Nature: A Performance Art
Me in the butterfly exhibit
I love visiting museums, especially if they are about animals or other natural organisms. Animal behavioral studies and interactions are some of my favorite things to study whenever I can, so experiencing the butterfly garden and the temporary frog "Chorus of Colors" exhibit were things that were just up my alley.
As someone who actively looks at animal behavior whenever admiring them I realized, while as I was looking at the butterflies and frogs, that nature and how we perceive it is direction influenced by which creatures we see. I attached this image of the frog since it gave me a good laugh. He looked irritated and I thought it was funny that I came at the right time to see his face to clearly. As can be seen by the next image, another frog decided to get into an interesting pose for me, and I was beyond grateful to see this creature just being comfortable in such a humorous way.
What I realized is that, had I gone any later or any earlier, I probably would have not seen these creatures in these positions. I was lucky enough to get more enjoyment by having seen them in these weird poses. Had they been cooped up in their nooks I probably would have have gotten as much enjoyment. Similarly, had I gone to the Butterfly exhibit and not have multiple butterflies land on me (I was insanely lucky looking back), my experience would have been so much different.
Two butterflies on a leaf
The point I am trying to make is that how we experience nature is the same way that many would experience a play, or a sports event; its as much about the players as it is about the fields they play on. The way that animals display themselves, and behave in the proximity of humans may even be more important than where you see them. I have many pictures of frogs just lying on branches sleeping, and while they were cute, they are not nearly as memorable as the frogs lounging on the glass or the frog who was staring directly at me with a very irritated face. The ones who "performed" for me were the ones I remembered, and might be the reason I go back. I am sure that when someone went, there were a larger number of frogs who were doing more interesting things or in stranger positions, and that made their experience more enjoyable. What makes nature so fascinating is how animals are individual and they all act on their own according at any given moment. This is what makes nature one of the most beautiful performance art.
What role should Humans play in Conservation efforts?
An image depicting many animals that once lived in Florida, Taken from the FLMNH
One of the most fantastic parts of the experience was the "Florida Fossils" exhibit, which showcased many species that inhabited Florida over the past 65 million years. What made this so spectacular for me was just how diverse life was back then.
Image of many underwater animals and Fauna in the FLMNH
There were animals that resembled zebras, hyenas, and large predatory cats. There were Terror birds (large predatory birds that could have been the size of a person) and Sloths that stand taller than two people. Had it not been for these fossil records, and depictions of them in their natural habitat, I would not have imagined such creatures living in the same state I thought I knew well. These organisms we have unearthed while fossil hunting are mind-blowing and it really illuminates how environmental impacts (natural and human caused) have affected these creatures
A truncated species list of some of the animals found in Florida
It made me think, "if humans were around during these times, and were environmental conscious, what would have happened if we tried to intervene and protect these creatures? How would that affect the course of evolution for many of species of animals if we intervened and saved keystone species?"
I have some background in biology and studies relating to animal behavior, so I do know some things when relating to conservation. Ethically, scientists say that conserving species we directly affect is the best course of action considering that humans have a massive affect on the environment (pollution, introducing invasive species, deforestation etc...) and we should try to either make up for the damage we have done, or try to undo what we have done. I agree that this is the best course of action, but is going further than that unethical?
Another truncated species list
If we were to interfere, and were to save many of the species that would die out by natural selection, we would be directly influencing every other species in the biome it inhabited. It would be amazing to have a living catalog of all the creatures that ever lived, or to prevent a species from going exist, but that is irresponsible in a long case sense. If a species is naturally going extinct, there are reasons they are fading away. They are not adapted to living in their niche anymore, and since they did not evolve with the world around them to suit these adaptations, saving them and trying to make them fit in the environment they are not suitable anymore will create a scenario where other species will struggle inhabiting their niche. Every animal inhabits a niche in their ecosystem and forcing an animal to take up a niche it would not fit anymore, due to other organisms changing, would cause instability in the ecosystem, forcing another animal to face potential extinction. Just because ethically it would be ideal to save every animal doesn't mean we can feasibly do it.
Butterflies and Hurricanes
Butterflies feeding on bananas
One of the most beautiful things I can recall from my excursion to the Museum was the numerous sets of eyes glaring at me when I was walking through. many butterflies, to not be attacked by predators, have an adaptation that mimics the eyes of a larger predator. There are a flock of these in the Butterfly garden, and watching as these sets of eyes feed on banana was just magical. The ways in which evolution works is just absolutely mesmerizing; that these creatures evolved in such a way, over decades of mutations, to get an adaptation that so closely mirrors the eyes of an owl. From a distance, they are frighteningly similar, and had I been someone without prior knowledge of this adaptation, I might have thought there was an owl there for a split second.
Butterfly resting on a tree
The speeds at which they flew also fascinated me. Depending on wing shape, butterflies can fly at different speeds. So even though all of these insects are so similar, they can all vary in the speed at which they flap their wings. Some can flap with this vicious velocity that propels them into the air quickly to avoid predators, while some just flutter the bare minimum, dancing through the sky at their own pace, pretending as if the world around them doesn't exist. It's just beautiful how these animals, all considered butterflies, can be so different. Equally as majestic and beautiful, they float around in unique ways, giving each design their own personality. This just exposes the beauty that even animals as simple and common place as butterflies can have.
There is mystery and beauty in everything around us honestly, and how we perceive it just depends on us actively trying to look for it. There are nuances in everything we know, but we are so engaged in what we have to do that we never really want to, nor really have to, appreciate these things. I am not saying that we don't appreciate the world around, but rather I am trying to claim that there is so much to appreciate around us, that if we wanted to, we can just admire the beauty in all the simple things.