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  • 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…)

    Specimen of the Week 197: The Common Dolphin Skull

    By Will J Richard, on 20 July 2015

    LDUCZ-Z2277 common dolphin skull (Delphinus sp.)

    LDUCZ-Z2277 common dolphin skull (Delphinus sp.)

    Hello! Will Richard here, putting fingers to keyboard once again to bring you the next instalment of specimen of the week. And this week I am going to make things easy for myself. I’ve had enough of subspecies versus species, questionable (mis)identifications, taxing taxonomy and chaotic cladistics. So this time I’m keeping it simple. A cut and dried case: the common dolphin. What could be clearer?

    Oh…

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    Specimen of the Week 196 : A Real Fossil Pterosaur

    By Tannis Davidson, on 13 July 2015

    LDUCZ-X1093 Rhamphorhynchus muensteri fossil

    LDUCZ-X1093 Rhamphorhynchus muensteri fossil

    In my last post, I wrote about our ‘Zittel wing’ pterosaur cast and mentioned that I was doing a bit of research on another Grant Museum Rhamphorhynchus specimen. Pterosaurs were flying reptiles from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period. They were the first vertebrates to evolve powered flight. While I admit to being biased toward our palaeontology collections, this second Rhamphorhynchus is a very special specimen – definitely one of the unsung highlights of the Museum. It’s rare, has a fascinating (if enigmatic) history and is a wonderful example of positive re-identification.  Why it hasn’t been given the full SOTW treatment I. Just. Don’t. Know. Without further ado, this week’s Specimen of the Week is…

     

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    Specimen of the Week 195: The Kangaroo Joey Preserved on a Teat

    By Jack Ashby, on 6 July 2015

    Kangaroo joey on teat. LDUCZ-Z1102

    Kangaroo joey on teat. LDUCZ-Z1102

    For the past fourteen weeks a kangaroo has been the most celebrated object in the Grant Museum, but it was not part of our collection, nor was it a zoological specimen. Europe’s first painting of a kangaroo, from 1772 by George Stubbs left us just last week. It had been the centrepiece of our Stange Creatures exhibition and now it is continuing its nationwide tour from the National Maritime Museum*. I have argued it is one of the most important artworks in the history of British exploration.

    Now that it’s gone, I would like to shine the spotlight on a kangaroo that does “live” here at the Grant Museum. Although it also featured in the exhibition, I suspect it’s recently been feeling somewhat overshadowed by its 2-dimensional counterpart. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

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    Specimen of the Week 194: The Death’s-Head Hawkmoth

    By Rowan J J Tinker, on 29 June 2015

    The pinned Death's-head hawkmoths. LDUCZ-L1438

    The pinned Death’s-head hawkmoths. LDUCZ-L1438

    I stand before you to beseech absolution. I confess to my unholy bias in favour of the darker and somewhat supernatural beings of the museum, yet I seek no forgiveness. I will endeavour to one day improve this, and talk about some adorable abomination with darling little eyes and a twee silken coat, but to be honestly forthright, I recoil at the thought. I’ve always found delight in those lacking in vertebral column, often simply regarding the spine itself as excess baggage, hence I rejoice to formally announce that I’m keeping with the creepy invertebrate vibe.

    This week’s specimen is most agreeable to the palate of those with a less cute-inclined disposition; with the markings of a demon and the scent of bees, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 193: A very confused anemone

    By Mark Carnall, on 22 June 2015

    Image of LDUCZ-C1445 Amphianthus dohrnii on  Eunicella verrucosa from the Grant Museum of Zoology UCL

    Image of LDUCZ-C1445 Amphianthus dohrnii on Eunicella verrucosa from the Grant Museum of Zoology UCL

    Specimen of the week is the Grant Museum’s weekly blog series focusing on one of the 68,000 specimens in the collection. When it comes to my turn to write one, I normally try to choose a specimen that otherwise might be overlooked within the crowded cases. Whilst looking for a specimen to focus on this week, I found these lovely specimens, labelled as a fossil ostracod (an amazing group of crustaceans) and on display with the peanut worms and brachipods, whilst resembling anemones. What’s the story here? Hopefully this blog post will cure the case of mistaken identity.

    This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 192: The Harvestman

    By Rowan J J Tinker, on 15 June 2015

    Dried harvestman LDUCZ-J416

    Dried harvestman LDUCZ-J416

    Case 11: the final resting place of those that once scuttled and dashed between the shadows. Many eagerly feature in our lives, brushing softly against the unaware’s skin, only to dart off as they are noticed, leaving a split second image of many a shambling leg to return as a parting gift at night when the lucidity of dreams kick in. Staring out from the dim stillness a dour creature resides, and an eternal watch it holds.

    It was at first the near-symmetry of this specimen that drew me to it while bumbling around the Grant Museum; but after doing a little research, only then did it become apparent that this creature is far deserving of a week-long bask in the limelight. These critters are easily mistaken for spiders, both having eight spindly legs, but in fact they are far cuter, and much to the ire of arachnophobes. Many aspects of their biology and their cultural influence make them the spider’s rather well-appreciated cousin, and rightfully so.

    So thus begins my job to convince you, dear literary companion, of this creature’s cause, lest it be cast off back to the tenebrous corners where the resting beasts of Case 11 do creep and surge. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

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    Specimen of the Week 191 : Rhamphorhynchus wing cast

    By Tannis Davidson, on 8 June 2015

    LDUCZ-X842 Rhamphorhynchus wing cast

    LDUCZ-X842 Rhamphorhynchus wing cast

    One of my favourite pastimes is to do a bit of research – on just about anything.  I enjoy investigative work and the process of discovery.  Luckily, the nature of my work at the Grant Museum ensures that there are plenty of opportunities to do museum-detective work.  It could be a case of matching up an archival record with an unaccessioned specimen or figuring out a valid taxonomic name for a mysterious beast in a jar.

    It is both a burden and a blessing to work with historic collections which have varying degrees of documentary information: while it would be preferable to have more/most/all information about an object, gaps in the data allow for additional research and new discoveries.

    Recently I was doing some research on another Grant Museum Rhamphorhynchus specimen and one thing led to another…and another…and another.  It turns out that there is a lot of history behind this week’s SOTW – and although it is ‘only’ a plaster cast – it is part of a famous lineage of one of the most famous fossil finds!

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

    Specimen of the Week 190: The Platypus Tooth

    By Jack Ashby, on 1 June 2015

    A slide showing a fragment of platypus tooth from the Grant Museum Micrarium

    A slide showing a fragment of
    platypus tooth from the
    Grant Museum Micrarium

    I have to admit that when I first encountered this object I didn’t recognise what it was until I read the label, which is scratched into the glass slide that houses it. I don’t feel too bad about that as it is essentially microscopic, and very few people have ever seen one of these specimens. It is among the very smallest objects in the Museum.

    Unsurprisingly then, it is on display in the Micrarium – our place for tiny things. This beautiful back-lit cave showcases over 2000 of the 20,000 microscope slides in our care – it broke the mould for how museums display their slide collections.

    I first wrote about the species featured on this slide in my first ever Specimen of the Week, but that was taxidermy – a real A-Lister compared to the miniscule, obscure fragment I have selected here. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

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    Specimen of the Week 189: Actinia equina

    By Rachel H Bray, on 26 May 2015

    Image of a marine specimen represented in glass

    LDUCZ – C373 – All seems peaceful in this bell jar…

     

     

    We have had both an ethics and an art angle during the last week at the Grant Museum which you might have noticed if you attended some of our events. The Strange Creatures Late featured live, ethical taxidermy with Jazmine Miles-Long and the Great Grant Knit-A-Thon included talks from History of Art PhD student and Strange Creatures c0-curator Sarah Wade about craftivism, poaching and habitat destruction. And so, it seemed particularly appropriate to have an aesthetically pleasing, ethically sensitive representation of a specimen this week!

     

     

     

     

    This week’s specimen of the week is…

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