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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Specimen of the Week 331: The Glanville Fritillary

By ucwehlc, on 23 February 2018

It is 100 years since the first women got the right to vote in the UK, and with international women’s day coming up UCL is celebrating with UCL vote 100. At the Grant Museum we are taking this opportunity to explore stories of women in natural history, amazing female specimens and the language of gender in zoology.

This week’s specimen is rare in the UK, but common in the Grant Museum collection. Its connection to our theme is not to do with the species itself, but to do with the incredible woman who discovered it. Specimen of the week is….

L1313 (second from top) and other specimens of Melitaea cinxia in the Grant Museum collection

LDUCZ-L1313 (second from top) and other specimens of Melitaea cinxia the Glanville Fritillary in the Grant Museum collection


Specimen of the Week 284: Horse Bot Fly Larvae

By ucwehlc, on 24 March 2017

As the newest member of the Grant Museum team I wanted my first specimen of the week to be a corker, so I chose something special from behind the scenes. If you are of a nervous disposition you may wish to look away now because this week’s specimen is…

Bot fly on stomach lining (Gasterophilus sp.) LDUCZ-L3311

Bot fly on stomach lining (Gasterophilus sp.) LDUCZ-L3311


Specimen of the week 279: Jar of mole (crickets)

By Will J Richard, on 17 February 2017

Hello! Will Richard here, blogging again for you all. And this time I’ve chosen a specimen that I can’t believe isn’t better known. Everybody loves a jar of moles… so how about a jar of mole crickets?

LDUCZ-L45 European mole cricket

LDUCZ-L45 European mole cricket


Specimen of the Week 194: The Death’s-Head Hawkmoth

By zcqsrti, on 29 June 2015

The pinned Death's-head hawkmoths. LDUCZ-L1438

The pinned Death’s-head hawkmoths. LDUCZ-L1438

I stand before you to beseech absolution. I confess to my unholy bias in favour of the darker and somewhat supernatural beings of the museum, yet I seek no forgiveness. I will endeavour to one day improve this, and talk about some adorable abomination with darling little eyes and a twee silken coat, but to be honestly forthright, I recoil at the thought. I’ve always found delight in those lacking in vertebral column, often simply regarding the spine itself as excess baggage, hence I rejoice to formally announce that I’m keeping with the creepy invertebrate vibe.

This week’s specimen is most agreeable to the palate of those with a less cute-inclined disposition; with the markings of a demon and the scent of bees, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week 177

By Will J Richard, on 2 March 2015

Scary monkeyHello Grant-fans. Will Richard here. Bringing you this week’s specimen. And just like last time (and the time before etc.) the dilemma is… what to choose? So far I’ve reported on three mammals and a bird. All full of backbone.

So, I suppose I’ll have to bite the bullet, but not the bullet ant, and give a nod to the better half (more like nine and a half tenths) of the animal kingdom.

The invertebrates.

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

Specimen of the Week: Week 126

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 10 March 2014

This week’s specimen is a big fan of travel, loves its food, prefers to live in warm environments, enjoys hanging out in restaurants, and hates the cold with a passion. This is all a perfect description of myself. But don’t worry, given that this blog is set to include pictures of the specimen in question, I thought I’d spare you and make it about something else, a specimen with whom I happen to have a lot in common. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

How To: Be a Cannibal

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 29 August 2013

Do you having any burning desires to have something explained by someone on the inside? This blog series is a How To Guide for the museological musings of a Museum Assistant. The fourth along this (hopefully) long and happy blogging path is…


How To: Be a Cannibal


At first response you may think it’s easy to be a cannibal, you just have to eat someone of the same species as yourself. Technically you would be right, however there are ways and means to accomplish such a task. The natural world is a wealth of cannibalistic techniques and methods that will give the inquisitive mind a plethora of inspiration. Let’s look at a few in the hope of encouraging your inner cannibal to spread its wings.


A number of amphibians are known to practice cannibalism. Cane toads for example are known to eat eggs of their own species when they are just tadpoles. Most importantly it provides them with a nutritional boost, but it is also thought to be done in order to reduce the competition. They seem to be choosy eaters however as they don’t appear to eat their siblings. Researchers believe that as cane toads have a short incubation length as well as a long period between clutches, eating your own siblings would decrease the number of offspring any single female would produce. Awfully well thought out for a tadpole with a brain the size of a pinhead. They both locate and differentiate between eggs using an impressive sense of smell.


Specimen of the Week: Week Eighty-One

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 29 April 2013

Scary MonkeySometimes I think I’d quite  like to be an insect. No bills, no social anxieties or inadequacies, I wouldn’t mind the commute to work because I would of course make sure I was a species that could fly, and best of all I could eat all day and no-one would care. I’d have no concerns any more intense than ‘which of these delightful shrubs shall I eat today’ or ‘shall I sit here to enjoy the sun or shall I hop over there to enjoy it?’. Brilliant. Unfortunately I’m not an insect. But this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Forty-Six

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 28 August 2012

Scary MonkeyI think it is super to be a pacifist, to cause no harm to the people around you. But this life-strategy may make you an easy target for people on the ‘meaner side of the coin’, and we don’t want that. So how do you ensure a little longevity without kicking your morals to the curb? May I advise deception. There is no need to be aggressive if other people are afraid of you anyway, right? The animal kingdom is full of mimics whose full repertoire of naughtiness extends only as far as pretending to be hard. Be it the sounds, colours, and/or smells of animals with much meaner personalities or hardcore weaponry. One such mimic caught my attention in the Museum. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Thirty

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 7 May 2012

Scary Monkey: Week ThirtyOn the basis of the wonderfully, hot, sunny, and bright bank holiday weekend we are having (I really hope you’re not the kind of audience that doesn’t appreciate extreme levels of sarcasm) I thought we should celebrate one of the most summery animals known to Britain. Never seen in winter (unless it is having a really bad day), this species is furry, beautiful, and is most often seen enjoying the flowers in the sunshine of summer. This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)