Extreme Creatures: Life at the Limits

Opening May 29, 2021

$5 plus museum admission

Imagine holding your breath for up to two hours …Gulping down a snack 10 times your own weight …Living in crushing depths where there is no sunlight to support life. Somewhere on this planet, an organism is using one of these extraordinary talents to go about its daily tasks. Extreme Creatures: Life at the Limits opening May 29th at the Witte Museum, offers a fascinating glimpse of the breathtaking diversity of the natural world and the power of natural selection to shape exceptional responses to the challenges, and opportunities, of life on Earth. 

Featuring life-size and larger-than-life models, videos, and interactive exhibits, Extreme Creatures: Life at the Limits highlights an array of living things with surprising ways of thriving in harsh environments, finding a mate or their next meal, leveraging strength, endurance, speed, and more.

Explore creative courtship and reproduction strategies and how every living organism can bring new life into the world, but some go to extraordinary lengths to procreate. Consider the Hercules beetle (Dynastes hercules): these buff beetles can carry up to 80 times their own weight, a skill that males deploy while competing for mates.

Marvel at some species that can seemingly defy death. Shown as 10-foot models, microscopic animals called tardigrades can survive dehydration, extreme temperatures, and even the radiation and vacuum of space. 

Uncover remarkable adaptations for breathing, like the southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) which can dive down nearly a mile and stay underwater for up to two hours while hunting, thanks to its high volume of blood and high levels of hemoglobin. 

Discover efficient ways of moving around. Evolution has been shaping locomotion for millions of years—with fascinating results that match or even surpass human technologies. When it comes to flight, dragonflies have helicopters beat; they can hover motionless and fly upside down and backwards.   

Explore extreme hunting and eating like the black swallower (Chiasmodon niger) who lives thousands of feet beneath the ocean’s surface, where a good meal can be hard to find. This fish can gulp down prey 10 times its own weight thanks to large, extendable jaws and a stomach with greatly expandable walls, making the most of each feeding opportunity.

Discover dramatic defense systems as predators can’t hunt what they can’t find, and some species have found ways to hide in the open. The mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) can imitate a number of venomous and poisonous creatures, including a flatfish, a lionfish, and a sea snake, to fool its own predators. To mimic these animals, this octopus’s skin creates colors and patterns like a video screen, and its boneless body takes on a variety of shapes.

Are you ready to discover Extreme Creatures: Life at the Limits? Admission is $5 plus museum admission, $4 for Witte Museum members. Tickets are available now!