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Five things to do at AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence" show

Bring the kids to the American Museum of Natural History to check out the world's glowing natural wonders.

  • Photograph: AMNH\Denis Finnin

    AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

  • Photograph: AMNH\J. Sparks

    AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

  • Photograph: AMNH\Denis Finnin

    AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

  • Photograph: AMNH\Denis Finnin

    AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

  • AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

  • Photograph: AMNH\Denis Finnin

    AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

  • Photograph: AMNH\Denis Finnin

    AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

  • Photograph: AMNH\Denis Finnin

    AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

  • Photograph: AMNH\Denis Finnin

    AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

  • Photograph: AMNH\Jim Hellemn

    AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

  • Photograph: AMNH\Jim Hellemn

    AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

  • Photograph: AMNH\Denis Finnin

    AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

  • Photograph: AMNH\Denis Finnin

    AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

  • Photograph: AMNH\Denis Finnin

    AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

  • Photograph: AMNH\Denis Finnin

    AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

  • Photograph: AMNH\Denis Finnin

    AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

Photograph: AMNH\Denis Finnin

AMNH's "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence"

The American Museum of Natural History, the queen of all natural history museums, has taken the fascination and wonder we all feel when seeing fireflies light up on a summer's night and magnified it to the nth degree in its new show, which opens on Saturday, March 31. The family-friendly exhibition—it's dark, so be sure you let your eyes (and those of your kids) adjust—has something kids of all ages will connect with. Here are five of our favorite things to do at the show.

Talk to male fireflies
After learning the language of female fireflies—very much akin to Morse Code—naturalists-in-training can try to catch the eye of male fireflies by using a light emittor to mimic the female pattern. If they've done a good job, many male fireflies will answer them back with their own blinking.

Enter a magical cave
The exhibit A Mysterious Cave re-creates a cavern in New Zealand filled with purple points of light and luminescent dangling "fishing lines" made by glowworms—in this case larval fungus gnats. It's got various vantage and entry points—including one that places you inside the cave itself—so your family can all pop your heads in to take a look at the same time.

Create a trail of light
Walk through the environment A Sparkling Sea, a simulation of Mosquito Bay on Puerto Rico's island Vieques, and a wake of practically extraterrestrial light is activated, illuminating the path you've taken. Kids will learn that in real life, this phenomenon is caused by high concentrations of dinoflagellates, a type of plankton that creates a halo around anything that moves through the water. Have a look at live dinoflagellates on display to the left of the "bay."

Explore a Caribbean reef
Young visitors will easily believe themselves scuba divers as they shine a spotlight, via a touchscreen, on an actual photograph of Cayman Islands' Bloody Bay Wall in the Night Dive exhibit. The amazing coral reef is filled with bioflurescent creatures—those that begin to glow only when light shines upon them—as well as bioluminescent ones: those that light up due to an chemical reaction, even in the dark.

Discover life at the bottom of the ocean
The last part of the exhibit, the Deep Ocean, introduces families to some of the most bizarre inhabitants in the deepest parts of the sea, from ponyfish, whose bellies are illuminated biofluorescently, to a flashing jellyfish and a viperfish, a scary-looking creature whose fangs are larger than the fish itself. Don't miss a look at the live lanternfish in an aquarium near this section's entrance. Just make sure not to use a flash to take pictures of them: They're like a deep-sea version of the beloved firefly.

"Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence" is on view from March 31 through January 6, 2013, at the American Museum of Natural History.

 

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