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171 Posts authored by: C Lowry

Zoology Department Seminar

Posted by C Lowry Jan 5, 2012

Zoology Department Seminar


How many species of marine symbionts are there?

Geoff Boxshall
Department of Zoology, NHM


Nearly a quarter of a million described species are known from the oceans and about 2000 new ones are described each year. Our knowledge of the extent of marine biodiversity is growing and we are now better able to estimate how many unknown species are out there….and what groups they belong to. However, there has been no census of marine parasites. By omitting the parasites from our calculations, it seems that we are seriously underestimating species richness in the oceans.  About 40% of the 10,000 described species of marine copepods are parasites or symbionts of host taxa ranging from sponges to mammals. The diversity of marine parasites is underestimated, even in UK waters, and in some groups of marine parasites, such as the tantulocarids and gregarines we have only begun to scratch the surface.




Polychaete biodiversity in the Amundsen Sea, Antarctica

Adrian Glover et al.
Department of Zoology, NHM


The Amundsen Sea is one of the most poorly-sampled regions of the world for marine fauna. There are almost no published reports of benthic samples from this region, mainly owing to the great distance from ports and heavy sea-ice. During an oceanographic cruise in 2008 with the RRS James Clark Ross we were able to reach Pine Island Bay - a region normally characterised by year-round sea ice – and take a suite of benthic samples at depths from 500 – 1500m. We used an epibenthic sledge to sample the macrofaunal component of the diversity, and recovered just over 200,000 individuals from 36 samples. Here we report the polychaete component of the biodiversity at species level, from approximately 17,000 individuals that have been identified. Many species new to science have been recovered and are being described in accompanying taxonomic projects. At a local scale, there are significant differences in the composition of the fauna within the deep 1500m basins compared to the 500m typical shelf environment. Using published datasets, we also compare diversity on the Antarctic shelf with other comparable deep-sea and shelf data worldwide.


TUESDAY 10th January

Neil Chalmers Science Seminar Room (DC.LG16)
12:00 -13:00



For additional details on attending this seminar see


Palaeontology Seminar


Atapuerca under the microscope: Some applications of lithic microwear, zooarchaeology, taphomony, and conservation 

Andreu Ollé, Isabel Cáceres, Palmira Saladié, Lucía López-Polín and Antonio Rodríguez


Thursday 15th December
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room, DC2 - LG16


Pal sem 1.bmp


Past human behaviour can be reconstructed from the analysis of surface damage, marks and polishes on stone tools and archaeological faunal remains. Their successful interpretation relies on two key factors: the application of appropriate microscopic techniques, and the development of consistent experiments and actualistic observations.

Here we present some methodological advances and case studies using material from Atapuerca (Spain), ranging from the Lower Palaeolithic to the Bronze Age. The importance of conservation and preparation techniques will also be discussed.




For additional details on attending this seminar see


Zoology Seminar


The Journey to SCAN: A Schistosomiasis Collection at NHM

Department of Zoology, NHM.


TUESDAY 13th December
Neil Chalmers Science Seminar Room (DC.LG16)


A common integrative theme bringing together research, DNA storage and collections management runs through a number of ongoing Biomedical Parasitology group activities.  Much of this is represented in the SCAN project which aims to develop a research repository at NHM using existing and new collections of schistosomiasis-related specimens.  The journey towards SCAN has passed through a number of steps and side-projects which will be reviewed, including:


  • Developments in ambient DNA sampling and storage;
  • DNA sampling trials from chemically-fixed museum specimens;
  • Consolidating decades of research specimens;
  • New data collection methods;
  • Working with the new molecular collections facility to develop a biorepository infrastructure.




For additional details on attending this seminar see


Palaeontology Seminar


Opening a can of worms from the Cambrian sea


Dr. Xiaoya Ma,

Department of Palaeontology, NHM



THURSDAY 8th December
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room (DC2 LG16)

16:00 - 17:00


The Early Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte (~525 Ma) in southwest China is one of the oldest fossil assemblages in the world and yields a great diversity of exceptionally preserved soft-bodied fossils, including many worms or worm-like animals preserved in exquisite detail. This biota provides a unique window into the origin and early evolution of different vermiform phyla, which is significant for our understanding of deep phylogeny. This talk briefly reviews research progress on Chengjiang vermiform animals and then introduces some of my research work on different vermiform groups. Lobopodians are a group of worms with legs, which are suggested to have a close affinity with the origin of arthropods. With newly collected material, we re-described Paucipodia, Luolishania and Diania to provide more accurate morphological information for phylogenetic analysis. Priapulida is a small phylum today, but much more abundant in Cambrian seas. A new priapulid species was discovered recently and its exquisitely preserved morphological details allow direct comparison with extant taxa. Evidence indicates that this animal already developed a double-anchor locomotion strategy. Three new worm species may represent new vermiform phyla found in the Chengjiang Lagerstätte, and their functional morphology indicates a possible parasitic lifestyle.





For additional details on attending this seminar see



Collection Management Seminar


Making the Insect World: What historical entomology texts can tell us about the cultural dimensions of insect-human relations


Dr. Adam Dodd,

Postdoctoral Research Fellow,

Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages,

University of Oslo


THURSDAY 24th November 2011,

Flett Lecture Theatre, NHM, South Kensington

14:30 -16:00


Dr Dodd will outline his postdoctoral research work undertaken in collaboration with the NHM Centre for Arts and Humanities Research (CAHR) #and the Library and Archives of the Natural History Museum. Incorporating numerous examples from a range of entomological texts,  dating from the early seventeenth century onward, he will outline his investigation of what these texts can tell us about the historical role of media and culture in the establishment and reinforcement of what might be called an ‘insect-human rapport’. In line with the broader research questions of the Oslo-based animal studies project,  Dr Dodd will discuss the extent to which insects have been historically figured as ‘objects’ and ‘signs’. On the one hand, this involves engagement with insect specimen collections, and on the other, with the analysis of the representational conventions of entomological illustrations. In the middle, perhaps, are some of the volumes found in the Sloane herbaria – which include insect bodies, arranged into rudimentary scenes with plant specimens, pressed and preserved between the pages of books.


The talk will provide an example of the ways in which the NHM Library collection may inform and facilitate new interdisciplinary work in the humanities, and in particular, historically-oriented work undertaken from a media and cultural studies perspective.



Tea and coffee will be available in the seminar room lobby area after the talk.


Suggestions for seminar speakers are always most welcome. Please contact the organiser Clare Valentine (



For additional details on attending this seminar see


Palaeontology Seminar


Deciphering the early evolution of echinoderms using Cambrian taxa


Dr. Samuel Zamora,

Department of Palaeontology, NHM



THURSDAY 10th November
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room (DC2 LG16)

16:00 - 17:00



Echinoderms (e.g., sea urchins and starfishes) are a major component of the modern seas and have an impressive fossil record that goes back to the lower Cambrian (520 Mya). Despite this well documented history, the earliest steps in their evolution remain poorly documented. Although both ontogeny and sister-group relationships indicate that echinoderms must have had passed through a bilateral stage in their ancestry, there has been no fossil record to provide the empirical proof that this stage existed. Indeed, the earliest fossil echinoderms are all radial or asymmetric forms. However, there are significant problems concerning the completeness of the Cambrian record of fossil echinoderms. Newly discovered fossils from Gondwana are bilaterally symmetrical echinoderms and represent the most primitive members of the group. Thus all three lines of evidence (ontogeny, sister-group relationships and palaeontology) are in agreement and show that the most primitive echinoderms were bilateral rather than radial.



For additional details on attending this seminar see


Collection Management Seminar



Integrated Pest Management on the other side of The Pond


Rachael Perkins Arenstein, A.M. Art Conservation, LLC
Laura Smyk, Canadian Museum of Nature
Patrick Kelley, Insects Limited
Christopher Norris, Yale University Peabody Museum of Natural HistoryWhere?

Wednesday 26th October 2011

Neil Chalmers Seminar Room (DC. LG16),


The Natural History Museum, London has been a leader in making Integrated Pest Management a priority in collections care and NHM staff have participated in the ongoing work of the Integrated Pest Management Working Group (IPM-WG), a group of collection managers, conservators, entomologists and other professionals who have worked since 2002 to facilitate development and implementation of IPM programs in the broader museum/cultural heritage community.  Today, three North American members of the IPM-WG will present short talks on their work in the field.


Rachael Perkins Arenstein is a conservator in private practice and Co-Chair of the IPM-WG.  She will discuss the development of the group, the progress made to date on promoting and facilitating good IPM practices through the on-line distribution of standards, resources and ideas, and how this working model can be seen as a way to tackle other difficult preventive care issues.  Mention will be made of how NHM staff have participated in this effort and ways in which the IPM-WG can continue collaborating with colleagues in the UK.


Laura Smyk, Conservation Technician at the Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN), will evaluate the efficacy of the IPM features that were incorporated into the CMN’s Natural Heritage Building when it was designed and built 12 years ago to house the institution’s collections, research labs and administrative offices in one central location.  She will share experience on which features worked and how the IPM program has changed since the facility’s opening.

Patrick Kelley is Vice President of Insects Limited, Inc. which develops pheromones and trapping systems for insect pests as well as provides IPM consultation and training for cultural heritage institutions. He will present a case study based on his experience working with U.S. institutions.

After the presentations the three speakers will be joined by Christopher Norris another leader of the group and all four individuals will be available for questions on their work with the IPM-WG and IPM in their home institutions.



Tea and coffee will be available in the seminar room lobby area after the talk.

Suggestions for seminar speakers are always most welcome. Please contact the organiser Clare Valentine (



For additional details on attending see


Zoology Seminars

Diversification of Carnivorous Marine Snails


Department of Zoology, NHM


TUESDAY 25th October

Neil Chalmers Science Seminar Room (DC.LG16)

12:00 -13:00



Diversification in the marine realm is thought to be driven primarily by the allopatric processes of vicariance and dispersal. However, there is
increasing evidence that ecological specialization may also play a role generating observed patterns of phylogeography. To test the relative
importance of these processes, I construct the first comprehensive molecular phylogenies of two cosmopolitan, ecologically important but taxonomically
complex subfamilies of carnivorous neogastropods including complete or near-complete species-level phylogenies of three genera. Despite unusually
wide dispersal and presumably high gene flow, speciation in these groups appears to have been primarily allopatric, as has been shown in many other
marine taxa. Many species in these subfamilies are highly specialized predators (prey includes corals, polychaetes, sipunculans, even fish). Thus,
dietary specialization has been predicted to be an important ecological influence on diversification. However, I find no evidence that dietary
specialization has played a role in speciation in these groups. Instead, I suggest that the important ecological dimension of speciation in these
subfamilies is habitat, rather than diet.



For additional details on attending this seminar see


Palaeontology Seminar


How to interpret the Schöningen Palaeolithic archaeozoological record – facts and speculations

Thijs van Kolfschoten
Faculty of Archaeology,Leiden University
The Netherlands


Monday 17th October
Dorothea Bate Room, Palaeontology Department,
11:00 - 12:00


In the past two decades a number of Palaeolithic sites and horizons in the Schöningen lignite mining area (Germany) have been excavated. Spectacular finds include a number of 300-400,000 year old wooden hunting spears associated with butchered large mammal bones. During the past 2-3 years most of the excavated finds (e.g. > 20.000 large mammal remains) have been identified and recorded. It is now time to work on the interpretation and to unravel the complex history of the sites. This talk summarizes the preliminary results and presents interpretations of early human behaviour at the sites.


For additional details see


Palaeontology Seminar


The origin of sponges and the Cambrian explosion


Dr. Jonathan Antcliffe

Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol


Thursday 13th October
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room (DC2, LG16)

16:00- 17:00



Sponges are widely considered to be the animal group most likely to have evolved in the Precambrian. However reanalysis of all fossil candidates for Precambrian sponges shows that the oldest hitherto accepted specimens, Mongolian silica hexacts from c.545Ma, are abiogenic arsenopyrite crystals while all older candidates are abiogenic artefacts, microbialites, or variants of the Ediacaran biota. There are reliable sponge remains from the basal Cambrian represented by spicules from the Soltanieh Formation, Iran, reported in detail for the first time. Deep Precambrian divergences of Metazoa and particularly sponges have however been predicted based on molecular data. Yet the Ediacaran fossil record is abundant in soft bodied remains and does not yield any convincing evidence for sponges. Further geological data shows that chemically precipitated cherts and crystal fan fabrics are common and therefore the Ediacaran ocean is actively precipitating silica, and sponge spicules are not absent because of an unsuitable taphonomy as some have suggested. Sponges are complex organisms that require interactions with other animals in order to survive, a result of 540Ma of complex co-evolution with other animals. There is no reason why they should be thought more likely to be able to live outside of this context at a time before these ecosystems evolved that any other animal group. Sponges probably evolved at approximately the base of the Cambrian Period. Studying such problems can teach us general principles about how to analyse and thereby correctly interpret enigmatic fossils upon which so much macroevolutionary weight can be placed.


see for additional information


Zoology Seminar

Stories about Polychaetes from Deception Island (South Shetland Islands, Antarctica)


Sergi Taboada MORENO
University of Barcelona


Monday 19th September,

Neil Chalmers Science Seminar Room (DC.LG16)

12:00 - 13:00


The Antarctic Polychaeta fauna has a relatively very good background. However, very little is known about the polychaetes that thrive in whale bones implanted in the sea floor. During this talk I will be presenting some of the results obtained after studying experimentally deployed whale bones at Deception Island, a very peculiar Antarctic volcanic island from the South Shetland Islands archipelago.


Contact: Ronald Jenner, Zoology ( or see see


Collections Management Seminar

Wednesday 21st September 2011, 2.30pm-4.00pm, Flett Lecture Theatre, NHM, South Kensington

Will it fit through the door? Relocating the Grant Museum of Zoology, University College, London.


Speaker:  Mark Carnall, Curator and Acting Manager Grant Museum of Zoology UCL.

In March this year UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology re-opened in new premises in the Rockefeller Building on Gower Street. The re-opening of the museum concluded a year long process of relocating stores and collections from inadequate facilities that had been begged for, sometimes stolen and borrowed when the collection was relocated previously.


The new museum has received widespread praise for maintaining the Victorian atmosphere albeit in a space twice the size of the previously location. However, the movement of the collection was fraught with difficulties including a disastrous flood, delays before the project even started and problems arising dealing with numerous stakeholders and project managers inside and outside of the University. The move was highly unusual in that the displays were installed as they were being unpacked with no installation plan and that museum staff had little control of the budget.


This seminar looks at how the collections were moved, the advantages and disadvantages of working within a university and what these moves mean for the ongoing relationship between the museum and UCL.


For further details see


Palaeontology Department Seminar


Thursday 21st July
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room, DC2, 16:00




Whale skeletons as ecological reefs in the shallow marine Eocene of Egypt .


Dr. Charles Underwood, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Birkbeck College, Univerisity of London


The Late Eocene shallow marine sediments of Wadi Al-Hitan, Egypt are famous for their fossil whales. Many of the whale skeletons are present in shallow marine sandstones that also contain common teeth of sharks and rays. The assemblages of sharks and rays in the sandstones away from the whale skeletons are similar to those that would be expected in shallow marine sandy environments today, dominated by stingrays (Dasyatidae) and Lemon sharks (Negaprion). Teeth collected from amongst whale bones are different, with higher diversity faunas including taxa that are otherwise only common in deeper marine facies. These are sometimes associated with possible chemosymthetic bivalves (Lucinidae). It is therefore likely that the whale skeletons acted as reefs, giving cover to shark and ray species that were otherwise rare or absent in shallow water.




Borneo Biodiversity

Posted by C Lowry Jun 29, 2011

Borneo Biodiversity






A one-day Symposium celebrating current and past biodiversity research in Brunei, Kalimantan, Sabah and Sarawak, and the completion of Jeremy Holloway’s “Moths of Borneo” monograph series

Venue: Flett Theatre, Natural History Museum, London, U.K.
Date: Wednesday July 6 2011
Time: 09.30 – 17.30
RSVP to Esther Murphy:

Borneo is the third largest island in the world, and well-known as a centre of extreme biodiversity. This year Dr Jeremy Holloway completes his 18-volume monographic series "Moths of Borneo", and his achievement is being honoured with a symposium held at the Museum.

As well as honouring the completion of Jeremy’s monumental work, the meeting is an opportunity to explore how we can develop collaborative biodiversity research in "hotspots" such as Borneo, in particular by building upon existing local partnerships, at both scientist and government level.

For further details including programme see


Dr. Mark Sutton, Department of Earth Sciences and Engineering, Imperial College


Thursday 9th June, Neil Chalmers Seminar Room, DC2, 16:00

The Herefordshire (Wenlock, Silurian, ~425Ma) Konservat-Lagerstätte in England yields remarkable, three-dimensional, non-biomineralized fossils in carbonate concretions hosted in a volcaniclastic deposit. The deposit, apparently taphonomically unique, and has yielded several thousand specimens of assorted invertebrates including echinoderms, brachiopods, molluscs, and especially arthropods, all preserving soft-tissues in high-fidelity detail.

Specimens cannot be extracted physically or imaged using conventional micro-CT techniques; instead they are reconstructed as virtual fossils using a physical-optical tomography technique based on high-resolution serial grinding. Reconstruction work has been performed using custom software (SPIERS), now freely available to the palaeontological community, and models can be distributed with a new standardised interchange format for virtual specimens (VAXML).

Palaeobiological analysis of the Lagerstätte has now been in progress for over ten years, and too many taxa have been described for a full summary here. Recent finds detailed in this talk include the basal crustacean Tanazios, the marrellomorph Xylokorys, several ostracods, the cryptic brachiopod-like fossil Drakozoon, and several (as yet unnamed) basal arthropods, including an elongate form which may lie immediately outside the arthropod crown-group.
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