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  • Specimen of the week 292: the horned lizard

    By Will J Richard, on 19 May 2017

    LDUCZ-X86 horned lizard

    LDUCZ-X86 horned lizard

    The Mexican plateau horned lizard (Phrynosoma orbiculare) is a small reptile native to the high plateau of Central Mexico. They are almost spherical, about the size of a 50p coin, and have two characteristic horn-like projections on their snout. They seem pretty harmless… THIS IS NOT THE CASE. As a last resort the tiny lizards can shoot streams of pressurised blood from the corners of their eyes, spraying predators over a metre and half away. At first this seemed the single grimmest thing I’ve ever read about any animal but it got me looking at other disgusting ways species choose to defend themselves. These are a few of my “favourites”…

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    Specimen of the Week 289: Proavis Wax Model

    By Hannah Cornish, on 28 April 2017

    This week we bring you a charming and slightly mad model of an animal that never was. Look, up on the shelf! It’s a bird! It’s a dinosaur! No, specimen of the week is…

    Proavis wax model LDUCZ-X1180

    Proavis wax model LDUCZ-X1180

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    Specimen of the Week 277: Hornbill Skull

    By Dean W Veall, on 3 February 2017

    Black-casqed hornbill LDUCZ-Y1710 Ceratogymna atrata

    Black-casqed hornbill LDUCZ-Y1710 Ceratogymna atrata

    Hello Specimen of the Week fans, Dean Veall here. This week I’ve chosen a specimen that is a bit of an avian showoff in the animal world (**PLUG PLUG**Join us on Thursday 9 March for more showoffs in Animal Showoff **PLUG PLUG**). That is no mean feat for birds, a group of vertebrates that are known for their showoffy-ness. My Specimen of Week is a hornbill skull and I fear I cannot restrain myself from singing the one song hornbills are famous for. Can’t place the song? Read on….. 

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    Specimen of the Week 271: Helmeted guineafowl

    By Dean W Veall, on 23 December 2016

    Dean Veall here. ‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas and all the Museum, not a creature was stirring (on account of them being dead and all), not even a mouse, (because that particular specimen was preserved using an experimental freeze drying technique). Festive greetings blog readers. I’ve chosen the guineafowl for my specimen this week, which has (sort of, ish) festive connections. The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), was often confused with the more familiar guineafowl in the 1600’s when European settlers reached America, due to the the featherless heads and similar colouration of the plumage.  And with that tenuous festive link, this week’s Specimen of the Week is:

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    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

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    Specimen of the Week 259 : Bird of Paradise

    By Jack Ashby, on 30 September 2016

    Less bird-of paradise skeleton. LDUCZ-Y1696

    Less bird-of paradise skeleton. LDUCZ-Y1696

    If natural selection can be summarised as “survival of the fittest”, how is it that some animals have evolved features that seem to be rather unhelpful to their survival? Deer antlers, peacock tails and babirusa tusks do not help an animal to stay alive. Darwin asked a similar question in The Origin of Species, and also came up with an answer – sexual selection.

    Sexual selection is a sub-set of natural selection, where the driving force is not on the animal to survive, but instead to have the most descendants. It is the mechanism by which species evolve weapons that help them fight off rivals; ornaments that make them more attractive to the opposite sex; or behaviours that ensure sexual encounters result in more or fitter babies. One of the best examples of absurdly ornamented animals are male birds-of-paradise. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 256: the pickled pigeon

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 9 September 2016

    Happy Friday everybody! Today I have a slightly gross specimen of the week for you, in the form of this lovely

    LDUCZ-Y1713 Columba livia

    **pickled pigeon**

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    Specimen of the Week 245: The peregrine falcon skull

    By Will J Richard, on 24 June 2016

    Hello folks! Will Richard here bringing you a record breaking specimen of the week. It is part of our Best of the Beasts trail and by the end of this blog I hope you’ll all see why. It’s the…

    LDUCZ-Y1721 peregrine falcon skull

    LDUCZ-Y1721 peregrine falcon skull

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    Specimen of the Week 241 – White-rumped ocean-runner

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 27 May 2016

    This Friday I have a specimen for you that I picked simply because I like it:

    LDUCZ-Y1540_IMG33 - Oceanodromus_leucorhoa-skeleton

    LDUCZ-Y1540 Oceanodromus leucorhoa skeleton

    This is the skeleton of a white-rumped ocean-runner (a literal translation of the scientific name Oceanodroma leucorhoa), but it’s more commonly known as: (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 237: The Common Starling

    By Rachel H Bray, on 29 April 2016

    1. A Familiar Sight

    (… and long may that remain so!)

    You may recognise this week’s sociable and rowdy Specimen of the Week: the Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). Starlings are familiar to many Brits, and SOTW blog readers from Europe, Asia, Africa and even those in northern Australia may also recognise this tenacious bird. Despite declining numbers in recent years they remain one of the UK’s most common garden birds. Starlings are especially profuse in southern England, often being sighted in towns and city centres as well as more rural areas.

    Close up of the head of the starling

    A Common Starling – Sturnus vulgaris LDUCZ-Y1547. … The star of the show or in this case the Specimen of the Week Blog.

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