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  • The Giant Ammonites of the Jurassic Seas (… and UCL)

    By Ruth Siddall, on 19 December 2017

    I am once again delighted to be invited to write a guest blog for UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology, and this one is about the extraordinarily large ammonites encountered in Portland Limestone. As avid readers of former Grant Musuem Curator Mark Carnall’s ‘cephalopod column’ in The Guardian will already be aware, cephalopods are a group of marine molluscs and amongst them live and lived the giants of the invertebrate world. Represented today by octopuses, squids, cuttlefishes and nautiluses, and extinct taxa represented by ammonoids and belemnoids, cephalopods have been a dominant invertebrate species in our seas since the Ordovician, 480 million years ago.

    A giant ammonite (Titanites giganteus) in the Grant Museum. LDUCZ-R205

    A giant ammonite (Titanites giganteus) in the Grant Museum. LDUCZ-R205

    We have all heard of the giant squid, the somewhat shadowy and rarely observed Architeuthis dux which can reach lengths of up to 13 m, but this is not the only example of gigantism in cephalopods. Indeed, it is something that occurs regularly in this group throughout the fossil record. Although evidence exists for fossilised giant squid, these are rare as the soft-bodied animals do not preserve well. However nautiloids, ammonoids and belemnoids with their hard shells do preserve very well. (more…)

    Whales on the Road

    By Ruth Siddall, on 6 July 2017

    This weekend, 8th and 9th July, the Grant Museum is running an event of massive proportions – the Whale Weekender – when the public is invited to come and rebuild and clean their whale skeleton. Long before it came to the Grant Musuem, the whale in question begun life-after-death, in 1860, when it was sold to be toured around the country as a whole carcass. That particular venture did not go very well for anyone involved.

    This post is about dead whales touring the country on the back of lorries. There are not many things these days that provide pretty much no hits when Googled, but this subject seems to be one of them. You may well be asking why I would be Googling ‘Whales’ ‘Lorry’ ‘Supermarket Car Park’. Here is the answer…

    I was talking to my colleague Jack Ashby, Manager of the Grant Museum, about their upcoming #WhaleWeekender extravaganza, and he mentioned the incredible history of their specimen and its intended national tour. I told Jack that I remembered seeing a whale in the back of a truck when I was a kid in Salford in the early 1970s. Jack looked at me like I had said 1870s. On reflection there is certainly a circus side-show, freak-show element to this experience. Until speaking to Jack, I have not thought about this for years. (more…)