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  • Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: September 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 26 September 2014

    Welcome to this month’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month, a monthly romp through the uninspiring and underwhelming fossil fish collections here at the Grant Museum of Zoology (and every natural history museum). Normally this blog is a tongue in cheek reflection on the countless fossils that are ‘important for science’ that lay untouched in museums stores. This month however, I’m reporting on some serious science. Apologies to readers who hate that kind of thing.

    Last month a group of top palaeontologists, museum curators and members of the public put their minds together to answer one of the most pressing unanswered questions in science. Where are all the ghosts of animals? There seems to be a disproportionate number of white ladies, hanged criminals and wives of Henry the VIII who cling to this realm but where are the ghosts of all those millions of animals which have lived and died? Why aren’t the prairies teeming with the spectres of dinosaurs? Why isn’t the sea thick with the ectoplasmic apparitions of marine reptiles and fish? Where are the ghostly Carboniferous forests? One reason for this dearth of ghosts may be that it’s mostly humans who have unresolved business or revenge to enact upon the living, other organisms are more pragmatic about the violent nature of life and death. Another untested hypothesis is that you can only see ghosts of your own species.

    This is definitely an area ripe for research but there are no research departments in the UK looking at the issue of missing ghost animals. With this in mind I made an astonishing discovery whilst looking for this month’s underwhelming fossil fish my only wish was there was a month normally associated with the paranormal, mythological and spooky when it would be better to announce this discovery failing that here’s September’s Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month.

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    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: August 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 August 2014

    Welcome welcome to this month’s Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month. The mission of this blog series is to temporarily shine the spotlight on underwhelming fossil fish specimens from the Grant Museum collection. It’s not that the Grant Museum collection is particularly underwhelming, most fossil collections are made up of huge archives of fragmentary, broken and not-particularly-impressive material that have had their heyday in scientific research and are now just taking up space. This month, I’m taking a leaf out of singer-songwriter, actor, record producer, businessman, and philanthropist, Justin Timberlake’s book and I’m bringing SexyBack with this month’s fossil fish. Combing the drawers for suitable specimens this one stopped me in my tracks and got me blushing.

    This specimen is bringing sexy back. The other underwhelming fossil fish of the months don’t know how to act. Warning, this month may not be suitable for those who are of a nervous disposition.

    Take ‘em to the bridge.

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    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: July 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 25 July 2014

    I’ll be honest with you reader, I’m totally phoning in this month’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month. When I pulled last month’s underwhelming fossil fish out of the drawer it looked to me like a small but slender mandible which I lazily attributed to the fish Saurichthys. I then wrote what I can only describe as the greatest underwhelming fossil fish of the month blog post in the world. Confidently, I scheduled it to be published and then actually looked at the specimen and re identified it as the now infamous caudal  fulcrum of Chondrosteus. In a fit of shame, the dark side of science we don’t often talk about, I printed out the blog post, then shredded it and then burnt the shreds. I sent the ashes to the four corners of Earth and then deleted the original blog and rewrote one for Chondrosteus. So this month I am writing about Saurichthys but, as is always the case, the rewrite was nowhere near as interesting, engaging or downright life changing as the original lost version. Suffice to say, this is not the greatest underwhelming fossil fish of the month blog post in the world. This is just a tribute.

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    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: June 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 June 2014

    It’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month again. That wonderful time of the month where we take a look at one of the underwhelming fossil fish specimens in the Grant Museum collection. By staring at and reading about unloved, unspectacular fossil fish specimens I hope to increase global fishteracy as well as explore the question, why do we have material like this in museums? What is the point? What is the value? Maybe we also learn something important about ourselves. Something like, ‘I don’t find bad fish fossils particularly fascinating’. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s the journey not the destination that matters right?

    That’s enough my-little-pocket-book-of-zen. It’s time to unveil this month’s specimen. The sound of anticipation is absolute silence (is it still a sound?). Some of the recent entries have been labelled in the national press* as ‘slightly whelming’ and ‘not as bad as I’d imagined’ so I dug deeper into the fossil fish drawers to bring you something particularly unspecial. No thanks needed, I thank YOU.

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    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: May 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 May 2014

    It’s been a full year since this monthly blog series, exploring the uninspiring and underwhelming fossil fish in the Grant Museum’s collection, featured what scientists call a ‘pretty boy’ specimen. Back in April last year, I featured this astonishingly handsome specimen that kicked up a media storm. The museum was inundated with flowers and fan mail being sent in (please don’t send live flowers to the museum they are an integrated pest management nightmare). I anticipate that this month’s fossil fish will also set hearts a fluttering. I recommend that those of you susceptible to swooning and screaming uncontrollably at a beautiful fossil prepare yourselves accordingly. Once more unto the breach, dear friends!

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    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: April 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 April 2014

    Underwhelming fossil fish: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the monthly underwhelming fossil fish blog. Its mission: to explore strange forgotten fossils, to seek out the uninteresting and the frankly plain, to boldly go where no palaeontologist has gone for hundreds of years.

    DO DO DOO DOO DO DO DOOOOOOO. DO DO DO DO DO DO DOOOOOOOO. Etc.

    This month’s underwhelming fossil fish has nothing to do with Star Trek at all. I just always wanted to open a blog like that. This month’s fossil fish, umm fished out of the fossil fish drawers at the Grant Museum, is distinctly uninteresting if I say so myself. It’s only my commitment to the mission of shining the spotlight on underwhelming fossil fish specimens that got me through writing this one. I cried a single glistening tear for the fossil that time and everybody, probably quite rightly, forgot. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: March 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 March 2014

    I’ve sectioned the otoliths of 2014 and determined that it is March and there’s just enough time for this month’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month.

    For those of you new to the series, all of which can be found in this link, here’s how I’d introduce the TV series, walking slowly through a museum storeroom, gesticulating wildly and oddly emphasizing words (in caps below) in the way that you only see in science documentaries.

    “Join me, MarK CArnall as I eXplore the aMazing WOrld of fossil fish. IN this SERIES we look at the AMAZING, comPLEX worLd of the unsung, unINspiring fossil fIsh that FILL the storeROOMs of the WORLD’s aMazing museums. We’ll look at the WEIrd, the WONderful and the aMazing fossil fish to dRive up the wOrld’s gLObal fishteracy. ONE fossil fish at a time.”

    CUT TO SHOT OF MARK PEERING AT A FOSSIL FISH THEN LOOKING OFF TO THE HORIZON.

    I’ve got a real doozy of a fish for you this month. Prepare to be disappointed. Steel yourself for disdain. Turn that apathy up to 11. (more…)

    Underwhelming fossil fish of the month: February 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 28 February 2014

    It’s often said that seasons come and seasons go but fossil fish are forever*. However, sadly this isn’t as robust as it is commonly believed. Fossil fish, like Hollywood stars and small children need attention and that’s what this entire series is about, turning the spotlight on the nearly-made-its, the also-rans and the generally undistinctive. The mediocre, normal shaped and average sized. The fossil fish consigned to museum drawers and storerooms, their ‘heyday’ 100-odd years ago, consisting of a dry description in an obscure journal by a palaeontologist. Shed no tears for them for they are but rock. They shall go on to the end. You can find them in France, you can find them under the seas and oceans. You can find them on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets,  in the hills; they shall never surrender. Here is yet another, especially underwhelming fossil fish of the month.
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    Underwhelming fossil fish of the month: January 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 January 2014

    It’s the first underwhelming fossil fish of the month for 2014 and in order to usher in the new year I’ve picked a particularly unspecial fossil fish for your eyes only. If you want to be underwhelmed even more then all the UFFoTM posts can be found under this handy tag. First up though, what does this look like to you?

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-BFvhevMmi1Q/TPr116uuHQI/AAAAAAAAAOI/wg6S_ZMH444/s1600/rorschach-test-dog.jpg

    A pretty butterfly?

    Wow. Well from your response I can tell you have some serious psychological issues that need dealing with. The above image isn’t actually a fossilised Rorschach inkblot (named after the comic book character with the same name in the Watchmen). The keen eyed amongst you will have spotted that it’s actually this month’s fossil fish of the ahem month albeit digitally tweaked. You know you’re in for a treat when the most interesting aspect of it is that it resembles an amorphous splodge and tenuously at that. Read on in the vain hope that it gets better than this. (more…)

    The Top Ten Grant Museum Blogs of 2013

    By Jack Ashby, on 9 January 2014

    Happy New Year!
    As well as looking forward to the exciting things we hope to do in the coming year, it is customary to look back at the past one. On Twitter over the past week I’ve been tweeting the best of 2013’s blog – the Top Ten most viewed Grant Museum posts of last year.

    I’ve announced those ranking at 10 to 2 in the charts, and exclusively revealing here that the most popular post of 2013 is…

    Will a museum studies degree help you get a job in a museum?

    Perhaps suggesting that there are many people interested in the incredibly amazing careers in museums, yet are aware of the fact that finding a way in is easier said than done.

    The Top Ten in full: (more…)