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Published on : Thursday, May 14, 2015
They live in treetops, deserts and swamps, grow to several feet long or to only the size of a quarter, and outsmart their predators by looking like a leaf or by poisoning them. Amphibians are among the most fascinating and diverse animals groups in the world as well as the most threatened – and can now be seen for a limited time at Shedd Aquarium’s new special exhibit, Amphibians, opening this Saturday.
Sponsored by Walgreens, the exhibit features more than 40 species of salamanders, frogs, newts and rarely seen worm-like caecilians that will be hopping and swimming at Shedd, beginning May 16.
“We’re excited for our guests to explore the wonderfully diverse and fascinating world of amphibians,” said Tim Binder, Executive Vice President of animal care at Shedd Aquarium. “Amphibians is not only fun, but the exhibit creates meaningful connections that show how human activity affects their habitats. We want to inspire people to personally help preserve this amazing group of animals.”
Throughout the new experience, guests can explore more than 30 habitats where they will find animals that have evolved into a variety of sizes, shapes and colors, from tiny frogs to a 2 ½ -feet-long Japanese giant salamander– the second largest species of amphibian in the world.
Custom-built and designed in –house by Shedd animal care staff and design experts, the exhibit guides guests through three rooms with immersive visual, audio and hands-on experiences that focus on three themes: amphibians’ changing bodies, how they evolved to survive, and how they are facing challenges in today’s changing world.
Room One: Changing Bodies
As one of the first land vertebrates dating back to the time before the dinosaurs, amphibians have adapted to all kinds of conditions, living in treetops, deserts and swamps on every continent except Antarctica. Amphibians demonstrate the varied ways of reproducing—some lay eggs and some give live birth. As they shift from larva to adult, water to land, and season to season, amphibians’ bodies change—tadpoles sprout legs and become frogs, and wood frogs even “freeze” in winter and thaw in the spring.
In this room, guests can view species such as the western chorus frog, spotted salamander, fire-bellied newt, and wood frog. They can hear sample frog calls of specific species, learn from models of a frog and salamander lifecycle, and watch video footage of frog eggs hatching and developing into tadpoles, froglets and adults.
A special view provides guests an overhead surprise of tadpoles swimming in various stages of their lifecycle!
Room Two: Changing to Survive
Amphibians have developed creative ways to ward off predators, from using camouflage to hide, like the Solomon leaf frog, to showing bright colors to warn predators of their poison, like the tomato frog. Here guests can learn the many ways amphibians avoid being eaten and how they eat, including a photo of an African bullfrog using its tooth-like bumps to capture squirmy and struggling prey and video of this species shedding its own skin. The room also includes the largest amphibian in North America—the hellbender—which can grow up to four times the length of most other salamanders, as well as models of some of the world’s smallest and largest amphibians.
Other hands-on experiences include a model of amphibian skin, teaching guests why this thin, permeable organ is so crucial to the animals’ survival. Not only do amphibians use their skin for breathing, drinking and protection, but their skin also makes them highly susceptible to environmental changes such as pollutants and skin fungi like chytrid that can be deadly and has devastated several amphibian populations worldwide. The room also features an interactive, 3-D frog model that blinks, breathes and even becomes completely transparent at the touch of a screen, giving guests an inside look at the bones and body parts that make frogs function.