Biodome displays the art, danger of wildlife seduction PDF Print E-mail
Written by STEVEN HOWELL, Contributing Writer   
Thursday, April 12, 2007

MONTREAL — Birds and bees take center stage at the Montreal Biodome. Make that the birds and the bees.
"Fatal Attraction" is a colorful interactive exhibition that explores the language of love in the animal kingdom. There are dozens of hands-on displays that offer some sights, sounds and even a few not-so-pleasant smells of the animal world. The affable Diane Mitchell, a biologist and educator, says the exhibit is to help celebrate the Biodome's milestone 15th anniversary.
"Usually we talk about reproduction," Mitchell said. "But with 'Fatal Attraction' we're looking at the seduction part."
She adds not to worry — it's an all-ages show. The videos are as graphic as a Discovery Channel special. That's not to say your kids may have a few questions after the visit.
"We call it 'Fatal Attraction' because sometimes animals display colors or make sounds that will not only attract a mate, but a predator."
For example, a male midwife toad makes mating sounds that attract a female midwife toad as well as a predator in the form of an owl.
"So the animals have to be careful — not be too visible or make too much noise, otherwise they can end up dead. That's not the desired result. They want descendants."
In all, there are more than 100 mounted specimens from European natural history museum collections.
"Some kids ask about the animals," Mitchell said of the collection. "We tell them we're now using them for education. In fact, we're giving them a second chance. We're trying to learn more about these animals."
The interactive display getting
The interactive display getting the most attention — and creating a smile on the faces of both young and old — was the Roman snail.

"Snails are hermaphrodites, both male and female," said Mitchell. She delicately explains its "love dart," which is visible and activated if you touch the 5-foot tall recreated snail.
"When it is time to reproduce, out comes the love dart, which is full of mucus and hormones," she said. "The hormones are exchanged between two males, which is a signal it's time for the snail to develop the female parts of its body. We don't think about that when we eat them."
Maybe that's why I'm not a fan of escargot, no matter how much garlic and butter is involved.
Next, Mitchell says birds don't have a good sense of smell, so they use visual and sound clues. One display offers a naturalized ostrich in mid-seduction ritual, kneeling down with its large wing span tilted toward one side.
A video shows the actual mating practice. Another fun example is the male lyre bird, which lives in Australia and Tasmania. It first attracts a female mate with its tail feathers. But wait until you hear its songs of love. The bird mimics sounds found in its environment with a repertoire that duplicates a buzzing chainsaw, a pulsing car alarm, a laughing monkey and a clicking camera. Simply amazing.
Live animation carts in certain ecosystems further explore the mating rituals of mammals, birds and invertebrates. The mammal cart looks at deer, raccoon, coyote and fox and offers comparisons of things like paw prints and even feces — OK, they're made of rubber. You can even sample a whiff of animal urine if you're brave enough — the fox was the most pungent.
Humans get a slight nod, too — a recreated lounge in the lobby complete with low lighting and a disco ball.
"Fatal Attraction" continues until Sept. 3.
The Montreal Biodome is at 4777 Pierre De Coubertin Ave.
Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost is $16 for adults, $12 for students (over 18) and seniors, $8 for children 5 to 17, and $2.50 for children 2 to 4. Call (514) 868-3000 or visit www.muse



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