All About Animals!

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

All About Animals!

Saturday, Dec. 15, animals are taking over all of Fort Collins Museum of Discovery! Come to the museum and learn more about all of these amazing creatures at Museum Takeover: Animals. 

 

What do we mean when we are talking about animals?

What do you picture when you hear the word “animal”? Some people think of living things that move, but that are separate from human beings. Some imagine the specific kind of animal they know best, such as a pet.

“Animal” actually refers to a large family of living things that are related to each other and share similar characteristics – including humans. We are still discovering new species of animals in the world, so we don’t know exactly how many there are. However, scientists estimate there are around 1.2 million different kinds of animals!

All animals are multicellular; have to eat food of some kind rather than generating it themselves; breathe oxygen; and are able to move themselves around (motile). Animals are generally bilaterally symmetrical, and most animals have specialized tissue, or organs, in their bodies.

 

How scientists differentiate between different kinds of animals:

There’s a lot of variety in kinds of animals in the world. Scientists have come up with many different ways to distinguish one species from another. Some of these techniques include: What does the animal look like (size, color, number of legs, etc.)? Where does it live (on land or in water)? What does it eat? What kind of structures or organs does it have in its body? Try and think of some other ways you could tell different animals apart.

 

Of the estimated 1.2 million different species, 80% of them are arthropods! This group includes spiders and insects. There are also approximately 32,000 different kinds of fishes. Mammals, which we may think of first when we hear “animal,” have some 6,000 different kinds. Humans, dogs, and cats are all mammals.

You may have heard about the difference between vertebrate and invertebrate animals. Vertebrates (like humans) have an internal skeleton, whereas invertebrates do not. Many invertebrates have what is called an exoskeleton, and they have a rigid shell on their outside that has to be shed as the animal grows. Some animals (like jellyfish) have no skeletal structure at all!

Animals have several different ways of obtaining food, and scientists can classify animals by how they eat. Predators kill and eat a prey species – imagine a wolf pack hunting and eating an elk. Parasites feed on their prey species without killing it. Herbivores (animals that eat only plant matter) are actually defined as a parasite. Imagine an elk eating grass, or a tick sucking blood from that elk: both are parasites. Finally there are detritivores, who eat bits of decomposing organic matter. Many insects, such as roaches or millipedes, will eat this way.

 

Extreme animals:

  • Biggest (by weight): Blue whale
  • Tallest: giraffe
  • Longest: Bootlace worm
  • Fastest: Peregrine falcon
  • Most poisonous: Poison dart frog
  • Most venomous: Box jellyfish
  • Best vision: Bald eagle
  • Able to see the most colors: Mantis shrimp
  • Most Deadly (non-human): Mosquitos

 

Animals at the museum:

The museum has several animals on display in the Animal Experience, but they all come from just two families: Arthropods (insects, arachnids, etc.) and Chordates (amphibians, reptiles, mammals, etc.).  Take a moment to compare the different kinds of animals we have. How do they move differently? Do they have an internal skeleton or an exoskeleton? Each of our animals requires different kinds of food, as some are predators, some are parasites, and some are detritivores. See if you can guess which is which! What else do you observe about the FCMOD animals?

Animals in your own life:

Take some time to appreciate the animals you see every day! If you have a pet, take good care of them and show them some love. Come to the museum and see our more unusual critters, and sign up for one of our animal programs. Or, take a walk outside and enjoy spotting some animals in the wild.

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LaserDome: Lady Gaga – Recap

Did you make it to the LaserDome: Lady Gaga show in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater last weekend? Couldn’t make it, but still want to enjoy our curated playlist of Lady Gaga tunes? Well, we’ve got you covered! Check out the Spotify playlist below to re-live it or experience it for the first time! Every LaserDome playlist is carefully curated and arranged by our music-loving staff members here at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, so we are sure you’ll enjoy this playlist as much as we do!

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LaserDome: Pretty Lights – Recap

Did you make it to the LaserDome: Pretty Lights show in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater last weekend? Couldn’t make it, but still want to enjoy our curated playlist of Pretty Lights tunes? Well, we’ve got you covered! Check out the Spotify playlist below to re-live it or experience it for the first time! Every LaserDome playlist is carefully curated and arranged by our music-loving staff members here at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, so we are sure you’ll enjoy this playlist as much as we do!

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LaserDome: Madonna – Recap

Did you make it to the LaserDome: Madonna show in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater last weekend? Couldn’t make it, but still want to enjoy our curated playlist of Madonna tunes? Well, we’ve got you covered! Check out the Spotify playlist below to re-live it or experience it for the first time! Every LaserDome playlist is carefully curated and arranged by our music-loving staff members here at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, so we are sure you’ll enjoy this playlist as much as we do!

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LaserDome: David Bowie Recap

Did you make it to the LaserDome: David Bowie show in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater last weekend? Couldn’t make it, but still want to enjoy our curated playlist of David Bowie tunes? Well, we’ve got you covered! Check out the Spotify playlist below to re-live it or experience it for the first time! Every LaserDome playlist is carefully curated and arranged by our music-loving staff members here at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, so we are sure you’ll enjoy this playlist as much as we do!

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Tomorrow’s Robot Pop Stars, and Today’s Elementary Students

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, over 65% of today’s elementary school students will have jobs that do not yet exist. Wow! These same young students will also be the first humans to set foot on Mars, based on NASA’s mission schedule. It is exciting to dream about the major technological and societal changes coming in our lifetimes.

And if today’s students will have jobs that do not yet exist, what about the jobs that currently exist? What about the jobs that you, or I, hold right now?

Scholars at the University of Oxford recently surveyed 352 of the world’s leading researchers in artificial intelligence (AI), to learn when AI employees would become better—and less expensive—than human employees in many job fields.

In the next 10 years, according to these researchers, AI employees will surpass human employees in:

 

* translating languages (by 2024)

* writing high school essays (by 2026)

* driving trucks (by 2027)

* generating a Top 40 pop song (by 2027)

 

It will take less than 5 years for AIs to outperform humans in Angry Birds (by 2018) or the World Series of Poker (by 2019), for that matter.

That said, human employees will remain better than AI employees in many job fields for the coming decades. Still, in the next 40 years, AIs will surpass humans in:

* working in retail (by 2031)

* writing a New York Times bestselling book (2049)

* working as a surgeon (by 2053)
These researchers believe AIs will outperform humans in all job fields within 45 years! But, as the MIT Technology Review notes, predictions of 40+ years are not always accurate. Cost-effective energy fusion is predicted to occur in the next 40 years—but it was also predicted to occur in the next 40 years when first explored… over 50 years ago.

Most people have a working life of 40 years. This working life-span is increasing to 45 or 50 years, though, as adults continue working beyond retirement. So, if you are an adult today, it is unlikely that your job as a truck driver, retail salesperson, or even surgeon will be fully supplanted by AI employees before your retirement. But what of today’s young students?

Here at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, we are asking these questions. We discover, often in conversation with students, many new and insightful answers. In our educational programs, youth build 21st century skills, to help them succeed in our changing world. Rather than focus on single disciplines, youth develop cross-disciplinary skills like critical thinking, creativity, and initiative through hands-on exhibits and experiences. As a result, museum visitors are better able to handle the incredible technological and societal advances on our horizon.

 

But we still wonder—could AI employees ever run a museum? Guess we’ll find out!

 

 

Explore More:

“Experts Predict When AI Will Exceed Human Performance.” MIT Technology Review (5/31/17).

“When Will AI Exceed Human Performance?” Cornell University Library (5/30/17).

“How AI Is Transforming the Workplace.” The Wall Street Journal (3/10/17).

“A Robot May Be Training to Do Your Job. Don’t Panic.” The New York Times (9/10/16).

“Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills.” Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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