With State Ornithologist Thomas Sadler Roberts at the helm of the University’s natural history museum by 1915, you can be certain that birds were a primary focus of the museum program in the first quarter of the 20th century. Yet as the museum was part of the Department of Animal Biology up until 1919, a variety of fauna found within nature was collected for study and display.

Take for instance this specimen of a lamprey taken from the St. Croix River in 1921 and housed in an aquarium in the Animal Biology building. Lampreys are eel-like, jawless, toothed fish that live in fresh and salt water. The Wisconsin DNR’s website EEK! (Environment Education for Kids) has a profile of the lamprey, which cautions that certain species are considered to be parasites as they latch on to fish for days at a time and “feed” on the fish’s blood and body fluids.
EEK indeed!

Lamprey eel specimen taken from the St. Croix River, 1921

Lamprey eel specimen showing teeth, 1921