Mussels, mammals and a few other animals



I’m going to Berlin in a few weeks, I shan’t miss their Museum f¸r Naturkunde. Here’s what my guide book says:

Museum f¸r Naturkunde – Invalidenstra?e 43
With over 60 million exhibits, the natural history museum is one of the largest of its kind. Star feature is the world’s largest dinosaur skeleton, a brachiosaurus found in Tanzania in 1909. Six further dinosaur skeletons as well as many fossils of mussels, birds and mammals take the visitor back to prehistoric times.

Seven dinosaurs is more than enough for me, and, even better than that, by my estimation there must be around 59,999,993 mussels, birds and mammals. Which, however you split it, adds up to millions and millions of mussels. I guess the humble mussel is less humble than I supposed. All this time I thought he was a tasty little bivalve who worked well with white wine and a hint of garlic, now I find that he’s an evolutionary miracle.

One of nature marvels, able to hold his head up high in the company of birds, mammals and the worlds biggest brachiosaur. Not that he has a head, as best as I can tell. In fact, I don’t even know if he is a he or a she, although I guess they are able to tell the difference. Perhaps this is why naturalists look on him with such pride; his ability to know who amongst the millions of seemingly indentical molluscs is a gentleman mussel and who is a lady mussel, and, so informed, perpetuate musselkind (and avoid a lot of embarassment.) I am sure all will be made clear in the Mussel wing of the Museum f¸r Naturkunde.

Actually, the thought occurs to me that no-one could be that interested in a small seashell mostly known for its role in a few hors d’oeurves. Maybe the millions and millions of them in this seemingly respectable Berlin museum are in reality a cunning ruse. The world of tourism is red in tooth and claw, the unrelenting battle for tourist dollars, er.. euros is all about survival of the fittest. The biggest & wiliest win. I suspect that this is where our pseudopodded pal comes in.

Imagine the scenario, the director of the museum is keen to attract more visitors and needs to improve on his feeble handful of dinosaurs. Our worried museum director, let’s call him Prof. Dr. Herr Hans-Peter Schultze, spends all day wracking his brains before giving up and going to meet his good lady wife for an evening meal at the local Belgian Bierodrome. He lets off steam and she listens symapathetically, he needs some way to big up his puny museum. Then half way through his meal it hits him. If he could just make it seem like he had a massive collection without the hassle of collecting it then he’d leap up the league table and he’d be quids, er.. euros in.

After the meal, he nips through ot the kitchen and has a quiet word with the manager. They come to an arrangement, and henceforth the museum receives a regular delivery of empty mussels, the museum’s collection grows from a few hundred thousand items to over 60 million. The guidebook writers are impressed, and mugs like me skip the Erotik-Museum to see it.

Whatever the explanation, it makes me look my moule mariniere in a whole new light.


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