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  • Specimen of the Week 240: Porcupine quills

    By Dean W Veall, on 20 May 2016

    LDUCZ-Z2237 Porcupine quills

    LDUCZ-Z2237 Porcupine quills

    Hello all, Dean Veall here. This week I bring you my specimen of the week. I can imagine what you’re wondering… has Dean chosen some sticks from the highly popular children’s game Ker-plunk? Has the acquisitions policy at the Grant Museum gone out the window? Well look closer dear reader, and you will see that these are in fact quills from a porcupine!

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 230: The Beaver Skull

    By Jack Ashby, on 11 March 2016

    North American beaver skull. LDUCZ-Z2731

    North American beaver skull. LDUCZ-Z2731

    It is purely coincidence that Specimen of the Week 230 – the number most associated with going to the dentist [tooth hurty. Apologies.] – is an animal famous for the incredible feats of its teeth.

    Beavers can cut down huge trees, owing to the superb adaptations of their skulls.

    Like squirrels, but at the bottom of trees

    As members of the squirrel-like rodent group Sciuromorpha, beavers have massive, ever-growing, self-sharpening front teeth. Rodent incisors are often differently coloured on the front and back. The orange substance on the front side is super hard enamel, while the back is unusually exposed dentine (a softer material which fills the inside in most teeth). When rodents bite on hard material, or even by biting their top teeth against their bottom teeth, the dentine erodes away at a faster rate than the enamel, essentially sharping the “blade”. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 226: Preserved neonatal rat group

    By Tannis Davidson, on 8 February 2016

    LDUCZ-Z3086 Rattus norvegicus

    LDUCZ-Z3086 Rattus norvegicus

    Last year, the Grant Museum undertook a major conservation project, Bone Idols: Protecting our iconic skeletons, in which 39 of our rarest and most significant skeletons were cleaned, repaired and remounted.

    This year the focus will be on our fluid specimens.  The Grant Museum has roughly 6000 preserved specimens is varying states of condition.  Over the course of the next 12 months, the most ‘in need’ specimens will be rehydrated, remounted, cleaned and put in new jars (if needed).  One of the newly-conserved wetties is a much-improved specimen which has generated quite a buzz around the Museum lately…this week’s Specimen of the Week is…

     

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 211: A Cheeky Chappie – The Lowland Paca

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 26 October 2015

    Hi, I’m Paolo and this is my first blog post as Curator of the Grant Museum of Zoology, picking up the reins from Mark Carnall. I’ve chosen this specimen of the week based simply on the fact that it has very interesting cheeks – or ‘zygomatic plates’ if you speak zoologese.

    LDUCZ-Z195_Cuniculus-paca

    Lowland paca skull Cuniculus paca LDUCZ-Z195

    This gnarly-cheeked Specimen of the Week is…

    (more…)

    On the search for the Scaly-tailed possum: Wet and Wildlife

    By Jack Ashby, on 11 December 2014

    A scaly-tailed possum caught on a camera trap in AWC's Artesian Range. (C) Australian Wildlife Conservancy,

    A scaly-tailed possum caught on a camera trap
    in AWC’s Artesian Range.
    (C) Australian Wildlife Conservancy,

    Over the past few years I have been spending my spare time in a remote area of the Kimberley, on the northwest corner of Australia, helping a conservation NGO – the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) – to do ecological fieldwork. AWC are Australia’s largest private owner of land for conservation, and their mission is to manage it based on scientific research. In the northwest their big long-term projects involve determining the effects of cattle and different fire management practices on tropical savannah ecosystems. And in my most recent two trips I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in the detection of super-scarce species in extremely remote pockets of rainforest and monsoonal woodland.

    A few years ago AWC acquired an amazing patch of the Kimberley called Artesian Range – monsoonal savannah criss-crossed with sandstone ranges, gorges of vine-thickets and rainforest pockets. I remember going through the first set of remote camera trap images that came back from Artestian in 2011 and being amazed at the species that were being detected.

    An endemic Kimberley rock rat being re-released

    An endemic Kimberley rock rat being re-released

    The haven from extinction

    It seems that Artesian Range is the only place in mainland Australia not to have suffered any mammal extinctions since European colonisation. A community of amazing endemics has clung on – scaly-tailed possums, golden-backed tree rats, monjons, golden bandicoots and Kimberley rock rats. When I was analyzing those camera trap images in 2011 I was a couple of hundred kilometres south of Artesian, on AWC Northwest’s main home sanctuary, Mornington. Artesian Range is in one of the least accessible parts of Australia, requiring a combination of propeller-plane, serious 4WD and helicopter to get to. As amazing as it was to see these species on the screen, I instantly knew I had to go and see them in the flesh. For me, the scaly-tailed possum had become the holy grail.
    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Ninety-Eight

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 26 August 2013

    Two blogs away from the big 1-0-0! In the run up to the 100th blog I will bring you the top ten specimens at the Grant Museum, as voted for by…. me. I have employed strict criteria with which to segregate the top ten from the other 67,990 specimens that we have in our care…

    1) It must not be on permanent display, giving you a little behind-the-scenes magic, if you will, as the specimen will then go on display for the week of which it has been named ‘Specimen’. Oh yes. That’s almost as good as our exhibition It Came From The Stores. Almost.

    2) It must have at some point in the past made me say ‘woooo’ out loud (given my childlike disposition for expressing wonderment at the world at large, this is not necessarily a hard qualification for the specimen to achieve)

    3) I must know (at least in a vague sort of a way) what species the specimen is, as SotW is researched and written within a strict one hour time frame.

    With that in mind, at Number Three, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Seventy-Five

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 18 March 2013

    Being a zoologist, wildlife photographer and world traveller, I spend a lot of my time tramping through forests and rummaging around in undergrowth, searching for this mammal, that insect or the other reptile. Sometimes this subsequently requires a first aid kit, sometimes it does not. But either way it nearly always ends in an image that at the very least documents the presence of a species in the area, and at best goes in my folder marked ‘To win Wildlife Photographer of the Year’. You may feel that there aren’t many opportunities for this sort of shenanigan in the middle of the big smoke, but London has some amazing wildlife watching spots. One of my favourite is the underground. Standing on the edge (not too close) of the platform, peering (carefully) down the dark tunnels- if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of a small mammal. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)