The Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy is a natural history museum that is part of University College London in London. It was established by Robert Edmond Grant (not coincidentally) in 1828 as a teaching collection of zoological specimens and material for dissection. On his death Grant left his own collection to the museum. In 1875 Edwin Ray Lankester added to the museum collection. Later lecturer curators include W. F. R. Weldon (1860–1906), Edward Alfred Minchin, an embryologist named J. P. Hill and a palaeontologist named D. M. S. Watson. The collection contains around 67,000 zoological specimens, many of which are very rare and several of which have been rediscovered only recently in storage. Among the rarities are dodo bones (discovered in storage in 2011).The first recorded mention of the dodo was by Dutch sailors in 1598. In the following years, the bird was hunted by sailors, their domesticated animals, and invasive species introduced during that time. The last widely accepted sighting of a dodo was in 1662. Its extinction was not immediately noticed, and some considered it to be a mythical creature. In the 19th century, research was conducted on a small quantity of remains of four specimens that had been brought to Europe in the early 17th century. There is a Rhamphorhynchus fossil (like a pterodactyl) which was assumed to be a plaster cast, but turned out to be a real fossil.
There is a Quagga skeleton, again not identified until 1981. After the Dutch settlement of South Africa began, the quagga was heavily hunted as it competed with domesticated animals for forage (the Dutch seem to like hunting). While some individuals were taken to zoos in Europe, breeding programs were unsuccessful. The last wild population lived in the Orange Free State, and the quagga was extinct in the wild by 1878. The last captive specimen died in Amsterdam on 12 August 1883. Only one quagga was ever photographed alive and only 23 skins are preserved today. In 1984, the quagga was the first extinct animal to have its DNA analysed, and the Quagga Project is trying to recreate the phenotype of hair coat pattern and related characteristics by selectively breeding Burchell's zebras. A Megaloceros giganteus (Irish Great Deer, one of the largest deer to ever live) was discovered hanging in an Irish hotel and then acquired by the museum. Another animal hunted to extinction but found here is the Tasmanian Tiger (actually a marsupial wolf with stripes). It is a candidate for cloning and other molecular science projects due to its recent demise and the existence of several well preserved specimens.They also have different exhibitions on a range of subjects. Access to the Museum, and all public areas within it, is step-free. There is a shallow ramp leading up to the main entrance from the street.
Location : University College London, 21 University Street, London WC1E 6DE
Opening Times: Monday to Saturday 13:00 - 17:00.
Group and research visits on weekday mornings
Tickets : Free
See website for self-guide tours
Tel: 020 3108 2052