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  • Specimen of the Week 267: The sea squirt

    By Jack Ashby, on 25 November 2016

    You can’t choose your family. This adage is undeniable when it comes to talking about our evolutionary history – we cannot choose to become unrelated to certain groups of animals. One of our closer relatives doesn’t look a lot like us. It is effectively a tough fluid-filled translucent bag sitting on the bottom of the sea, spending its time sucking in water and feeding on microscopic particles it finds there. This week’s specimen of the week is your cousin…

    Sea squirt (with three parastic bivalvles molluscs in it). LDUCZ-Q329

    Sea squirt (with three parastic bivalvles molluscs in it). LDUCZ-Q329

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 244: The historic wax flatworm

    By Tannis Davidson, on 17 June 2016

    LDUCZ-D44 Fasciola hepatica

    LDUCZ-D44 Fasciola hepatica

    Since its inception in 1828, the Grant Museum of Zoology collections have always been used for teaching. This continues in the present day and the Museum welcomes students from across UCL for a wide variety of specimen-based practicals, course work and research projects.

    Today we maintain detailed lists of specimens which are used in classes but I’ve often wondered what the early object-based teaching practicals looked like and which specimens were used.

    Fortunately, the Museum has some relevant archives which have identified an extraordinary specimen that had been used in teaching at UCL 130 years ago. It is not only one of the oldest specimens in the collection, but also one of the most beautiful.

    Take a journey back in time with this week’s Specimen of the Week…

    (more…)

    Do some animals look too boring to be in a museum?

    By Jack Ashby, on 22 March 2016

    There is an underlying struggle in museum displays to fulfil two sets of needs. They have to do both to be successful:

    1. To engage the visitors’ interests, desires or questions that are sparked by their own experience of a topic, whether they come pre-armed with that experience, or whether they acquire it during their visit.
    2. For the museum to tell the stories that it has identified as the stories it exists to tell.
    Too boring-looking to display? LDUCZ-T11

    Too boring-looking to display? LDUCZ-T11

    The struggle comes when a display meets one of these needs but not the other. This issue is the same in the worlds of politics and media – do we tell the people what they want to hear, or do we tell them what we want them to know?*

    In natural history museums, we know that people like big animals, for example. Dinosaurs meet both needs above – people want to see them, and museums want to engage people in stories about them. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 202: The preserved coconut crab

    By Will J Richard, on 24 August 2015

    Hello! Will Richard here. Turning my mind (and now yours) to specimen of the week once again. And it’s back to the world of invertebrates, but certainly not microscopic ones. In fact, this invertebrate is bigger than most animals full of backbone. If we use the “Richard theoretical comparison of interspecies violence” (RTCIV) (something which I’m hoping will soon be adopted by the wider scientific community) I’m not sure I could beat it in a fight. This week’s specimen is…

    LDUCZ-H272 Coconut crab (Birgus latro)

    LDUCZ-H272 Coconut crab (Birgus latro)

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 198: Ammonite-ee-hee*

    By Mark Carnall, on 27 July 2015

    In both sad and happy news, I’m off to pastures new at the end of August, leaving the Grant Museum after what will be ten years and off to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Although that’s still a while away yet, the schedule for the specimen of the week writing mean that this will be my last specimen of the week.

    Image of LDUCZ-R16 Asterocera obtusum from the Grant Museum of Zoology UCL

    LDUCZ-R16 A clue to this week’s specimen of the week

    One question I get a lot working at the Grant Museum is “What is your favourite specimen?”. My normal answer is that it changes from week to week depending on what I’ve recently been working on or the specimens I’ve become familiarised with which have been requested for use by researchers. However, I do have a soft spot for this week’s specimen of the week which has been used in teaching and research and hundreds, if not thousands of people have got hands on with this specimen in family and school handling activities. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it hadn’t already been featured in this blog series either.

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

    Specimen of the Week 188: Spirorbis worms

    By Mark Carnall, on 18 May 2015

    Close up of LDUCZ G105 Spirorbis preserved in fluid

    LDUCZ-G105 Care to guess what it is. A sea pen, barnacles?

    If you check our specimen of the week widget, where you can see all past specimens of the weeks the vertebrates, in particular mammals, still dominate despite being a comparatively small group of animals. This week I’m going to focus attention on a far less furry or ferocious invertebrate animal because let’s face it they just don’t get the PR the Hollywood Animals do.

    If you ever whiled away an afternoon at the beach rockpooling, you’ve undoubtedly come across these animals but may not have noticed or recognised them.

    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…)

    Mystery Blob Sponge: It crawls! It creeps! It eats you alive!

    By Eleanor Morgan, on 14 October 2014

    Day four of my sponge exploration (I’m here for ten months as the Museum’s Artist in Residence). There’s one specimen on the shelf that I’ve been saving as a particularly special treat… it looks like an onion, it’s not sealed in a jar, and it doesn’t have a label. It’s in the glass sponge cabinet, but it doesn’t look like the other specimens. Instead, it has a grey doughy appearance, covered in small holes, and it tapers at the top into a dark red spiral. I take it back to my desk for a closer look.

    The Mystery Sponge

    The Mystery Sponge

     

    One of the (many) great things about spending time in the Grant Museum is that I share a room with people who not only know a lot about zoology, but also want to keep finding out more. I like to distract them from their work with questions like, ‘How do things, erm, grow?’. They are very patient. But today, I had a new question: ‘What is this oniony pointy sponge that has no label?’ Was it, perhaps, the broken base of a glass rope sponge? No – a glass sponge is too thready. Was it a fossil?  No – a fossil would be heavier. Then we had a closer look at its pointy top: (more…)

    First day with the sponges

    By Eleanor Morgan, on 1 October 2014

    Close up of Venus' flower basket glass sponge. LDUCZ-B39

    Close up of Venus’ flower basket glass sponge. LDUCZ-B39

    Today I begin an artist-in-residency position at the Grant Museum of Zoology, funded by The Leverhulme Trust. I’ll be working with the Museum’s collection of deep-sea sponges, focusing in particular on their calcareous and glass sponges. These extraordinary animals (not plants, as the Museum’s founder Robert Grant discovered back in the nineteenth century) are composed of calcium carbonate and silica – limestone and glass.

    I will be spending the next ten months here studying the sponge collection with the aim of creating art from the same materials that the sponges use to build themselves. (more…)