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July 23, 2010 > Extreme Mammals

Extreme Mammals

By Mona Shah

Every family has its share of extreme characters. For evidence, look no further than the newest exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences. "Extreme Mammals: The Biggest, Smallest, and Most Amazing Mammals of All Time," highlights some of our most intriguing relatives, from speedy to sloth-like, towering to tiny, venomous and armor-clad.

Spectacular fossils and other specimens from the Museum's collections create vivid reconstructions and live animals to trace the ancestry and evolution of numerous species, including animals with oversized claws, fangs, snouts, and horns.

During a trip through the world of Extreme Mammals, visitors will learn how mammals evolved, how scientists define this group (would you have guessed one of the defining traits is the ability to eat and breathe at the same time?) and how some of the most extreme adaptations in the mammalian family support survival and reproduction.

One interesting mammal featured in the exhibit, Homo sapiens, may look more familiar, but this big-brained, bipedal mammal has several extreme features. "We don't often think of ourselves as extreme mammals, since we don't have long horns or venomous spurs," said Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged, Curator of Anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences. "However, we are without a doubt one of the most extreme mammals that evolution has produced. Our brain-to-body weight ratio is higher than any other mammal on Earth, and our ability to make and use complex tools sets us apart from all other life forms. That trait has enabled us to occupy virtually all parts of our planet and even explore others." Dr. Alemseged's research, including his discovery of the oldest and most complete known hominin child, will be featured in a video display in the exhibit.

This exhibit requires passes for timed entry, set for every 30 minutes. Passes, handed out on a first come, first serve basis, are available on the second level once inside the museum. Timed entry makes the exhibit easier to see, without battling crowds in the darkened hall.

A picture will be taken of your group in front of two wooly mammoths before entering the exhibit room. Photography is not allowed once inside the exhibit.

Extreme Mammals allows visitors to meet a colorful cast of characters, discover their place in the family tree and learn why humans are perhaps the most extreme mammals of all.

Extreme Mammals
Through September 12
California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco
(415) 379-8000
Tickets: $24.95-$19.95

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