NHM Placement Part 2 – Palaeontology

The next day we turned up at Palaeontology and got shown round the brachiopod and cephalopod collection by @ZEHughes.

Here is a drawer of well curated fossils

Very pretty

Very pretty

The main conservation problems for fossils are getting knocked about or dropped, and pyrite disease. Pyrite disease is when a fossil containing the mineral pyrite in it starts oxidizing (essential its rusts), this process will eventually destroy fossils.

In the photo these fossil have started to pyritise, but have been stabilised.

Pyrite mitigation strategy

Pyrite mitigation strategy

We got to see one of the most unusual fossils, a fossil of a soft bodied invertebrate, the silt was so fine details of the squids body are still visible.

Fossil squid

Fossil squid

We spent the rest of the morning helping Zoe by checking the contents of the drawers matched up with the information in the spreadsheets.

Claire Miles and Me hard at work

Claire Miles and Me hard at work

In the afternoon we took a tour of the fossil mammal store with Pip Brewer the curator of fossil mammals.

The first cupboard we looked at contained mammal remains from 65 – 2.5 millions years ago. 

Of course this brought up how to define a mammal when one is reaching back through evolution. The nocturnal Mamalliaformes existed in the Permian period, but mammals are generally counted from the Mesozoic when they became more diverse and took over many more ecological niches.

Most of the early specimens are only known from their teeth. Pip showed us a model of a tooth that a researcher had created from a 3D scan. It reminded me of a shrew’s tooth.

Taking casts from the skulls is a popular way of studying them, so to avoid this process damaging them, a master cast of a skull is made from fibreglass, and all other casts must be taken from this.

In the picture is the master cast of a creodont skull from Syria.

SONY DSC

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