What are the essential elements of life? How can you distinguish between the living and nonliving world? Explore these questions and more at the Exploratorium’s Life Science collection. After years of research and development, Traits of Life opened in 2002, featuring over 30 new and revitalized biology exhibits and demonstrations. The collection examines the fundamental elements common to all living things.
Thousands of distinct species live and breathe (or not) in this colorful bacterial terrarium. Look for green cyanobacteria, orange iron oxidizers, and gray cellulose eaters. What you see today will be gone tomorrow in this living artwork in a perpetual state of change.
A decaying carcass makes a perfect meal for an assortment of scavengers, including the dermestid beetles you can see in this exhibit. As they feast on these carcasses, the dermestid beetles and their larvae get their energy and nutrients from the dried flesh, skin, and other tissues.
It takes just 21 days for an egg to go from just laid to newly hatched chick, and a lot goes on in just the first week. Look closely and you’ll find blood vessels, a backbone, wing buds, eyes, a brain, and—throbbing prominently by day 5 or so—a beating heart.