Worms of Discovery

Museums serve a wide range of research visitors and a lot of the working day can just be trying to schedule them all in! However, with rare exception, we get a lot out of the exchange and I managed to find the time to write up a few recent visits including this one about one of the more obscure major groups of animals.

More Than A Dodo

By Mark Carnall, Life Collections manager

The Museum’s zoology collections contain a dizzying diversity of animal specimens. It is a collection that would take multiple lifetimes to become familiar with, let alone expert in. So we benefit hugely from the expertise of visiting researchers – scientists, artists, geographers, historians – to name just a few of the types of people who can add valuable context and expand our knowledge about the specimens in our care.

Earlier this year, Dr Andrew McCarthy of Canterbury College (East Kent College Group) got in touch to ask about our material of Acanthocephala, an under-studied group of parasitic animals sometimes called the spiny-headed worms.

Although there are around 1,400 species of acanthocephalans, they are typically under-represented in museum collections. Dr McCarthy combed through the fluid-preserved and microscope slide collections here, examining acanthocephalan specimens for undescribed species, rare representatives and unknown parasitic associations.

Close up of OUMNH-ZC-7483 Section of blue whale intestine with mysterious acanthocephalan parasites Close up…

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Cephalopods of the Multiverse

Wanted to put this together even since I heard about the phenomenal Journal of Geek Studies. Really happy to see it out in the wild!

Journal of Geek Studies

Mark A. Carnall

Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Oxford, UK.

Email: mark.carnall (at) oum.ox.ac (dot) uk

Download PDF

Magic the Gathering (MTG) is a popular trading and collectible card game, first published by Wizards of the Coast in 1993. Although the game now spans many formats and game types, the core concept pits two players “Planes-walkers” against each other, drawing power (mana) from plains, swamps, mountains, forests and islands to summon creatures and cast spells to battle and defeat opponents. The game has a complex and ever evolving set of rules. Wizards of the Coast regularly release new sets and blocks introducing new cards, mechanics and lore to the rich Multiverse, the planes of existence that Planeswalkers can travel between, that makes the games setting.

One aspect of the game which arguably underpins the continued success of MTG is the vibrancy and colour which gives flavour to the complex…

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Nature’s collectors

More Than A Dodo

by Mark Carnall, Collections Manager in the Life Collections

When giving tours of the invertebrate collections at the Museum, I don’t have much time to cover the considerable diversity of invertebrate animals. When it comes to molluscs (the group including snails, bivalves, squid, octopuses, chitons etc.), which perhaps most people aren’t too excited about, I try to inspire, enthuse and engage with this diverse group by pulling out some of the more weird and wonderful species from the group.

Xenophorids, or Carrier Shells, are up there on the list of weird and wonderful molluscs. Xenophoridae is a small family of around 30 species of marine snails that live on sandy and muddy sea floors in subtropical and tropical seas. So far so snail.

What makes them interesting is that these animals attach objects they encounter to the outside of their shells. The scientific and common name of the group is…

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