Did you know that only 0.1% of all spiders can actually harm humans? Or that the exoskeleton of a scorpion is fluorescent under UV light? Did you have any idea that there is no genital contact involved in spider sex? (It turns out to be a rather unromantic affair: the male excretes semen and inserts it in the female with little arms called pedipalps.) You can learn all this and more at the American Museum of Natural History's new living exhibition Spiders Alive! Take a look around... if you dare!
The exhibition, which opens to the public tomorrow, explores the fascinating and complex world of spiders and other arachnids. Visitors can marvel at 20 different living species, including the infamous Tarantula, the African Whip Spider (which has feelers up to ten inches long!), the Desert Hairy Scorpion, and the Goliath Bird Eater. In addition to the live specimens in glass cases, experts will be giving educational talks and handling some of the more docile species themselves, although visitors aren't allowed to touch them (trust us, we tried).
We got a chance to speak with Norman Platnick, the curator of the exhibit and one of the world's leading spider researchers. Asked about the public's general fear of spiders, he told us that arachnophobia is "basically irrational." In fact, according to Platnick, fear of spiders is culturally taught and easily overcome; he advises: "pin down what it is that makes you uneasy. Then realize it's irrational!" Gosh, he makes it sound so simple. Fortunately for the rest of us irrational cowards, photographer Katie Sokoler got total coverage of these eight-legged creatures, which you can now observe from a safe distance. (Just try to ignore the one crawling quietly up your shoulder as you read this.)
Spiders Alive! runs through December 2nd. The American Museum of Natural History is open daily, from 10 a.m. till 5:45 p.m., and located on Central Park West at 79th Street; ticket information here. Previously, we explored the museums trippy show Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence, which is still running.