The Mexican plateau horned lizard (Phrynosoma orbiculare) is a small reptile native to the high plateau of Central Mexico. They are almost spherical, about the size of a 50p coin, and have two characteristic horn-like projections on their snout. They seem pretty harmless… THIS IS NOT THE CASE. As a last resort the tiny lizards can shoot streams of pressurised blood from the corners of their eyes, spraying predators over a metre and half away. At first this seemed the single grimmest thing I’ve ever read about any animal but it got me looking at other disgusting ways species choose to defend themselves. These are a few of my “favourites”…
Something which I get asked a lot by the Grant Museum’s visitors is “how did these animals die?” It’s an excellent question and one to which I wish there were a more comfortable answer. Or, at least, a more definite one. The truth is that it isn’t one size fits all. Not all of our specimens ended up here in the same way and for many we can only guess. The Grant Museum holds one of the UK’s oldest zoological collections and attitudes and practices have certainly changed over the last 200 years, though the ethical debates continue.
Hello Grant Museum blog readers and zoology enthusiasts, it’s Rachel Bray here. You may be wondering who I am, unless you saw a Specimen of the Week blog by me back in May when I temporarily joined the Museum for my MA placement. I am very lucky to be back at the Grant until Christmas to work with the Museum’s wonderful learning and events programme. As part of my return I’m pleased to be getting back into the Specimen of the Week swing of things by researching this week’s candidate which is…
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…
This post is something of a PSA to address a pet peeve of mine, the general confusion in the media about the difference between scientists working in biology and archaeology. Here’s a recent example of ‘archaeologists’ puzzling over Paleocene mammal remains. Puzzle they may because they’re literally 50 million years out of their depth. I doubt this post will really change anything and archaeologists will be digging up dinosaurs in press releases and science articles for many years to come particularly seeing as others have already covered this annoying and lazy habit that journalists, presumably covering the science desk vacation period, can’t seem to shake.
So, as you might expect a joke to go, what is the difference between an archaeologist and palaeontologist? (more…)
I am pretty excited about this week’s specimen as it is our first specimen suggestion that has come from a reader (who I don’t know personally.) (That is unless it’s someone I know acting under a pseudonym?) (But that’s probably improbable.)
It is an animal of Hollywood acclaim, is famed for its crazy antics, is thought by many to be the second most venomous vertebrate in the world, and two individuals of unknown species once saved the life of our museum assistant. The specimen of the week is… (more…)
Friends of the Grant Museum will know that the last year was a tough year for the museum. Not only did we have to move the museum but our stores were plagued with floods. This has meant that our stored collections have been out of action for over a year. The turmoil hasn’t quite ended but recently the stored material became a little bit more accessible so myself and our new documentation assistant have been working through the stored collection reacquainting ourselves with objects and occasionally discovering material for the first time. The reason why we have material in stores in the first place is partly because the collection is too large to put on display (currently, only about 5% of the collection is on display) and also because some material isn’t appropriate for display either because it isn’t Hollywood enough or because it is material that is better suited for research use. Being a university museum a fair proportion of the collection was created for use in research. In this occasional series I hope to highlight some of the objects in our stores starting with these lovely objects I found last week. (more…)