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  • Specimen of the Week 245: The peregrine falcon skull

    By Will J Richard, on 24 June 2016

    Hello folks! Will Richard here bringing you a record breaking specimen of the week. It is part of our Best of the Beasts trail and by the end of this blog I hope you’ll all see why. It’s the…

    LDUCZ-Y1721 peregrine falcon skull

    LDUCZ-Y1721 peregrine falcon skull

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 244: The historic wax flatworm

    By Tannis Davidson, on 17 June 2016

    LDUCZ-D44 Fasciola hepatica

    LDUCZ-D44 Fasciola hepatica

    Since its inception in 1828, the Grant Museum of Zoology collections have always been used for teaching.  This continues in the present day and the Museum welcomes students from across UCL for a wide variety of specimen-based practicals, course work and research projects.

    Today we maintain detailed lists of specimens which are used in classes but I’ve often wondered what the early object-based teaching practicals looked like and which specimens were used.

    Fortunately, the Museum has some relevant archives which have identified an extraordinary specimen that had been used in teaching at UCL 130 years ago.  It is not only one of the oldest specimens in the collection, but also one of the most beautiful.

    Take a journey back in time with this week’s Specimen of the Week…

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 243 – Dolphin Foetus

    By Rachel H Bray, on 10 June 2016

    1. Unpredictable as usual

    The Grant Museum is a haven for the unexpected. As is often the case with the collection (at least, for me anyway), just when you’re expecting to see an animal that you feel fairly au fait with… the museum presents you with specimens that are: dissected, bisected, exploded, stained, crammed with others in a jar or injected with alizarin. So as a case in point, here is the rinsed skeleton of a dolphin foetus.

    LDUCZ-Z3092 - Dolphin Foetus Image

    LDUCZ-Z3092 – Dolphin Foetus

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 242 – the Marsupial Lion

    By Jack Ashby, on 3 June 2016

    Thylacoleo skull cast LDUCZ-Z3167

    Thylacoleo skull cast LDUCZ-Z3167

    1) Large lion-shaped predators were living in Australia until around 50,000 years ago – lion-shaped, but not lions. This is because there were no wild cat species in Australia*, and up until 3-5000 years ago when the dingo arrived with Polynesian traders, all large Australian mammals were marsupials. One such beast was Thylacoleo carnifex, the “marsupial lion”. Alongside this big predator lived “marsupial rhinos” (diprotodons), giant kangaroos, giant echidnas, “marsupial tapirs” (Palorchestes) and giant wombats (Phascolonus). All in all, Australia used to have much bigger animals than it does now.

    2) It is believed that marsupial lions diverged from the branch of the marsupial tree that led to wombats and koalas. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 241 – White-rumped ocean-runner

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 27 May 2016

    This Friday I have a specimen for you that I picked simply because I like it:

    LDUCZ-Y1540_IMG33 - Oceanodromus_leucorhoa-skeleton

    LDUCZ-Y1540 Oceanodromus leucorhoa skeleton

    This is the skeleton of a white-rumped ocean-runner (a literal translation of the scientific name Oceanodroma leucorhoa), but it’s more commonly known as: (more…)

    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 239: Bohemian fossil amphibian cast

    By Tannis Davidson, on 13 May 2016

    LDUCZ-W385 with overlay of illustration

    LDUCZ-W385 Cochleosaurus sp. with overlay of original illustration from Fauna der Gaskohle und der Kalksteine der Permformation Bohmens 1879-1901

    Try to imagine life 310 million years ago.  It is the Carboniferous period – a time when the Earth experienced its highest levels of atmospheric oxygen leading to the growth of vast forests which would eventually be laid down and become the coal beds characteristic of this period.

    Primitive amphibians were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates including the Temnospondyls which were mostly semi-aquatic and typically larger than most modern amphibians. Superificially, most resembled crocodiles with broad, flat heads and had scales, claws and bony body plates.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week celebrates these early amphibians with a lovely example cast from the famous fossil gas-coal of the Czech Republic… (more…)

    Specimen of the week 238: the bisected red panda head

    By Will J Richard, on 6 May 2016

    Hello! Will Richard here. This week I’ve chosen one of our bisected heads. They came to the Grant Museum from the Ferens Institute of Otolaryngology in 1991 and were originally collected (and studied) by Sir Victor Negus who literally wrote the book(s) on noses and throats. I like to think that this specimen was particularly helpful. It’s the…

    LDUCZ-Z2273 bisected red panda head

    LDUCZ-Z2273 bisected red panda head

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 237: The Common Starling

    By Rachel H Bray, on 29 April 2016

    1. A Familiar Sight

    (… and long may that remain so!)

    You may recognise this week’s sociable and rowdy Specimen of the Week: the Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). Starlings are familiar to many Brits, and SOTW blog readers from Europe, Asia, Africa and even those in northern Australia may also recognise this tenacious bird. Despite declining numbers in recent years they remain one of the UK’s most common garden birds. Starlings are especially profuse in southern England, often being sighted in towns and city centres as well as more rural areas.

    Close up of the head of the starling

    A Common Starling – Sturnus vulgaris LDUCZ-Y1547. … The star of the show or in this case the Specimen of the Week Blog.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 236: The Seahorse Skeleton

    By Jack Ashby, on 22 April 2016

    1. Familiar when fleshless

    Can you name some animals that look more or less the same with or without their skin and flesh on? Those which are instantly recognisable from their skeletons alone?
    Crocodiles, penguins and seahorses spring to my mind. Can you think of any more?
    What these unrelated animals have in common – and what sets them apart – is that their skin sits directly on bone, at least on the important bodyparts. But this comes about in different ways.

    Seahorse skeleton and dried seahorse. LDUCZ-V433 and LDUCZ-V434

    Seahorse skeleton and dried seahorse.
    LDUCZ-V433 and LDUCZ-V434

    (more…)