Temporary Exhibition » Survivors of the X-TREME



  • Survivors of the X-TREME: view of the zone 'Cold'
  • Survivors of the X-TREME: view of the zone 'Aridity'
  • Survivors of the X-TREME: visual with a seal (how does a seal stay warm in the ice-cold water?)

Survivors of the X-TREME

Wed, 15/10/2008 to Sun, 30/08/2009

Displayed at the Museum: 15/10/2008 > 30/08/2009

Survivors of the X-TREME takes us to some of the harshest environments on our planet. Places where man struggles to survive, even for just a few days, but whose plants and animals have raised the art of survival to another level. These super-specialists have taken an extreme environment, such as a hot, cold, or arid one, one without light, or without oxygen, and made it their home.

In Survivors of the X-TREME we discover who these masters of survival are and how they have adapted to the extreme conditions. In each zone we meet a few examples of the hardiest survivors. And we find out what it means to live in these areas, get first-hand experience of how cold the ice wall is, feel the wind-chill effect on our skin, find our way through dark spaces in a bat cave, measure your lung capacity and much more.

Survivors of the X-TREME is an environment of interactivity and experience; an exhibition for all ages!


The exhibition is currently available for renting.


Rent the exhibition

Audience: families with children aged 9 and over and school groups

Surface area: 450 to 700  sq. m.

Languages: the exhibition is displayed in three languages (contact us)

Rental fees and conditions: please contact us



Mr. Per Velk

Director of Consulting Services

Tel.: +45 5077 8969
Fax: +45 3927 3395

More info


Mr. Gérard Cobut


Museum of Natural Sciences

Tel.: +32 (0)2.627.42.44


  • Seals have a 5cm layer of blubber under their skin, which keeps them feeling nice and warm, even when the water is ice-cold.
  • It is the huge morphology of the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) that helps it efficiently conserve its body heat
  • Live thermogram (thermographic image) of a group of visitors

Brrr, it’s cold. Ice-cold! In these regions the temperature can drop to -89 °C. Reach over and touch the ice-wall to see how cold it really is! Experience for yourself the discomfort of even the slightest polar breeze, and use the infrared camera to see through which part of your body most of your body heat is lost.

When the cold sets in there is nothing better than a pair of warm boots and a nice thick jacket to keep out the wind! But how does a seal stay warm in the ice-cold water? And how does the North American wood frog recover from its frozen hibernation?

  • Exhibit showing how birds like ostrichs use their beaks as a cooling system.
  • Under the heat of the desert, the Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx) can raise its body temperature to 42 °C, 4 or 5 °c above normal.

Hot underfoot!Phew!  These hot lamps make you want to strip off! Thankfully it is not dangerously hot in here! But prolonged exposure to temperatures over 42 °C can be fatal to man.

However, some organisms can survive in extreme temperatures of 120 °C or more! Come and discover these masters of the heat — the journey will be enough to get you sweating! And how do other animals cool down? Put your hand in an ostrich’s beak and discover its inbuilt air-conditioner. Is it getting too hot underfoot? Let’s see if you can dance like a desert lizard!

Without oxygen
  • Exhibit showing how much oxygen you consume, and measuring your own lung capacity
  • View of the zone 'Without oxygen'

Air is life! Air, or more particularly the oxygen it contains, is what keeps us alive. On average a person needs about half a litre of oxygen a minute when at rest, and at least four times as much when active!

But oxygen levels vary depending on where you are! At high altitudes the air is thinner and contains much less oxygen than it does at sea level. This presents a challenge to animals that live at high altitudes, such as the yak and the Indian goose.

  • Exhibit showing how camel can quench its amazing thirst in next to no time.

Our bodies are sixty percent water! How many litres does yours contain? Find out here in this zone! It’s no wonder we can’t live without water. Other animals depend on water to live too, even if the places they inhabit are bone dry. To survive they gather water in all kinds of clever ways. These extremely arid areas are also home to plants, which are unable to move to find their water!

Use the mist machine to copy the tricks of the desert beetle. The camel, the ship of the desert, can guzzle hundreds of litres of water in a few minutes. Can you quench its thirst? And how does the tiny gerbil survive in the desert with so little water?

Without light
  • In the cave, you will have to let your other senses guide you.
  • In this zone, there is a video clip showing how, at night, on the sea’s surface, the sparkling enope squid (Watasenia scintillans) attracts the fish it feeds on using luminous spots – known as photophores – on the tips of its tentacles.

Would you be able to survive at night time, with no light? Your body clock would become confused and, worse still, you wouldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Take a voyage of discovery through our pitch-black cave. Can you identify the cave dwellers by touch? And does your sense of smell help in any way at all? Perhaps your ears can do better as you hunt like a bat for flies... but you will find that it’s not that easy! Yet a great many creatures live in total darkness.

In this zone we discover how these animals survive: the common pipistrelle, at night and in caves, and the angler fish, so deep in the ocean that only darkness prevails.

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