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Discovery Place exhibit takes a light look at all things gross

Squeamish stomachs should stop reading here.

For that matter, so should anyone who is not a sixth-grade boy. Because this is going to be gross. Gag-me gross. See, that’s the whole idea.

Discovery Place will unveil an educational exhibit Saturday aimed at those fascinated by greasy, grimy gopher guts and the like. “Animal Grossology,” based on the popular children’s book by Sylvia Branzei, will take children through the jungle of things icky, poopy and otherwise indelicate.

It’s a follow-up to the museum’s 2005 exhibit, “Human Grossology,” which proved to be strangely popular.

“You look for a little good-hearted fun in a summer exhibit,” Joanie Philipp, director of major projects, said Monday. “It’s fun. It’s irreverent. People think it’s gross, but animals wouldn’t survive without these things.”

These things include the odd habits of the dung beetle. They can roll a ball of you-know-what 50 times the beetle’s weight, then turn it into a nursery for its young.

Or flies. Flies are big here – a robotic one as big as a lawn tractor greets visitors and tells fly secrets. A fly doesn’t have jaws, so it hurls digestive juices on something it finds attractive and then sucks it up. Someone, somehow counted the number of bacteria on the common housefly and came up with a census of 1,250,000. You may find flies tasteless, but you’d be wrong – their taste buds are 10 million times more sensitive than yours. Sir Gus Flea is the host of the blood sucker exhibit, featuring ticks, mosquitoes and leeches. Like vampires, they love us for our blood.

Children can also play an interactive game, hosted by a talking penguin making poop jokes, in which they match certain animals to their droppings. Nobody gets the elephant waste wrong.

And then there is the explanation to the question all children have – why do dogs sniff one another’s hind quarters? Turns out the canine equivalent of a business card is housed in scent glands in the rear compartment. They have a unique scent.

Various live animals will be shown, including the Donkey Dung Sea Cucumber. They have an unusual way of dealing with predators – they spill their guts. No really, they upchuck their intestines and stomach. That satisfies the predator, who finds such stuff appetizing, and the critter just grows back new ones, said Chris Eckart, who wrangles some of the museum’s oddities.

Cows are gross, as you may know. They emit a lot of methane. For the run of the show, Discovery Place plans to have a pretend cow out on Tryon Street. You can stand behind it, and, every now and then, a fan will blow your hair. That is so gross it might just displace the Bechtler’s Firebird as the street’s favorite photo spot.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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