Animals are amazing. The fact that birds can mimic human voices and dogs can hear stuff we can't is proof enough. But the proof goes way beyond those domestic examples. Animals can do all kinds of things humans can't, yet they tend to be totally underestimated simply because they lack opposable thumbs and the ability to cook their food. The crazy skills of nonhuman creatures are the focus of Zoo Miami's new exhibit, "Amazing Animals." The showcase, developed by the Field Museum in Chicago, celebrates the incredible adaptability of our mammal, bird, fish, reptile, and amphibian friends, giving visitors a firsthand look at the wild ways these critters survive.
"It's more of a museum exhibition than a zoo exhibit in the sense that there aren't any live animals," explains Ron Magill, Zoo Miami's goodwill ambassador and communications director. "There are some great interactive components. It offers a wonderful window into the world of how animals can adapt and the amazing adaptations they have."
These adaptations — and other elements of animal physiology — are incorporated into many of our culture's daily toys and tools, and the exhibit points out a lot of these cases. Take Velcro, for example. Magill points out how the invaluable invention was inspired by the way burrs stick to dog fur.
"Scientists are working on making spinal discs that actually are emulating the wings of a dragonfly," he adds. Researchers studied the chemical makeup of the material that connects dragonfly wings — which are remarkably flexible and durable — and have created a synthetic version for use in human beings.
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The exhibit has a host of interactive elements, so kids and adults alike can get their heads and hands around the incredible ways animals have made suitable their ever-changing environments. There are moving models, video footage, and more, showcasing examples of the speed of a cheetah, the bite force of an extinct fish, the burrowing power of an earthworm, the wings of different kinds of birds, and other eye-opening examples.
"It's a great way to show kids that there’s a lot we can learn from nature," Magill concludes. "There’s a lot about nature that’s similar to us and a lot that’s way beyond our capabilities."
Through May 8 inside Dr. Wilde’s World at Zoo Miami, 1 Zoo Blvd., Miami. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General zoo admission costs $19.95 per adult and $15.95 per child ages 3 to 12, plus tax. Entry into "Amazing Animals" is included with zoo admission. Visit zooomiami.org or call 305-251-0400.