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  • Specimen of the Week: Week 145

    By Jack Ashby, on 21 July 2014

    Scary MonkeyLike all professional zoologists, I own several sets of novelty animal-based playing cards. One such set is “Dangerous Australian Animals”. This is a particularly good set as in addition to the usual playing card graphics (hearts, diamonds, etc), not only do you get a lovely picture of a Dangerous Australian Animal on each card, but you get a star rating, out of five, of exactly how Dangerous it is.

    The manufacturers would have had to work pretty hard to narrow it down to just 52 Dangerous Australian Animals, given that most lifeforms in Australia are Dangerous.

    Alongside the snakes, crocodiles, spiders, jellyfish, scorpions and paralysis ticks, there is a single bird Dangerous enough to get its own card. With a Dangerous rating of 0.5 stars out of five, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 144

    By Mark Carnall, on 14 July 2014

    Specimen of the Week: Week TwoAre you settled to read the 144th weekly specimen from the Grant Museum? This week I continue my personal mission to highlight the more obscure, complex and confusing animals. From a very early age our exposure to the animal kingdom is focused on the cute, charismatic and large animals, what we call ‘Hollywood animals‘ here at the Grant Museum.  They adorn lunch boxes, T-shirts and fill zoos but the sheer diversity of animal life is so much richer. Why is it that we can all recognise and name specific mammals but lump other huge animal groups under one name- crabs, frogs, spiders etc. Despite the fact that mammal species are but a tiny proportion of all animal species, around 5000 or so out of an estimated 1.5 million described species. It might be that we’re psychologically geared to remembering animals that are like us or perhaps it’s part of our brain wiring to remember animals that can stomp/eat/maul us. Either way, this week’s specimen is one that I’m fairly confident will be new to many of you.

    Prepare to be amazed, this week’s specimen of the week is…

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    Specimen of the Week: Week 143

    By Rowan J J Tinker, on 7 July 2014

    Scary Monkey

    For this week, it’s my turn to step up to the ravenous hoard of knowledge-hungry blog followers (that’s you fantastic lot). But first, before I am ripped apart in a gladiator-esque fashion, I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself; Hi all, I am Rowan. I am currently acting as Visitor Services Assistant on a temporary basis, so my time with you shall be unfortunately short yet sweet. So do drop in and you can see me at the front desk fumbling around in childlike wonder at all the amazingly weird thingies the Grant Museum has to offer.

    I’ve decided to choose a specimen who will always hold a special place in my heart, having been paired with this sullen looking creature during one of my zoological assignments this year (I’ve just finished the second year of my UCL Natural Sciences degree). One of us was tasked to identify the other, yet I’m still unsure as to who (between me and this fine critter) actually did any effective identification as I spent most of my time confusedly prodding and pestering this specimen; a scientific method which I can only professionally describe as “faffing around”.

    Sadly, this specimen is a little lonely having been blessed with an underwhelming greyish-brown and mistakenly ugly appearance. Unfortunately, being tucked away in a quiet corner along with the rather garish cephalopods, annelids and tapeworms (I’m sure they make wonderful neighbours) doesn’t quite help their romantic situation either.

    Without further ado, this specimen of the week is…. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 142

    By Jack Ashby, on 30 June 2014

    Scary Monkey For someone who spends as much time as possible with wildlife I could be accused of being a bit wimpy about it on occasion. Things that are poisonous, slimy, smelly, flappy or pointy don’t worry me much, but when I might encounter things that are really big or really bitey I have been known to back off a bit. Many would argue that this is mostly sensible, but I have been with friends who lean out of the jeep to the tiger or follow the grizzly bear footprints, when I would lean into the jeep or walk away from where the bear tracks lead. Things don’t have to be big AND bitey to incite the conflictual desire to be around wildlife and the fear of it killing me; just being big will do.
    This week’s specimen is big AND bitey. It’s the animal I have to think about the most regularly as I spend a couple of months a year on fieldwork in tropical Australia; it makes collecting water or crossing rivers a bit of an adventure.
    This week’s specimen of the week is…

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    Specimen of the Week: Week 141

    By Jack Ashby, on 23 June 2014

    Specimen of the Week: Week Three Zoology is tribal. To the outside world natural historians present a united front: the geologist is my brother and the botanist my friend. But hidden within are genial rivalries. You might find that those noble folk studying the less sexy animal groups carry a certain disdain for the Hollywood animal fanciers. In palaeontology, fossil coral experts cry themselves to sleep at night when yet another dinosaur story makes the newspapers. In zoology, there is nothing more mainstream than primatology. As a mammal nerd I would certainly be considered on the mass-appeal end of the spectrum, but here I present an unfamous species lost in the shadow cast by a much-celebrated primate in a similar ecological niche. This weeks specimen of the week is…

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    Specimen of the Week: Week 140

    By Mark Carnall, on 16 June 2014

    Specimen of the Week: Week ThreeIt’s the 140th specimen of the week! That’s nearly three years of weekly Grant Museum specimen goodness! In order to celebrate this sort of milestone, and following on from Stacy’s worm theme, this week’s specimen is (probably) the oldest specimen in the Grant Museum. With a little further ado, representing deep time and a group of animals that despite their name aren’t particularly sexy, bordering on underwhelming (that’s the other blog series- Ed.). This week’s specimen of the week is…

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    Specimen of the Week: Week 139

    By Dean W Veall, on 9 June 2014

    Specimen of the Week: Week Two

    Dean Veall here. This week it’s me that is bringing to your attention one specimen from the 68,000 we have in the Museum. When faced with the choice I was bereft, 68,THOUSAND specimens, spoilt for choice is a better way to think about it. With that in mind  I knew I was keen to advance the agenda set out by Mark to address the big and furry vertebrate imbalance (nb. not all vertebrates are either big or furry) . So, my specimen is drawn from one of our invertebrate cases. My specimen also had to be something that has contributed to the ‘Story of Dean Veall‘ . So here it is but, a word of caution, this week’s tale involves mild peril, articulated lorries and temporary blindness. Intrigued, well dear reader, read on, read on. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 138

    By Stacy Hackner, on 2 June 2014

    Scary MonkeyThis week’s specimen is another invertebrate. As a bone researcher filling at the front desk, invertebrates don’t usually hold my attention (they lack bones, you see), but I make an exception for this unassuming annelid-like sea creature. This Specimen of the Week is a wet specimen, greyish in color, with what looks like an eye near its mouth, which means it’s a… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 137

    By Jack Ashby, on 26 May 2014

    Scary MonkeyThe cost that museums have to dedicate to caring for individual objects is determined by a number of factors. If it’s particularly fragile or susceptible to the elements it might need to be housed in a controlled climate or stored in specialist materials. If it’s particularly desirable it may need souped up security measures. If it’s particularly large then museums have a whole feast of troubles – one giant object will take up the same space as dozens of smaller ones; they are very difficult to move; and they require huge amounts of equipment to prepare and store. This is why you don’t get 30m blue whales stored in jars – just think how much alcohol that would take, and how thick the glass would have to be.

    Fortunately for natural history museums, most big animals start off pretty small, so there’s a way we can cheat the system. If we use baby animals in our collections we can avoid the problems caused by largeness, and still have the species represented. This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 136

    By Mark Carnall, on 19 May 2014

    Scary MonkeyDid you know that of the 135 previous specimen of the week posts only 20% of them have featured invertebrates! I’m abusing my specimen of the week writing privileges to do my best to address this grave misrepresentation. Poor invertebrates. This week I’ve chosen a specimen that is part biological material, part model that gives us an insight into how biology was taught in the past.

    This week’s specimen of the week is…

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