From the inside out, every living thing is a machine built to move and survive.
Legs and Springs: Creatures of all kinds skitter, hop, and run across the landscape on legs of all shapes, sizes, and numbers, from 100 all the way down to just two. Springs and momentum redirect the force of gravity with each step to the creature’s advantage.
- Watch a video of a cheetah, the fastest land mammal, running in slow motion to see its extra spring in action, and examine the mechanics of a cheetah specimen mid-step, showing the curve of its “springy spine” up close.
- See MABEL, a bipedal robot that mimics the way humans walk. Human gait is difficult to reproduce because of our Achilles tendon, which releases energy like a spring.
Wings and Fins: From walking on land to flying through the air to swimming through the sea, animals have evolved sleek aerodynamics that harness power to propel them to their destination.
- Try out “flying” using two different wings. While it’s easy to get started with a short wing, it’s hard to maintain. Long wings take more effort to get going, but flight is easier to maintain.
- See bird specimens from the Museum’s own collections suspended overhead.
- Find out how some fish swim “from the tail,” which is stable and fast but hard to turn. Others swim “from the fins,” which is maneuverable but slower and less energy efficient.
Jaws and Claws: With each grasp, bite, jump, or dash, organisms are a potent force upon the world. Muscles set internal machinery in motion, and joints become levers that enhance power and speed.
- Try out activities that help you feel the intense grip of a chimpanzee and the tremendous strength of the harpy eagle, which is strong enough to grab and carry off monkeys!
- Learn about the incredible psychedelic-looking mantis shrimp, and see its amazing spring mechanism in slow motion that allows it to crack open clams, crabs, and more.
- Try out an interactive display that shows how some bites are harder than others because of skull shape and jaw muscles, and see a T. rex skull and learn why the “tyrant lizard” had one of the strongest bites on Earth.
Structures and Materials: Living things are constantly under attack by natural forces, extreme elements, even gravity, and have evolved the right tools for the job.
- Explore and touch an assortment of Museum specimens and a fun toys that show how living things need a variety of materials to stand up to all kinds of forces.
- Explore examples of the dome shape, which provides impact safety to a number of animals, from a horseshoe crab carapace and a tortoise shell to a human skull and a bird egg.
- See examples of biomimicry, when humans find inspiration in a design found in nature. Did you know Velcro is impersonating burrs from plants? Uncover the story behind this modern invention—and how it all began with a walk through the woods with a family dog.
Pumps and Pipes: Pumps, pipes, and pressure move air and fluids to where they’re needed most in a never-ending race to distribute life-sustaining supplies to every cell in the body.
- Try pumping “blood” from the heart of a life-size giraffe model all the way up to its brain. Giraffes have much higher blood pressure than humans to keep its body circulating.
- Touch heart models of a fish, frog, turtle, eagle, and human, and see the variety in size and shape.
- Examine the cross section of a tree to see the tiny tubes, called xylem, that pull water upward from the roots.
Insulators and Radiators: Animals have evolved countless ways to maintain their body temperature in extreme climates using tricks of size, shape, and innovative insulation.
- See how the ears on the Fennec fox keep it cool using tiny blood vessels that pull heat from its body, and how a toucan sends blood to its bill when it gets too hot.
- Stand in front of a thermal camera to see how much heat you are losing at that very moment. See how different types of clothing keep heat in while others let more heat escape.
- Compare models of full-grown white-tailed deer to see how animals living in colder environments are larger than their counterparts in warmer areas.
Limited Edition Trading Cards: The Museum has added a fun feature to the experience—collectible trading cards with six different animals and fun facts and activities to try at home. Printed in both English and Spanish. The June/July card will be available when the exhibition opens, with a new one at the beginning of each month until closing on Monday, January 1, while supplies last.