The American Museum of Natural History opens “Spiders Alive”

See actual spider specimens at this new live exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History.

  • Photograph: Roderick MIckens

    Brown recluse spider in "Spiders Alive!" at the American Museum of Natural History

  • Photograph: Roderick MIckens

    Mexican red knee spider in "Spiders Alive!" at the American Museum of Natural History

  • Photograph: Roderick MIckens

    Chilean rose-hair spider in "Spiders Alive!" at the American Museum of Natural History

Photograph: Roderick MIckens

Brown recluse spider in "Spiders Alive!" at the American Museum of Natural History

July 28–December 2, 2012 • Central Park West at 79th St (212-769-5100, Daily 10am–5:45pm. Suggested donation $25, seniors and students $19, children 2–12 $14.50, children under 2 free.

Get over your arachnophobia and check out the live specimens on view in “Spiders Alive!,” a new science exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. Brown recluses, black widows and Goliath bird-eaters are some of the creepy-crawlies on view in this live exhibit.

RECOMMENDED: Full summer museum exhibit guide


The handler’s area

What André the Giant was to humans, the Goliath bird-eater is to arachnids. The hulking South American tarantula holds the distinction of being the second-largest spider on the planet—its leg span can approach one foot. According to curator Norman Platnick, your first exhibit priority should be this area, where you’ll be able to peep a live specimen of the massive eight-legged creepy crawler. “An explainer equipped with a high-resolution magnification system will demonstrate numerous aspects of the spider’s biology,” says Platnick. “Visitors will be able to observe the handling of live tarantulas and scorpions.” Come prepared with questions about the critter’s defense mechanisms, silk and venom secretions, eating habits and social behavior.

Large-scale spider models

Arachnophiles will appreciate the two giant prototypes on display: The first is a replica of the golden silk orb-weaver (genus Nephila), which creates intricate zigzag patterns in its webs. Also on view: a larger-than-life trap-door spider (Cyclocosmia), a ground-dwelling species whose modified abdomen serves as a faux bottom to its burrow. “The Nephila model is going to be about 40 feet long and 24 feet wide,” explains Plotnick, who also notes that the enormous likeness will hang from the ceiling. “The Cyclocosmia model will be about 8.5 feet long, 4.5 feet wide and 3 feet tall at its highest point.” Props to the brave kid who willingly climbs on that sucker (it’s allowed).

Live insects

Even if you’d never approach a real spider, take some time to explore this section, where transparent cases will securely enclose several animate examples. You’ll learn how to recognize Western black widows, brown recluses and other species that pose a threat to humans (much less than 1 percent of 42,000). Additionally, handlers will display arachnid cousins, such as scorpions and whip scorpions, which get their moniker from their elongated front legs.

Also check out

Although the museum has other diverting collections, the Fossil Halls call out to the wide-eyed ten-year-old in all of us. Scout one of the first dinosaur nests ever discovered, found in 1923 by the legendary dino hunter Roy Chapman Andrews. For a long time, the eggs in this nest were thought to belong to herbivorousprotoceratops, but in 1993, scientists found a meat-eating oviraptorid embryo preserved inside the same type of egg, completely changing the fossil’s long-held identity. People more interested in larger, fully formed dinosaurs might enjoy the 65-million-year-old triceratops model, complete with a partially healed head injury possibly inflicted by another Triceratops.

Go here afterwards

Westsider Rare and Used Books

  • Price band: 2/4

Try to put thoughts of arachnophobia out of your brain by escaping into a good book: At Westsider Rare & Used Books, you’ll unearth real gems at about half the cover price. The eclectic selection includes everything from photography and art titles to cookbooks and French literature, though the sci-fi, horror and mystery sections are particularly solid. • 212-362-0706,

  1. 2246 Broadway, (between 80th and 81st Sts)
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