Squeamish about snakes? You may be interested to learn that you are actually afraid of squamates, a group that includes snakes and lizards. They are the focus of a new exhibit, Lizards and Snakes: Alive! at the American Museum of Natural History.
Pick up a family guide sheet when you arrive, highlighting the interactive elements of the exhibit. One of the most attractive to kids is the ‘eat a rat’ game — where you are a snake on the hunt, and must stalk, then eat, a rat. You can also zoom in on a gecko, touch the bony skull plates of different animals, or push a button to hear a puff adder or barking Namibian gecko. There are intriguing (and disgusting) facts; a red spitting cobra can hit your eye with venom from six feet away, causing intense pain and possible blindness.
Twenty-six species from all over the world are on show here. You can see a 14 foot Burmese python, a blue-tongued skink (its blue color scares predators), and Central American green basiliks that can run on water.
At the end of the exhibit, there are interactive stations where you can put together a model of a snake or a lizard with clear plastic pieces, or answer questions about lizards and snakes. You may be surprised to learn that mosquitoes are more dangerous than sharks and poisonous snakes.
If you haven’t lost your appetite by then, be sure to visit the Gecko Café, where you can sample native Oaxacan dishes, including tamales filled with rice, beans, and cheese or beef; and clayudas, toasted corn tortillas. There are lizard and snake nuggets, which taste like chicken (because they actually are chicken!), and chilled Mexican chocolate, with vanilla cloves and cinnamon.
Lizards and Snakes: Alive! runs through January 7, 2007. Special events in conjunction with the exhibit include The Qi Shu Chinese Opera Company’s performance of The Legend of the White Snake on October 22 and Snake and Lizard Tale of India, October 28. Performances are at 1 and 3pm, and are included with museum admission.
Where: American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 81st Street
When: The museum is open daily, 10am–5:45pm
How much: Suggested admission: $14 adults; $10.50 students & seniors; $8 children
For more info: (212) 769-5100; www.amnh.org