Exhibition Highlights

From the inside out, every living thing—including humans—is a machine built to survive, move, and discover. Animals: The Machine Inside investigates the marvel of natural engineering from a cheetah’s sprint to a flea’s jump, from a crocodile’s chomp to an owl’s hearing. 

Staying in One Piece: Structures and Materials

In order to withstand forces like wind, water, and gravity, all living things have evolved to find the right tools for the job. For example, trees, feathers, even bones are all made up of both hard matrix materials and flexible fibers that allow them to bend and be strong at the same time. The dome shape is found throughout nature (from a horseshoe crab to a tortoise shell to a human skull). Explore the concept of biomimicry, when humans find inspiration in a design found in nature. 

Going with the Flow:
Pumps and Pipes

While our bodies are fighting elements externally, internally another battle is being fought. We’re in a never-ending race against time to distribute life-sustaining supplies to every cell in our body. Using the power of pumps, pipes, and pressure, living things (both animals and plants) move air and fluids to where they’re needed most. Examine the five touchable heart models of a mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, and fish to see how they use pressure to push fluid throughout the body. Check out the cross section of a tree to see the tiny tubes (xylem) that run from roots to leaves. 

Surviving the Elements: Insulation and Radiators

Can you imagine cooling yourself using your ears? Or staying warm by letting your feet go cold? Animals have evolved countless ways to maintain their body temperature in extreme climates using tricks of size, shape, and innovative insulation. Here, learn about the Fennec Fox’s ears that keep it cool using tiny blood vessels that help the animal pull heat from its body. Similarly, a toucan sends blood to its bill when it gets too hot. 

Grabbing a Bite:
Jaws and Claws

In order to survive, living things must create enough force to make an impact. Muscles set internal machinery in motion, and joints become levers that enhance the power and speed of a grip or bite. Discover the force behind a bite, the intense grip of a chimpanzee, the tremendous strength of the Harpy Eagle, and much more. See cases filled with different skulls and check out a slow-motion video showing this spring mechanism in action. 

Crossing the Landscape:
Legs and Springs

Creatures skitter, hop, and run across the landscape on six legs, ten legs, four legs, 100 legs—and sometimes just two. Despite gravity pulling down with each step, springs and momentum redirect this force to the creature’s advantage. Why is a cheetah able to run so quickly? This animal actually has a spine with some extra spring to it, allowing it to take longer strides which contribute to its speed. Also learn about MABEL, a bipedal robot that mimics the way humans walk. 

Launching into the Blue:
Wings and Fins

From walking on land to flying through the air or swimming through the sea, animals have evolved in the best ways to move for their exact needs. With sleek aerodynamic forms, they harness the power of fluid dynamics to propel themselves to their destination. You’ll have a chance to “fly,” with an interactive designed to show the differences between long and short wings, as well as learn how sea creatures move through water using their fins. 

Gathering Intelligence:
Eyes, Ears, and Beyond

We collect clues with astonishing detection devices—the senses. Discover how plants and animals decode the world beyond themselves with heightened sensory equipment. See the asymmetry of a Northern Saw-whet Owl’s ear openings which helps it pinpoint prey at night. Meet the Luna Moth, which can smell farther than any other animal on Earth, thanks to its extra-large antennae. Explore how humans are using echolocation to create tools for the blind, taking cues from bats. 

What is the machine inside you built to do? Animals: Machines in Motion offers the opportunity to see ourselves as the machine we all are, combatting outside forces for survival.