“The skulls on display in the Academy’s 4,000-square-foot second-floor Forum Theater and Gallery range from an enormous African bull elephant to a tiny bat, from frogs and fish to giraffes and walruses. There are interactive displays that simulate the vision of predator and prey, and allow visitors to be hands-on with cast skulls. Another part of the exhibit shows live dermestid beetle larvae cleaning delicate bones (the larvae can scour the flesh of a small skull in three days). And there is an interactive 3-D display developed by Google that allows visitors to view skulls from various angles.
“A skull provides important information about a species’ evolution and reveals secrets about that individual animal’s life,” said Moe Flannery, collections manager of ornithology and mammalogy at the academy.
Walking through the exhibit, Flannery added, “By searching for clues written in the bone, we can follow the story of an animal’s life, from birth to old age. We can learn what the animal ate, how it defended itself, communicated, interacted with its environment, and often how it died – all by looking at its skull.…”