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Specimen of the Week 233: The mouse-deer skeleton

Will JRichard1 April 2016

Hello Grant-fans! Will Richard again, taking my turn to bring you specimen of the week. Here goes…

LDUCZ-Z523 Mouse-deer skeleton

LDUCZ-Z523 mouse-deer skeleton

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Specimen of the Week 230: The Beaver Skull

JackAshby11 March 2016

North American beaver skull. LDUCZ-Z2731

North American beaver skull. LDUCZ-Z2731

It is purely coincidence that Specimen of the Week 230 – the number most associated with going to the dentist [tooth hurty. Apologies.] – is an animal famous for the incredible feats of its teeth.

Beavers can cut down huge trees, owing to the superb adaptations of their skulls.

Like squirrels, but at the bottom of trees

As members of the squirrel-like rodent group Sciuromorpha, beavers have massive, ever-growing, self-sharpening front teeth. Rodent incisors are often differently coloured on the front and back. The orange substance on the front side is super hard enamel, while the back is unusually exposed dentine (a softer material which fills the inside in most teeth). When rodents bite on hard material, or even by biting their top teeth against their bottom teeth, the dentine erodes away at a faster rate than the enamel, essentially sharping the “blade”. (more…)

The Mystery of the Giant Golden Mole Skull

Elizabeth KPursey16 February 2016

A mystery skull in bag – ready to identify. LDUCZ-Z850

A mystery skull in bag – ready to identify. LDUCZ-Z850

Crawling blindly through tunnels under layers of dead leaves in the coastal forests of South Africa lives the giant golden mole. Most people don’t know it is there, and neither did I until I was presented with the skull of one this October. As this species lives exclusively in a tiny region on the Eastern Cape – most people have definitely never seen one! Who would have guessed that identifying this skull would be the start of my newfound love for these unlikely animals. (more…)

Specimen of the Week 218: The Sugar Glider

JackAshby14 December 2015

Preserved sugar glider. Petaurus breviceps. LDUCZ-Z2171

Preserved sugar glider. Petaurus breviceps. LDUCZ-Z2171

Climbing up things can be challenging, be it hills, cliffs, trees or stairs. Climbing down, however is arguably far more difficult – your eyes are further from your hand-and foot-holds, your body is pointed in the wrong direction and gravity combines with momentum to pull you down faster than you’d like.

Due* to the many drawbacks of climbing downwards, gliding has evolved many times in the animal kingdom – there are many species which have flaps of skin which form parachutes to slow their descent. Their names often contain the word “flying”, but true flight requires flapping wings. This post is not about flying lemurs, flying frogs, flying dragons, flying snakes, the four-winged dinosaur Microraptor, or even flying squirrels. This week’s Specimen of the Week is the far more accurately named… (more…)

Specimen of the Week 211: A Cheeky Chappie – The Lowland Paca

Paolo WViscardi26 October 2015

Hi, I’m Paolo and this is my first blog post as Curator of the Grant Museum of Zoology, picking up the reins from Mark Carnall. I’ve chosen this specimen of the week based simply on the fact that it has very interesting cheeks – or ‘zygomatic plates’ if you speak zoologese.

LDUCZ-Z195_Cuniculus-paca

Lowland paca skull Cuniculus paca LDUCZ-Z195

This gnarly-cheeked Specimen of the Week is…

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Specimen of the Week 210: the fin whale foetus

Will JRichard19 October 2015

Hello! Will Richard here, bringing you your weekly dose of specimen. And this time it’s a real giant. I did a quick calculation and the average fully-grown version is equal to 875 of me. That’s 10 more than the “maximum capacity” of a District line tube train, 10 and a half packed double-decker buses or 175 full cars. So in conclusion… it’s lucky that fin whales don’t commute. This week’s specimen is…

LDUCZ-Z527 fin whale foetus

LDUCZ-Z527 fin whale foetus

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Specimen of the Week 208 (Four years!): The four-eyed opossum

JackAshby5 October 2015

Preserved four-eyed opossum.  LDUCZ-Z1596

Preserved four-eyed opossum.
LDUCZ-Z1596

As those of you who can divide 208 by four – or have read this post’s title – will have realised, four years ago this week Specimen of the Week was born.

The main aim of this series is to shed light on parts of the collection that you might not spot among the thousands of specimens in our dense displays. Occassionally we do want to give extra attention to a “hero” specimen, but by and large it’s the also-rans that get featured.

Some might think that this honour should be reserved for animals at the lower end of the human-centred pecking order (fish and invertebrates, for instance), but there are many mammals that go unloved too. This one is no exception. It is so unloved that its Wikipedia page comprises of only five lines.

This week I’m featuring the first animal that came to mind when I tried to think of something related to the blog’s age: Four.

This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week 206: The leopard skull

Will JRichard21 September 2015

LDUCZ-Z334 leopard (Panthera pardus) skull

LDUCZ-Z334 leopard (Panthera pardus) skull

Hello! Will Richard here. Taking my turn to bring you another specimen of the week. And what can I say about this week’s specimen?

Very little… on with the blog!

This week’s specimen is…

**the leopard skull**

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Specimen of the Week 204: The ringtail skeleton and tail skin

JackAshby7 September 2015

The ringtail skeleton. Bassariscus astutus. LDUCZ-Z1116

The ringtail skeleton. Bassariscus astutus. LDUCZ-Z1116

For the past couple of weeks we’ve been closed to the public while works began to replace our ancient heating system. This means that my favourite parts of the Museum (basically where the marsupials are) have been out of bounds, and so I’ve had to branch out somewhat beyond my usual cabinet to select my Specimen of the Week.

I’ve kept it topical, to link with recent zoological (specifically genital) social media trends, and also to an animal that shares its name with a group of marsupials.

This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week 197: The Common Dolphin Skull

Will JRichard20 July 2015

LDUCZ-Z2277 common dolphin skull (Delphinus sp.)

LDUCZ-Z2277 common dolphin skull (Delphinus sp.)

Hello! Will Richard here, putting fingers to keyboard once again to bring you the next instalment of specimen of the week. And this week I am going to make things easy for myself. I’ve had enough of subspecies versus species, questionable (mis)identifications, taxing taxonomy and chaotic cladistics. So this time I’m keeping it simple. A cut and dried case: the common dolphin. What could be clearer?

Oh…

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