Birds and teeth

A few weeks ago I took The Daughter to the APS museum, as part of a Day of Fun in Philadelphia. (Other aspects of Fun included playing in the park with a similarly-aged, ball-enabled girl and saying hello to Billy, a very nice horse who gives carriage rides.) The exhibit du jour (du mois) is Of Elephants & Roses, focusing on natural history in post-revolutionary France. The Daughter was a big fan of the taxidermied birds, particularly Empress Josephine’s black swan, and raced around yelling “Bird bird bird.” (We were the only ones in the exhibit space, near to closing time; otherwise a little more restraint would’ve been in order.)

I was personally more interested in the elephant side of the equation. More specifically, I got a big kick out of the mastodon tooth on display. As I’d just been reading Thomson’s chapters on Big Bone Lick, it was rather neat to see one of the fossils in the flesh, as it were.

The tooth on display is big. On a visceral level, it encourages one to fear the mouth that it fit into. (Carnivore, herbivore, whatever.) Looking at that tooth, my inner six-year-old was on the exact same page as Thomas Jefferson: the mouth that held that tooth was big and it probably wanted to eat me. Jefferson was gleeful because he wanted North America’s fauna to do it proud in comparison to Europe; my inner six-year-old just thought ravening herds of carnivorous mastodons would be cool.

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