Urania Exhibition

Prof. Mario Principato created, in 13 years’ studies, an extraordinary collection of arthropods that became an exhibition that opened in Genoa for the first time in 1992 in occasion of the “Columbus Celebrations”.
It was considered one of the largest and most spectacular entomological exhibition in Europe, with its 150 display cases, collecting over 22.000 specimens from different geographical areas in the world. It was included three times among the events of the “Italian Scientific Culture Week” and the Boards of Education of over 40 Italian cities invited schools to visit it.

Introduction to the URANIA Entomological Exhibition

The work consists of n° 150 entomological display cases (no 100: inches 25,19 x 22,44 x 3,15 and n°50: inches 34,25 x 43,30 x 3,15) containing more than n° 22,000 arthropods from all over the world, which belong to n° 4 classes, n° 420 families, n°1150 genera and n°2235 species.

In seventy display cases the whole worldwide entomofauna has been represented from a systemic point of view, in order to offer an outline of all orders of insects. Besides the different families, genera and species have been grouped, where suitable, from a geographic point of view, to allow for a better comprehension of the entomological fauna of different geographic areas.

Most species have been shown in couples of in small groups to display their patterns and colours that, otherwise could pass unnoticed.

A sample of each species has been unusually mounted also from its ventral side, to allow the observation of the whole specimen.

In eighty display cases particular subjects of Entomology and Arachnology have been elaborated in a didactic way, following an organic program which makes the Entomology easily understood in its various aspects.

First part
By using real specimens, the anatomy of insects and spiders are dealt with in the first part, and the morphology of arthropods, such as the longest coiled proposcises or the most interesting morphocromatic variations in butterflies and beetles or the rarest
aberrant shapes , sexual mosaics and and gynanders or the sexual dimorphism and secondary sexual characters.
In a display case, the sexual behaviour of different species of insects has been explained by showing some of the most peculiar positions in mating.
A section has been dedicated to the devolpment, which includes in great detail the life cycle of insects from the egg to the adult; one can see eggs laid by giant insects, larval and nymphal stages and the different phases of the hatching of a wonderful butterfly and of a moth.

In another particular section the links existing in the fauna of geographic areas are shown that nowdays are very far from each other, because of the continental drift, then the speciation, the migrations and the aggregations of insects.

A wide and quite difficult chapter deals with the biotope of some insects or their nests; the habitats of aquatic insects, of ants, scorpions, spiders and a big beehive of hornets, those of bees, bumblebees and wasps have been rebuilt.

Antoher section deals with the feeding habits of some arthropods, among which Necrophora, dung beetles, such as the “sacer scarab“,the carnivorous predators such as Hymenoptera Pepsidae, predators of spiders.

Through nine extraordinary display cases about mimicry, one enters the most spectacular section of the Entomology, with many interesting examples of criptic mimicry (such as butterflies mimicking leaves and barks, stick insects mimicking branches, thorn-insects and flower-insects).
and rare samples of of Batesian, Mullerian and parasitic mimicry.

Second part
In the second part a wide general view of both main insects that are useful to man and the best known pathogenic insects is given.
The section begins with noxious insects of agricultural interest by distinguishing those attacking mainly roots, trunks and branches; those damaging leaves, flowers and fruits; those producing galls and finally scale insects.

Through eight display cases, the infesting arthropods are shown, such as insects damaging the stored farinaceous foodstuff or insects noxious to seeds, to legumes and stored cereals; parasites infesting hams, salami, cheese, furs, paper, wood, cork and those damaging embalmed animals.

Another wide section elaborated in thirteen display cases deals with the insects noxious to man and animals, with the aim of introducing the visitor to the main subject of medical and veterinary interest.
Some peculiar flies that spend their larval life in the horses’ gastroenteric apparata are shown along with others that parasite the muscles and the skin of cows’ backs and other flies that live in the nasal sinuses of sheep.

Examples of the real lesions produced by those parasites are shown and so are the very rare adults of those flies obtained in laboratory conditions for this purpose. A display case deals with the most terrific pathogenic insects, such as the vectors of malaria, of the Yellow fever, of leishmaniasis, of the “sleep disease“and others, such as the flies producing accidental myiases in man and animals.
The small specimens have been accompanied by clear captions and by maps showing the geographic distribution of the different diseases.

Among the ectoparasites lice both of animals and man are shown, bedbugs, fleas, ticks and the lesions produced by the various mites causing scabies or mange such as the agent of the scabies in man.

In a display case, one can see the “black widow”, of which some subspecies and even the egg sac are shown.

In three more display cases some giant tropical millipedes are shown and the biggest existing poisonous Scolopendras as well as the arthropods infesting bees. The third and the last part of the work concerns various subjects which raise the curiosity of many people, such as edible insects or those used as aphrodisiacs in the love filters in the Middle Ages or insects reproduced on coins and on banknotes and others those reproduced on stamps.
Finally, a display case dealing with the methods of preparation and conservation of the arthropods for collection allows for learning from reality the technique of embalming insects and spiders.

Whereas many entomological shows are often cold and fortuitous exhibitions of specimens, the present work offers everybody a satisfactory general view of Entomology, which is stimulating for research and grants everybody’s wish of seeing for himself aspects of reality often out of reach.
At the same time a high scientific level is assured to specialists of this field in the qualitative choice, preparation and organization of the material used, and also in the clear concise presentation of the contents of the various didactic elaborations effected.
While observing the first display case up to the last one, the visitor has a feeling of being in front of something that satisfies his curiosity, while at the same time, and without realizing it, he agreeably attends an articulate and unforgettable lesson in Entomology.