The Smithsonian Natural History Museum Part Two

The first floor of the museum (which we toured after lunch) is the one most people see if they’re planning to only spend a few hours. You’d think walking up to the Natural History Museum would look like walking up to a castle. But no, this picture is actually just an office building, if a totally awesome one:

Who wouldn’t want an office in a castle? I can see it now:

“Honey, I’m off to the castle. Be home at 5!” Ha!

Anyway, the first floor contains some of the funniest stuffed animals I’ve ever seen on exhibit:

Both the fennec fox and the bush baby have the same exact expression. Obviously whoever mounted them thought this was a natural pose. Hint: it’s not. But it is certainly hilarious.

And then there are the fairy armadillos. As the Other Half said, “It’s like someone didn’t know the difference between sushi, moles, and armadillos.”

There’s also my little pet project I keep an eye on: the Thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger. It’s a marsupial that’s been extinct for a very long time because of over-hunting. There is a small project that was trying to work on cloning it (but I think it ran out of support), so I’ve also been watching South Africa’s Quagga Project for the past 10 years or so.

I know, I was a nerdy child keeping track of extinct animals, but it just solidified the knowledge that I (and everyone else) have a responsibility to care for the fauna we have so that our children’s children don’t have to see them all in a museum.

…And off the soapbox and the depressing turn of conversation. I’m getting sneakier about stepping on it. You didn’t even notice this time, did you? Speaking of extinct animals, there are several really cool fossils on the first floor:

If you’re an RA Salvatore fan, you may recognize this as a diatryma, which one of his characters frequently uses in battles. It is a very large bird which, like the moa, were much larger than the ostriches of today.

They also have a full skeleton of an irish elk, which is really, really big:

In terms of really, really big reptiles, there are of course allosaurs, triceratops, a t-rex, stegosauruses, duckbills and a brontosaurus, which you would expect because they’re really big, really cool, and really famous. Really. But then, there are some other creatures, like this one:

What is this? A newt? A snub-nosed crocodile? A prehistoric gila monster? It’s actually an amphibian that’s almost 300 million years old called Eryops. Yep. It’s a newt.

And there was this one:

This looks like a cross between a sabre-toothed cat and a triceratops that just got punched in the nose. The museum has an artist’s rendition of what the owner of this skull would have looked like to help us imagine this:

It’s actually an Uintatheres, which ate plants and looked more like elephant-rhinos wearing a headdress than anything.

Some more recent giants on display included this squid that I remember hearing about on the news:

It looks a bit less… awesome than I remember. But even preserved, it’s very long, which makes me definitely not want to meet a live one.

That’s the last of our adventures in Washington, DC. I can’t believe it took me a month to relate them, but at least now you can stay tuned for further Batscapades on the east coast!

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