Strange and familiar
Millions of different species of life inhabit our planet, or have done in the past. You can get a flavour of this diversity in the Living World gallery, where modern examples mingle with spectacular fossils.
Some creatures will be familiar, such as the Emperor Penguin and Giant Clam. Many others are not, such as the shelled brachiopods and the bryozoan ‘moss animals’.
Some forms of life have barely changed through time. Compare living algal stromatolites in Australia with slabs of fossil stromatolites from 200 milion years ago and even 2 billion years ago – both on the wall at the start of the gallery.
Going, going, gone
Some creatures face extinction, such as the giant Sturgeon. Others became extinct within living memory; the Passenger Pigeon of North America and the Australian Thylacine. Still others are long gone and found only as fossils; the coiled shells of ammonites and the slater-like trilobites.
Some of the strangest animals are things of great beauty, such as flower-like fossil crinoids that lived dangling from floating driftwood. Others are a bit ugly, like the huge Coelacanth fish thought to have been long extinct but rediscovered off the east African coast in 1938.