Day two: Palaeontology

Figure 1: Fossils rock! (Photographed with the permission of the Natural History Museum).

Day two at the NHM took place with Martin Munt and his team who work with the invertebrate fossil collection at the museum.  I didn’t know you could get invertebrate fossils I hear you say?  Well you can!  Think about where geologists would be in the relative ageing of rocks without ammonites or brachiopods!  Lost in a dark abyss of time, that’s where!

Just as a little aside I thought I’d mention the purpose of this week at the NHM.  Its main role is to provide an insight into the procedures and expertise available at the NHM so that when we come back to spend a week here later in the year, we’ll hopefully be able to contribute to an exciting project in one of the museum’s key areas.  So this week is just ‘setting the scene’ so to speak.

Anyway, back to the palaeontology!  Despite feelings to the contrary it’s not just about brachiopods and ammonites when it comes to fossil invertebrates.  Occasionally, more unusual invertebrates can become fossilised; like this lobster.

Figure 2: a fossilized lobster! (Photographed with the permission of the Natural History Museum).

And the palaeontology stores also contain a wet collection of brachiopods for comparitive analysis and analysing climate change in the world.

Figure 3: Are you sure we’re in palaeontology? (Photographed with the permission of the Natural History Museum).

Anyway, I digress further!  What Kirsty and I were doing mostly was a) labeling up bivalves (mostly of the ulnea genus) to match their descirptions in the Wealden fossil book (a sequence of rock strata in Southern England from the Cretaceous containing many fossils).  And b) making an inventory of ammonites for a collection with an uncertain future.

Figure 4: Checking out the Wealden fossil assemblage. (Photographed with the permission of the Natural History Museum).

Figure 5: A close-up look at an ulnea-genus bivalve. (Photographed with the permission of the Natural History Museum).

We also explored issues regarding storage; which aren’t as complicated as housing zoological specimens but still need careful consideration.  For example the ammonites below may be stored neatly, but this could result in weakening of the fossil due to compression at the bottom caused by that old spoil sport gravity!

Figure 6: Storing ammonites is a tricky business. (Photographed with the permission of the Natural History Museum).

Overall I had a great day today and can’t wait for the more familiar world of botany tomorrow.

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About Trainee Curator

I will be writing a blog about the next twelve months spent as a trainee biological curator based at Manchester Museum.
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One Response to Day two: Palaeontology

  1. I love the lobster!

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