NC Museum of Natural Sciences to explore the amazing world of mammals

For immediate release ‐ August 18, 2015

Contact: Jon Pishney, 919.707.8083. Images available upon request

Explore the surprising and sometimes bizarre world of “Extreme Mammals: The Biggest, Smallest, and Most Amazing Mammals of All Time,” a new exhibition opening September 26 at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Inspect oversized claws, massive fangs, extraordinary snouts, amazing horns, and other traits that make these mammals truly remarkable. Uncover the characteristic that links us to more than 5,400 wonderfully weird living species, and discover how we might be the most extreme mammal of them all.

What’s extreme about mammals? How about a four-ton tongue? A tooth bigger than you? A bumblebee-sized bat? Usually we call something “extreme” when it departs significantly from the normal, average, or ancestral condition. But what’s normal? This exhibition explores the diversity, ancestry and evolution of numerous species, ranging from huge to tiny, from speedy to sloth-like. Featuring spectacular fossils, vivid reconstructions, and life-like models—including a 15-foot-high touchable model of the extinct Indricotherium, the largest known land mammal.

While the largest living land mammal is the African elephant, Indricotherium lived in the forests of central Asia between 34 and 23 million years ago and weighed as much as three or four adult African elephants — approximately 20 tons. Indricotherium fossils were uncovered in Mongolia in 1922 by Roy Chapman Andrews, a young scientist from the American Museum of Natural History.

The exhibit features a hands-on interactive illuminating the extremely diverse locomotions that have evolved among mammals, such as walking, hopping, gliding, swimming and flying. Visitors can control the speed of an animation to get a closer look at exactly how mammals propel themselves across land, air and sea. Clues about a divergence from a shared quadruped past can be found in the model of Ambulocetus, a prehistoric ancestor of whales, also known as the “walking whale.” The remnants of hind legs inherited from this land-dweller can be seen in modern whale skeletons.

Through dynamic displays, touchable fossils, taxidermied specimens and more, the exhibition explores many extraordinary mammalian traits such as headgear, teeth, tails and reproduction. The Museum of Natural Sciences is contributing touchable artifacts and models from its own collection to create a tactile “mammal moment” for visitors. Solve a puzzle of fur, footprints and (model) feces to find out which mammal’s artifacts you’re holding.

Visitors will also have the unique opportunity to experience eMammal research first-hand. This project, based out of the Museum’s Biodiversity Research Lab, helps scientists monitor wildlife populations through motion-sensor-activated cameras, called “camera traps.” Dare to enter the exhibition’s forest scene and you, too, may get “caught” in a camera trap. Visitors can also learn more about getting involved with eMammal and monitoring wildlife in their own community.

The exhibit celebrates the wonderful diversity of mammals, but also acknowledges what scientists are calling the Sixth Extinction. Today, one in four mammal species is threatened with extinction. An Endangered Species Theater will spotlight faces of some extremely rare mammals, and visitors will get some tips on how to help conserve them. For example, you can visit institutes like the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, also featured in the exhibit, to support their research and conservation efforts.

“Extreme Mammals” was organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in collaboration with the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco; Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada; and Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Special thanks to our media sponsors: The News & Observer, WRAL, Fox50 and UNC-TV.

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