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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


How To: Be a Cannibal

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 29 August 2013

Do you having any burning desires to have something explained by someone on the inside? This blog series is a How To Guide for the museological musings of a Museum Assistant. The fourth along this (hopefully) long and happy blogging path is…


How To: Be a Cannibal


At first response you may think it’s easy to be a cannibal, you just have to eat someone of the same species as yourself. Technically you would be right, however there are ways and means to accomplish such a task. The natural world is a wealth of cannibalistic techniques and methods that will give the inquisitive mind a plethora of inspiration. Let’s look at a few in the hope of encouraging your inner cannibal to spread its wings.


A number of amphibians are known to practice cannibalism. Cane toads for example are known to eat eggs of their own species when they are just tadpoles. Most importantly it provides them with a nutritional boost, but it is also thought to be done in order to reduce the competition. They seem to be choosy eaters however as they don’t appear to eat their siblings. Researchers believe that as cane toads have a short incubation length as well as a long period between clutches, eating your own siblings would decrease the number of offspring any single female would produce. Awfully well thought out for a tadpole with a brain the size of a pinhead. They both locate and differentiate between eggs using an impressive sense of smell.


Specimen of the Week: Week Seventy-Three

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 4 March 2013

Scary Monkey WeekAfter all the excitement last week of the celebrity Jar of moles, this week I thought we’d look at a lesser known species that quite frankly, blows my zoologist mind. It lives like a fairy tale character but looks like an extra from Alien. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Sixty-Two

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 17 December 2012

Scary MonkeyAlthough this week’s specimen is an amazing looking animal it was in truth, chosen purely because of it’s super cool name which is so much fun to say. It’s scientific name that is. I don’t like to let the cat out of the bag too early as I know you sit on the edges of your seats waiting to hit that button that says ‘more’ which takes you to the big reveal (unless¬† you use one of the many routes onto this blog which doesn’t facilitate that option) but I’m not sure I’ll be giving too much away by telling you the Scientific name for which this animal was elected Specimen of the Week. Do an impression of a snake as you say this word: Ichthyophis. Icccchhhhthyophissssss. Ah, brilliant. If you don’t already know from that, this week’s Specimen of Week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Fifty-Eight

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 19 November 2012

Scary MonkeyNot selected solely because I realised I had seriously neglected the amphibians over the last 57 Specimen of the Week posts, the specimen we are going to discover this week is a super species that attracts many a question from museum visitors. Is it a snake? Is it a lizard? Is it a caecilian? Noooooooooo, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Fifty-One

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 1 October 2012

Scary MonkeyAs a zoologist there is nothing in the natural world that creeps me out. The word anus became part of my everyday vocabulary when teaching undergraduates comparative anatomy and I have dealt first-hand with plenty of what comes out of the anus throughout my years of animal encounters. I used to let my pet snails, which are slugs with better real estate, crawl all over me and there isn’t a creepy-crawly in the world that I would shy away from. However, there is one thing, one animal, one bizarre twist of evolution, which leaves me with a wrinkled nose and squinted eyes as I try to blur the vision in front of me into a more suitably unrecognisable smoosh of distant colours. But, not being one to be prejudice against gross things, you now get to share in my experience. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)