Giant beavers, giant sloths…and Judi Dench

The saber-tooth tiger, giant beaver, and dire wolf didn’t concern me much. No, I wouldn’t like to meet a saber-tooth tiger in the wild, but those animals seem almost commonplace. The giant beaver would have been almost comical. (You think you have a beaver problem now? Imagine one 5’9″ long and weighing the same as a black bear.)

The skeleton that gave me pause and made me gulp was the one of the giant sloth. I craned my neck to look up at it—all 10.5 feet of it—and its huge claws. Sloths are supposed to be those small, slow-moving creatures. Here was one that no matter how slow-moving it was, I would not want to have encountered.

I was wandering through the Joseph Moore museum, a natural history museum full of information and artifacts about ancient Indiana inhabitants and modern animals, on the campus of Earlham College.

The top floor housed the skeletons of ancient animals; artifacts from Adena, Hopewell, and Fort Ancient cultures; and stuffed birds and mammals of modern day. The basement housed a collection of live animals and a mummy—yes, a mummy bought in Egypt and brought back to the college. (The buyer was told that the mummy was of a ruler—anyone want to buy a bridge I am selling?)

Aside from the giant sloth, my favorite bits were probably the live reptiles in the basement—specifically the green iguana named Judi Dench. Hanging on top of a tree under a sun lamp at the top of her enclosure, her eyes went wide when she saw me. Hard to know what she was thinking…hopefully not about how I would be a tasty treat.

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