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Specimen of the Week 389: The Monarch Butterfly

LisaRandisi16 August 2019

This blog was written by UCL Culture volunteer Melissa Wooding.

Today’s specimen of the week highlights one of the world’s longest animal migrations at 6,000 miles1– completed by an insect!

This beautiful insect has an internal biology including a sundial 2 compass 3, and a gene enabling it to suppress its own ageing and increase its own lifespan 8 times4… all inside a brain the size of a single sesame seed5.

It’s time to give this mind-boggling butterfly its due moment in the spotlight:

Pair of monarch butterflies

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Specimen of the Week: A Cocktail of Spirits: Fluid Preservation at the Grant Museum

KatieDavenport-Mackey19 July 2019

The Grant Museum contains a staggering number of specimens – the estimate is more than 68,000 – and approximately 10% are fluid preserved specimens. Fluid preservation describes specimens that are preserved in chemicals that protect them from deterioration. There are three components to a fluid preserved specimen:

  1. The fixed specimen: The specimen is injected or ‘fixed’ with a chemical that prevents decomposition by stabilising the protein molecules. The most common fixative is formaldehyde.
  2. The preservative fluid: Most fluid preserved specimens are preserved in solutions of alcohol or formalin, a mixture of formaldehyde and water.
  3. The container: Containers are typically glass jars or bottles sealed with a closure.

Below is a brief description of some of the different preservative fluids that can be found in the Grant Museum.

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Specimen of the Week 381: What Lies Beneath

Tannis M NDavidson17 May 2019

Mystery ceramic pots

Mystery ceramic pots

The fluid store room for the Grant Museum is perhaps an unlikely setting for a hair-raising tale. In it, rows of metal shelves are neatly arranged holding jars of preserved zoology specimens arranged by taxonomy. Order and classification dictate the placement of specimens, and as a whole, the contents of the store are visible, documented and accessible.

Apart from the bottom shelf of the last row. Although a numbered (legitimate) location, it is a wildcard area which houses several large ceramic pots of unknown content. No one knows exactly how and when the pots came to be a part of the Grant Museum collection and because it is impossible to see into them, no none knows what they hold. A few clues exist – the occasional faded label or a more modern post-it note – but as the pots have not been opened and investigated in living memory, their contents are a mystery.

What follows is the first-hand account of the opening of two of the pots. This is a true story.

**WARNING  Graphic images below **

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Plural Animal Wednesdays

Hannah LCornish24 April 2019

This blog is about a centuries-old quirk of the English language that has become a Grant Museum tradition.

If you follow us on twitter (@GrantMuseum) you may have come across Plural Animal Wednesday (#PAW), our weekly tweet about collective animal nouns. These are the words used to describe groups of animals, you are probably familiar with a herd of sheep, a flock of birds and a swarm of insects. There are, however, an astonishing number of obscure and wonderful plural animal names, enough to keep us in tweets for years and years.

#PAW was the brainchild of former Grant Museum Curatorial Assistant Emma Louise Nicholls. It all began on 16th November 2011 with a crash of rhinos (because rhinos are Emma’s favourite), and has continued every week for 7 years. All our plural animal discoveries are kept in a big spreadsheet and we are now approaching 400 entries. So why are there so many? Where do they come from? How long can we keep finding them to boost our social media content? Read on to find out.

A 'crash' of white rhinos Ceratotherium simum by Chris Eason CC-BY 2.0

A crash of white rhinos Ceratotherium simum by Chris Eason CC-BY 2.0

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Specimen of the Week 377: The Lobster Claw

GrahamIsted15 March 2019

Hello and welcome to the next instalment of Specimen of the Week. This week’s specimen is a mighty claw (LDUCZ-H671) from the lobster species Homarus gammarus, also known as the European or common lobster. Lobsters are great, whether you like them to be freely going about their lives at the bottom of the sea or perhaps prepared by a chef on a dish with some butter. Either way, I am fairly certain there are aspects of their lives you are unaware of and this blog will hopefully either make you hungry for more knowledge or perhaps just dinner.

Lobster claw LDUCZ-H671 Homarus gammarus

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Specimen of the Week 371: Reindeer skull

Christopher JWearden14 December 2018

Good morning to our readers, on behalf of everyone here at the Grant Museum I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Today we are looking at an animal which is better known for delivering presents to children around the world than the fascinating aspects of its anatomy. This animal first became associated with a certain bearded-man-with-a-red-hat in 1823, when Clement Clarke Moore wrote the poem ‘A visit from St. Nicholas’(1). Since then the reputation has kind of stuck. Hopefully today’s blog will demonstrate that there is much more to love about these animals than just the work they do on Christmas Eve. Without further ado let us introduce our festive friend all the way from the North Pole, it’s our very own…

LDUCZ-Z2828. Reindeer Rangifer tarandus

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Specimen of the Week 360: The Pinktoe Tarantula

Hannah LCornish28 September 2018

Specimen of the Week this week is a lovely, fluffy little chap. Despite his fearsome reputation, he means you no harm (unless you are a grasshopper, cockroach or small lizard). With spider season upon us and Halloween around the corner it is the perfect time to convince you he’s not-so-spooky….

Tarantula Avicularia sp. LDUCZ-J82

Tarantula Avicularia sp. LDUCZ-J82

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Specimen of the week 356: Lynx skull

Christopher JWearden17 August 2018

Earlier this year BBC released a new documentary series which focused on the lives of Big Cats,  helping viewers learn more about the lives of this fabulous family of animals. The series not only focused on the well-known cats such as tigers and lions, but also on species which don’t typically receive the same levels of attention. I hope this week’s blog can help shed even more light on one of these fascinating animals, it’s the…

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Specimen of the Week 346: The Young Rattlesnake

Christopher JWearden8 June 2018

Good afternoon readers. Today we are bringing you a specimen that is feared by humans and can grow up to eight feet long. This animal is known for the distinctive sound it makes to when trying to deter predators or intimidate prey. It is long, scaly and has a bit of bite, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week 226: Preserved neonatal rat group

Tannis M NDavidson8 February 2016

LDUCZ-Z3086 Rattus norvegicus

LDUCZ-Z3086 Rattus norvegicus

Last year, the Grant Museum undertook a major conservation project, Bone Idols: Protecting our iconic skeletons, in which 39 of our rarest and most significant skeletons were cleaned, repaired and remounted.

This year the focus will be on our fluid specimens. The Grant Museum has roughly 6000 preserved specimens is varying states of condition. Over the course of the next 12 months, the most ‘in need’ specimens will be rehydrated, remounted, cleaned and put in new jars (if needed). One of the newly-conserved wetties is a much-improved specimen which has generated quite a buzz around the Museum lately…this week’s Specimen of the Week is…

 

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