Special Exhibition to Open this Fall at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
New Exhibition Explores Nature’s Most Unusual, Extreme and Bizarre Creatures
Holding your breath for up to two hours. Gulping down a snack 10 times your own weight. Living in crushing depths where there is no sunlight to support life. These may sound like superpowers to humans, but somewhere on this planet, an organism is using one of these extraordinary talents to go about its daily tasks. Nature’s Superheroes: Life at the Limits, a new immersive exhibition at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science on view from Saturday, October 10, 2020 through Sunday, April 11, 2021, offers a fascinating glimpse of the breathtaking diversity of the natural world and the power of natural selection to shape exceptional responses to the challenges, and opportunities, of life on Earth. Organized by the American Museum of Natural History, the exhibition features life-size and larger-than-life models, videos and interactive exhibits which highlight an array of organisms with surprising ways of thriving in harsh environments, finding a mate or their next meal, leveraging strength, endurance, speed and more.
Visitor favorites include opportunities to explore a mysterious cave inhabited by animals without eyes, discover a larger-than-life model of a Hercules beetle, smell the pungent odor of a carrion flower, and test out the “super powers” of select species from the exhibition in a kinetic digital game.
Showcasing the extraordinary range of the ways different organisms—plant and animal, aquatic and terrestrial, vertebrate and invertebrate—have become tailored to conditions on this planet, Nature’s Superheroes will include such features as:
- Creative courtship and reproduction strategies: every living organism can bring new life into the world, but some go to extraordinary lengths to procreate.
- Remarkable adaptations for breathing: many life forms on Earth thrive at high altitudes, where oxygen is scarce, and some have ways of accessing or storing oxygen in other types of extreme conditions.
- Efficient ways of moving around: evolution has been shaping locomotion for millions of years—with fascinating results that match or even surpass human technologies.
- Super sensing abilities: a section devoted to life inside caves showcases a variety of species, from leeches that appear to have legs (Erpobdella mestrovi) to birds that echolocate like bats to find their way in the dark (Aerodramus fuciphagus), that have adapted to low-light environments in similar ways.
- Extreme hunting and eating: organisms have many ways of securing a meal, whether it’s through expert hunting, making the most of a scarce snack, or finding a way to mooch off another’s efforts.
- Extraordinary endurance: even in the harshest environments on Earth, life finds a way to thrive. A diorama of a hydrothermal vent deep in the ocean features tube worms (Riftia pachyptila), which survive in superheated seawater with high concentrations of acids, metals, and sulfur.
- Dramatic defense systems: predators can’t hunt what they can’t find, and some species have found ways to hide in the open. A model of a treehopper highlights this insect’s odd protective gear: a structure on its backs that disguises this harmless critter as a vicious ant.
- Death-defying feats: some species can seemingly defy death. Shown as 10-foot models, microscopic animals called tardigrades can survive dehydration, extreme temperatures, and even the radiation and vacuum of space.
- Interactive section to test a variety of ‘super powers’: visitors will get to meet and interact with some of the incredible creatures that they have encountered throughout the show. Through exploration of several virtual environments and the use of guided gestures using whole-body, motion-sensing Microsoft Kinect technology, visitors will cause creatures to behave in ways consistent with some of their amazing abilities.
Nature’s Superheroes: Life at the Limits is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (amnh.org).
Nature’s Superheroes: Life at the Limits will be on view from Saturday, October 10, 2020 through Sunday, April 11, 2021 inside the Hsiao Family Special Exhibition Gallery on the first floor of the museum. Admission to Nature’s Superheroes: Life at the Limits is included with all museum admission tickets. Additional information on the exhibition can be found at frostscience.org/superheroes.
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