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  • The Giant Ammonites of the Jurassic Seas (… and UCL)

    By Ruth Siddall, on 19 December 2017

    I am once again delighted to be invited to write a guest blog for UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology, and this one is about the extraordinarily large ammonites encountered in Portland Limestone. As avid readers of former Grant Musuem Curator Mark Carnall’s ‘cephalopod column’ in The Guardian will already be aware, cephalopods are a group of marine molluscs and amongst them live and lived the giants of the invertebrate world. Represented today by octopuses, squids, cuttlefishes and nautiluses, and extinct taxa represented by ammonoids and belemnoids, cephalopods have been a dominant invertebrate species in our seas since the Ordovician, 480 million years ago.

    A giant ammonite (Titanites giganteus) in the Grant Museum. LDUCZ-R205

    A giant ammonite (Titanites giganteus) in the Grant Museum. LDUCZ-R205

    We have all heard of the giant squid, the somewhat shadowy and rarely observed Architeuthis dux which can reach lengths of up to 13 m, but this is not the only example of gigantism in cephalopods. Indeed, it is something that occurs regularly in this group throughout the fossil record. Although evidence exists for fossilised giant squid, these are rare as the soft-bodied animals do not preserve well. However nautiloids, ammonoids and belemnoids with their hard shells do preserve very well. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 263: The fossil brachiopods

    By Jack Ashby, on 28 October 2016

    Some animals are most commonly defined by what they are not. The first thing that most people say about horseshoe crabs, for example is that they are not crabs. Likewise flying lemurs are not lemurs, camel spiders are not spiders and golden moles are not moles*. I kind of feel sorry for these animals that are denied a unique description of their own in this way; their status as being “not something else” is given as the most interesting thing about them. This week’s Specimen of the Week is one such animal.

    Fossil Spirifer brachiopods LDUCZ-O26

    Fossil Spirifer brachiopods LDUCZ-O26

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 246: King Scallop model

    By Dean W Veall, on 1 July 2016

    Hello Hello, Dean Veall here. This week I bring you a snappy little character, well not exactly little, this is the KING of all snappy characters of a mollusc based persuasion. The king scallop (Pecten maximus) is this week’s Specimen of the Week.

    LDUCZ-Q330 - King scallop model (Pecten maximus)

    LDUCZ-Q330 – King scallop model (Pecten maximus)

     

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 179

    By Dean W Veall, on 18 March 2015

    Scary Monkey Dean Veall here. This week I return to a case that is one of my favourite in the Museum for my Specimen of the Week. It has particular relevance in a week I had my bi-annual haircut and lost my full head of curls, as the common name for this specimen has the word comb in it. I also chose this specimen as it challenges the long held stereotypic view of the group it belongs to, not slow, fumbling and herbivorous , but vicious, predatory and damn right mean looking (and ultimately really cool, swoon), you certainly wouldn’t pick a fight with this specimen. This week’s Specimen of the Week is….

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 164

    By Dean W Veall, on 1 December 2014

    Scary MonkeyDean Veall here. This may be a very broad generalisation but Welsh, curly haired, zoology trained museum educators have limited knowledge about and skills in playing football, based on a recent survey conducted by me (n=1). This fact enrages and frustrates my four year old nephew as on weekends back in the Valleys when all he wants to do is run around Bargoed Park with a football. It hasn’t always been this way, there was a brief moment back in 2010 when the group that this week’s Specimen of the Week belonged to help me engage with the sport, that is, until it died.

     

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is:

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 143

    By Rowan J J Tinker, on 7 July 2014

    Scary Monkey

    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…)