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  • Specimen of the Week 312: Hundreds of frogs’ legs

    By Jack Ashby, on 13 October 2017

    We have recently opened out biggest ever exhibition: The Museum of Ordinary Animals: The boring beasts that changed the world. It tells the stories of the mundane creatures in our everyday lives that have shaped our society, our science, our planet and even our own biology. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should. Don’t take my word for it though: it topped Time Out’s list of the best exhibitions in London this autumn*.

    Hundreds of frogs legs, arranged into lefts and rights. LDUCZ-W270 and LDUCZ-W271

    Hundreds of frogs legs, arranged into lefts and rights. LDUCZ-W270 and LDUCZ-W271

    We didn’t struggle too much with the issue of what counts as an “Ordinary Animal” – they are the species we find on our streets, in our labs, on our laps and on our plates. The ones that are really a commonplace part of human society and human culture (and we had to take the main geographic focus as our own European perspective). The vast majority are domesticated, but others have become Ordinary simply because of the way we consider them. There was one species that did cause me trouble, and it’s this week’s Specimen of the Week: (more…)

    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 266: Frog skeleton

    By Dean W Veall, on 18 November 2016

    Hello all, Dean Veall here. This week I’m presenting a specimen of the week from a species that is a firm favourite of the UK wildlife scene and, as the Winter starts to creep upon us, one that we are likely to see less of as they remain dormant in nice warm compost heaps or amongst dead wood or leaves. My specimen of the week is the….

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    Bits of animals that are surprisingly the same size – Vol. 1

    By Jack Ashby, on 2 March 2016

    The other day, two skulls were next to each other on the trolley – a capybara and a hyena. One is the world’s largest rodent, from the wetlands of South America, the other is a large carnivore from Sub-Saharan Africa, and as such are not often found together in museums.

    Capybara and spotted hyena skulls, which are surprisingly the same size. (LDUCZ-Z180 and LDUCZ-Z2589)

    Capybara and spotted hyena skulls, which are surprisingly the same size. (LDUCZ-Z180 and LDUCZ-Z2589)

    I was amazed that they were the same size. This inspired me to find other bits of animals that are surprisingly the same size… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 201: The African bullfrog

    By Tannis Davidson, on 17 August 2015

    This week’s Specimen of the Week was chosen from the thousands of possible contenders in a method designed to faciliate a more efficent decision-making process.  Rather than highlighting a personal favourite or an unsung hero, the selection was left entirely to fate – regardless of the consequences.  As it is Week 201 of this blog, why not (roll the dice) choose specimen W201 and see what happens? Will it be fluid or skeletal? Part or a whole? Cute or monstrous? As it turns out, W201 is all of these and more.  This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

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    Specimen of the Week: Week 119

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 20 January 2014

    This specimen needs no introduction but as I need a short paragraph to entice you in, I shall tease you with some enigmatic facts. This species has an intense and masochistic defense mechanism that belongs in a Hammer Horror film from the 1950’s. Its biology seems as otherworldly as the green blood of a Vulcan. Its name may surprise you, but do not be misled, this creature is a Pandora’s box of delicious and disturbing facts. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 116

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 30 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…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 102

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 23 September 2013

    As the weather has become decidedly wetter, my thoughts this week turned to creatures (very much unlike  myself) who might appreciate such things. The obvious train of thought skipped all lesser creatures and went straight to sharks, but I’m not allowed to turn the blog into Sharks R Us, so I went for something else with teeth, attitude, and unashamedly resembling a retro computer game character. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)