Naturalist and explorer Henry Walter Bates braved perilous storms and contracted diseases that left him on death's door as he doggedly investigated the astonishing ways in which animals of the Amazon blend into their environment and protect themselves from predators.
When the Tennessee Aquarium Imax 3D Theater opens "Amazon Adventure 3D" on Friday, May 26, viewers will walk in the footsteps of Bates, follow clues and see amazing creatures they ordinarily would never encounter.
Filmed on location in the lush Amazon region, "Amazon Adventure 3D" is a detective story filled with dramatic wildlife footage. Insects and fish that look like leaves, lizards that look like vines, and even birds that appear to be dead branches are revealed upon closer inspection.
If you go
› What: “Amazon Adventure 3D”
› Where: Tennessee Aquarium Imax 3D Theater, 201 Chestnut St.
› When: 11 a.m., 1, 4, 7 and 9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 11 a.m., 1 and 4 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays beginning Friday, May 26
› Admission: $8 Aquarium member adults or children; $11.95 nonmember adults, $9.95 nonmember children ages 3-12; free for Imax Club pass holders
› For more information: tnaqua.org/plan-your-visit/ticket-information
The conclusions Bates arrived at during his 11-year expedition in the rain forest had a profound impact on the scientific world. His study of the subtle differences in the patterning of longwing butterflies is a focal point of "Amazon Adventure." The discoveries he brought back with him to England provided what Charles Darwin deemed "beautiful proof" for the theory of natural selection. To this day, vulnerable species that take on the appearance of noxious or otherwise dangerous animals is called "Batesian mimicry" in his honor.
"The stories behind Bates' expedition are thrilling," says Dr. Anna George, the Aquarium's vice president of conservation science and education. "If you have a curious nature or exploring spirit, you're going to really enjoy seeing how science is an exhilarating living process."
After watching "Amazon Adventure 3D," guests can visit the Ocean Journey building to see longwing butterfly species in the Butterfly Garden.
"We have lots of longwing butterflies in our garden, and they all mimic each other, so they're hard to identify," says Jennifer Taylor, the Aquarium's entomologist. "Some of the longwings will have 140 different color variations, and then there's another longwing species that mimics all of those variations as well. I have a detailed book that helps me determine which species I'm seeing. They're a very complicated group of butterflies."