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How Being the Smallest, Slowest and Weakest Can Be an Advantage

A new exhibit at the Academy of Natural Sciences shows the survival benefits of life in the slow lane.

With Sonic the Hedgehog playing in theaters, families are drawn into the fast-and-furious world of Sonic. But while speed has its appeal on the big screen, in nature, survival does not always go to the swiftest.

Animals who adopt a slow and steady pace can win the race of life, a strategy the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University explores in its new exhibit, Survival of the Slowest, which focuses on the world’s slowpokes, including the most lethargic mammal on Earth, the sloth.

“As climate change and species extinction continue to alter our world, these amazing animals serve to remind us of nature’s wonder and how much more we need to learn,” says academy President and CEO Scott Cooper. “It’s more important than ever to connect people with nature and to inspire everyone to care for it”.

Now through Sept. 20, visitors can meet live animals at the Academy that answer a question that might appeal to the youngest and smallest members of the famlly: "Do animals always need to be the strongest, the biggest and the fastest to survive? Or can it sometimes be advantageous to be small or slow?"

Here are some of family-friendly activities included:

Ice Age sloths 

  • Want to learn more about Sid the Sloth from Ice Age? A part of the exhibit looks at the ancestors of modern-day sloths, like the eremotherium and megalonyx, with fossils dating back to the Ice Age. Though Sid is not as tall as his companion Manny, the exhibit has bones that demonstrate how massive these slow-natured animals were.

How slow can you go? 

  • Want to beat Flash Slothmore from Zootopia in a race? Head over to the tracks and take part in the sloth marathon run. Sloths more at an average speed less than 1 mph, a speed humans beat when walking. So, can you beat a sloth in a slow race?  

Rest area

  • Exhausted? Tired from the race? Guests can visit the sloth resting area adjacent to the track with carpeted flooring and benches. There is also a bookshelf with children’s books on sloths and a big sloth plushie to keep you company.

Lulu the Sloth 

  • Want to see a sloth in person? The exhibit spotlights their two-toed sloth, Lulu in their exhibit. Guests can catch her outside of her habitat with an animal specialist throughout the day. 

Though the sloth is the star, the academy will show several live animals in habitats, such as a green iguana, ball python and African pygmy hedgehog. Animal keepers are posted close to the habitats, so children can ask questions and might catch a closer look of them during feeding times or when they are taken out of their enclosures.

“These are just some of the cool and amazing facts and adaptations you can find out as you explore ‘Survival of the Fittest’”, says Karen, an animal expert at the Academy of Natural Sciences. “We encourage you to explore, ask questions, and discover the amazing adaptations of these creatures and some adaptations you might have in common with them”.




Hayley Banks is MetroKids intern and student at Drexel University

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