There are few animals more magnificent than the giraffe, with its extra-long neck, spindly legs and patterned hide that has inspired many an interior design scheme.
But have you ever thought about what a giraffe looks like on the inside?
Starting this month, you'll get a chance to see what's going on under that spotted skin, as well as inside other eye-catching creatures like sharks, ostriches and octopuses.
The Animal Inside Out exhibit, from the producers of Body Worlds, makes its U.S. debut at the Museum of Science & Industry on March 14. But whereas Body Worlds gave an intricate look under the human skin, the new exhibit displays more than 100 animal specimens, thanks to that same process of Plastination.
That means that the organs and blood vessels and tendons on display were once inside an actual animal-a fact that's easy to forget when you're staring at a full-sized reindeer captured in a run.
Anne Rashford, director of temporary exhibits at the museum, says the exhibit profiles each animal and tells stories of how they have adapted over time, plus serves as a lesson in comparative anatomy between the different animals and human beings.
Animal Inside Out also explores different body systems with the help of specimens like a shark outlined in blood vessels or the muscles of a bull's heart.
Rashford says it's important for families to understand that the exhibit isn't "gross," but a respectful treatment of the animal kingdom.
"I think the exhibit is so beautifully done," she says. "People will just be amazed by the beauty of the animal and how magical what's underneath the skin is."
Although the museum requires that kids under 13 come with a parent or guardian, it's really an exhibit for all ages-and some of the littlest guests are the ones who ask the best questions. Hopefully everyone will leave the exhibit with new knowledge and a new perspective on our world.
"I think they will have more respect for themselves and their body and the entire animal kingdom," Rashford says. "We are on this planet together, and we learn from each other."
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.