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Fossil Fish blog

2 Posts tagged with the megalodon tag
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Hi all, it has been a busy few months for myself and others working with the fossil fish collections. You may have seen some updates on the @NHM_FossilFish twitter account that I have been away on fieldwork and at a couple of conferences, hopefully I will blog about these soon.

 

One big event the whole Museum is involved in is happening this Friday, it's Science Uncovered! This is a Europe-wide event and is something nearly all the staff in the Museum are involved in. It is a free event with staff and volunteers talking about their research, favourite specimens and hot science topics. There is even a bar where you can come and talk to us over a drink.

 

Team Fish will be out in force on the evening.

 

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Flyer and my 'I'm a scientist' badge. Look out for people wearing these during the evening.

 

Dr Zerina Johanson and her team will be presenting new research on the evolution of the shark dentition, how this was built from individual teeth to form a highly functional feeding unit. Shark dentitions are very diverse, representing a wide range of feeding strategies.

 

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CT scan of the jaw of the shark Squalus acanthias.

 

We will focus particularly on the sawshark dentition, with 'teeth' along an extended rostrum at the front of the head. These function during feeding (for example, slashing through schools of fish), but are they true teeth? Zerina will be in the Origins and Evolution Zone.

 

Have you heard of oceans called 'Tethys' and 'Panthalassa'? 

 

Dr Martha Richter will be explaining how fossil fishes and cephalopods can provide clues about the palaeogeography and salinity of ancient oceans as well as the past connections between continents. She will illustrate this with exceptionally well-preserved fossils from two continents, Africa (Morocco) and South America (Brazil), which range in age from the Early and Late Cretaceous c. 100-90 million years ago.

 

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Excavating fossils in the Crato Formation, Brazil.

 

Martha will be at Station 8: Oceans between 8:30pm and 10pm, in Marine Reptile Way.

 

Sharks, how big?


How do we know how big the biggest shark was when it is usually only their teeth that fossilise? Learn how to estimate the size of a shark from just their teeth and handle real specimens from Megalodon, one of the biggest sharks that ever lived, which could have swallowed a human whole. I will also be in the Origins and Evolution Zone.

 

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Myself holding one of the Megalodon teeth.

 

Please do stop by and say hello to one or all of us. It promises to be a great night I hope to see you there! If you can't make it you can always follow events using the hashtag #SU2014.

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As part of my job I often work with other curators and museum professionals. Part of having such a good network of colleagues is that we can learn from each other (us 'experts' don't know everything!).


Back in January (27th - 31st), I had the pleasure of the assistance of Alex Peaker who is a palaeontologist at Dinosaur Isle Museum on the Isle of Wight. Alex wanted to come to the Palaeontology Section to see how we document our specimens and deal with research visitors.

 

Here Alex tells us a bit about his job at Dinosaur Isle Museum and what he got up to during the week...

AlexPeakerCrop.jpgAlex Peaker ready to start his week with us at the Natural History Museum.


Dinosaur Isle is a museum that promotes the wealth of geology and palaeontology that can be found on the Isle of Wight. It displays a particularly fantastic collection of local dinosaur finds.

 

In a normal day's work I mostly deal with curation of the collection, spending much of my time documenting specimens into our electronic database, working with associated documentation, assisting with any enquiries, and facilitating research on our specimens.

 

Last year I had the fantastic opportunity to work for the museum with the Isle of Wight Destination Management Organisation, BBC, and 20th Century Fox, teaming together to work on promotion for the recently-released film Walking with Dinosaurs - the 3d movie. The result saw the creation of the Dinosaur Island augmented reality app, which has been a fantastic success in promoting the movie, the island, and our dinosaurs.

 

Recently I was given the chance to spend a week working at the Natural History Museum, which was greatly appreciated; the time that I spent there was absolutely amazing. The reason for the trip was to further my ability in curation, to work with people who have a wealth of experience in the area and to see how our practices compare to that of a national museum.

 

I spent the week working with Emma Bernard in the Fossil Fish Section, looking at:

  • documentation procedure
  • digitisation of the collection onto the Museum database (KE EMu)
  • general museum standards and policies
  • interpretation and outreach
  • display and storage of specimens

 

It was great to be able to work with such an amazing collection, and often with fossils that I have only seen in books. Virtually every drawer I opened seemed to have either a type fossil (the single specimen designated by an author to formally describe a new species), or something with an interesting history (e.g. donated by Sir Richard Owen). My personal favourites were a large Brychaetus (prehistoric bony fish) skull from the Isle of Sheppey, and a particularly large megalodon tooth (everybody loves a big shark, but even for megalodon this one was a real beast).

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Large Brychaetus skull (NHMUK PV P 3893), found from the Isle of Sheppey, UK.

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Megalodon tooth (NHMUK PV P 14534), found in Virgina, USA.


I was also given a chance to visit the Cephalopod and Brachiopod Section with Zoe Hughes, which was very interesting. I was shown some fantastic fossils including an amazing squid showing preservation of all of its soft tissue, and was even privileged enough to have a viewing of the 'Royal Brachiopod' (a fossil collected by Darwin on the Falklands that is often used as an example to royal visitors).

 

Thankfully the procedures set up at the Museum are very similar to those that I would work by at Dinosaur Isle but with some differences, most of which seem to derive from the size of the collections and slightly different collection policies (apart from a few comparative pieces, our collection holds exclusively Isle of Wight fossils whereas the Museum collects specimens from all over the world).

 

I learnt a lot in a week at the Museum with much of my newly-gained experience already having been a help at Dinosaur Isle. It was great to work with a fantastic group of people who were incredibly helpful and showed me a lot of great things.

I would like to thank the South East Museum Development Programme for the funding and making this opportunity possible.

 

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Alex photographing shark fin spines we brought back from Morocco.

 

Thanks very much to Alex for all his help during the week. He helped to document a lot of the specimens we collected whilst in Morocco and locate several specimens connected with our upcoming Sir Arthur Smith Woodward Symposium. I also learnt from Alex by discussing how he carries tasks out at Dinosaur Isle.