AMNH Announces Their Upcoming Exhibition: Creatures of Light

AMNH Announces Their Upcoming Exhibition: Creatures of Light

The American Museum of Natural History announces Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence, a new exhibition about the extraordinary organisms that produce light, from the flickering fireflies found in backyards across the Northeast to the alien deep-sea fishes that illuminate the perpetually dark depths of the oceans.

Rare among plants and animals that live on land, the ability to glow-that is, generate light through a chemical reaction-is much more common in the ocean, where up to 90 percent of animals at depths below 700 meters are bioluminescent, including many unknown to science. Like the crystal jelly whose glow led to a revolution in cell biology, these animals may hold important clues to essential questions, but scientists are in a race against time as habitats are increasingly threatened by pollution, overfishing, and global climate change.

"Creatures of Light reveals to the public some of the most magical, wondrous, and truly extraordinary creatures and phenomena to be found in the natural world," said Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. "The exhibition will take visitors to such fascinating places as a bioluminescent bay and the far depths of the ocean, explain why and how certain animals create 'living light,' and help us all better understand the vast and glorious ecosystem of which we are just a part."

In Creatures of Light, visitors will move through a series of re-created environments, from the familiar to the extreme, to explore the diversity of organisms that glow and how they do it; discover the variety of ways in which light is used to attract a mate, lure unsuspecting prey, or defend against a predator; and learn how, where, and why scientists study this amazing natural phenomenon. Throughout the exhibition, iPads featuring videos, infographics, photo albums, and animations will provide opportunities to hear directly from researchers about their work.
Starting in a local meadow on A Summer's Night, where fireflies use unique patterns of flashing light to communicate with potential mates, visitors will descend into A Mysterious Cave in New Zealand to watch a fantastic spectacle of luminescent "fishing lines" strung by larval gnats, glowworms, to trap prey.

A unique interactive environment in A Sparkling Sea will introduce the brilliant light displays of Mosquito Bay on Puerto Rico's Vieques Island, where high concentrations of microscopic dinoflagellates, a type of plankton, create a halo around anything that moves through the water. Visitors will activate the bioluminescent bay as they move through this section.
The Night Dive will feature a large-scale, day-and-night interactive image of the Cayman Islands' Bloody Bay Wall, a remarkable coral wall that is home to both bioluminescent and biofluorescent animals, which glow only after exposure to light.

In Altered Light, visitors will encounter the jellyfish Aequorea victoria, which combines bioluminescence with biofluorescence (in which an organism's molecules absorb blue light, then radiate it at a lower energy, longer wavelength) to emit flashes of green light. The protein found in its light organs, known as the green fluorescent protein (GFP), has become a critical tool in cellular and developmental biology, used for mapping neural circuits, observing cancer cells, and much more.

Borrowed Light will feature live flashlight fishes, which harbor bioluminescent bacteria in an organ under their eyes, and highlight symbiotic relationships. The Deep Ocean will take visitors into the perpetually dark deep ocean, which comprises the vast majority of the planet's habitable space. A Deep Sea Theater will reveal the diversity of animals that marine biologists have captured on camera, including female anglerfishes waving bioluminescent "lures" to attract prey and mates, and jellyfishes that light up like a flashing pinwheel when threatened.

Creatures of Light will open on March 31, 2012, and remain on view until January 6, 2013. The exhibition is curated by John Sparks, associate curator and curator-in-charge in the Department of Ichthyology, whose research interests include the evolution and diversification of the bacteria-driven bioluminescent signaling systems in ponyfishes, and the function of biofluorescence in marine fishes. Sparks' research seeks to determine the role of organismal light in the aquatic realm-specifically, is the ability to produce light or to fluoresce correlated with increased species richness in the ocean.

Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York ( in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada, and The Field Museum, Chicago.

Generous support for Creatures of Light has been provided by the Eileen P. Bernard Exhibition Fund.

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The American Museum of Natural History, founded in 1869, is one of the world's preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions. The Museum encompasses 45 permanent exhibition halls and galleries for temporary exhibitions, the Rose Center for Earth and Space with the Hayden Planetarium, state-of-the-art research laboratories and five active research divisions that support more than 200 scientists in addition to one of the largest natural history libraries in the Western Hemisphere and a Permanent Collection of more than 32 million specimens and cultural artifacts. Through its Richard Gilder Graduate School, it is the first American museum authorized to grant the Ph.D. degree. In 2012, the Museum will begin offering a pilot Master of Arts in Teaching with a specialization in earth science. Approximately 5 million visitors from around the world came to the Museum last year, and its exhibitions and Space Shows can be seen in venues on five continents. The Museum's website and collection of apps for mobile devices extend its collections, exhibitions, and educational programs to millions more beyond its walls.

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