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  • Specimen of the Week 253 : Moroccan phosphate fossils

    By Tannis Davidson, on 19 August 2016

    LDUCZ-V1467 Moroccan phosphate fossil label

    LDUCZ-V1467 Moroccan phosphate fossil label

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is not one, but 48 individual specimens which make up a display box highlighting various fossil teeth from Morocco. Display boxes of this sort are not uncommon as they are a visually appealing way to showcase numerous small specimens not to mention an entrepreneurial solution to add value to otherwise inexpensive individual fossils. The Grant Museum’s display box is a rather nice example of this type containing fossil teeth of 19 different species of fish and marine reptiles: (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 250: Model of a crayfish embryo

    By Tannis Davidson, on 29 July 2016

    In honour of the 250th Specimen of the Week, as well as the new wax model display in the Museum, it seemed fitting to choose a show-stopper of a specimen which is so fabulously bizarre that you might describe it as being out of this world.

    This odd ball regularly puzzles the onlooker as to its identity and often reminds folk of a certain ‘perfect organism’ whose ‘structural perfection is matched only by its hostility’ *.

     

    The wait is over, science fiction fans. This week, we pay tribute to the most magnificent, perfectly evolved predator to scare us from the silver screen… (more…)

    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 239: Bohemian fossil amphibian cast

    By Tannis Davidson, on 13 May 2016

    LDUCZ-W385 with overlay of illustration

    LDUCZ-W385 Cochleosaurus sp. with overlay of original illustration from Fauna der Gaskohle und der Kalksteine der Permformation Bohmens 1879-1901

    Try to imagine life 310 million years ago. It is the Carboniferous period – a time when the Earth experienced its highest levels of atmospheric oxygen leading to the growth of vast forests which would eventually be laid down and become the coal beds characteristic of this period.

    Primitive amphibians were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates including the Temnospondyls which were mostly semi-aquatic and typically larger than most modern amphibians. Superificially, most resembled crocodiles with broad, flat heads and had scales, claws and bony body plates.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week celebrates these early amphibians with a lovely example cast from the famous fossil gas-coal of the Czech Republic… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 232: Holzmaden Fossil Fish

    By Tannis Davidson, on 25 March 2016

    LDUCZ-V610a Dapedium pholidotum

    LDUCZ-V610a Dapedium pholidotum

    There are quite a few posts on this blog regarding not-so-lovely fossil fish, which might possibly lead one to believe that the Grant Museum’s collection does not include fossil fish specimens of outstanding beauty. This is, however, definitely not the case. The Museum has many finely detailed, historically interesting, painstakingly prepared fossil fish – specimens that would, in fact, be described as anything but underwhelming.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is …

     

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    Specimen of the Week 226: Preserved neonatal rat group

    By Tannis Davidson, on 8 February 2016

    LDUCZ-Z3086 Rattus norvegicus

    LDUCZ-Z3086 Rattus norvegicus

    Last year, the Grant Museum undertook a major conservation project, Bone Idols: Protecting our iconic skeletons, in which 39 of our rarest and most significant skeletons were cleaned, repaired and remounted.

    This year the focus will be on our fluid specimens. The Grant Museum has roughly 6000 preserved specimens is varying states of condition. Over the course of the next 12 months, the most ‘in need’ specimens will be rehydrated, remounted, cleaned and put in new jars (if needed). One of the newly-conserved wetties is a much-improved specimen which has generated quite a buzz around the Museum lately…this week’s Specimen of the Week is…

     

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    Specimen of the Week 220: The Fossil Sea Lily

    By Tannis Davidson, on 28 December 2015

    LDUCZ-S31 Encrinus liliiformis

    LDUCZ-S31 Encrinus liliiformis

    It is perhaps no surprise that during December, most of the specimens featured in this blog tend to have associations with wintery Christmastime animals. There has been a reindeer, a polar bear, a robin, an owl and (last week) a partridge – all of which have been highlighted to kindle the yuletide cheer.

    In a radical departure, here’s a specimen that has absolutely no connection to winter, snow or any December seasonal holiday. But does it bring joy? Yes. This is an amazing specimen. Would this be a great Christmas present? Absolutely. If you ever see one, keep me in mind.

    Here it is – the one you’ve been waiting for – this week’s Specimen of the Week is the…

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    Specimen of Week 214: Fossil Vertebrae

    By Tannis Davidson, on 16 November 2015

    LDUCZ-X1111 Dimetrodon vertebrae

    LDUCZ-X1111 Dimetrodon sp.vertebrae

    In the spotlight this week is a specimen that is currently experiencing it’s ‘busy season’. The Grant Museum collection is widely used in teaching at UCL and the Museum is home to many specimen-based practicals. For example, during term 1 in 2014, there were 34 practicals using over 600 specimens by 1400 students.

    Amidst this flurry of activity, certain specimens catch the eye. Is it that they are finally freed from the safe-keeping of their fossil drawers and have their moment to shine? Could it be that they are used over and over and over again to illustrate a turning point in evolution so critical that repeat viewings are essential? Or is it that the specimen is quite simply, an attractive object in itself, perhaps a worthy contestant in a specimen beauty contest?

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

    Specimen of the Week 209: Mammoth tusk

    By Tannis Davidson, on 12 October 2015

    LDUCZ-Z2978 Elephantidae

    LDUCZ-Z2978 Mammuthus primigenius

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is one of the first objects to be seen upon entering the Museum. Majestically, it sits just behind the front desk cradled in a graceful arc of perfect balance and symmetry. It is the largest fossil in the Grant Museum’s collection and although incomplete, measures over 1.7m in length.  What a beaut!  This week’s specimen is…

     

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    Specimen of the Week 205: The Plesiosaur

    By Tannis Davidson, on 14 September 2015

    LDUCZ-X227 Thalassiodracon hawkinsi  Copyright UCL Photo by Colin Dunn of Scriptura

    LDUCZ-X227 Thalassiodracon hawkinsi (C)UCL. Photo by Colin Dunn of Scriptura

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is one of the largest single objects in the Grant Museum, but it is one which is often overlooked. Tucked away along the wall behind the large elephant skull, many who visit the Museum miss it as they are drawn to the illuminated cave which is the Micrarium. The warm glow of over 2300 backlit microscope slides attracts the eye, but also diverts attention from the dim end-of-corridor/rope-barrier/back-entrance-to-the-office area which is home to the specimen of which I speak.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

    (more…)