Wonder: It’s in our Nature
Affectionately known as The Dead Zoo by Dubliners, the National Museum of Ireland: Natural History is home to two million specimens of animal, with 10,000 displayed in glass cabinets. The museum has changed little since opening in the 19th century, which is part of its enduring charm.
Thousands of years ago, the island of Ireland was densely forested, with wolves, brown bears, woolly mammoths, giant deer and even spotted hyenas roaming free. Nowadays, Ireland is not known for dangerous animals, especially since - as legend has it - St. Patrick banished all snakes from the land.
Originally built as an extension to Ireland's parliament building in Leinster House next door, the museum was opened in 1857 on Merrion Street as a new home for the Royal Dublin Society. The building houses a vast zoological collection of birds, insects and other creatures that gives an insight into what once dwelled on land, sea, underground and in the skies above Ireland.
For the creepy-crawly aficionado, there are close to one million specimens of insects. For those who aren't insect lovers, these are reassuringly not alive. Majestic birds of prey such as golden eagles and peregrine falcons can be seen, too.
Many children enjoy the curious experience of peering at this array of animals and the range of free family-friendly events which take place regularly in the museum.
For fishing fans, there is a massive trout specimen to be seen; weighing a whopping 11.8kg, it was caught in 1894 in a County Westmeath lake. This is, of course, not to be mistaken for the 13.8kg salmon known as Pepper's Ghost.
Another of the oddities on display include a lobster with normal coloration along only one side – perhaps an analogy for how Irish people react to sunny weather.
Incidentally, despite the lack of live snakes, there are still about 1,200 reptile specimens on display. These are stored in alcohol, though it's not clear if St. Patrick would approve.