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  • Specimen of the Week: Week 162

    By Mark Carnall, on 17 November 2014

    Scary Monkey

    Cthulhu the ammonite lovingly stroked Mary Sue the trilobite on the cephalon with his tentacles.

    “I love you Mary Sue.” Exclaimed Cthulhu, expelling a distressed squirt from his hypernome.

    “Why won’t our parents let us be together?” Asked Mary Sue, the thousands of lense units unblinking in her holochroal eyes.

    ” So what if I’m a trilobite and you’re an ammonite? Our love is true. Why can’t we be together?”. She flexed her gnathobases in frustration.

    “It’s this senseless war…” Suddenly Cthulhu was cut off by a large shadow descending on the pair…

    This is an extract from my (currently seeking a publisher) fanfiction novel Ancient War about an ammonite and a trilobite that, despite their biological differences, find love in the middle of an all out war between their families. It was inspired by my choice of specimen of the week, an innocuous little chap from the bottom of case 9. This week’s specimen of the week is..

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    Specimen of the Week: Week 161

    By Tannis M N Davidson, on 10 November 2014

    Scary Monkey proudly displaying his poppyLast week, my colleague Jack Ashby wrote in effort to promote the under-promoted in the animal kingdom –the non-superstars that do not, at first glance, appear to be particularly special or worthy of fame and fortune. This week I would like to advance this theme by highlighting an animal that is often overlooked as not only a superstar but a veritable animal superhero.

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

    Specimen of the Week: Week 160

    By Jack Ashby, on 3 November 2014

    Scary MonkeyWe all know that in this world of competing stimuli, an animal really needs to work hard to get people interested, achieve celebrity status in the media, and ultimately realise the dream that all animals hold – to star their own bank, crisps or cereal advert.

    We trade in animal USPs every day… We talk about the biggest/smallest/rarest/fastest/ugliest/deadliest, and this is what gets aspiring animal stars into the And Finally… sections of the news.

    The A-Team of animal superlatives is well established, and so today I am acting (for a commission) to promote the under-promoted of the animal world. This Australian marvel has a long list of -est”s to its name.

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

    Specimen of the Week: Week 159

    By Dean W Veall, on 27 October 2014

    Scary MonkeyDean Veall here. My turn on SoTW has come round again and this week I have chosen a specimen that belongs to the group that is a favourite of museums to hang from ceilings, in fact one of my first museum memories was as a young curly haired child wandering around Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museums Wales (AC-NMW), National Museum Cardiff, and encountering one dangling from the ceiling. There’s a hint of my choice there, museums love to suspend things from the ceiling and the top favourites tend to be whales, seals and birds, (we like to break the mould here at the GMZ and have instead chosen to suspend our seal from the balcony). My specimen this week also comes from a group of animals that date back a phenomenal 220 million years. Some individuals of the group that this week’s specimen belongs to are the longest lived animals on the planet. You should be warned this week’s blog contains some cute images of young versions of this species. This week’s specimen is……..

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    Specimen of the Week: Week 158

    By Will J Richard, on 20 October 2014

    Scary MonkeyHello! Will Richard here. I’ve just started working in the Grant Museum and for my first ever Specimen of the Week I thought I’d kick things off with a real “teddy bear” of the treetops. Of course, it’s not actually a bear. And nor, in real life, would it enjoy a cuddle. Shame really.

    So… why did I pick this imposter? Well firstly, I like underdogs. And you don’t get more underdog than this. Secondly, I’ve spent some time with them myself and I’ve always been told to “write about what you know”. And thirdly, of all the things I’ve come across so far in the Grant Museum, this skeleton just happens to be my favourite.

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

    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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    Specimen of the Week: Week 156 (The Evolution of Life on Land)

    By Jack Ashby, on 6 October 2014

    Scary MonkeyIt’s the third birthday of the Specimen of the Week blogs, so this one is a special one, tackling one of the biggest events in global history (no exaggeration). It’s also the start of winter term at UCL, and that means that Grant Museum returns to doing the very thing our collections were first put together for – spending the day teaching students about life.

    This term every week we have a palaeobiology class where the students learn about vertebrate life from the beginning – looking at each group in turn as they evolve in the fossil record. That has inspired my choice of specimen this week.

    As an Australian mammal nerd, it’s often tempting to think that nothing interesting happened between the appearance of multi-cellular life a little over 500 million years ago, and 200 million years ago when the first platypus-ish things appeared*. However, sometimes it’s important to think about where it all began: the fishy animals without which there would be no you, no me, no internet cats, and no platypuses.

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

    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…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 154

    By Dean W Veall, on 22 September 2014

    Scary Monkey Hello new readers, occasional fans and dedicated followers of Specimen of the Week. Dean Veall here. My other specimens here have been all about the underdog, the specimens that do not get much attention because they are of the invertebrate persuasion or are stuffed away in a drawer. But this week I am breaking away from this and going all out popular with a specimen that features heavily in our promotional material and one loved by our visitors, selling out, some might suggest. To those people I say no. No, I am staying true to my beliefs with this week’s specimen. This specimen although popular is very much a minority within our collection it’s  just one of only 73 taxidermy specimens we have in a collection of 68,000 and it is one that represents a group that has been terribly misunderstood taxonomically.

     This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

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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…)