Extinct and Endangered: Insects in Peril Exhibit at AMNH

By 6/24/2022 10:00:00 AM

The American Museum of Natural History new "Extinct and Endangered: Insects in Peril" exhibit highlights insect species from bees to butterflies, who are in decline via the unique macrophotography of Levon Biss.

photo credit: M. Shanley / ©AMNH

The exhibition highlights the importance of insects to ecosystems around the world, the risks they face as a result of human activities—including human-induced climate change—as well as ongoing work around the globe to protect insect populations.

The 40 incredible species were selected from specimens in the Museum’s world-class research collection, and are shown in large-format photographs as large as 4.5 by 8 feet in the Akeley Gallery and adjacent East Galleria.

The photographs feature extinct and endangered specimens—some more than 100 years old—, highlighting the magnificence of insects in extreme detail, making intricate features visible and aiming to shift visitors’ perspective of the value and importance of the insect world.

The featured species range from the well-known monarch butterfly and the nine-spotted ladybug to the remote Lord Howe Island stick insect of Australia, thought to be extinct for most of the 20th century until a tiny population was discovered and bred in captivity starting in 2003.

Extinct and Endangered: Insects in Peril - AMNH

Each photograph in Extinct and Endangered takes about three weeks to create from up to 10,000 individual images shot using special lenses.

“There are two sides to this exhibition,” said Levon Biss. “There's the beauty and the celebration of these creatures. But there’s also a somberness, when you marvel at these insects and start to understand that they are already extinct, or close to being gone, and the reason for that is us, primarily. I hope people will walk away from this exhibition with a realization that these animals are too beautiful to be lost. They are too important to be lost.”

Insects are the most diverse group of animals on the planet, accounting for 80 percent of animal life on Earth. More than one million species have been named by scientists, and many more have yet to be discovered.

Extinct and Endangered will sound an alarm and call attention to the critical issue of insect decline on a global level.

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