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Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: January 2016

Mark Carnall29 January 2016

January 2016 was a big month for palaeontology in the media. This month you may have caught a programme on fossil Mesozoic vertebrate finds featuring one of the most beloved natural historians, some might go as far to say, ‘National Treasure’. No, I’m not talking about David Attenborough and some big dinosaur, that’s the easy route to media coverage. I’m talking about our very own underwhelming fossil fish on Radio 4’s Inside Science programme. If you’re new to this blog series, the humble goal is to increase global fossil fishteracy one underwhelming fossil fish from the Grant Museum collections at a time.

You might expect that with the boost in coverage, we’d have some timely underwhelming fossil fish merchandise to shill, a calendar perhaps or a pack of underwhelming fossil fish Top Trumps cards. However, as I’ve told numerous producers this week who tried to secure the underwhelming fossil fish of the month film rights, this is not the UFFotM way. We’re going to be ploughing on ahead with yet another uninteresting fossil fish, not one that’s any more or less underwhelming, just another un-noteworthy, comme ci, comme ça fossil. No fuss and especially no muss. (more…)

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

Mark Carnall27 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 196 : A Real Fossil Pterosaur

Tannis Davidson13 July 2015

LDUCZ-X1093 Rhamphorhynchus muensteri fossil

LDUCZ-X1093 Rhamphorhynchus muensteri fossil

In my last post, I wrote about our ‘Zittel wing’ pterosaur cast and mentioned that I was doing a bit of research on another Grant Museum Rhamphorhynchus specimen. Pterosaurs were flying reptiles from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period. They were the first vertebrates to evolve powered flight. While I admit to being biased toward our palaeontology collections, this second Rhamphorhynchus is a very special specimen – definitely one of the unsung highlights of the Museum. It’s rare, has a fascinating (if enigmatic) history and is a wonderful example of positive re-identification. Why it hasn’t been given the full SOTW treatment I. Just. Don’t. Know. Without further ado, this week’s Specimen of the Week is…

 

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Specimen of the Week: Week 171

Mark Carnall19 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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Specimen of the Week: Week 162

Mark Carnall17 November 2014

Scary Monkey

Cthulhu the ammonite lovingly stroked Mary Sue the trilobite on the cephalon with his tentacles.

“I love you Mary Sue.” Exclaimed Cthulhu, expelling a distressed squirt from his hypernome.

“Why won’t our parents let us be together?” Asked Mary Sue, the thousands of lense units unblinking in her holochroal eyes.

” So what if I’m a trilobite and you’re an ammonite? Our love is true. Why can’t we be together?”. She flexed her gnathobases in frustration.

“It’s this senseless war…” Suddenly Cthulhu was cut off by a large shadow descending on the pair…

This is an extract from my (currently seeking a publisher) fanfiction novel Ancient War about an ammonite and a trilobite that, despite their biological differences, find love in the middle of an all out war between their families. It was inspired by my choice of specimen of the week, an innocuous little chap from the bottom of case 9. This week’s specimen of the week is..

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Specimen of the Week: Week 157 (an exciting rediscovery?)

Mark Carnall13 October 2014

Scary MonkeySegueing nicely on from Jack’s evolution of life on land specimens of the week last week, we’re sticking to specimens in our ‘MEET THE ANCESTORS’ case. This week’s specimen is a rather lovely fossil and whilst undertaking a bit of research for this blog post I uncovered a rather twisty turny series of clues that point to this specimen being a ‘type specimen‘.

Type specimens are important specimens in biological classification that are the specimens which exemplify the characteristics of a new species of organism. In theory, together these specimens are the physical representations of the current understanding of the diversity of life on earth and accordingly are very important specimens in museums. It’s not 100% clear if this fossil is the type specimen hence all the cautious maybes, possibles and potentiallys but you can judge that for yourselves below. So with no further ado, this week’s specimen of the week is…

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Fossils, climate change and the future of life on Earth

Dean W Veall21 November 2013

Each year we celebrate the birth of the man who was the first Professor to teach evolution in an English university, the man who gave an astonishing 200 lectures a year and the man who lent his name to the Museum, Robert Edmond Grant. November 11th saw the 220th year since his birth and in honour we held our 17th Annual Grant Lecture on Tuesday, with dinosaurs, climate change and the future of life on our planet, it was one not to miss but in case you did here are the highlights.

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