Fishy tales

I often think palaeontology is just about story telling. It may seem that we know everything about what’s in the collection, but the truth is we gather as much information as we can and then make up a story that best fits the facts.

There are lots of things palaeontologists do to try and make their story as good as possible, such as gathering detailed information and analysing things, but stories and interpretations often change as we discover new things.

A nice example of this story telling can be seen in our fossil fish.

These two specimens show several fish, which may not seem too remarkable, but when you start thinking about the size, shape and arrangement of the fossils you can start to build up a story.

Clupea brevissima, 90 million years old, The Lebanon

Vectichthys vectensis, 40 million years old, Isle of Wight

Are there lots of different sizes or are they similar?

Are they grouped together or spread out, do any overlap?

Are they all the same sort of fish?

When you’ve thought through all these things and gathered your facts it’s time to make up a story about how the might have died.

The attraction of magnetic minerals!

Hi, my name is Hetti and I am a volunteer in Earth Sciences at Manchester Museum. I help to catalogue some of the rocks, minerals and fossils within the collection and I have recently come across some very interesting magnetic minerals.

Magnetite from Magnet Cove, Arkansas

David Gelsthorpe with Magnetite from Magnet Cove, Arkansas. See how it moves the compass!

There are many different naturally occurring magnetic minerals and all of them have different strengths of magnetism. The most magnetic naturally occurring mineral on Earth is Magnetite. Large deposits of magnetite have been found in Chile, Peru, Australia and across the USA

Magnetite from Magnet Cove, Arkansas

Magnetite from Magnet Cove, Arkansas. See how it moves the compass!

Magnetic properties of minerals are really useful to geologists trying to identify minerals in the field but they have also been important in helping to understand plate tectonics!

As magnetic minerals form they record the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field. Geologists can use this information locked within these rocks to understand the directions tectonic plates have moved in the past.

Jonathan Barnes Vesuvius photos

I’ve recently come across some hidden gems again, in our lantern slide collection here at the museum.

Most of the photos are of the Vesuvius eruption in 1906. I particularly like the ones of the people in the aftermath of the eruption. Enjoy!

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