The American Museum of Natural History announces Spiders Alive!, a new exhibition about the fascinating and complex world of spiders. For centuries, spiders have inspired mythmakers from Ovid to E. B. White to the creators of the eponymous superhero, but their actual role in diverse ecosystems around the globe is just as captivating. Among the most versatile animals on the planet, spiders inhabit every continent but Antarctica and are able to survive in environments that range from deserts to rainforests to crowded cities.
"Spiders Alive! continues a tradition of museum exhibitions that bring people, especially children and families, face-to-face with ambassadors from the natural world," says Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. "In this exhibition, as in previous popular presentations of live lizards, snakes, frogs, and butterflies, our visitors will meet some of the world's most exotic and fascinating creatures who have much to teach us about the diversity of life, the fragility of natural systems, and our own responsibility to study and steward life on Earth."
In Spiders Alive!, visitors will explore spiders' anatomy, diversity, venom, silk, and behavior including little-known defensive mechanisms such as mimicry and noise-making. In addition to live spiders representing 19 species, the exhibition will also include larger-than-life models of spiders, videos, a climbable spider model, and fossils.
Museum staff will be handling live arachnids for visitors to see up close, and the exhibition will focus on debunking spider myths, such as: spiders need gravity to build webs, all spiders neglect their offspring, and all spiders are poisonous to humans Spiders are also important predators; without them, insect populations would explode. By one estimate, the spiders on one acre of woodland alone consume more than 80 pounds of insects a year. Scientists have identified over 42,000 species of spiders to date, and they believe that there are at least as many more yet to be discovered.
Among the live spiders visitors will encounter in this exhibition are the goliath bird eater, one of the largest spiders in the world, whose prey includes snakes, mice, and frogs; the western black widow, member of one of the few North American spider groups that can be harmful to people; the fishing spider, who senses prey by resting its front legs on the surface of the water; and the golden orb-web spider, which weaves a golden web that can reach more than 3 feet in diameter. Species from other arachnid orders will also be on display, including African whip spiders, whose whip-like feelers, up to 10 inches in length, help the animal find its way; the giant vinegaroon, which may spray a foul-smelling vinegar-like chemical from its abdomen if disturbed; and the desert hairy scorpion, the largest scorpion in America.
The exhibition is curated by Norman Platnick, curator emeritus in the Department of Invertebrate Zoology.
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The American Museum of Natural History is one of the world’s preeminent scientific and cultural institutions. Since its founding in 1869, the Museum has advanced its global mission to discover, interpret, and disseminate information about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe through a wide-ranging program of scientific research, education, and exhibition.
The Museum is renowned for its exhibitions and scientific collections, which serve as a field guide to the entire planet and present a panorama of the world's cultures.
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