UPPER WEST SIDE — Ribbit! Ribbit! More than 200 princes in disguise are lurking at the American Museum of Natural History in a new exhibit opening this Saturday.
"Frogs: A Chorus of Colors" fills a darkened exhibit hall with species from across the world, including Peru, Brazil, Madagascar, Russia, and the United States.
On Thursday, three and four-year-olds from Goddard Riverside's Head Start program took the first peek at the curious creatures. Hopping up and down and gasping with excitement, the children spied on frogs nestled in their cases.
The lead curator for the exhibit, Christopher Raxworthy, thought this was just as it should be: "It's one of those exhibits where there's lots of information," he said, "or you can just enjoy the frogs as they are."
Fascinating facts about frogs, like their ability to use their eyeballs to swallow better or breathe through their skin, are peppered throughout, alongside detailed descriptions about each species.
The dart-poison frog is one of the scene stealers, with its neon skin, tiny body and agile movements — not to mention its ability to kill 10 human with the poison in its skin alone. Children gathered around to watch them, safely sequestered behind thick glass.
"You think you know about frogs, but let us blow your brains out with what they can do," said Raxworthy, who described the amphibians as "weird and wonderful."
Mixed among the leaping bullfrogs and bright tomato frogs is information about the rapid decline of frog species due to habitat destruction and a deadly Chytrid fungus, which scientists only identified in 2010. Roughly 10 to 20 percent of the frog population is vulnerable to this disease, said Raxworthy.
While some view "captivity" as a dirty word, captive breeding of frogs has helped save many species, said Raxworthy.
Though a fan of all the frogs, many of which he's studied in their native habitat, Raxworthy was quick to name his favorite: the White Lip Tree Frog, which survives only in "high quality rain forests," he said.
The exhibit runs from May 18, 2013 through Jan 5., 2014.
The cost of museum entrance plus the exhibit is $25 for adults, $19 for students and seniors and $14.50 for children.