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Exhibition Related Programs

Poseidon’s Poisons and Marine Medicines

April 13, 2014

Anemone Clownfish GIF (Poison)

Most fish avoid anemones, which kill and eat small animals. But clownfish have a special adaptation– a thick layer of mucus that protects them from the anemone's poison. Both organisms benefit from living together. The fish clean off parasites and may chase away the anemone's enemies; in return, they get protection from predators.

© AMNH


The oceans are home to a variety of species that use toxins for both defense and predation, as well as species that thrive in extreme and toxic environments. Many of these poisons also have important applications in modern medicine—e.g., the venom from marine cone snails may help treat epilepsy and even Alzheimer’s disease. Join Curator Mark Siddall for a dynamic program that expands on the Museum’s exhibition The Power of Poison and offers family-friendly activities.

Schedule of Events: 

Live-Animal Encounter 
Noon and 2:30 pm
Meet some of nature’s most fascinating marine animals and learn how they adapt to their unique habitats. Zoologist and TV host Jarod Miller will introduce you to a diverse group of ocean animals large and small, from across the animal kingdom.

Live specimens include:
Marine Toad (size of a dinner plate)
Poison dart frogs
Large scorpion species
Large tarantula species
Large centipede/Millipede species
Large Monitor lizard
De-venomized cobra

The live specimens coming to the program include individuals that would be toxic in the wild, but are rendered benign by their diets or other means.

Meet the Experts
1 pm, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm
Join host Mark Siddall with chemist Mandë Holford, biologist Marymegan Daly, and medical toxicologist Dr. Rama Rao for a series of presentations unraveling how ocean life has adapted to poison, how poisons found in the ocean can be beneficial to humans, and how families can explore the ocean together safely.

Exploration Stations
11 am – 4 pm

Ask the Scientists
Scientists Mandë Holford, Marymegan Daly, and Rama Rao are on-site throughout the day to respond to your burning questions about poison and ocean life. No inquiry is too strange or silly. Mandë, Marymegan, and Rama enjoy being challenged so go ahead and ask away!

Power of Poisons
Have you ever wondered how a plant can protect itself from attack by insects, larger plant-eaters, and even other plants? Or how spiders and snakes are able to capture prey and to defend themselves? Come explore this hands-on station where you will have the chance to touch and observe specimens and learn about the power of poison.

Poisonous Pokes, Venomous Vectors, Delivering the Dose
Evolution has brought about a variety of ways of getting poison where it is needed, when it is needed: fangs, tentacle tips, and stingers. Using a variety of microscopes to observe insects, spiders, hydra, and more, take a close-up look at some creatures that put venom to use in their daily lives.

Seek and You Shall Find: Venom and Toxins in the Ocean
The ocean is home to many different kinds of animals…and many different poisons! Explore the biodiversity of marine life and toxins while designing your own poison warning pattern—zig-zags, polka dots. You choose!

Activities at this station will be supported by students from M362: Columbia Secondary School (an Urban Advantage participating school).

The Milstein Science Series is proudly sponsored by the Irma and Paul Milstein Family.

American Museum of Natural History

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New York, NY 10024-5192
Phone: 212-769-5100

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