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  • Specimen of the Week 299 : The Cephalaspis Model and Mould

    By Tannis Davidson, on 7 July 2017

    LDUCZ-V730 Cephalaspis salweyi model on mould

    LDUCZ-V730 Cephalaspis salweyi model and mould

    This week’s Specimen of the Week pays tribute to one of the most influential natural history model makers of the 20th century, Vernon Edwards. A retired Navy commander, Edwards collaborated with scientists at the British Museum (Natural History) throughout the 1920’s – 1950’s creating reconstructions of extinct animals and geological dioramas.

    His work was based on the latest palaeontological evidence and the combination of accuracy and high artistic quality ensured the popularity of the models which can found in museums, universities and collections around the world.

    The Grant Museum is fortunate to have several painted plaster models made by Vernon Edwards – all of them models of extinct Devonian fish –  as well as one of the original moulds. This blog previously highlighted Edwards’ Pteraspis models but this week’s model specimen is… (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month June 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 June 2017

    It’s the end of June, which can mean one thing and one thing only. It’s time for another underwhelming fossil fish of the month brought to you from the Grant Museum of Zoology. I know, I know it seems like only the day before yesterday since we featured the last totally underwhelming fish fossil but time waits for no fish so we’re back once again. with the renegade master.

    For the uninitiated there’s still time to back out. This blog series aims to look at fossil fish from the Grant Museum of Zoology and ask, why? Why did someone collect this? Why is it still in a museum? Who cares about this stuff and most importantly, is reading this a good use of my time?

    No! No it is not dear reader but contemplating the dry and uninteresting world of a fossiliferous fish might just distract you enough from the knowledge that you and everyone you know is made of meat or offer some comfort to the inevitable fact that the heat death of the Universe will render everything we and descendent generations do utterly pointless.

    I’ve stalled as much as I can, I’m afraid, it’s now time for this month’s underwhelming fossil fish to be unveiled. This is your last chance to get back to contemplating your inherently meaty nature. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month April 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 2 May 2017

    Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the monthly union of a fossil fish and the acknowledgement of how underwhelming this fossil fish is, in holy blogimony, which is an honourable estate, that is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently and soberly.

    This month’s fossil fish, is what we call in the palaeontological trade “a bit of alright”, that is, it is aesthetically rather on the ‘girl you gonna make me sweat’ end of the fossil fish scale. Don’t claim you haven’t been warned as this month’s underwhelming fossil fish is revealed before you as it will be in three, two, one… (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month March 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 March 2017

    It’s the end of March which means only one thing. Well it means many things but in the specific context of this monthly series that explores the underwhelmingest of fossil fish, which to be honest is most fossil fish, from the collection at the Grant Museum of Zoology it means its time for a new one.

    But don’t confuse this perfunctory progress of the seconds, minutes, hours, days and months as an excuse for any kind of celebration. That’s not what we’re here for. Instead we are here to review a not-very-interesting fossil fish, unloved by all but the most…. no, just unloved by all. Why might we do this? Well as the French say, “C’est la fin des haricots”.

    So without further ado, as the Germans say, “Wer weiß, warum die Gänse barfuß gehen”.

    (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month February 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 1 March 2017

    Pinch, punch first (and only) of the underwhelming fossil fish of the month! For those who have made good life choices, until now, underwhelming fossil fish of the month is a monthly rummage through the drawers of the Grant Museum of Zoology, taking a look at life through the lens of an underwhelming fossil fish. Most you’ll have never heard of. Even more of them you wish you hadn’t. But someone, somewhere, sometime thought it would be important to collect, label and archive these underwhelming fossils for perpetuity.

    This series questions if that was a useful thing to do. It also answers that: it probably wasn’t.

    This month, we’ve got a particularly deceptive underwhelming fossil fish of the month for in all images of it, it looks much like an A-Level art student’s still life painting. We’ve been photographing it from almost every angle and the result is always the same. But don’t just take my word for it, famine your eyes on this… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 270: Dalmanites trilobite

    By Tannis Davidson, on 16 December 2016

     

    LDUCZ-J422 Dalmanites caudatus

    LDUCZ-J422 Dalmanites caudatus

    O trilobite, o trilobite
    You must be Dalmanites
    O trilobite, o trilobite,
    You must be Dalmanites

    Your exoskell’s ovoid in outline
    Your frontal lobe is vaulted fine
    O trilobite, o trilobite
    You must be Dalmanites

    Eleven thoracic segments
    Pleural furrows deeply impressed
    O trilobite, o trilobite
    You must be Dalmanites*

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is a jolly little chap, ready to bring the Christmas cheer to Grant Museum blog readers everywhere.  An early gift from Santa’s pack, this fossil has recently arrived at the Grant Museum following a transfer from UCL’s Geology teaching collection. Despite being a bit broken and a bit repaired, this trilobite has received a warm welcome from all who have glanced upon his charming petrified remains. Behold this week’s Specimen of the Week… (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month October 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 October 2016

    Today, Monday the 31st of October 2016, is a very special day and I can’t believe we’ve managed to co-ordinate October’s Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month, a monthly foray into the Grant Museum’s vast collection of underwhelming fish fossils, to go out on the exact date.

    Exactly, precisely on this day 419.2 million years ago, give or take 3 million years, the Devonian Period began marking the beginning of the Age of Fishes.

    Since the Devonian Period, fish have been the most dominant group of vertebrates on the planet, accounting for about half of all described vertebrate species today. Controversially, mammals have tried to claim that the key events in their evolutionary history warrant their own ages, however, the legitimacy of the alleged ‘Age of Reptiles‘ and so-called ‘Age of Mammals‘ are not officially recognised outside of human communities. Today, we are still very much in the Age of Fishes and in order to celebrate such a key date, in typical UFFotM style, we’ve not really gone for anything special at all actually. This month’s fossil fish is of Devonian age, but aside from just being a coincidence, as I’ve just demonstrated, technically we are all of Devonian age.

    Take some time out of your Age of Fishes, #DevonianDay celebrations and have a look at this underwhelming fossil fish. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 253 : Moroccan phosphate fossils

    By Tannis Davidson, on 19 August 2016

    LDUCZ-V1467 Moroccan phosphate fossil label

    LDUCZ-V1467 Moroccan phosphate fossil label

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is not one, but 48 individual specimens which make up a display box highlighting various fossil teeth from Morocco. Display boxes of this sort are not uncommon as they are a visually appealing way to showcase numerous small specimens not to mention an entrepreneurial solution to add value to otherwise inexpensive individual fossils. The Grant Museum’s display box is a rather nice example of this type containing fossil teeth of 19 different species of fish and marine reptiles: (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: July 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 28 July 2016

    Welcome to the 44th underwhelming fossil fish of the month! I did some calculations and that’s 3.6666666666667 years of underwhelming fossil fish. Lesser websites would call that a cause for celebration but for UFFotM, we don’t let such astonishing milestones get in the way of a dry and boring examination of a fossil fish from the Grant Museum of Zoology’s collections.

    As you probably undoubtedly know, London Art Week was earlier this month and the Victoria and Albert Museum won the 2016 ArtFund Museum of Year Award so this month’s underwhelming fossil fish is brought to you in the style of a “gallery-based celebration of pre-contemporary art” in solidarity with our colleagues across the Arts sector and in the hope of an award too.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 242 – the Marsupial Lion

    By Jack Ashby, on 3 June 2016

    Thylacoleo skull cast LDUCZ-Z3167

    Thylacoleo skull cast LDUCZ-Z3167

    1) Large lion-shaped predators were living in Australia until around 50,000 years ago – lion-shaped, but not lions. This is because there were no wild cat species in Australia*, and up until 3-5000 years ago when the dingo arrived with Polynesian traders, all large Australian mammals were marsupials. One such beast was Thylacoleo carnifex, the “marsupial lion”. Alongside this big predator lived “marsupial rhinos” (diprotodons), giant kangaroos, giant echidnas, “marsupial tapirs” (Palorchestes) and giant wombats (Phascolonus). All in all, Australia used to have much bigger animals than it does now.

    2) It is believed that marsupial lions diverged from the branch of the marsupial tree that led to wombats and koalas. (more…)