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Meet This Museum's All-Star Arachnids and Insects

The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is home to a coral reef, a four-story bubble that encapsulates a replica of a rain forest, and perhaps most famously, Claude the albino alligator. But beneath all that—literally—is a basement chock-full of animal specimens collected from the field by intrepid scientists, tray after tray and jar after jar of insects, fish, mammals, and all kinds of other critters.

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Even if we weren't in the middle of a pandemic and the museum wasn't temporarily closed, those collections would be closed to your average visitor. But hey, your kids in particular could use an hour of educational entertainment, so I reached out to the academy to see if they might show us around the stacks. Last week, we livestreamed the first in a series of chats with their scientists, which you can check out above.

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First up is arachnologist Lauren Esposito, who introduced us to her all-star arachnids and insects. There's the camel spider, which isn't technically a spider and is certainly not a camel, but is so ferocious that I once called it "death wrapped in mystery." She also brings out a giant hornet, which you shouldn't call a murder hornet no matter what The New York Times tells you. (Admittedly I once called it a winged T. rex, so perhaps I'm not helping its image.) And to temper all the death and destruction, we take a look at the stunningly beautiful blue morpho butterfly.

To meet the full cast of characters, take a look at the video above. And stay tuned to our Facebook channel for more livestreams with California Academy scientists in the coming weeks.


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