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  • Specimen of the Week 333: The Coal Ball Slides

    By Tannis Davidson, on 9 March 2018

    D.M.S. Watson Coal ball slide

    D.M.S. Watson Coal ball slide

    In celebration of International Women’s Day and the 100 year anniversary of the first women having the right to vote in the UK, the Grant Museum is highlighting specimens in the collection related to women in natural history as well as showcasing female specimens and exploring topics such as gender in zoology.

    As part of UCL vote 100, this week’s Specimen of the Week blog focuses UCL alumna Marie Stopes – campaigner of women’s rights and pioneer of family planning. She is widely known for her controversial and influential book Married Love (1918) – a sex manual for women which popularised the taboo subject of birth control and for establishing (with her second husband Humphrey Verdon Roe) Britain’s first birth control clinic in 1921.

    Stopes’ first passion, however, was science and the Grant Museum is home to a group of specimens associated with Marie Stopes’ significant palaeobotany career… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 332: African Jacana

    By Dean W Veall, on 2 March 2018

    Dear Specimen of the Week readers, Dean Veall here in what is my LAST EVER Specimen of the Week post. If I were to choose my favourite it would definitely be SOTW 199: Jar of… But, enough of the nostalgia. I am picking up the baton from Jack and Hannah and have chosen a specimen from our collection that explore stories of women in natural history, amazing female natural history  and the language of gender in zoology to help mark International Women’s Day on Thursday 8 March. This week I’ve chosen…

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 331: The Glanville Fritillary

    By Hannah Cornish, on 23 February 2018

    It is 100 years since the first women got the right to vote in the UK, and with international women’s day coming up UCL is celebrating with UCL vote 100. At the Grant Museum we are taking this opportunity to explore stories of women in natural history, amazing female specimens and the language of gender in zoology.

    This week’s specimen is rare in the UK, but common in the Grant Museum collection. Its connection to our theme is not to do with the species itself, but to do with the incredible woman who discovered it. Specimen of the week is….

    L1313 (second from top) and other specimens of Melitaea cinxia in the Grant Museum collection

    LDUCZ-L1313 (second from top) and other specimens of Melitaea cinxia the Glanville Fritillary in the Grant Museum collection

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 330: The taxidermy koala – The language of natural history

    By Jack Ashby, on 16 February 2018

    With generic terms like mankind and Homo sapiens (“wise man”), people of all genders are well aware that it is the masculine that has dominated the vocabulary of humanity. Not so in the animal kingdom.

    Across UCL Culture we are celebrating the centenary of some women first getting the vote in the UK in a number of different ways. In the run up to International Women’s Day, here on the blog our Specimens of the Week will be exploring themes like women in natural history, female specimens, and – in this case – the language of natural history. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

    Koalas are one of many Australian mammals that are named after a female attribute. Phascolarctos means "pouched bear". LDUCZ-Z65

    Koalas are one of many Australian mammals that are named after a characteristic that only females have. Their scientific name Phascolarctos means “pouched bear”. LDUCZ-Z65

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 329: Flamingo skull

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 9 February 2018

    Hello, it’s Nadine Gabriel with another Specimen of the Week. This is a skull of an American flamingo, one of the six species of flamingo and the only species that naturally inhabits North America. The fiery-coloured plumage of this long-legged bird is sure to brighten up the dark winter days, so read on to find out more…

    Skull of an American flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber LDUCZ-Y147

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 328: Sawfish Rostrum

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 2 February 2018

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is a guest edition by Front of House Volunteer and UCL Student of History and Philosophy of Science, Leah Christian. Read on as she reveals that her Specimen of the Week is…

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 327: The Fancy Casts

    By Tannis Davidson, on 26 January 2018

    It’s that time of year when a very lucky specimen gets the research equivalent of the red-carpet treatment. Each January, students in UCL’s Collection Curatorship class (as part of their MA in Museum Studies) choose objects from across UCL’s collections to research in a practical project to introduce them to the core skills of a curator: to understand objects and how to research them.

    Last year’s natural history group successfully cracked the mystery of the wax models and were able to not only identify them in their own right (as a developmental series of the freshwater leech Hemiclepsis marginata) but also revealed their place in the history of embryology as a rare surviving series made to illustrate Charles Otis Whitman’s 19th century pioneering work on cell lineage.

    This year, the specimens chosen from the Grant Museum are a set of four beautifully-made painted plaster and ceramic casts which are unique in the Museum… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 326: elephant bird egg

    By Will J Richard, on 19 January 2018

    Hello e-readers! Will Richard here, once again choosing a specimen for you. And to say good bye (I am soon off to pastures new) I’ve gone for a giant. The biggest in its Class….

    LDUCZ-Y1 elephant bird egg cast

    LDUCZ-Y1 elephant bird egg cast

    (more…)

    Specimen of the week 325: The three-striped night monkey skull.

    By Hannah Cornish, on 12 January 2018

    In life this week’s specimen was small, loud and fluffy. It is also an unsung hero of science described by another unsung hero of science. This specimen of the week is…

    Three-striped night monkey skull

    LDUCZ-Z414 Aotus trivirgatus Three-striped night monkey skull

    **The three-striped night monkey skull**

    Eyebrows on fleek

    Three-striped night monkeys have huge eyes, giving them excellent night vision, and are known for their loud calls. They have a distinctive facial pattern with prominent eyebrows which makes them look rather like startled Ewoks. They eat fruit, nuts, flowers, leaves, eggs and insects, and are found in Venezuela and Brazil. This species is also known as the douroucouli, owl monkey, northern night monkey or Humboldt’s night monkey, but more on that later.

    Night monkey, Aotus trivirgatus by Dick Culbert

    Three-striped night monkeys, Aotus trivirgatus by Dick Culbert, CC Attribution 2.0 license.

    Night monkeys in science

    The three-striped night monkey is not considered to be under threat by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). However, related species of night monkey such as Aotus nancymaae are threatened by habitat loss and illegal trade for lab animals and pets, making them vulnerable to extinction. Night monkeys are particularly useful in malaria research as they are one of the few other primates that can be affected by the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, and as such are highly sought-after. In the past this has led to them being taken from the wild in large numbers. In recent years various species of captive-bred night monkeys have been used in research into malaria-induced anaemia and potential malaria vaccines. Thank you night monkeys!

    Night monkey Aotus trivirgatus taxidermy from Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, by David Stang

    Three-sriped night monkey (Aotus trivirgatus) taxidermy from Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, by David Stang, CC SA 4.0 licence

    It was originally believed that there were only one or two species of night monkey, but a series of studies since the 1980s has uncovered a complex picture with up to 18 different potential species based on the number of chromosomes they have. Currently 11 different species are recognised by scientists, but this could well increase in the future.

    Humboldt

    In 1811 Aotus trivirgatus was the first night monkey described by a European scientist. It was named by Alexander von Humboldt, a pioneering German biologist and explorer. Humboldt was one of the first scientists to travel through South America, and is considered to be the father of the science of ecology, although he is nowhere near as famous today as he was in the 19th century. As well as being one of Darwin’s favourite authors and falling out with Napoleon over who had sold more books, Humboldt was also the first person to describe man-made climate change as early as 1800. He is said to be the person with the most species and places named after them, including at least four universities, several mountains, a penguin, and a really big squid.

    Hannah Cornish is the Curatorial Assistant at the Grant Museum of Zoology

    References

    http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/summary/41543/0

    http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/41540/0

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41541-017-0015-7

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11986251

    The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science Andrea Wulf, 2016

     

    Specimen of the Week 324: Serval

    By Dean W Veall, on 5 January 2018

    Happy New Year to all our Specimen of the Week readers, Dean Veall here. After spending much of the last part of 2017 falling down a cat gif/video/meme hole for our event Cats Broke the Internet for The Museum of Ordinary Animals exhibition event programme I have decided to go wild with my specimen choice. Specimen of the Week is…..

    Serval (Leptailurus serval) pelt LDUCZ-Z2776

    Serval (Leptailurus serval) pelt LDUCZ-Z2776

    (more…)