"Alligators such as this one were once commonly hung from the ceilings of apothecary shops. They appear to have been symbols associated with the profession and one was even mentioned by William Shakespeare who, in Romeo and Juliet, describes an apothecary in which hangs “An alligator stuff’d, and other skins of ill-shaped fishes.”"It's curious that alligators should have become associated with apothecary shops. There's probably a logical and obscure explanation.
Found at the Science Museum (UK).
Addendum: Swift Loris has postulated the alligator/apothecary association going back to the Egyptian deity Sobek:
"In Egyptian art, Sobek was depicted as an ordinary crocodile, or as a man with the head of a crocodile. When considered a patron of the pharaoh's army, he was shown with the symbol of royal authority - the uraeus. He was also shown with an ankh, representing his ability to undo evil and so cure ills."And charlie found some interesting information at Musings of a Failed Taxidermist, including this photo -
And that post continues with this observation -
Drug suppliers would present gifts to apothecaries who sold their goods (plus ça change) and a favourite offering was an alligator or crocodile due to their associations with learning and as a symbolic defence against disease. They were also relatively easy to preserve; indeed, the oldest surviving example of taxidermy is said to be a crocodile mounted in 1623 and exhibited at St. Gallen's Museum of Natural History in Switzerland.- and concludes with three (!) photos of alligators/crocs hanging from the ceilings of wunderkammers.
You learn something every day. Thank you both.