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Extreme Mammals


With Extreme Mammals: The Biggest, Smallest, and Most Amazing Mammals of All Time, the American Museum of Natural History explores the surprising and often extraordinary world of extinct and living mammals.

Featuring spectacular fossils and other specimens from the Museum's collections, vivid reconstructions, and live animals, the exhibition examines the ancestry and evolution of numerous species, ranging from huge to tiny, from speedy to sloth-like, and displays animals with over-sized claws, fangs, snouts, and horns.

Through the use of dynamic media displays, animated computer interactives, hands-on activities, touchable fossils, casts, taxidermy specimens, and a colony of live sugar gliders—extreme marsupials from Australia—the exhibition will highlight distinctive mammalian qualities and illuminate the shared ancestry that unites these diverse creatures.

The exhibition is divided into nine sections—Introduction, What is a Mammal?, What is Extreme?, Head to Tail, Reproduction, Mammals in Motion, Extreme Climates, Extreme Isolation, and Extreme Extinction—and offers extensive detail on the evolutionary history and great family tree of mammals.

Exhibition Highlights



Meet your Relatives

Mammals are everywhere, from extreme environments like the frigid Arctic ice to the hottest desert. An amazing assortment of mammals swim, glide, burrow, run, hop, climb trees, or even fly. Despite the sometimes extreme differences among mammals, we all still have a few things in common--like three tiny bones in our middle ear.



What is a Mammal?

So what makes an animal a mammal? All mammals have fur. Or do they?



What is Extreme?

What's extreme about mammals? How about a four-ton tongue? A tooth bigger than you? A bumblebee-sized bat? Usually we call something "extreme" when it departs significantly from the normal, average, or ancestral condition. But what's normal?



Extreme Bodies

Let's be honest, some mammals look bizarre--giant teeth, deadly feet, skin covered in everything from piercing quills to impenetrable plates of bony armor, and six-foot long "hands." Despite our differences, all mammals inherited the same basic body features--some type of hair or fur, backbones, and mammary glands, among others.



Extreme Extinction

Ninety-nine percent of all mammals and other species that have ever lived are extinct. That's right--gone forever. Extinction is always happening. It's a natural part of the history of life. But every once in a long while, a great number of species disappears rapidly--something scientists call a mass extinction.



About the Exhibition

Extreme Mammals: The Biggest, Smallest, and Most Amazing Mammals of All Time, which was on view at the the American Museum of Natural History until January 3, 2010, explored the surprising and often extraordinary world of extinct and living mammals.


Staff Profile

Meet the Curator

Meet John J. Flynn, Frick Curator of Fossil Mammals, Division of Paleontology, and Dean of the Richard Gilder Graduate School.

Extreme Mammals is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in collaboration with the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco; Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada; and Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Major funding for Extreme Mammals has been provided by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Endowment Fund.
Additional generous support for Extreme Mammals has been provided by the Bill and Ann Ziff Foundation and Harlan B. Levine, MD and Marshall P. Levine.

Extreme Mammals

American Museum of Natural History

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