It is well known that natural history collections are full of bizarre and odd specimens. Jars with 100 year old brains, heads, and other bits and pieces are no strangers to museum curators. However, some specimens are so unusal that they deserve special attention. Buzzfeed recently featured two specimens from our unit in a survey of the 23 weirdest specimens in science collections.
The first is our tank of shark heads, which includes two basking shark heads. These were donated to us by the Institute of Marine Sciences in 1996, though the specimens were collected in the 1970’s. These shark heads have already been used in research projects, but not mentioned on the buzzfeed article is that one of the 500 lb basking sharks was caught on a fishing pier in Morehead City. Imagine for a second what trying to wrangle a basking shark from a pier must be like.
Second is our infamous tongue isopod attached to the jaw of a jack. This specimen came to us from staff at the Curacao aquarium, who caught this fish while fishing off the shore of the Island. These isopods are fascinating and we have started a collaboration with the Curacao aquarium, Dr. Dan Warren, Dr. Teresa Iglesias, and our crustacean unit (headed by Dr. Bronwyn Williams) to further study the evolution of these unusual parasites.
The link to the buzzfeed article is here