Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Andrewsarchus (or, the blog post that took an unexpected and nauseating turn)

I've come to realize that I never get tired of weird animals. I am going to be a hit at dinner parties once I am old enough to be invited to them. Behold the latest addition to my repertoire: the Andrewsarchus.

Undebated facts about the Andrewsarchus: almost none.

It may have lived 36 million years ago, or 45 million.
It may have weighed 500 pounds, or 1500.
It may have been beefy, or slender.
It may have been terrifying, like this:

Or adorable, like this:

Fact: The one surviving skull of the Andrewsarchus is three feet long.

The skull was found by Kan Chuen Pao in the Gobi Desert in 1923, on an expedition led by an American "adventurer" named Roy Chapman Andrews. Guess which one has a Wikipedia page. Andrews was evidently an indirect inspiration for Indiana Jones. His party also discovered Velociraptor, so we can thank him (or maybe Kan Chuen Pao) for this, this, this, this, and this. (For those new to xkcd, don't forget to mouse over the comic.) (For those new to mousing over, that means put your cursor on the comic and wait for a little box of words to come up.) Andrews also taught himself taxidermy. For fun, I guess.

Hey, funny story, last time Ivan and I were at the Strong Museum of Play we had the misfortune to come across this diorama made in 1875, entitled "Whimsey with squirrels." Photo courtesy of Ivan, whose copyright I am violating. Please don't sue, Ivan. I have a feeling this has appeared on this blog before, anyway. It is somewhat infamous.

We were both horrified by this, and, as Ivan said, "I find almost nothing about this to be whimsical."

We thought this was a one-off bizarro event that would never be repeated. Then one day Ivan sent me this picture.

Apparently "anthropomorphic taxidermy" is a thing. It started, as all creepy things do, with the Victorians, but this particular example is brand new and you can buy it here, if you have a strong stomach.

Someday when I visit Ivan in New York, I'm making her take me to the Natural History museum to see that skull. But we will avoid any section of the museum involving taxidermy that is remotely anthropomorphic. And if we can't avoid it, we will at least have the decency not to mention it at future dinner parties.


Maeve said...


Simon said...

Oh man, I hope you are joking about that first part.

Rickster said...

Since Roy's name came up... if interested to know a little more about this 20th century adventurer, explorer from Beloit WI you can find it at
We're working to keep the sense of adventure in discovery he inspires alive. :)