LINCOLN PARK — The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum opens an exhibit with legs Saturday when "Frogs: A Chorus of Colors" debuts.
The exhibit will feature 70 species of toads and frogs, as well as interactive elements including a virtual dissection lab and a zipline that allows kids to mimic the gliding path of tree frogs, complete with frog costumes.
"From interacting with the largest frogs, to some of the smallest and all the ones in between, this is an opportunity to experience and discover frogs like never before," said Deborah Lahey, museum president. "We've created a hands-on, fun exhibit space where families and children can discover the amazing and adaptable world of frogs through play and a variety of interactives."
The exhibit runs Saturday through Jan. 22, and the most popular resident might just turn out to be the African bullfrog, who not only resembles Jabba the Hutt, but will also be fed a rodent on the first Monday of every month about 10 a.m.
Toward the other end of the frog size scale, the tiny, colorful, but extremely virulent dart poison frogs pack a big punch in their little bodies. The golden poison dart frog is said to be more toxic than the most dangerous snake or spider, and has enough poison in its body to kill 10 people or 20,000 mice.
Yet the Frogs in Crisis element of the exhibit points out that frogs are more endangered by humans than vice versa, as their numbers continue to dwindle, both here in Illinois and worldwide. They're the true canaries in the coal mine suffering from environmental changes before other species do, said Allison Sacerdote-Velat, curator of herpetology at the Chicago Academy of Sciences affiliated with the museum.
"They're breathing through their skin. They're also drinking through their skin," Sacerdote-Velat said, which makes them highly susceptible to contaminated water, fungi and viruses.
In Illinois alone, she added, the cricket frog saw its range dwindle by about a third as a results of chemicals in the water supply since World War II.
The exhibit offers instructions for how families can go home and join in a state frog survey to help estimate Illinois' frog population.
There's a bit of the circle of life as well. Sacerdote-Velat pointed out a pair of Asian tree toads were caught in flagrante delicto, in the midst of mating (see the slideshow, but first click the button that you're over 18), and a tank full of pollywogs figure to be American bullfrogs before the exhibit closes early next year.
These pollywogs figure to be bullfrogs before Frogs: A Chorus of Colors leaves the @NatureMuseum pic.twitter.com/zUqTKHnSf0— Ted Cox (@tedcoxchicago) November 3, 2016
The museum, at 2430 N. Cannon Drive, is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends, with the last tickets sold at 4:30. Tickets are $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors over 60, $6 for children 3-12, and Thursdays are suggested-donation days for Illinois residents.
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