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Museum exhibit sheds light on how animals adapt to darkness

Some animals use the darkness to dodge predators or to attract their prey. And over time, they’ve learned how to live in the dark.

The Delaware Museum of Natural History’s “In the Dark” exhibit puts you in the world of animals that use sight, hearing and touch to thrive in blackness. 

Jennifer Acord, a spokeswoman for the Delaware Museum of Natural History, said the exhibit shows how evolution has worked in favor of many creatures, from fish that live in the deep sea, to bats that inhabit dark caves.

“If you think about caves, there are certain animals that are smaller or they don’t have eyesight, they’re very pale. In the desert there are certain animals such as snakes that use heat to find their prey,” Acord said.

Even people have adapted, finding ways to overcome darkness.

“They’ve come up with the concepts of being able to have electric lights and fire before that, and those are adaptations, just like something an animal might do, but different,” Acord said.

The exhibit gets kids to interact with the darkness. They can walk into a small life-like cave, listens to sounds of the environment that can be heard outdoors at night and play interactive games and trivia that asks them about how some animals survive in the dark. 

Ross Molinaro, 8, a camper at the museum, said he learned that some critters can glow underwater. That's one way they've adapted to the darkness.

"That would be harder for predators to find them in the night because they're asleep and it will help the other fish have a little light, so when they're awake in the night they can see a little bit," Molinaro said. 

Some bigger fish also use light to attract their prey in the darkness, by dangling a type of bacteria in front of them that might stimulate a fish's curiosity, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

One part of the exhibit takes museum-goers into a small room where they have to find a way to drop a peg into a hole in complete pitch black. It simulates how some animals use touch and sound to find their food or nests in darkness.

The exhibit will be at the museum through Labor Day.