Odds and quads

October 18, 2012

Credit: UCL/Grant Museum of Zoology/Matt Clayton

This jar of moles is one of the most popular items owned by University College London's Grant Museum of Zoology and took pride of place near the entrance when the museum reopened after its relocation in 2011.

No one knows for sure where the moles come from or how they ended up in a sweet jar, although they may have been collected for a dissection class and never used.

Moles make excellent animals for this purpose because they possess a typical vertebrate skeleton and organs (apart from the beautifully adapted limbs they use for digging), and are in abundant supply, given that gardeners all over the country consider them vermin.

So these could well have been a donation from a farmer or landowner struggling with a local mole problem.

When not on permanent display, the moles are used in public-engagement activities, such as competitions to guess how many there are in the jar.

They even have their own Twitter account, @GlassJarOfMoles, although it is not affiliated with the museum.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to matthew.reisz @tsleducation.com.

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