This annual event is for the whole family where you can enjoy:
hands-on science for all ages
Entrance to the Grand Marquee is FREE (though donations are encouraged!). Some talks and events in the theatre are priced - please see website for details.
I shall be representing the NHM at the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival this weekend. It is a great event for all the family, please pop along and introduce yourself. I shall be in the Natural History Museum marquee outside the theatre. I hope to see you there!
Lyme Regis has played a vital party in our understanding of fossils. The famous Mary Anning lived is from Lyme Regis, she was self-educated, working class and a wonderful role model to demonstrate how we can all contribute to science. In 1810-1811, her brother found the 1st complete Ichthyosaur. Her discoveries were some of the most significant geological finds of all time.
Ichthyosaurus communis (Conybeare) collected by Mary Anning from the Lower Lias, Lyme Regis, Dorset.
(on display in the Reptile Gallery at The Natural History Museum, London).
Asteroceras from the Lower Jurassic of Dorset, England.
The 2015 Festival of Geology will take place at University College London
Introduce yourself to Fiona Fearnhead, Christina Fisher and Claire Mellish, representing the NHM
Hope to see you there!
Saturday 7th November 2015 at University College London
Sunday 8th November - Festival field meetings
"Exhibitors from the World of Geology, Fossil and mineral displays, stonecraft, books, maps, geological equipment, jewellery, beads, Building Stones walk around UCL with Ruth Siddall, Tours of the UCL Earth Science Laboratories, Poetry and Geology and more..."
Hi Fossil lovers! Tips to help you identify your fossils:
Fossil Guide iBook - a useful resource for the basics about fossils and how to identify many of the common ones.
All the major groups of fossils are illustrated with clear diagrams and beautiful, pin-sharp photographs of real specimens.
Suitable for beginners as well as those with some knowledge, this authoritative and helpful multi-touch book has been produced by the Open University, in collaboration with the Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge.
It covers invertebrates, vertebrates and plants, and each fossil group is illustrated with a gallery of photos.
Some specimens are presented as 360-degree rotational objects to provide a tactile feel, and the detailed structure of other fossils is captured with high-resolution views of thin sections under a microscope.
The Introduction includes useful advice and tips on responsible fossil collecting. As well as being suitable for the educated amateur, this book will also be useful for teachers and should provide a stimulus for children interested in fossils and the wonderful world of geology.
SPECIMEN LABELS are very important because they provide information that will help with identification and provide useful scientific data (without this information specimens have not scientific value). Please feel free to adapt the specimen labels in the document attached
1. Print specimen labels before you visit a locality, this will make collecting quicker and easier.
You can adapt the specimen labels attached and insert your name to save time and effort.What to include?
exact location: name of beach/field/garden/farm
Was it loose on the ground or dug up?
name of town
2. If you don't have a label, even a scrap of paper will do ....(I have inserted bus and train tickets which show the date and destination).
3. Keep specimen labels, a pencil and notebook handy along with plastic bags so you can wrap and label your specimens as soon as you find them.
4. Newspaper is very useful for wrapping specimens, which also prevents them drying out too quickly
THE FOSSIL COLLECTOR'S TOOLKIT:
Always follow the Geological Code
THE FOSSIL COLLECTOR'S TOOLKIT:
notebook, pencil and marker pen
newspaper for wrapping specimens, which also prevents them drying out too quickly
appropriate footwear and clothing
long-handed trowel, fork, long shoe-horn for overturning small nodules
First Aid kit
water and a snack!
A hammer is useful, but do remember to wear goggles when splitting rocks.
Brushes and a sieve can be useful to avoid carrying unnecessary sand or clay
Consider all aspects of heath and safety regarding the site and also from your perpective and the people with you. A useful place for fossil localities, the sorts of fossils that you might find, specific safety considerations and may be found here. You THere is oftehttp://www.discoveringfossils.co.uk/locations.htm
IMPORTANT - Check the times of tides before the visit
The essentials of the Scottish Fossil Code:
Seek permission – You are acting within the law if you obtain permission to extract, collect and retain fossils.
Access responsibly – Consult the Scottish Outdoor Access Code prior to accessing land.
Be aware that there are restrictions on access and collecting at some locations protected by statute.
Collect responsibly – Exercise restraint in the amount collected and the equipment used.
Be careful not to damage fossils and the fossil resource.
Record details of both the location and the rocks from which fossils are collected.
Seek advice – If you find an exceptional or unusual fossil do not try to extract it;
but seek advice from an expert.
Also seek help to identify fossils or dispose of an old collection.
Label and look after – Collected specimens should be labelled and taken good care of.
Donate – If you are considering donating a fossil or collection choose an Accredited museum,
I thoroughly enjoyed a crinoid Geoblitz (systematic review of crinoids using Geoblitz criteria below) with the curator Neil Owen of Leeds Museum. There were some interesting specimens - I particularly enjoyed seeing the large slab of Woodacrinus crinoids - there were juveniles as well adult crinoids.
Stars were given GOLD= High (meets all four of he criteria), Silver and Bronze .
Scientific – is of taxonomic or other research importance; including being cited or published.
Historic – associated with a known collector, donor, locality, site, discovery, date or institution; support research in a specific field
Rarity/Uniqueness – internationally, nationally or regionally important; rare in museums collections and/or from an important local or SSSI site
Public Engagement – has an interesting history, has good public engagement potential for display, events or publicity.
BACKGROUND - Leeds Museum Geology Collection (over 24, 000 Minerals, Rock Types and Fossils from around the world)
The Geology Collection dates back to the 1820’s and has been awarded a “Designated Outstanding Collection” by the Arts Council England.
The fossil collection comprises (approx. 12,000 specimens – some were donated from well known collectors:
The Ethlered Bennett’s collection of rocks and fossils,
Ernest E. Gregory collection of rocks and fossils
Cyril P. Castell collection of fossils.
What is a Geoblitz? what is the aim?
To assess the collection and to identify individual specimens, therefore highlight specific key taxa for star grading system.
This assessment/identification will be used to enable greater usage/engagement of the collection and promote Star specimens for :
The False widow spiders (Steatoda spp.) form a group of species that, because of their general resemblance to the much more notorious Black widow spiders (Latrodectus spp.), can cause concern when found in Britain. In fact, these False widow spiders and the true Black widow spiders belong to the same family, the Theridiidae (comb-footed spiders).
Six species of False widow spiders occur in the UK (Steatoda nobilis, S. grossa, S. bipunctata, S. albomaculata, S. triangulosa and Asagena phalerata), all are black or brown, rotund species up to about the size of a small finger-nail (maximum body length of adult female 15 mm). An additional species, Steatoda paykulliana, is an occasional import in fruit shipments. Females have a globular shiny abdomen, while males have a smaller one with clearer markings. All species have a narrow white or lighter band around the front of the abdomen. A trait that gives the name to the family is the presence of a particularly well-developed comb of serrated bristles on female’s fourth tarsus, visible with a lens on the largest species. The webs are a tangle of criss-cross threads which may become quite dense in the centre if left undisturbed. Here are some details for the species most likely to be seen in Britain:
Noble false widow spiderSteatoda nobilis ♀ 8.5–14 mm; ♂ 7–10 mm. Always larger than S. bipunctata and usually larger than S. grossa. Abdomen pattern often described as “skull-shaped” but more like a pentagon, clearer in males and dimmer or sometimes absent in females. Legs uniformly red to brown.
Cupboard spider Steatoda grossa ♀ 6.5–10 mm; ♂ 4–6 mm. Females usually darker than S. nobilis and S. bipunctata, purplish-brown, evenly-coloured dark legs or with lighter stripes, pattern of two clear triangles and lateral bars (see photo) often dim or missing in the darkest specimens. Both sexes with lighter crescent on the front of the abdomen, but this is often absent too. Front legs longer that in S. nobilis and S. bipunctata.
Rabbit hutch spiderSteatoda bipunctata ♀ 4.5–7 mm; ♂ 4–5 mm. Distinctive appearance with median band on abdomen, clearer in male, but fainter, partial or missing in female. Dark transversal lines over the tip of the abdomen. Legs with dark stripes visible more than in any other Steatoda in Britain.
False widow spiderSteatoda paykulliana ♀ 8–13 mm; ♂ 4.5–6 mm. Black body and legs, with characteristic midline pattern on abdomen, with triangles or chevrons on median band. Both these and the band in front of the abdomen can be white, pale yellow, orange or red.
Noble false widow spiderSteatoda nobilis Well established in the southern counties and spreading north. It has been introduced with bananas from the Canary Islands and Madeira. In and around houses and other buildings. Prefers elevated positions such as the top corners of rooms and conservatories, where it hunts flying insects.
Cupboard spiderSteatoda grossa Has colonised England, Wales and Ireland; widespread in northern Europe. Usually in houses, but occasionally in sheltered spots outside and away from habitations. Prefers hidden areas near the ground under furniture, dark low corners, where it hunts for woodlice and crawling insects.
Rabbit hutch spiderSteatoda bipunctata Widespread and common in Britain and northern Europe. It lives mainly in and around sheds, pet houses and clutter in gardens, but sometimes on tree trunks. Frequent in domestic rubbish which has been dumped illegally, well away from houses.
False widow spiderSteatoda paykulliana Not so far established in Britain, but repeatedly imported with produce from the Mediterranean, especially with grapes. It hides in cracks in the ground and under stones.
False widow spiders are synanthropic species (= living almost exclusively in association with man) hanging upside down in small webs known as tangle webs. Adult females can live for a few years and survive for long periods without water. Adult males live for only a few months and are usually seen in summer and autumn. They cease to feed once mature, their sole purpose being to mate. The males have smaller and more clearly marked abdomens. They also have a stridulatory apparatus of file and scraper type (ridges on the rear of the carapace and teeth under the front end of the abdomen). They court females with sounds just about audible, produced by rapid vibrations of the abdomen. The females lay eggs in white, spherical egg-sacs produced at intervals. Their number depends on the food supply and are laid from spring through to autumn. The eggs hatch in 2-4 months. Local dispersal is achieved through ballooning on silk threads. Longer distance dispersal is aided by transportation of goods by road, rail and the shipping network.
Spider bites and first aid
If handled unwisely or accidentally, False widow spiders are capable of biting humans. False widow bite effects are similar to the Black widow’s, but milder and without diaphoresis (profuse sweating).The bite is always followed by regional pain, sometimes (25%) severe (greater than a bee sting), lasting between 1-12 h, rarely over 24 h. The pain can radiate from extremities (hand, foot) towards the body. Some bites (30%) produce nausea, headache, lethargy, and malaise. Most bites cause only minor effects and resolve with no medical intervention. False widow venom cannot cause necrotic ulcers. Allergic (hypersensitivity) reactions or infections are very unlikely. Very often skin and soft-tissue infections are wrongly reported by patients as ‘spider bites’ although a spider was not actually caught biting. Doctors must be aware, so that they can recognise the real cause and treat it effectively.
If bites happen, clean the bite with mild soap and water to prevent infections. You may apply a cold pack to relieve the pain and to slow the spread of venom, but don’t apply ice directly on skin! Mild analgesics (pain killers) may help relieving the pain. If you begin to experience any serious symptoms, you should seek immediate medical help.
Conservation and control
False widows are not native to Britain and thus not granted any conservation status. You can treat them as pests and remove them from your property if you wish to reduce the risk of getting bitten. However, most people are reluctant to kill spiders and prefer to live in harmony with them. False widows seem to have found an unoccupied niche in British habitats; we have no evidence that they upset the natural balance since their arrival. In houses, they are natural enemies of many unwanted insect guests. To prevent getting bitten, be careful when putting on gloves or boots that have been left unused for a while, as spiders may seek refuge and hide in those.
If you decide sharing your home with spiders is too risky, you can catch and release them in the garden. You can buy different spider catchers which will help you handle adult spiders without actually touching them, or improvise your own devices from cups and cards – anything that will avoid you getting bitten or the spiders getting crushed in the process.
The Bread beetle, Stegobium paniceum, also known as the Biscuit beetle (or the Drugstore beetle in the U.S.A.) is one of the commonest pest insects of stored food. It is able to feed on a variety of plant and animal products including bread and flour and even hot spices and drugs. However, this beetle is not harmful to health and despite its close resemblance to the Common furniture beetle or Woodworm beetle (in the adult stage), it does not feed on wood.
The adult beetles are usually noticed first. They are small, between 2 and 4 mm in length, reddish-brown and, under magnification, reveal fine grooves running lengthways along the wing cases. Furniture beetles (or Woodworms) are similar but are somewhat larger and darker and their antennae are shorter than the legs (in Bread beetles the lengths are similar). There are three flattened segments at the tip of antennae. The head is partially hidden by the pronotum (the plate that covers the upper part of the thorax). Biscuit beetles have large dark eyes.
Antennae with many serrations, while Biscuit beetle has three large ones at the tip. Has much weaker punctures on the surface of the wing covers (elytra). Eyes easier to see from above. Different shape of pronotum.
The Biscuit beetle occurs in houses, stores, warehouses and kitchens throughout central and northern Europe, including the UK, sometimes in very large numbers. It is known as a cosmopolitan species.
In common with other beetles, this species passes through four life‑stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult (pictured below). The speed of development through the life cycle depends on temperature, moisture, quality and abundance of food. In cool temperatures (below 15ºC) there is only one generation per year, in moderate temperatures two, while at higher temperatures (above 23ºC) there may be five or more.
Eggs are laid by mated females on or near the foodstuff. When the larva emerges from the egg, it is less than 1mm in length. In its search for food, it may bite into packaged or hidden food sources. The larva increases in size and, at about 5mm in length, it enters the pupal stage. Before emergence as an adult beetle, a minimum of nine days is spent as the pupa in an oval shaped cell moulded by the larva using the food material.
Damage and control
Because the Bread beetle larva thrives in dark, warm, undisturbed places, it is essential to search thoroughly for the food‑source of the larva if adults are found wandering around. Rarely-used dried-foods such as flour or spices are often the source of an infestation. Removing disused and old foodstuff should eliminate an infestation.
Adult beetles may be seen around fire‑places and air vents with no apparent food‑source available. These are likely to have come from nests of wasps or birds in the attic. Beware also of bread in fire‑places that has been dropped down the chimney by birds. With suitable hygiene, and by preventing access into the attic by nest‑builders, the successful eradication of this pest should be assured.
We have had an interesting specimen to identify, bought in India some 40 years ago, beautifully carved into a small Buddha head. The specimen was extremely hard and must have been carved by someone very skilled because it is only about 3 cm high.
We identified the stone as corundum, the scientific name for rubies and sapphires. Gem quality corundum is diagnosed as ‘ruby’ if it is red. All gem quality corundums which are not red are called sapphires even the pink ones like this Buddha!