The University’s Bell Museum of Natural History celebrated the approaching Halloween holiday this weekend with its fifth annual “Oddities and Curiosities of Nature” exhibit.
Displays, including the skull of a four-horned sheep and a jar containing the fetus of a six-legged pig, awed visitors at every turn.
The exhibit is designed to resemble a circus sideshow. Museum employees added to the sideshow look by dressing in top hats, suit jackets with tails, jester hats and calling out to passersby. Large hand-painted posters announced features such as vampire bats and a 200-pound clam.
Museum visitors who had worked up an appetite after viewing the peculiarities could enjoy free apple juice and popcorn. Brave visitors sampled fried mealworms at the “Eat a Bug” table.
But the bugs do not taste like chicken.
“They taste like Rice Krispies,” said Anthony Locatelli, a museum employee and University sophomore.
Locatelli fried up the mealworms in a hotplate during the event. Visitors could dip the snack in barbecue sauce, mustard or chocolate syrup.
“It tasted really good with the chocolate,” said 7-year-old Simone Richard, who attended the exhibit with her mother and a friend.
Nearby, museum visitors watched while flesh-eating beetles in a terrarium consumed the carcasses of two birds. Dermestid beetles, found all over the world, eat dead, dried-out flesh. The beetles are often used by taxidermists to clean animal bones.
A terrarium adjacent to the beetles held banana slugs. The large yellow creatures produce so much mucus, they can seal the mouth of predators attempting to eat them.
Visitors could hold a cantaloupe-sized hairball from the stomach of a cow. They could also view several species found in nature whose females outweigh and out-muscle the males in the featured, “Big Girls of the Natural World.”
Preserved black widow spiders, a species whose females are 50 times larger than the males, were also on display. A sign explained that the male spiders need to be smaller so they can sneak up on the female to mate. Otherwise, the aggressive females would eat their prospective partners.
Richard said she and her friend learned a lot at the exhibit.
But they said they disapproved of a display featuring items seized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The display had an elephant-foot footstool and a crocodile-head ashtray.
“I didn’t like that stuff,” Richard said. “It’s very evil.”