Extreme Mammals at the Field Museum
Friday, April 27, 2012
What stands 15 feet tall, weighs 20 tons and lived about 25 million years ago? If you guessed Indricotherium, you would be right.
And if you thought, huh?, maybe it's time to head over to the Field Museum to meet Indricotherium and some of the other amazing mammals that have walked-or flown or swam-on earth.
Extreme Mammals, the Field's newest exhibition, focuses on all the "crazy extreme variations within our family group," says Anna Altschwager, exhibition project manager.
So whether it's sheer size-from the monstrous Indricotherium to the teensy, lighter-than-a-dollar-bill Badodanoides-or outer covering (think fur, scales, quills or shells), kids and parents alike will think about what's considered "normal" and what's extreme.
The exhibit uses re-creations, taxidermy, fossils and casts, as well as interactive videos and games, to explore what makes a mammal and why they differ so greatly. Visitors can walk right under the resident Indricotherium, one of the largest land mammals that ever lived, or climb inside the shell of a glyptodont, a car-sized armadillo relative (and Eddie from "Ice Age").
Altschwager says one of the most fun areas is a mirrored wall where you can "try on" different types of teeth and tusks that belong to mammals as diverse as hippos and guinea pigs.
The "Mammals in Motion" section shows how even human beings are pretty extreme. After all, we walk or run on two legs, while animals like kangaroos and bats and monkeys get around much differently. "Kids will leave the exhibition wanting to swing and climb on things," Altschwager warns with a laugh.
Altschwager also says the exhibit relates to other things going on at the museum, whether the African Mammal Hall or the Evolving Planet exhibit. And she hopes that by connecting humans with the larger mammal family, kids will be inspired to get out and discover new species like Field scientists are doing.
And maybe the next time your kid (or you!) looks in the mirror, they'll realize that although they might not be quite as large as Indricotherium, they are just as extreme in their own way.