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Extreme mammals

The Scientist visits a brand new exhibit that sheds a little light on how bizarre our family tree really is

Margaret Guthrie
Diversity of form and function defines Earth's inhabitants, past and present. And Class Mammalia is arguably biology's best example of life's stunning variation. That diversity is on display at the American Museum of Natural History's newest exhibition, linkurl:__Extreme Mammals: The biggest, smallest, and most amazing mammals of all time__.;http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/extrememammals/ The AMNH in New York City is well equipped for such a display, with decades of accumulated experience collecting and cataloging mammalian diversity. "We have 280,000 [mammalian] specimens gathered over 100 years," said Nancy Simmons, curator-in-charge of the museum's mammalogy department, after a press preview of the exhibit. "We're hard to beat for morphological diversity."Walking under the belly of the largest land mammal that ever existed is a bit unnerving, even if it's only a recreation. As you move underneath linkurl:__Indricotherium__;http://www.prehistory.com/indricth.htm a recorded voice informs you that it weighed about 20 tons, or the same as 3 or 4 African elephants....

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