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Mammal Skulls, Reptile Skins, and Amphibians in Jars

Snakes in jars

July 12, 2012

Over the past few days, visitors to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University have been buzzing about several new specimen display cases that were recently set up throughout the museum. “I know it’s a snake, but I really think it’s part crocodile,” one science enthusiast mused upon seeing an emerald tree boa coiled into a jar. Another marveled at the sheer size of a cane toad in a different container: “That’s just one frog?” she asked her friend.

As part of the Academy’s Mammal, Reptile, and Amphibian month this July, our display cases are filled from top to bottom and side to side with special specimens that are usually tucked away in the museum’s behind-the-scenes collections. A spinner dolphin skull, with its hundreds of tiny teeth intact, awaits visitors on the second floor; nearby, a case is loaded with various reptile and amphibian specimens, including an Asian vine snake and a common mudpuppy. Although the specimens in the cases are real, they leave plenty to the imagination. What colors could the now-brown Indian chameleon turn while it was alive? How would the timber rattlesnake above it have sounded?

If the specimens whet your curiosity, you can also visit the Academy Thursdays through Mondays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to take behind-the-scenes tours of our Mammalogy and Herpetology Collections with Ned Gilmore, the museum’s resident expert on both. Make your way through the Academy’s hidden treasures, which feature 23,000 mammal specimens and 36,000 reptile and amphibian specimens. You could encounter mammal skulls collected by Samuel G. Morton, the remains of the famous circus elephant Bolivar, and the large hellbender salamander. Sign up for a behind-the-scenes tour at the Admissions Desk on the day of your visit.

With its fur, scales, and slime, July truly boasts something for everyone. These special opportunities to get up close and personal with the Academy’s prized mammal, reptile, and amphibian specimens will last only through the month’s end, as August paves the way for bugs of all kinds. Don’t miss your chance to join us during July and August to see the Academy and its treasures in a new light!