X Close

UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Specimen of the Week: Week 117

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 6 January 2014

A brand new year and a brand new Specimen of the Week, hoorah for both. I learnt the other day that the average (western, I presume) human consumes SIX THOUSAND calories on Christmas Day. That’s ridiculous. Though thinking back to the family festivities in which I partook on Christmas Day just gone, I suspect I may be one of them. So perhaps my New Year’s resolution should be to stick to a diet more like this specimen would have had. It would be much better for me I am sure, though in life, it would also have got a lot more exercise than I do too, and I feel it way too optimistic to think that that is going to change. But then, my skeleton is not quite the same as his/hers, which I feel is an adequate excuse. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week 115

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 23 December 2013

IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Nearly). Two days to go and I already can’t sleep I’m so excited. My house is adorned with hanging decorations, two Christmas trees (one’s tiny in my defence), tinsel on all the shelves, and a very cheap looking Christmas wreath from Poundland purchased after the budget ran out. It is a Christmas wonderland and so, it is no surprise I imagine that you are about to read about a Christmassy animal. But not one you might be expecting. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Oh bizarre gharial

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 5 December 2013





Oh you bizarre gharial you, how I love your features

With the thinnest (relative) snout, of the Animal Kingdom’s creatures

One of the largest species, of all the world’s croc-kind

You’re really quite unique, when all your features are combined

Your legs so weak and measly, can’t get your body off the ground

And your only real defence, is a puny hissss-ing sound (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week 111

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 25 November 2013

Last week I was rewarded for my services to mankind* with a free trip to Edinburgh. You may or may not remember a huge hoo-haa about the zoo acquiring (on loan) a pair of giant pandas from China, at GREAT expense. The hoo-haa was primarily amongst the zoological community but raised many an eyebrow, and “tut”s were prevalent amongst colleagues and friends whenever the subject arose. Well, I decided it was time to find out what was what, and visit these controversial immigrants, worth more than their weight in gold, for myself. Well, the first thing I need to say is “AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW”. I am now completely in love with giant pandas. The second thing is, despite their £600,000 a year loan fee, visitor numbers have apparently risen to such an extent as a result that the pandas not only pay for themselves but have funded two other new animal enclosures in the two years they have been there. Eyebrows raise for different reasons now eh. We don’t have a giant panda (though I informed my Manager of the lucrative result of securing one), but we do have something similar. 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 Forty-Four

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 13 August 2012

Scary Monkey: Week Forty-ThreeAnyone who has seen our recent exhibition It Came from the Stores would now know that past curators have accessioned some pretty strange stuff in to a museum whose banner quite clearly reads ‘zoology’. Maybe with this thought in mind, I was asked recently why we have hominid material in a zoology museum. The definition of zoology is ‘the scientific study of the behaviour, structure, physiology, classification, and distribution of animals’ and animal is described as ‘a living organism which feeds on organic matter, typically having specialized sense organs and nervous system and able to respond rapidly to stimuli’. The un-ticked box for ‘responds rapidly to stimuli’ on my medical would clearly indicate that I am therefore not an animal. However, most? other humans are and so yes, hominids do belong in a museum of zoology. One such specimen in the collection particularly struck me this week, metaphorically speaking, as it lacks enough limb bones to lash out, and I discovered that behind those empty eye sockets is a really interesting history. This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Thirty-Four

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 4 June 2012

Scary Monkey: Week Thirty-FourYou’ve just finished work. You’re tired. Achy. You want to go home. Then comes the inevitable issue ‘what shall we have for dinner’? You want dinner, you’re looking forward to dinner, you know you’ll enjoy dinner, but you just don’t have the energy to think about it; ‘What ingredients do we have’, ‘What will the supermarket be undoubtedly sold out of at this late hour’ (if you have a long commute like me.) Everyone likes to be in control, but just sometimes, it feels nice for someone else to say ‘let’s have this’, and the decision’s done, you can go back to checking your eyelids for holes on the train. In a similar vein, I thought that this week, maybe it would be nice for someone else to help me decide what the Specimen of the Week should be. ARKive (http://www.arkive.org) heroically stepped up and said they’d get their followers to vote for their favourite. EXCELLENT!! So, by VERY popular demand, here is this week’s Specimen of the Week, as chosen by the wonderful public. It is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Thirty-Three

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 28 May 2012

Scary Monkey: Week Thirty-ThreeThis fantastic, furry frugivore peers down at you from a seated position, in between an aye-aye and an orang-utan. Originally from southern and south-east Asia, they are found in a number of countries, though are sadly endangered throughout their semi-deciduous monsoon forest and tropical evergreen forest habitats due to deforestation. As this species rarely comes down to the floor (no, it’s not a sloth), a lack of trees is, well… a problem. This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Twenty-Eight

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 23 April 2012

Scary Monkey: Week Twenty-EightEver heard of the chicken frog? What about the tiger shark? If I asked you what these species plus, say, the turtle dove and the spider monkey had in common, what would you say? Well, there are probably quite a few things when you dig deep (they all have eyes, for example), but superficially, it’s all in the name. Or nameS, as it were. This week’s specimen of the week has an equally split personality, as it is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Twenty-Seven

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 16 April 2012

Scary Monkey: Week Twenty-SevenUp above the cabinet so high, like a reptile in the sky, this week’s specimen of the week is both solid and squishy, it’s both green but white, and it is extremely hard to get down without the help of our 6 and a half foot curator so if you want to see it, you’ll have to look carefully. But it’s well worth the effort. This week’s specimen of the week is…