Sharks are having a moment. Whether it's the bizarro shark-meets-natural disaster of Sharknado or the best-ever rated Shark Week on TV's Discovery Channel or even the still-haunting two-note JAWS theme, the big-toothed fish are everywhere you look.
And now they're invading Rockford's Burpee Museum of Natural History.
That invasion is being led by Megalodon, the two-million-years-extinct shark who is the star of the new exhibit Megalodon: Largest Shark that Ever Lived.
"This exhibit capitalizes on the public's fascination with sharks and how it affects our world today," says marketing coordinator MacKenna Atteberry. "The objective is really to inform the public."
Because while pop-culture representations may pique the public's interest in sharks, not all information out there is entirely accurate. In fact, a Discovery Channel mockumentary last summer called "Megalodon: The Monster Shark That Lives" convinced many viewers that the massive shark still swims in our oceans.
"[The exhibit] helps to set the record straight a bit," Atteberry says.
To that end, the exhibit includes lots of interactive elements that teach kids and families about the ancient shark and its evolution and biology. The most obvious feature is a 60-foot walk-through Megalodon sculpture that provides an immediate introduction to the famous shark.
Other highlights include life-sized models of Megalodon's relatives, the modern Great White and Mako sharks, four Megalodon jaws that came from 30- to 60-foot-long sharks (and could swallow a human in one bite!) and fossilized shark teeth.
But despite the presence of teeth and jaws, Atteberry says the exhibit isn't a scary one, contrary to what some JAWS-scarred parents might fear.
"It's a very non-intimidating exhibit," she says. "But it's still informative and lets you know how big and massive these sharks were."
And since Megalodon: Largest Shark that Ever Lived is making its Midwest debut at Burpee, museum staff are hoping the shark's fame will draw people from across the region, including Chicago. Plus, the exhibit ties in nicely with the museum's other exhibits, including those focused on dinosaurs and geology.
"It's a great way to take a day trip for the family," Atteberry says. "Everyone is going to take something away from it."