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Natural History of the Mid-South

A great diversity of mammals once inhabited our region...

The first floor of the museum describes the natural history of the Mid-south. This area, within a 200 mile area radius of Memphis, encompasses several major environments including the channels and oxbow lakes of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, their associated floodplains; the sand hills of western Tennessee and northern Mississippi, and the nearby highlands of the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains in Arkansas and the Highland Rim of Central Tennessee.
 
The exhibits open with “Adaptations”, a large collection of skulls and skeletons of all types of animals. The display explains how the placement of teeth, horns and antlers, and eyes as well as body shapes show how animals have evolved to adapt to their environment.
 
The formation and biological history of lakes formed when the Mississippi River changes course to leave a water-filled abandoned channel behind, is described in the “Oxbow Lake” exhibit. These small crescent-shaped lakes are frequently found in eastern Arkansas and western Mississippi and are famous for duck hunting and fishing. Three dioramas show the rich variety of life found in them.
 
The most common animals found in our area are featured in the “Insect” exhibit. Two large displays of butterflies and moths show the difference between large and colorful tropical insects and their small, duller relatives living in the Mid-south. Visitors learn how insects communicate and the tremendous variation in insect sizes and shapes occurring in the Memphis area.
 
A large exhibit on “Geology” shows how mountains and oceans were formed and how the movement of huge rock plates on the surface of the earth create mountains and ocean basins. Earthquakes, so frequent in the Mid-south, are explained and a real seismograph recorder shows the vibrations constantly occurring in our area. Spectacular examples of the rocks and minerals of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Southern Illinois, along with minerals found all over the world are exhibited. The remainder of the exhibits shows the history of life over the past 600 million years emphasizing hundreds of fossil specimens found in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

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