Happy New Year. It’s the start of January and we are all now staring face-first into the maw of 2017. Let’s hope it’s a good one. When the animal-owner of this week’s Specimen of the Week stares into anything, it has to do so at a distance. That’s because it has one of these giant straight tusks sticking horizontally out of the front of its face. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…
1. Familiar when fleshless
Can you name some animals that look more or less the same with or without their skin and flesh on? Those which are instantly recognisable from their skeletons alone?
Crocodiles, penguins and seahorses spring to my mind. Can you think of any more?
What these unrelated animals have in common – and what sets them apart – is that their skin sits directly on bone, at least on the important bodyparts. But this comes about in different ways.
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.
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…)
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?
We have had both an ethics and an art angle during the last week at the Grant Museum which you might have noticed if you attended some of our events. The Strange Creatures Late featured live, ethical taxidermy with Jazmine Miles-Long and the Great Grant Knit-A-Thon included talks from History of Art PhD student and Strange Creatures c0-curator Sarah Wade about craftivism, poaching and habitat destruction. And so, it seemed particularly appropriate to have an aesthetically pleasing, ethically sensitive representation of a specimen this week!
This week’s specimen of the week is…
Dean Veall here. A very Happy New Year to all our readers. I thought I would start 2015 BIG, 26ft and 6in BIG to be quite exact. This specimen belongs to the group containing the biggest animals to have ever lived. It is also part of the BIGGEST ever fundraising campaign the Museum has ever run, Bone Idols: Protecting our Iconic Skeletons.
The Bone Idols project involves a series of interventions on 39 of our largely uncollectable specimens which includes re-casing some, completely remonting others and cleaning of these specimens that have been on open display since the 1820’s. This week’s Specimen of the Week is……
Hello all. In anticipation of writing my first Specimen of the Week post, I wondered which specimen would ultimately receive the honour. I wanted to highlight a specimen representative of my Canadian homeland such as a fossil from the Burgess Shale, but the curator (see SOTW 140) beat me to it. Sadly, the Grant Museum has but one documented specimen from this phenomenally important fossil location. The Burgess Shale has famously yielded dozens of previously unknown 505 million year old fossil organisms such as the evocatively named Hallucingenia, five eyed Opaginia, and the fearsome-looking predator Anomalocaris.
As it turns out, I was able to find an interesting animal from the collection…one which might possibly be a living relative of Anomalocaris!
This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)
For this week, it’s my turn to step up to the ravenous hoard of knowledge-hungry blog followers (that’s you fantastic lot). But first, before I am ripped apart in a gladiator-esque fashion, I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself; Hi all, I am Rowan. I am currently acting as Visitor Services Assistant on a temporary basis, so my time with you shall be unfortunately short yet sweet. So do drop in and you can see me at the front desk fumbling around in childlike wonder at all the amazingly weird thingies the Grant Museum has to offer.
I’ve decided to choose a specimen who will always hold a special place in my heart, having been paired with this sullen looking creature during one of my zoological assignments this year (I’ve just finished the second year of my UCL Natural Sciences degree). One of us was tasked to identify the other, yet I’m still unsure as to who (between me and this fine critter) actually did any effective identification as I spent most of my time confusedly prodding and pestering this specimen; a scientific method which I can only professionally describe as “faffing around”.
Sadly, this specimen is a little lonely having been blessed with an underwhelming greyish-brown and mistakenly ugly appearance. Unfortunately, being tucked away in a quiet corner along with the rather garish cephalopods, annelids and tapeworms (I’m sure they make wonderful neighbours) doesn’t quite help their romantic situation either.
Without further ado, this specimen of the week is…. (more…)
This week’s specimen is another invertebrate. As a bone researcher filling at the front desk, invertebrates don’t usually hold my attention (they lack bones, you see), but I make an exception for this unassuming annelid-like sea creature. This Specimen of the Week is a wet specimen, greyish in color, with what looks like an eye near its mouth, which means it’s a… (more…)
The cost that museums have to dedicate to caring for individual objects is determined by a number of factors. If it’s particularly fragile or susceptible to the elements it might need to be housed in a controlled climate or stored in specialist materials. If it’s particularly desirable it may need souped up security measures. If it’s particularly large then museums have a whole feast of troubles – one giant object will take up the same space as dozens of smaller ones; they are very difficult to move; and they require huge amounts of equipment to prepare and store. This is why you don’t get 30m blue whales stored in jars – just think how much alcohol that would take, and how thick the glass would have to be.
Fortunately for natural history museums, most big animals start off pretty small, so there’s a way we can cheat the system. If we use baby animals in our collections we can avoid the problems caused by largeness, and still have the species represented. This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)