Florida Museum of Natural History

Time for another road trip - this time to the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. Most of the exhibits are free, reminiscent of the great museums in Forest Park, St. Louis. This one started off with one of my favorite things, a huge Wooly Mammoth skeleton.  And nearby was a Mastadon skeleton! I have never seen a whole Mastadon skeleton before. I just love these bones. 
The staff here has done a wonderful job of creating the exhibits. The cave exhibit was a perfect replica of many of the caves we've seen, including the wet look from seeping groundwater.
A lot of space is given to Native Americans of Florida. One large exhibit portrays communication and gifts given between two tribes. 
Donna and I were amazed at the attention to detail on the figures. They look so life-like!
Next was a room filled with amazing skeletons. The predator here is called a "False Saber-Toothed cat", but I'll bet it seemed real enough to the other critter.
And this giant meat-eating bird is called Titanis Walleri, aka Terror Bird. Yep, I'd be terrified of it. 
But my favorite was the Glyptodont, a big, extinct armadillo. 
His bony shell was beautifully pattered with rosettes,
while his skull looks like folded sheets of metal. 
The museum has some paintings by Charles R. Knight. This guy made the paintings that illustrated the dinosaur books I loved as a child, and made a huge impression on many people, including Ray Harryhausen. The fact that later research revealed that dinosaur tails didn't drag on the ground does not lesson his impact. But I noticed that the museum doesn't have any pictures with dinosaurs; they stuck with later-period subjects. No matter, it was great to see some of these.
A large area was filled with butterfly displays under glass and butterfly research behind glass windows. One lady was gluing cocoons to a paper, which seemed like a mean thing to do, until we realized the papers were then put into incubators so the cocoons could mature.  

The displays were amazing - they have thousands of butterflies here. The iridescent ones were breathtaking. 
And we walked through one display that was created extra large, to give visitors the impression of being a small fish in a large pond. The Gulf Toadfish was something from a nightmare - good thing it couldn't grab Donna's hand!
We were starving after all that walking, so we drove into Gainsville for a good lunch at Carrabba's. There is more to see in this area, but we'll save it for another day.

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