The Pirarucu, Goonch and the Giant Barb are all monster fish that are real and just waiting to be discovered at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum – through film, large models and hands-on activities, that is. The exhibit, "Monster Fish: In Search of the Last River Giants," is on display through April 24, 2016 at the museum, and encompasses more than 6,000 square feet and introduces more than 20 species, all weighing in excess of 200 pounds.
It is the first traveling stop for the exhibit following its introduction in Washington D.C.'s National Geographic Museum. However, because the exhibit is split up into three sections throughout the museum, it is best to start on the entry-level floor where the model of the Largetooth sawfish is. From there, check out the information in the adjacent corner before moving to the learning gallery in the back room at the left. The exhibit continues downstairs in the right gallery, which features hands-on activities to help build and formulate learning. And because it's impossible for any child to resist climbing in 'the clouds' while at the Discovery, but sure to point out the large model of the sting ray that has been added nearby. That said, here are seven cool things to see or do as part of the exhibit, with items listed starting on the entry-level floor and moving downstairs.
1. Sit or climb on the Largetooth sawfish model at the inner entrance to the museum on the entry-level floor. The words 'Climb On' tell kids exactly what to do, and the model fish also provides a photo opportunity that can aptly summarize the exhibit experience. Often thought of as a shark crossed with a chainsaw, the Largetooth sawfish is most closely related to the ray, and can grow up to nearly 22 feet in length and live up to 44 years, all facts that can be discovered from nearby exhibit details.
2. Listen to an introductory film about monster fish from around the world that Dr. Zeb Hogan, a professor from the University of Nevada, Reno and National Geographic explorer, shares in the exhibit gallery at the back left of the entry-level floor. The introductory film starts every six minutes, and features plenty of seating both in front of the screens and in raised seating further back along the walls.
3. Check out the huge fish sculptures on display in this back gallery on the main floor. This includes the likes of the Goonch, a monster-sized catfish that has sharp teeth and a large mouth to help it keep ahold of prey, as well as a large model of the Giant Barb and the Pirarucu, the latter which has a large tongue covered with teeth. (Yes, you read that right – a large tongue covered with teeth!) Discover more about their habitats and the continents on which they are found, but unlike the Largetooth sawfish model out front, keep in mind that these pieces are not for climbing on.
4. Climb aboard the "National Geographic" boat and listen as Hogan, the aquatic ecologist, shares his knowledge about one of any selected monster fish topics, including danger, love, the big one, adventure, or outtakes. These topics can be chosen by pushing buttons from the middle or back of the boat, which is located in the downstairs exhibit gallery. There are even two rows for seating for a more boat-like experience and a steering wheel up front, which is more fun for spinning that anything else.
5. "Go Fish," in the downstairs gallery, and try and wheel in a monster fish using one of four wooden rods to catch a magnetized specimen -- all in the shape of orange, red, purple or green balls at the bottom of the pond. Putting a rod over a fish and making a magnetic connection results in a 'catch,' but, wait – there's more. After catching a fish, practice sound ecology by 'releasing' it back into its wilds by rolling it down a tube into the pond.
6. "Step Up" on a scale to find out how many people it takes to equal the weight of a giant fish, such as an American paddlefish at 220 pounds, a Pirarucu at 441 pounds, a Giant Barb at 661 pounds or a White sturgeon at 1,984 pounds. The scale will adjust as more people step on, with a greater portion of the fish grayed out as weight is added. Find more humans to move up to the next fish in size – and discover that it's certainly not easy to reach the weight of the Giant Barb, but that hitting the weight of the White sturgeon might be next to impossible.
7. Discover the impact of choice on water supply in the "Balancing Act" display that is located in the bottom floor gallery. Learn how the water you use at home, the things you buy, the food you eat, and the energy you use circles back to have an impact on water and supply. In this activity, buttons reflecting specific choices can be moved up or down on a screen as the water level on a larger screen up front heightens or drops as a result. Leave knowing key facts, like that an 8-minute shower uses 15 gallons of water compared to an entire bath of water filled to the top, which uses 70 gallons.