Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence: Incredible Glow-in-the-Dark Displays at the American Museum of Natural History
My seven-year-old son is a big fan of exotic sea creatures, particularly the anglerfish which uses a glowing ball of bacteria to lure its prey to their doom. This creepy looking aquatic killer is one of the many amazing lifeforms spotlighted in Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence at one of my kid's favorite places, the American Museum of Natural History, so I knew it would be a hit.
The exhibit explores how the anglerfish and other creatures make their own light, also known as bioluminescence, but it also touches on fluorescent beings which emit absorbed light and others that let little glowing critters hitch a ride to light the way. Creatures of Light features firefly-lit meadows, otherworldly caves that twinkle like Christmas trees and shallow bays flashing with light. Although a handful of land creatures are included, the exhibit mainly focuses on fish and other ocean dwellers since the majority of them create their own light. They are all quite a sight!
Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence opens with a wooded North American forest display covered in real glowing mushrooms growing around a replica of a 40-foot jack-o'-lantern mushroom. Here you can also explore fireflies and try to replicate their blinks using a flashlight. If you do it right, they may answer you back! My son loved the recreated Waitomo Caves from New Zealand filled with long illuminated threads made by glowworms hanging from the ceiling. They looked like strings of icicle Christmas lights.
The Vieques' Mosquito Bay display was also awesome. The museum recreated the Puerto Rican harbor with its billions of bioluminescent dinoflagellates, microscopic plankton-like creatures that flash on contact so they literally light your way. There are even a handful of the live tiny creatures on view. The digital recreation of Cayman Island’s Bloody Bay Coral Wall is also cool. Kids can manipulate a touch pad to get closeups of different areas, so they can get a better look at the creatures which glow green, red or orange.
The Borrowed Light section of the exhibit was my son’s absolute favorite since it featured a live flashlight fish. Despite its name, it doesn't create its own light. Instead, it lets bioluminescent bacteria live in the wells underneath its eyes. In the final area, Deep Ocean, you'll find the anglerfish and a film about the many types of glowing creatures in the depths of the sea.
A word of warning: While my son found the exhibit engaging, some of our young companions lost interest. Unlike other exhibits aimed at kids, there are few interactive activities, and a lot more reading and looking than touching and doing. Still, as you can see from our slide show, there are many stunning sights.
Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence is on view through Sunday, January 6 at the American Museum Of Natural History, 79th Street and Central Park West. The exhibit is included in Museum Plus One admission $25 for adults, $14.50 for children ages 2-12.
All photos courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History and D. Finnin.
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