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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 March, 2004, 06:38 GMT
Largest spider fossil put on show
Indian elephant skeleton
The reopened museum now has more than 3,500 animal exhibits
A fossil of the largest spider that ever lived is going on show as a museum of natural curiosities opens.

The skeleton of a male Indian circus elephant is another star exhibit at the enlarged Cole Museum of Zoology at the University of Reading, Berkshire.

The museum now features more than 3,500 specimens, many of which have never been seen by the public before.

The opening on Wednesday of the redeveloped centre has been timed to coincide with National Science Week.

Five-metre python

The skeleton of a five-metre python, with more than 400 vertebrae, and a newly-purchased ichthyosaur fossil from the Jurassic era are other attractions at the newly-improved museum, funded by a 25,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Board.

Professor Phil Rainbow, head of zoology at the Natural History Museum in London, is helping unveil some of the museum's new acquisitions.

Guests can take part in a tour of the museum led by the new curator, Dr Steve Hopkin.

Dr Hopkin said: "We are extremely excited about the launch of the new displays at the Cole Museum of Zoology.

"What makes our museum special is its size.

"It provides a truly rare opportunity to see a complete and well-preserved natural history collection in little more than an hour and will provide inspiration, accessibility and learning across all ages and sectors."

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