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  • Specimen of the Week 268: The carp – How things got fishy

    By Jack Ashby, on 2 December 2016

    This week in The Conversation I wrote that there is no biological definition of fish that doesn’t involve humans. However the group that most people recognise as the fishiest are the ray-finned fishes. They have fins supported by a series of fine flexible rods. It is the ray-fins that have gone on to be the dominant vertebrates in the seas, lakes and rivers: there are around 30,000 species. This makes them by far the most diverse vertebrate group, and I’d like to explore how that happened. Among them is this week’s Specimen of the Week:

    Common carp skeleton LDUCZ-V543

    Common carp skeleton LDUCZ-V543

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    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month November 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 November 2016

    These are troubling times. Troubling and worrying times. Hope is an endangered species. You can feel it can’t you? Spin the wheel of woe, the only consolation possible is that you guessed correctly what destroyed the privileged civilisation as we know it. Was it climate in the end? Was it hatred? Was it intolerance? It doesn’t matter now of course. You’ll realise then what you suspect now, childish notions of justice winning out in the end were just that. There is no beacon of light on the horizon. In fact, the future is so pitch black in its nothingness that the next step could be the one into the abyss and you wouldn’t even know. So look to the horizon now, it’s petrifying isn’t it?

    Petrification is also the process by which some organic matter exposed to minerals over a long period is turned into fossils. Welcome to this month’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month our monthly foray into the Grant Museum’s underwhelming fossil fish collection on a monthly basis. Month. Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 267: The sea squirt

    By Jack Ashby, on 25 November 2016

    You can’t choose your family. This adage is undeniable when it comes to talking about our evolutionary history – we cannot choose to become unrelated to certain groups of animals. One of our closer relatives doesn’t look a lot like us. It is effectively a tough fluid-filled translucent bag sitting on the bottom of the sea, spending its time sucking in water and feeding on microscopic particles it finds there. This week’s specimen of the week is your cousin…

    Sea squirt (with three parastic bivalvles molluscs in it). LDUCZ-Q329

    Sea squirt (with three parastic bivalvles molluscs in it). LDUCZ-Q329

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    Meanderings in the Vault

    By Martine Rouleau, on 24 November 2016

    Vault artist in residence Kara Chin and Dr Martin Zaltz Austwick from the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis introduce a screening of Magnetic Rose, a Japanese animé that follows four space travelers who are drawn into an abandoned spaceship that contains a world created by one woman’s memories, alongside It’s a Good Life, an episode of the Twilight Zone television series.

    h - Version 2

    This double programme started with an exchange between Kara and Martin about themes found in science, urban planning, art, films and other cultural productions. The essence of this discussion can be found here. Kara Chin is hosting a screening of the Japanese animé Paprika, also discussed here, on the evening of the 29th of November.

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    Specimen of the Week 266: Frog skeleton

    By Dean W Veall, on 18 November 2016

    Hello all, Dean Veall here. This week I’m presenting a specimen of the week from a species that is a firm favourite of the UK wildlife scene and, as the Winter starts to creep upon us, one that we are likely to see less of as they remain dormant in nice warm compost heaps or amongst dead wood or leaves. My specimen of the week is the….

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    Going under the coat of cats

    By Dean W Veall, on 17 November 2016

    Dean Veall here. Whether it’s our late openings, comedy cabaret Animal Showoff, improvised opera, audio cinemas or film nights our events programme aims to entertain, inspire and surprise audiences. Last Wednesday we worked with researchers from UCL and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) to present an event that gave audiences a unique insight into cutting edge research on the evolution of cat anatomy and movement. In Wild Cats Uncovered we took members of the public behind the scenes into the dissection room to discover more about one of the natural world’s fastest predators.

    Team cat performing the cheetah post-mortem in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre at the RVC

    Team cat performing the cheetah post-mortem in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre at the RVC

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    Our 20th Annual Grant Lecturer: Prof. Dame Georgina Mace

    By Dean W Veall, on 15 November 2016

    Last Friday (11 November) was our beloved founder Robert Edmond Grant‘s birthday. Should he have lived (and defied nature) he would have been the grand age of 223. Every year for the last 20 years, since the Museum opened to the public in 1997, we have celebrated REG’s birth with an annual lecture celebrating the great figures of contemporary biology, natural history and history of science. In the past we have had Stephen Jay Gould, Janet Brown, Steve Jones and James Moore give our lecture and most recently UCL Professors such as Anjali Goswami, Paul Upchurch and Helen Chatterjee. This year we are very lucky to have arguably one of the country’s leading ecologists give our 20th Grant Lecture…..

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    Specimen of the Week 265: Termite collection

    By Tannis Davidson, on 11 November 2016

    The story of this week’s Specimen of the Week begins in 1862, in Prague, with the establishment of a small business offering teaching materials to aid in the study of natural sciences.  The business grew, and by the late 1880’s, its proprietor Václav Frič was procuring zoological specimens from around the world (1).  He accomplished this through contacting traveller-collectors such as fellow Czech Enrique Stanko Vraz – the man who collected this week’s highlighted specimens…

    LDUCZ-L71, L72, L73, L75, L77, L78, L80, L82 Termes bellicosus

    LDUCZ-L71, L72, L73, L75, L76, L77, L78, L80, L82 Macrotermes bellicosus

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    Specimen of the week 264: the golden hamster

    By Will J Richard, on 4 November 2016

    Hello e-people. Will Richard here and it’s specimen of the week time again. And this week I’ve gone for a chubby-cheeked favourite. There are about 400,000 of these charming little creatures kept as pets in the UK alone. That’s right it’s the…

    LDUCZ-Z713 golden hamster skeleton

    LDUCZ-Z713 golden hamster skeleton

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    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month October 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 October 2016

    Today, Monday the 31st of October 2016, is a very special day and I can’t believe we’ve managed to co-ordinate October’s Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month, a monthly foray into the Grant Museum’s vast collection of underwhelming fish fossils, to go out on the exact date.

    Exactly, precisely on this day 419.2 million years ago, give or take 3 million years, the Devonian Period began marking the beginning of the Age of Fishes.

    Since the Devonian Period, fish have been the most dominant group of vertebrates on the planet, accounting for about half of all described vertebrate species today. Controversially, mammals have tried to claim that the key events in their evolutionary history warrant their own ages, however, the legitimacy of the alleged ‘Age of Reptiles‘ and so-called ‘Age of Mammals‘ are not officially recognised outside of human communities. Today, we are still very much in the Age of Fishes and in order to celebrate such a key date, in typical UFFotM style, we’ve not really gone for anything special at all actually. This month’s fossil fish is of Devonian age, but aside from just being a coincidence, as I’ve just demonstrated, technically we are all of Devonian age.

    Take some time out of your Age of Fishes, #DevonianDay celebrations and have a look at this underwhelming fossil fish. Read the rest of this entry »