palaeobiology at UCL,  to give the lecture and the following is a bit of profile/preview of the her and her lecture.

    Anjali Goswami’s research revolves around the contrasts between the early evolution of placental mammals (e.g. humans, cats and whales) and marsupials (e.g. kangaroos, wombats, opossums).