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  • 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 307: The Euston Mammoth

    By Hannah Cornish, on 8 September 2017

    This week’s specimen has only recently entered the Grant Museum, and as soon as I saw it I wanted to know more. I did a little digging and this is what I found: Specimen of the Week is…

    Z3360 Euston Mammoth Ivory

    LDUCZ-Z3360 Euston mammoth ivory

    **The Euston Mammoth**

    (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month February 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 1 March 2017

    Pinch, punch first (and only) of the underwhelming fossil fish of the month! For those who have made good life choices, until now, underwhelming fossil fish of the month is a monthly rummage through the drawers of the Grant Museum of Zoology, taking a look at life through the lens of an underwhelming fossil fish. Most you’ll have never heard of. Even more of them you wish you hadn’t. But someone, somewhere, sometime thought it would be important to collect, label and archive these underwhelming fossils for perpetuity.

    This series questions if that was a useful thing to do. It also answers that: it probably wasn’t.

    This month, we’ve got a particularly deceptive underwhelming fossil fish of the month for in all images of it, it looks much like an A-Level art student’s still life painting. We’ve been photographing it from almost every angle and the result is always the same. But don’t just take my word for it, famine your eyes on this… (more…)

    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 November 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 November 2016

    These are troubling times. Troubling and worrying times. Hope is an endangered species. You can feel it can’t you? Spin the wheel of woe, the only consolation possible is that you guessed correctly what destroyed the privileged civilisation as we know it. Was it climate in the end? Was it hatred? Was it intolerance? It doesn’t matter now of course. You’ll realise then what you suspect now, childish notions of justice winning out in the end were just that. There is no beacon of light on the horizon. In fact, the future is so pitch black in its nothingness that the next step could be the one into the abyss and you wouldn’t even know. So look to the horizon now, it’s petrifying isn’t it?

    Petrification is also the process by which some organic matter exposed to minerals over a long period is turned into fossils. Welcome to this month’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month our monthly foray into the Grant Museum’s underwhelming fossil fish collection on a monthly basis. Month. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month October 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 October 2016

    Today, Monday the 31st of October 2016, is a very special day and I can’t believe we’ve managed to co-ordinate October’s Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month, a monthly foray into the Grant Museum’s vast collection of underwhelming fish fossils, to go out on the exact date.

    Exactly, precisely on this day 419.2 million years ago, give or take 3 million years, the Devonian Period began marking the beginning of the Age of Fishes.

    Since the Devonian Period, fish have been the most dominant group of vertebrates on the planet, accounting for about half of all described vertebrate species today. Controversially, mammals have tried to claim that the key events in their evolutionary history warrant their own ages, however, the legitimacy of the alleged ‘Age of Reptiles‘ and so-called ‘Age of Mammals‘ are not officially recognised outside of human communities. Today, we are still very much in the Age of Fishes and in order to celebrate such a key date, in typical UFFotM style, we’ve not really gone for anything special at all actually. This month’s fossil fish is of Devonian age, but aside from just being a coincidence, as I’ve just demonstrated, technically we are all of Devonian age.

    Take some time out of your Age of Fishes, #DevonianDay celebrations and have a look at this underwhelming fossil fish. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: August 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 August 2016

    August is typically the month that people occupy themselves with science until the sports season begins again in the autumn. In fact the word summer comes from the Proto-Germanic sumur which roughly translates as ‘the season in which we do not occupy ourselves with sports but instead spend a lot of time doing science’* So with so many people doing science this summer, and who aren’t engaged in sport or watching or thinking about sport, I’m hoping that we can fulfil the mission of this blog post series. The humble mission of this monthly blog series featuring underwhelming fossil fish from the Grant Museum collection is:

    all I’m asking you to do is look at it, observe it, take some time to ponder upon it and perhaps tell a friend about it. Together we’ll increase the global fossil fishteracy one fossil fish at a time.

    Regular readers of this series will know that this isn’t sell-out science. There’s no record breakers here. All we have is a rather dull fossil fish to contemplate. Will we learn something? Probably not. Will it pass the time? Depends how fast you read I guess. So without further ado, loosen your belt of expectation and let’s see this month’s fragmented fossil fish. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: May 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 May 2016

    WARNING, WARNING! We got a looker this month boys and girls. Underwhelming fossil fish come in all shapes and sizes, some are virtually nothing, others inspire great works of art but once in a while we get one that is surprisingly and distinctly fish shaped. It’s still not very interesting to anyone but the most love blind of the fossil fish fanatics and for that we shall dutifully analyse, precisely and scientifically, via the well established ‘Top Trump categories’ method the ways in which it is uninteresting.

    For those of you unsure as to how you got to this part of the Internet and still not quite sure what’s going on, you’ve arrived at the latest entry of Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month. Fossil collections are full of specimens of animals you won’t have heard of, can’t really imagine and even if you could imagine them, they weren’t really worth the effort in the first place. We could sex them up a bit by making up animals like those naughty fossil reptile palaeontologists but this is not the fish way. Instead we’ll celebrate them the only way we can, with an analysis of their rather dry and esoteric history.

    If you are of a delicate fortitude or can’t handle too much fossil fish at once, I’m going to ease you into this month’s let down specimen… (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: February 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 26 February 2016

    February 2016 won’t be remembered as the beginning of the end because nobody will be here to remember it. The plankton are a-shufflingthe seabirds are a-vanishingthe seas, they are arising and the Arctic is a-heating. Was it this bad growing up? It is getting worse and worse. Did we pass the point of no return already? Are we already in the Age of Stupid? Did our children volunteer for this? Can you honestly kiss them goodnight knowing that they’ll grow up with the same liberties and freedoms we enjoyed or will it be a fight for basic survival like so many already endure today?

    [Note to editor. If the intro is ‘too real’ I could change it to something about croissants being straightened but that’s a harder segue.]

    I tell you who won’t be fighting for survival anymore and that’s underwhelming fossil fish, the ‘stars’ of this monthly series, where we take a break from the harsh realities of life to focus on the uncelebratable fishy fragments of the Grant Museum fossil drawers. Why, you ask? Well. It passes the time if nothing else, the most precious resource you have. But who are you kidding? You got this far, you clearly don’t have much pressing on.

    This month’s fossil fish is technically naked so I’d advise having a spreadsheet open in another window that you could Alt+Tab to, to save the blushes of passing colleagues. (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…)