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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Specimen of the Week: Week 156 (The Evolution of Life on Land)

By Jack Ashby, on 6 October 2014

Scary MonkeyIt’s the third birthday of the Specimen of the Week blogs, so this one is a special one, tackling one of the biggest events in global history (no exaggeration). It’s also the start of winter term at UCL, and that means that Grant Museum returns to doing the very thing our collections were first put together for – spending the day teaching students about life.

This term every week we have a palaeobiology class where the students learn about vertebrate life from the beginning – looking at each group in turn as they evolve in the fossil record. That has inspired my choice of specimen this week.

As an Australian mammal nerd, it’s often tempting to think that nothing interesting happened between the appearance of multi-cellular life a little over 500 million years ago, and 200 million years ago when the first platypus-ish things appeared*. However, sometimes it’s important to think about where it all began: the fishy animals without which there would be no you, no me, no internet cats, and no platypuses.

This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Eighty

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 22 April 2013

Scary MonkeyYesterday I ran the London Marathon. Today, I cannot walk properly. I’m hobbling around like an old lady who put her zimmer frame in a ‘safe place’ and promptly forgot where that might be. I should explain that I was absolutely unable to do any training due to circumstances completely beyond my control, and it was not in the slightest bit down to the fact that I just never got around to it. That would be ludicrously silly, and being a biologist, I’d never be that naive about my body’s capabilities. Errrr…, yeah. Still, despite the aching thighs, a couple of blisters and a knee that I suspect will never get me down another flight of stairs again, I raised money for charity and got a shiny medal- yay. Wandering (slowly) (and painfully) around the Museum this morning to choose my Specimen of the Week, it got me thinking about how incredible the vertebrate body is, and how we have evolved to be able to undertake outrageous activities such as the London Marathon. I therefore decided to take you back to our roots, and talk about a very primitive species indeed, a sort of ‘where it all began’… if you like. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)