Life at the Limits: Stories of Amazing Species
Date: Through January 3, 2016
Over billions of years, living things have evolved from simple cells into an awe-inspiring array of life-forms. Life at the Limits: Stories of Amazing Species explores the diverse and sometimes jaw-dropping strategies animals and plants employ to find food, fend off predators, and thrive in habitats we would find inhospitable, even lethal. This new exhibition features live animals, interactive exhibits, and models, including a climbable Hercules beetle. Life is full of unexpected wonders.
The exhibition, overseen by Curator Mark Siddall, a parasitologist, and Curator John Sparks, an ichthyologist, introduces visitors to bizarre mating calls, extraordinary examples of parasitism and mimicry, and other amazing means of survival, using specimens, videos, interactive exhibits, and models, including a climbable Hercules beetle.
Live animals on display include the surprisingly powerful mantis shrimp; the jet-powered nautilus; and the axolotl, an entirely aquatic salamander that breathes through external gills. Life at the Limits tells the stories of these and many more creatures across the tree of life—and their unusual approaches to the challenges of living on Earth.
The Butterfly Conservatory
Date: Through May 29, 2016
This exhibition, an annual favorite, features up to 500 live,
free-flying tropical butterflies from the Americas, Africa, and Asia.
The butterflies are housed in a vivarium that approximates their natural
habitat, includes live flowering plants that serve as nectar sources,
and features controlled artificial light, temperature, and humidity.
Featured species include iridescent blue morpho butterflies, striking
scarlet swallowtails, and large owl butterflies. Text panels located
immediately outside the vivarium offer information about the evolution
and life cycle of butterflies, including explanations of mimicry,
diversity, and butterflies’ important role in conservation.
Countdown to Zero
Date: Through January 2, 2017
The challenges of eliminating devastating diseases are enormous, but
successful strategies can bring about colossal social and economic
benefits. Countdown to Zero: Defeating Disease, a new exhibition about
scientific and social innovations that are ridding the world of ancient
afflictions, developed in collaboration with The Carter Center, focuses
on several global efforts that have been able to contain, eliminate, or
eradicate disease. Chief among these is the 30-year campaign that may
soon eradicate Guinea worm disease, positioning it to become only the
second human disease ever eradicated, after smallpox. The exhibition
also highlights the ongoing programs to eliminate polio and prospects
for more localized elimination of river blindness, lymphatic filariasis,
The Secret World Inside You
The Secret World Inside You will take visitors on a tour of the human
body, making stops at places where microbes thrive: your skin—which,
covering about 20 square feet, is your largest organ—and your mouth and
your gastrointestinal tract, which is home to your body’s densest and
most diverse microbial community, among others.
The exhibition also will explore where our microbiomes come from. Most
babies encounter their first big batch of microbes during birth, when
they are coated with microbes from the mother’s birth canal, or, if born
by caesarean section, from the skin of their mother, doctors, and
others who touch them. New work also has shown that breast milk, in
addition to providing nutrition for the baby, contains complex
carbohydrates that cannot be digested by infants but are readily
consumed by the dominant species of bacteria in the infant
microbiome—evidence that we coevolved to live with these organisms.
The Secret World Inside You includes interactive activities, videos, and
a live theater where a presenter will show visitors how scientists are
navigating this exciting new field of research.
Inspired by the book Opulent Oceans: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History, this exhibition includes 46 exquisite reproductions from 33 rare and beautifully illustrated scientific works.
The world’s oceans abound with a truly astonishing diversity of life forms. Beginning some 400 years ago, European voyages of discovery began mapping the globe, and knowledge of ocean life flourished as never before. These explorers documented their discoveries in illustrated books—by sketching their own specimens or collaborating with artists and engravers—resulting in images that communicate the anatomy, life cycles, habits—and sheer beauty—of newfound marine species.