My name is Paolo Viscardi. I’m the Zoology curator at the Horniman Museum Grant Museum of Zoology in London National Museum of Ireland. What a curator actually does is hard to define – the role has changed a lot over the years as museum jobs have become more specialised. Curators (particularly in natural history) were once responsible for collecting, identifying, documenting and maintaining specimens, as well as putting them on display and carrying out research.

Although curators are still involved in many of these roles, much of the work involved has been taken on by conservation, documentation, collections management and exhibitions staff. Now curators are mainly involved in enabling intellectual access to collections – we research specimens and communicate the information they contain through publications, exhibitions and online resources. We also foster partnerships to further wider goals and we are keen to encourage others to use the collections. Part of what we do is also to focus on developing the collections by collecting new material and identifying which of the older material may be suitable for disposal.

As far as I am concerned this is the greatest job in the world. I enjoy the excitement of working with diverse collections from all over the world and spanning hundreds of millions of years. There is some amazing stuff in our world and I’m lucky enough to see quite a lot of it on a day to day basis – some of which I enjoy sharing with you here on this blog.

It must be said that this is my personal blog and the views expressed here are not those of the Horniman Museum, Grant Museum of Zoology National Museum of Ireland, they are mine and solely mine.

I frequently write posts touching on alternative therapies and fundamentalist beliefs, since these are without exception founded on flawed premises and misinterpretation of observations. While I disagree with such belief based cultural anachronisms and fads, it should be noted that I fully respect every individual’s right to their beliefs, although I do not necessarily respect the beliefs that are held by every individual. After all, some beliefs are downright unpleasant, uninformed or just plain stupid.

Thanks for taking an interest.

45 thoughts on “About

  1. Hello

    I would like to use your picture of the small headed worm lizard in a world studies book for primary schools. Would that be possible? Could you send me an e-mail?


  2. Hello my names bryan, and i came across an ammonite fossil I put away, found it in Italy as a child. when i looked closer it seemed to have eye holes in what looked like a skull, after i did research, i believe it might be soft parts intact on the shell, broken neck?

    i need aperson who might know soft body parts may look like… i cant find any pics on the net. so i really dont know what im looking for/at.

    HQ pics i took. https://picasaweb.google.com/GeoffEwry/20110227#

    20 post on the net, no relpys…..

    Is this real or possable? i would like any kind of perspective.
    Thanks again Bryan

    • Sorry, I missed this (don’t look on my ‘About’ page very often. Ammonites don’t have skulls and the soft parts were very soft indeed – rather like a squid. What you may have here is an encrusting calcifying organism (like a sponge or serpulid worm).

      It is possible that the decomposing remains of the ammonite’s soft-parts led to preferential consolidation of sediment around the open chamber, given the changes in mineralisation caused by bacterial action (particularly in anaerobic conditions). However, this is unlikely to give you any resolution of features within the softparts in the kind of preservation your specimen has.

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  4. Hi–couldn’t find a direct e-mail on your site–so I thought I’d try this. I recently left a comment about the Catholic Priest post, which generated an auto e-mail asking if I wanted to confirm following the blog. But I’ve been registered and receiving the weekly blog for a very long time. I hesitated to click on confirm, worrying I’ll end up with a doubled email. Should I just go ahead and click on it and register a second time? Ty Nolan

    • I wouldn’t bother clicking it – I’m not sure what it would do, and double mailing seems likely! Thanks for the comment by the way, it’s a depressing representation of the problems that have been encountered and the unwillingness for those problems to be addressed by the Catholic community. I do intend to respond! Many thanks!

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  7. I have a small (partial) skull of an aquatic animal that was discovered on a beach in Southern California. It doesn’t seem to have a mandible or any teeth and no visible eye socket. Would love to get some help figuring out what this piece belongs to.

  8. Found next to Loch Turret in Perthshire – I had thought it was a mole mandible as lots of mole hills there even though the loch is in the middle of nowhere. May have been dropped by a predator I guess.

  9. Hi, Paolo.

    My name is Aram. From Seoul, South Korea.

    I came across your website while searching for pictures of zygomas online. I really want to encourage you by saying that this is wonderful work.

    I’ve considering a project, possibly a clinically oriented publication, regarding the relationship between the zygoma and soft tissues of the cheek. Then I realized that… thru medical school, I never questioned what purpose the zygoma serves. For some reason, I believed that its sole purpose was to be a crumple zone in the face. Then I remembered looking at the zygoma of a horse some time ago and thinking it was a useless shape because it would not help absorbing any impact. Obviously, I was thinking at the whole thing from the wrong perspective.

    So I began thinking that I need to delve a little into comparative anatomy of the zygoma in order to understand the zygoma a little better. Now I am thinking that the function of the zygoma is mastication first and orbital wall second.

    Anyways, I thought I’d write you and see if you could point me in the right direction (journal articles/comp anat textbooks).



    • Hi Aram,
      to my mind the zygomatic arch is very much about providing an area for attachment of the masseter. It also acts as a separator for the temporalis to attach to the coronoid process without conflicting with the function of the masseter, allowing the mandible to function with optimal efficiency.

      I’d suggest finding a medical museum collection to take a good look at some specimens. You could even get hold of a sheep head (or something similar) from the butchers and have a go at dissecting it – there’s nothing like seeing anatomy for yourself to get an understanding of how it works.



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    • Parts of two different species. The larger hand probably Japanese Macaque, the smaller forelimb probably something like a Japanese Raccoon Dog. Very hard to be sure without a scale bar and a set of images from different angles though!

  11. Hi Paolo, your blog is an inspiration. love to talk to you about the possibility of contributing to a new seasonal publication aimed at children and families on nature. Its themes for first edition are to be Flight, discipline of Collecting and the number Three in nature. As a curator of natural history collections would love to have a few words from you on the art of collecting. If you are interested, could we talk more about it? Really look forward to hearing from you. please email me with your thoughts. thank you, Lisa.

  12. Hi Paolo,

    I landed on your web page while I was surfing on the internet.
    Thanks for the helpful articles.
    I liked reading them.

    I am running the I.A.C – Inscribink Authors’ Circle. We are a developing website with 10K+ followers on Facebook.

    Would you be interested in sharing one of your articles on our website, with as many links as you wish in it?

    Or, would you be interested in being one of the writers on our new website project?

    Thanks for considering. Let me know if you have any questions.
    P.S. (Your article must be not be published before.)


    Hawk G.
    Founder of I.A.C

  13. Great blog! Nature is always very fascinating, and this blog gives it an extra boost to allow more people to enter this amazing world; without all the jargon! Keep it up 🙂

  14. I’m so happy I came across this blog! I am currently finishing my honours degree in history and will then be taking a Museum Management and Curatorship program. Any words of wisdom for me?
    Ps: Love the blog!

  15. Hi, I thought I should let you know that the link to NatSCA in your Blogroll sidebar currently links to a site with the address natsca.info which has recently run articles on how to become a kitchen designer and how to find cheap minibar fridges online.
    Hopefully not too many people have been misled about the goals of NatSCA!

      • Ah, thank you. I was starting to think of drawing the creature based off the skull just to see what it was, haha. Might it be an adolescent seal? The lower jaw seems kind of delicate compared to the pics I’ve seen on Harbour seal skulls.

        • I think that’s an artefact of the angle of the photograph. Normally you’d see the full lateral perspective, but here the slightly oblique angle makes the mandible look much more gracile than it really is.

  16. Very interesting blog indeed!I have a skull that I found on the beach that I have incorporated in to an art piece. would like to know what it is.

  17. Dear PaoloV,
    I have some specific questions regarding the tarsal skeleton of the lowland tapir. I work at the Budapest University of Vereinary Science, and I cannot find any specific documentation about the exact order of these bones.
    Please send me an email if you think you can help me with that or if you have some good pictures of the planter surface.

    Many thanks
    László Z. Reinitz

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  19. Dear Sir, I have different marten skulls in my collection. I want to know more about the differences between pine and beech marten skulls. So I can finally find out who is who. I saw you made a link to a picture or something that makes things clear but the link does not work any more. I hope maybe you can tell me how I can find the difference. Kind regards, vekeman valery

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