Skulls and maggots prepared for Friday night out

22 September 2010

The first maggot used in a forensic case, and the skulls of an ancient Tower of London lion and recently extinct dolphin, are just some of the star specimens on display for 1 night only at the Natural History Museum’s free Science Uncovered event this Friday.

Yangtze River dolphin

The rare skull of a female Yangtze River dolphin, or Baiji, will be shown to the public for the first time. This species became functionally extinct in 2006 when researchers were unable to find any living dolphins during an extensive survey of the Yangtze River that year. 

The Museum has only one Yangtze River dolphin specimen and there are few worldwide so preserving it is crucial. This is done by Museum experts, such as Richard Sabin. He is showcasing the specimen at Science Uncovered to highlight how the nature of museum collections can change to reflect world events. 

The maggots used in the Ruxton forensic murder case from 1935

The maggots used in the Ruxton forensic murder case from 1935

Although it is extremely rare, the Yangtze River dolphin specimen can be studied. Sabin says, 'The specimen will be used to investigate the genetic make-up of the species, which will hopefully provide data that can be used to help conserve other closely-related cetacean species.'

Museum science research

These specimens highlight the huge variety of science research that goes on behind the scenes at the Museum, which is what the Science Uncovered event is all about. It is part of the European Researcher’s Night happening in 200 cities, showing how fun and vital to our lives research is.

Over 50 of the Museum's scientists are taking part in Science Uncovered, which is the Museum’s largest After Hours event. Scientists will display their star specimens at the Face to Face science stations around the Central Hall.

First forensic maggot

One specimen gives a gory glimpse of some of the forensic work that goes on at the Museum. On display will be the first maggot used as forensic evidence to convict a criminal in a court of law. Dr Buck Ruxton had killed and dismembered his wife and her maid, and these fly larvae were used in the 1935 case.

Tower of London lion skull
Behind-the-scenes specimens, like this Tower of London lion skull, on display for the Science uncove

Behind-the-scenes specimens, like this Tower of London lion skull, on display for the Science uncovered event in September 2010.

A skull of a lion kept at the Tower of London more than 500 years ago will be on display also. The lions were part of the Royal Menagerie, or zoo, and Museum scientists have found genetic clues to their ancestry and also to historic animal trafficking.

There's plenty more going on at Science Uncovered, with 3 bars to have a drink at including the special Science Bar where you can meet and chat to scientists.

There are exclusive tours and talks and the Natural History Roadshow , an Antiques Roadshow for nature!

Science Uncovered is on Friday 24 September from 4pm until 10pm

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