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‘Creatures of Light’ exhibit at Field Museum shines

CREATURES OF
LIGHT: NATURE’S
BIOLUMINESCENCE

♦ Through September 8

♦ Field Museum,
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

♦ Basic admission, $15 for adults, $12 for ages 65 and older and students with valid identification and $10 for ages 3-11

♦ (312) 922-9410; fieldmuseum.org

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Updated: April 16, 2013 3:13PM



Let there be light ­­— in suburban back yards and the deepest seas, in the darkest caves and on the stumpiest logs.

Nature’s lanterns are lighting up the Field Museum courtesy of the exhibit “Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence,” which recently opened.

Bioluminescence means living things that create their own light.

Think fireflies, foxfire mushrooms and thousands of deep sea fish, many microscopic, that live so far below the water’s surface that they exist in a world of total darkness.

The exhibit began as a collaboration three years ago between Leo Smith, Field Museum assistant curator of fishes, and a colleague at New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

Smith was studying the ponyfish, “an unassuming fish with a bioluminescent pouch off its throat and stomach that looked like a doughnut,” he said.

From discussions of that work was born the exhibit, looking at this unique, peculiar phenomenon found in an assortment of critters from glowworms in New Zealand caves to backyard fireflies in Chicago.

Much of the exhibit focuses on the life aquatic because that is where most bioluminescence happens.

It’s not common on land ­— less than 20 percent of bioluminescent creatures live outside of the ocean.

The exhibit is model-based, so insects and fish are blown up tens to thousands of times their normal size for a close look at their lighting mechanisms.

“Because of the giant models we can focus on the diversity of the animals,” Smith said.

It’s an exhibit filled with buttons to press and computer screens to play with, so it’s geared for children.

With it’s atmospheric music and really dim lighting, it’s also perfect for a date night, said Janet Hong, project manager for exhibitions.

“When you first walk in it unfolds in an atmosphere of mystery,” she said. “It really brings you back to childhood, the feeling of holding a firefly in your hands.

“It’s dark in here and very beautiful.”

Navigating ‘Creatures’

Goodbye, weighty exhibition book. Hello, iPad app.

The American Museum of Natural History created a free “Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence” app, available for use in the exhibit but also to download from iTunes for those looking for more information on bioluminescence.

Each chapter of the app features videos and photos set to music composed specifically for “Creatures of Light.”

With more than 460 customer reviews, the app has a near perfect rating.



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