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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

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    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…

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    Specimen of the Week: Week 171

    By Mark Carnall, on 19 January 2015

    Scary MonkeyThis week’s Specimen of the Week is one of those animals that is easier to talk about in terms of what it isn’t rather than what it is. In a previous blog post I’ve written about the fun with naming and language that happens when common names meet scientific classifications and how we end up with eels which aren’t eels, crabs which aren’t crabs and the brilliantly named flying lemurs which don’t fly and aren’t lemurs.

    When it comes to fossil organisms there’s often even more fun to be had as it’s very rare that fossil groups are given common names so we end up having to refer to them by what living animals they aren’t or nearly are. This week’s specimen of the week is one of those organisms, I’ll do my best to try to explain what it is below.

    This week’s specimen of the week is…

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    An imaginary conversation with our former curator

    By Jack Ashby, on 19 December 2012

    lankester in museumIn his role as Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy at UCL from 1875-1890, E. Ray Lankester was responsible for the collection which we now call the Grant Museum of Zoology. Lankester was an extremely influential figure in evolutionary biology, and after UCL went on to a professorship at Oxford and then to direct the Natural History Museum. Something else that people like to say about him is that he was described as having “a head like a benevolent biscuit tin”.

    When you visit the Grant Museum today you’ll see his influence all over the place – he put together the first formal cataloguing system (though his catalogue is a bit confusing as it includes labels for specimens he wanted to acquire as well as things that actually existed, and there is no way of telling which is which). Although he brought so many specimens into the Museum (including the famous Blaschka glass models), his most famous specimens are of the horseshoe crabs. He used the dissected specimen on display to demonstrate that they were related to arachnids, rather than crabs.

    Why am I talking about Lankester? (more…)