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  • Specimen of the Week: Week 157 (an exciting rediscovery?)

    By Mark Carnall, on 13 October 2014

    Scary MonkeySegueing nicely on from Jack’s evolution of life on land specimens of the week last week, we’re sticking to specimens in our ‘MEET THE ANCESTORS’ case. This week’s specimen is a rather lovely fossil and whilst undertaking a bit of research for this blog post I uncovered a rather twisty turny series of clues that point to this specimen being a ‘type specimen‘.

    Type specimens are important specimens in biological classification that are the specimens which exemplify the characteristics of a new species of organism. In theory, together these specimens are the physical representations of the current understanding of the diversity of life on earth and accordingly are very important specimens in museums. It’s not 100% clear if this fossil is the type specimen hence all the cautious maybes, possibles and potentiallys but you can judge that for yourselves below. So with no further ado, this week’s specimen of the week is…

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    Celebrating Marvellous Maps!

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 9 October 2014

    Marvellous Maps Poster

    Marvellous Maps Poster

    Whenever I’m giving an introduction to the UCL Geology Collections there is one part of the collection that is pretty much guaranteed to get even the least engaged, non-geological undergrad at their 9am lecture on a Monday interested…our maps. There’s something about stopping what you are doing and exploring a map that just seems to interest people. Perhaps it’s the fact that with most maps the more you look the more you see; the more time you spend looking the more you are rewarded.

    The 13th – 19th October is International Earth Sciences Week, and Friday 17th is Geological Map Day, so with this in mind UCL Earth Sciences and UCL Museums invite you to a very special pop-up event…

    Marvellous Maps’ will be hosted in the Rock Room on Friday 17th October by UCL Earth Sciences, between 1 – 5pm.

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    From the Archives: A Camel Head from London Zoo

    By Mark Carnall, on 8 October 2014

    Here at the Grant Museum, we have a large collection of documents, photographs, negatives and other ephemera which make up the archive of the collection. Part of my ongoing role as the curator of the Grant Museum is to ensure that all of this archival information is attached to the relevant museum specimens so we have as much as a history of possible of the lives and after lives of our specimens. This marks the first post in what will be occasional series highlighting interesting finds about the museum and the specimens from the archive.

    This first post contains some rather grim imagery so the images are after the jump but whilst rifling through the archives I found images of a bactrian camel head which had been sent to UCL from London Zoo. POTENTIALLY DISTURBING IMAGES HERE ON IN.

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    Specimen of the Week: Week 155

    By Tannis M N Davidson, on 29 September 2014

    Specimen of the Week: Week Two Hello all. In anticipation of writing my first Specimen of the Week post, I wondered which specimen would ultimately receive the honour.  I wanted to highlight a specimen representative of my Canadian homeland such as a fossil from the Burgess Shale, but the curator (see SOTW 140) beat me to it.  Sadly, the Grant Museum has but one documented specimen from this phenomenally important fossil location. The Burgess Shale has famously yielded dozens of previously unknown 505 million year old fossil organisms such as the evocatively named Hallucingenia, five eyed Opaginia, and the fearsome-looking predator Anomalocaris

    As it turns out, I was able to find an interesting animal from the collection…one which might possibly be a living relative of Anomalocaris!

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is

      (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: September 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 26 September 2014

    Welcome to this month’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month, a monthly romp through the uninspiring and underwhelming fossil fish collections here at the Grant Museum of Zoology (and every natural history museum). Normally this blog is a tongue in cheek reflection on the countless fossils that are ‘important for science’ that lay untouched in museums stores. This month however, I’m reporting on some serious science. Apologies to readers who hate that kind of thing.

    Last month a group of top palaeontologists, museum curators and members of the public put their minds together to answer one of the most pressing unanswered questions in science. Where are all the ghosts of animals? There seems to be a disproportionate number of white ladies, hanged criminals and wives of Henry the VIII who cling to this realm but where are the ghosts of all those millions of animals which have lived and died? Why aren’t the prairies teeming with the spectres of dinosaurs? Why isn’t the sea thick with the ectoplasmic apparitions of marine reptiles and fish? Where are the ghostly Carboniferous forests? One reason for this dearth of ghosts may be that it’s mostly humans who have unresolved business or revenge to enact upon the living, other organisms are more pragmatic about the violent nature of life and death. Another untested hypothesis is that you can only see ghosts of your own species.

    This is definitely an area ripe for research but there are no research departments in the UK looking at the issue of missing ghost animals. With this in mind I made an astonishing discovery whilst looking for this month’s underwhelming fossil fish my only wish was there was a month normally associated with the paranormal, mythological and spooky when it would be better to announce this discovery failing that here’s September’s Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month.

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    A Medical (School) Mystery

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 24 September 2014

    For most of the last two weeks of September I was working on a collections project aimed at auditing, repacking and photographing the UCL Physiology Collection. Although the collection itself consists of only 82 objects (for now), it shares its store room with a large number of additional objects, papers, books and other ‘misc’ material. It was quite a job, and took 5 of us the best part of two weeks to complete.

    Among the objects and papers we saw during the work were two 20th century dog respirators, half a door, papers relating to experiments on Everest and lots of framed portraits and photos.

    Included in this last lot was a particularly perplexing object, which caused us all to scratch our heads for a while.

    Medical Faculty 1957, with troll (middle back).

    A traoll (?) standing behind the class, holding an umbrella and tin helmet.

    A troll (?) standing behind the class,
    holding an umbrella and tin helmet.

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    Specimen of the Week: Week 153

    By Jack Ashby, on 16 September 2014

    Scary MonkeyAs a scientist, with Vulcan-like levelheadedness, my outlook on the natural world is totally free of emotion. My interactions with it are purely perfunctory, in order to amass and analyse cold data, motivated solely by the advancement of scientific understanding of solid facts. The world is only there to be databased. It is irrelevant whether facts are “interesting” or not, all that matters is if they are useful for detecting some larger pattern. Anyone who says otherwise is a panda-hugging sentimental fluff-monger…

    Wouldn’t it be weird if ecologists thought like that? On the one hand science is supposed to be independent of emotion, but on the other most of us are only in it because of our emotional attachment to the subject matter (animals and ecosystems).

    Normally on this blog I take the chance to rave about the animals that amaze and excite me. This week I’m going to highlight one that I utterly despise*.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 152

    By Mark Carnall, on 8 September 2014

    Scary Monkey As you may have gathered, we’re fans of science fiction here at UCL Museums, from the Institute of Archaeology Keeper preparing for the zombie apocalypse, to the Petrie Museum attending LonCon and own film nights which often feature radioactive monsters, giant ants and stop motion dinosaurs. This week’s specimen of the week is straight out of science fiction. So strap into your power loader, politely request alien lifeforms to stay away from young children whilst comparing them to a female dog and read on.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Happy 78th Thylacine Day: Remember the little guys

    By Jack Ashby, on 7 September 2014

    Today, in Australia, is National Threatened Species Day, but far more importantly. to Grant Museumers, it’s Thylacine Day. Both of these events commemorate the ludicrously avoidable death of the last known thylacine - modern times’ largest marsupial carnivore – on 7th September 1936. Today, for the first time, I am actually in Australia for 7th September, so in this year’s annual Thylacine Day post I’d like to explore what it is about Australian mammals that makes me go all nerdy – the shear diversity of tiny things, that on the whole people have no idea about. (For more on the thylacine, including why we celebate it so hard at the Grant, look through previous Thylacine Day posts on this blog).

    The area of zoology I am most passionate about is Australian mammals, and as a result I spend 8-10 weeks each year over here trapping animals for conservation NGOs and university research programmes. As far as I’m concerned, although there are just 378 mammal species in Australia, it’s the best fauna there is. You only have to go 50km and you might find a whole new set of mammals. Australia has a lot of things going for it, but I will shout you down if you argue that any of them outshine the wildlife and ecosystems. The thing is so few people here, or elsewhere, have ever heard of most of them. Sure, people know that kangaroos and wallabies exist – they are the national icon, but go into any business and ask what kind of wallaby is chewing on its lawn and you’ll probably get a blank response. There are 45 species of Australian kangaroo and wallaby (excluding bettongs and pottoroos). People’s lofts and gardens are pested by possums (nearly always one species – the brushtail), but there are 25 different kinds. Once you get beyond these, koalas, wombats, dingoes, platypuses, echidnas and “bandicoots” (11 species), the rest of the Australian mammalian fauna, I fear, goes largely unloved.

    I’m not whinging about the fact that people don’t see tiny mammals and instantly know what it is. I just want to take the time to give them a shout-out.
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    Specimen of the Week:Week 151

    By Mark Carnall, on 1 September 2014

    Scary monkey I’m taking up the mantle this week and I’m a sucker for puns relating to my specimen choice in this opening paragraph. The first time I discovered specimens of this week’s species was on the black sands of the North Island of New Zealand. Thousands of these were washed up along the coast, their bright white remains contrasting highly against the volcanic beach OH LOOK AT THAT I’M A FIELDWORK BORE.

    Before I regale you about my gap yahr (spent volunteering in a museum and working various part time jobs) let us move swiftly on to revealing this week’s specimen of the week.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is….

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