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Specimen of the Week: Week 145

Jack Ashby21 July 2014

Scary MonkeyLike all professional zoologists, I own several sets of novelty animal-based playing cards. One such set is “Dangerous Australian Animals”. This is a particularly good set as in addition to the usual playing card graphics (hearts, diamonds, etc), not only do you get a lovely picture of a Dangerous Australian Animal on each card, but you get a star rating, out of five, of exactly how Dangerous it is.

The manufacturers would have had to work pretty hard to narrow it down to just 52 Dangerous Australian Animals, given that most lifeforms in Australia are Dangerous.

Alongside the snakes, crocodiles, spiders, jellyfish, scorpions and paralysis ticks, there is a single bird Dangerous enough to get its own card. With a Dangerous rating of 0.5 stars out of five, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week 141

Jack Ashby23 June 2014

Specimen of the Week: Week Three Zoology is tribal. To the outside world natural historians present a united front: the geologist is my brother and the botanist my friend. But hidden within are genial rivalries. You might find that those noble folk studying the less sexy animal groups carry a certain disdain for the Hollywood animal fanciers. In palaeontology, fossil coral experts cry themselves to sleep at night when yet another dinosaur story makes the newspapers. In zoology, there is nothing more mainstream than primatology. As a mammal nerd I would certainly be considered on the mass-appeal end of the spectrum, but here I present an unfamous species lost in the shadow cast by a much-celebrated primate in a similar ecological niche. This weeks specimen of the week is…

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Specimen of the Week: Week 116

Emma-Louise Nicholls30 December 2013

Only two days left to conjure up all manner of good intentions and promises to yourself that you’ll be determined to keep until the first slip and then give up until the following New Year. Last year my New Year’s resolution was to start at one end of my (many) bookshelves and read my way through my ‘library’. I did pretty well, until I got to a boring book and then tailed off. In retrospect, I should have thrown the book out and kept going. This year I think I’ll make life a little easier on myself and make the resolution to watch more DVDs. With 48 hours left until the resolutions need to be made, here is a suitably New Year’s Eve-y specimen to get you in the mood. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

It’s Australia v England, in battle over Stubbs masterpieces

Jack Ashby8 November 2013

In September I wrote a post about two paintings by George Stubbs – of a kangaroo and a dingo – which had been placed under an export bar to allow time for the National Maritime Museum to raise funds to save them for the nation. This was because they had been sold to an oversees buyer.

This week we learned that the campaign was successful. Had it not been, the paintings would have been bought by the National Gallery of Australia. They are understandably disappointed. I was asked by The Conversation (“an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community”) to update my article for them, covering the Australian case for their acquisition. (more…)

Happy 77th Thylacine Day: Culls Against Science

Jack Ashby7 September 2013

7th September is an incredibly important day in Australia. I’m not talking about the general election. It’s the day, in 1936, that the last known thylacine died of exposure, locked out of its cage in a zoo in Hobart. In Australia, this is marked by National Threatened Species Day. In the Grant Museum, it’s Thylacine Day.

Thylacine at ZSL

Thylacine: A species that was alive within living memory

Thylacines – the half stripy wolf-shaped marsupials – are a regular feature on this blog because we have a pretty amazing collection of them. Two years ago today I made the point that their deliberate extinction at the hands of a cull promoted by the farming lobby was being echoed by a proposed badger cull here in the UK. In this past month those proposals have become reality, and I’m returning to the story today. (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Seventy

Emma-Louise Nicholls11 February 2013

Scary Monkey The decision making for this week’s Specimen of the Week went along these lines:
Emma: ‘Can I do another shark?’
Manager: ‘No’
Emma: ‘How about a dogfish?’
Manager: ‘I’m not stupid’
Emma: ‘What do you mean?’
Manager: ‘Dogfish are a species of shark’
Emma: ‘Well what do you suggest then?’
Manager: ‘How about a marsupial?’
Emma: ‘Fine. But I’m writing this conversation as the introduction so I still get to mention sharks’
Manager: ‘I’ll edit it out’
Emma: ‘Not if I publish it first, mwah hah haaaaaaaah’

This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

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Specimen of the Week: Week Sixty-Eight

Emma-Louise Nicholls28 January 2013

Scary MonkeyThis week ladies, gentlemen, boys and girls, we are going to discover what makes shelf six in Vertebrate Case 17 tick. It is not the wombat skeleton that dominates the horizon, nor the 20 or so tiny brush-tailed possum babies that are oh so cute until you look closely and realise that disturbingly many of them are missing their head. It could be the marsupial moles which are so gosh darn pretty with their golden fur (not to be confused with the actual golden moles which are around the other side because yes, they are not related). Nope, it is in fact a jar containing a lovely creature that sits nonchalantly at the back, watching passers by with an air of ambivalence. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Fifty-Nine

Emma-Louise Nicholls26 November 2012

Scary Monkey WeekI heard on a number of occasions during the Olympics that winners of Bronze medals were happier than those who won silver, due to the irritance of only just being pipped to the face-on-a-stamp and postbox-painted-gold in your honour. True or not, when palaeontology finally becomes a sport and I thus swoop into the Olympic Village of wherever it is at the time, I can unequivocally say that I will be ecstatic with any colour of medal. The species featured in Specimen of the Week today not only comes an agonising second in the tallest of its group competition, but also suffers the inconvenience of having a smaller South American cousin that looks similar enough to be regularly mistaken for it and thus further ruining its street cred. The specimen chosen for this week’s blog is one of silver medal stature, and almost has a face to match (in terms of colour, not looks). They’re big (but not the biggest), they’re bad tempered, and they (would) talk with an Australian accent, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Twenty-Nine

Emma-Louise Nicholls30 April 2012

Scary Monkey: Week Twenty-NineA favourite in my household when I was growing up, these South-Pacific mammals are pleasant once you get to known them despite their bad reputation, only really fight when it comes to women or food, and don’t reach maturity until they are almost middle aged. This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)