Life at the Limits Opens April 4

On Exhibit posts

The astounding colors of Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Prismatic Spring are produced by bacteria that live in the hot spring’s waters.  © NPS/J. Peaco

The astounding colors of Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Prismatic Spring are produced by bacteria that live in the hot spring’s waters. 

© NPS/J. Peaco


Sick of the snow? Join us in looking forward to spring, and a new exhibition, right around the corner. Two months from today, the Museum will introduce visitors to the most astonishing creatures on Earth in Life at the Limits: Stories of Amazing Species, which opens Saturday, April 4.

Imagine holding your breath for an hour and a half. Enduring temperatures above 300° Fahrenheit and below -458 ̊ F. Or spawning genetically-identical offspring that seem to cheat death. These are just a few of the extreme approaches to life featured in this exploration of the diverse and sometimes jaw- dropping strategies animals and plants employ to find food, fend off predators, reproduce, and thrive in habitats we would find inhospitable, even lethal.

Life at the Limits, overseen by Curator Mark Siddall, a parasitologist, and Curator John Sparks, an ichthyologist, will showcase bizarre mating calls, extreme examples of parasitism, and other extraordinary means of survival, using specimens, videos, interactive exhibits, and models, including a climbable Hercules beetle. 

The climbable Hercules Beetle should be a hit with young visitors.  ©AMNH/D.Finnin

The climbable Hercules Beetle should be a hit with young visitors. 

©AMNH/D.Finnin


Visitors will be invited deep into a cave where animals that live without light lack pigmentation—and eyes. A fluorescent coral reef will reveal the phenomenon of synchronous spawning, in which different coral species are triggered by moonlight to release billions of eggs and sperm in unison. Live animals on display will include the mantis shrimp, an aquatic powerhouse that packs one of the strongest punches on the planet.

A cacophonous soundscape will showcase the inventiveness of mating serenades, from the hammerhead bat’s honk to the shy pig frog’s group song. And a life-sized model of the titan arum plant will expose visitors to one of the world’s largest flowers, though thankfully not its smell: in nature, this unusual plant releases the scent of rotting flesh to attract flies.

These and other fascinating forms will help to show how life survives, and even thrives, in the most improbable conditions.

Generous support for Life at the Limits has been provided by the
Eileen P. Bernard Exhibition Fund.

The Museum gratefully acknowledges the Richard and Karen LeFrak Exhibition and Education Fund.