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  • Archive for October, 2016

    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. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 263: The fossil brachiopods

    By Jack Ashby, on 28 October 2016

    Some animals are most commonly defined by what they are not. The first thing that most people say about horseshoe crabs, for example is that they are not crabs. Likewise flying lemurs are not lemurs, camel spiders are not spiders and golden moles are not moles*. I kind of feel sorry for these animals that are denied a unique description of their own in this way; their status as being “not something else” is given as the most interesting thing about them. This week’s Specimen of the Week is one such animal.

    Fossil Spirifer brachiopods LDUCZ-O26

    Fossil Spirifer brachiopods LDUCZ-O26

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 262: Little spotted kiwi

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 21 October 2016

    Welcome zoology fans, it’s another installation of the Specimen of the Week and this time we have something I like to call the Badger bird. I call it that not because it has black and white stripes on its face (it doesn’t), but because it’s the closest the bird world has managed to get to a myopic, snuffling, nocturnal, earthworm-devouring, somewhat stinky, mammal. That’s right, it’s the

    LDUCZ-Y1575 Apteryx owenii

    LDUCZ-Y1575 Apteryx owenii skeleton

    (more…)

    Natural Creativity: Sex and Trickery opens at the Grant Museum

    By Jack Ashby, on 18 October 2016

    ‘Natural Creativity: Sex and Trickery’ is our new exhibition – opening tomorrow 19th October –  at the Grant Museum. It explores the myriad of elaborate shapes, sizes and crafty behavioural tactics some animals have evolved in order to survive, reproduce and pass on their genes.

    Through intricate drawings by the artist Clara Lacy, ‘Natural Creativity’ asks the question, why is the natural world so colourful and varied? Lacy has drawn species with highly unusual sexual behaviours or mechanisms for determining sex. It is commonly assumed that animals are born either male or female then reproduce as adults, but things can get much more interesting. Some species change sex over their lifetime, become a grandmother before giving birth, or trick others into thinking they belong to the opposite sex.

    Ocellated wrasse (C) Clara Lacy.

    Ocellated wrasse (C) Clara Lacy.
    The ocellated wrasse has an unusual mating system – different males use different strategies in the attempt to pass on their genes. The genetics of these strategies is being researched at UCL. “Nesting males” are brightly coloured and work to court females, defend nests and care for their young. These males attract the most females, but other males have evolved different routes to mating success.
    Small males become “Sneakers”. They surreptitiously approach Nesting males and females while they are mating, and then release their own sperm into the water.
    Medium-sized “Satellite males” cooperate with a Nesting male, helping them chase Sneakers from the nest. This means that they are tolerated by Nesting males, and spawn while the Nesting male is mating.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 261: Bombus

    By Dean W Veall, on 14 October 2016

    LDUCZ-L3309 Bumblebee (Bombus sp.)

    LDUCZ-L3309 Bumblebee (Bombus sp.)

    Dean Veall here. My specimen of the week is one that was a feature of the summer but will now become a less common sight as the winter approaches. It’s a specimen that represents some 275 species found across the genus Bombus and of which 24 call the UK home. This week’s specimen of the week is….

     

     

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    Specimen of the Week 260: the handy man

    By Will J Richard, on 7 October 2016

    Hello internet! Will Richard here, picking another favourite from the Grant Museum’s shelves. And this time I’ve chosen a close relative and probably the first ape to move beyond punching with rocks. It’s the…

    LDUCZ-Z2017 Homo habilis skull model

    LDUCZ-Z2017 Homo habilis skull model

    (more…)