“Seas” the day and confront your favorite apex predator up close and personal, when Sharks! The Meg, The Monsters & The Myths opens May 26
Members of the media are invited to attend a special media preview, happening Thursday, May 25 from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
HOUSTON, TX—Fearsomely prowling our oceans, sharks have only ruled their natural habitat for about 300,000 years. Yet, despite this short timeframe, these deadly hunters and apex predators have managed to drive numerous species of marine life to extinction, and continue to attack humans at an alarming rate of hundreds of thousands of times a day.
Now take a moment to switch “sharks” and “humans,” and you’ve got a more accurate statement.
Sharks are actually ancient creatures that have been around for over 450 million years, making them older than the Himalayas, dinosaurs, and even trees! And as for that Jaws-induced stereotype, more people are struck by lightning or killed by infected mosquitos each year than are bitten by sharks. Even regular beachgoers only have a 1-in-264,000,000 chance of being bitten by a shark – and in the majority of those incidents, the shark was provoked into taking defensive action.
Yet these graceful and cunning creatures remain a source of a plethora of phantom fears and phobias thanks to their unflattering portrayal in popular culture. But now, in an effort to convince you that it is in fact safe to go back in the water this summer, the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) looks to correct this injustice with its newest interactive exhibit Sharks! The Meg, The Monsters & The Myths, opening May 26 to members and May 27 to the general public.
“Sharks very well might be the most misunderstood animals on earth, with the possible exception of their close cousins – lawyers and museum directors,” Joel Bartsch, President & CEO of HMNS, says with a laugh. “In general, audiences love to be scared, and scared by sharks in particular. And there is no shortage of myth merchants and movie makers that are more than happy to meet that demand. This exhibit explores those myths, along with matters of fact, in a much broader and deeper context to help our visitors understand how marvelous and diverse these ancient animals really are.”
Within Sharks! The Meg, The Monsters & The Myths, patrons can peruse six galleries that include live animals, 14 life-sized models, exciting physical interactives and touchable items, dazzling digital technology, photo ops, and plenty of fin-tastic facts about these cool Chondrichthyes. A 360-square-foot virtual “shark tank” immediately welcomes visitors upon entry, with a variety of sharks demonstrating their natural behaviors as they swim past the viewing window. Those visitors will also be introduced to the incredible diversity of sharks, which form eight different orders and comprise more than 500 species.
A life-sized, 50’ female megalodon model greets guests as they enter the second gallery on adaptations, where the speed, anatomy, bioluminescence, and other biological characteristics of sharks are explored. Patrons will determine what makes a shark a shark and then discover how each species has unique variations.
“Sharks are remarkably diverse and efficient predators but are more threatened than threatening. In fact, over one-third of shark species are now facing the threat of extinction,” said Nicole Temple, Vice President of Education for HMNS and exhibit curator. “With this exhibition, we hope that our guests are able to explore the misconceptions, mysteries, and mystique of sharks to help pave the way for conservation efforts, as well as explore their unique adaptations and behaviors that continue to inspire scientific innovation around the world.”
Visitors can dive even deeper within the next gallery to explore the history of sharks within the fossil record that is hundreds of millions of years in the making. They can select a Miocene epoch fossilized shark tooth as part of a game to identify and keep. Visitors will also debunk long-held myths about our “jawsome” friends. Finally, guests can get up close and personal with live bamboo and epaulette sharks, stingrays, and a host of aquatic invertebrates, such as sea urchins, while learning about the conservation efforts underway to help sharks overcome the ever-mounting obstacles impeding their survival.
The special exhibition ends with a visit to the Island Shoppe, the HMNS store featuring toys, puzzles, t-shirts, magnets and a huge variety of other keepsakes as a wonderful memory of the visit. Highlights also include megalodon teeth, fossilized coral and even a 100,000-year-old giant fossil clamshell. There are many one-of-a-kind gifts available that can only be found at HMNS.
These enduring animals have survived every major extinction event in the last 450 million years – but what would happen to the earth as they face extinction? “The ocean ecosystems would become unbalanced – seagrasses would be overgrazed, the coral reefs would decline, and life in the oceans would eventually die,” said Temple. “Sharks are critical to maintaining the health of our oceans, which are a huge carbon sink for the planet. Really, sharks help keep us alive.”
Sharks! The Meg, The Monsters & The Myths opens May 26 to members, and May 27 to the general public at HMNS. Sharks! The Meg, The Monsters & The Myths is supported by Novum Energy and The J.W. Couch Foundation. Entrance into the exhibition requires a separate ticket. Visit HMNS.org for tickets and information.
About Houston Museum of Natural Science
The Houston Museum of Natural Science—one of the nation’s most heavily attended museums—is a centerpiece of the Houston Museum District. With four floors of permanent exhibit halls, and the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center, Burke Baker Planetarium and George Observatory and as host to world-class and ever-changing touring exhibitions, the Museum has something to delight every age group. With such diverse and extraordinary offerings, a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, located at 5555 Hermann Park Drive in the heart of the Museum District, is always an adventure.