Life's Grandeur:A Journey of Evolution

In this exhibition, diverse and dynamic life forms are presented with the evolutionary progress after several significant extinction events and environmental changes that took place on Earth.

1F │ NATURAL HISTORY & FOSSILS │ Permanent exhibition

The Earth as part of the Solar System gradually formed from nebulous material in space. Throughout the Earth's long geological history, organisms multiplied and expanded as the ever-changing environment tested them while they struggled to survive in brutal competition against each other.

Meteorites record the history of collision and fusion throughout the Earth's formation, while rocks and minerals document the formative development of the planet. Stromatolites captured the reactions between primitive life forms, iron and oxygen as they came together. Various fossils also provide a rich source of evidence for the evolution of life.

The Origin of Life
Meteors from outer space collided with the Earth, affecting earth's living organisms and serving as a major factor of extinctions.
Stromatolites are considered to be the most ancient records of life on earth. Stromatolites are layered sedimentary structures formed by trapping fine-grained sediments with biofilms of microorganisms, particularly cyanobacteria, which are thought to be responsible for increasing the amount of oxygen in the earth's atmosphere.

The Cambrian Explosion
Around 540 million years ago, during the Cambrian Period, the climate was warm and the sea level rose significantly, covering large areas of lowland with water. This allowed an environment that brought about the rapid appearance of most of the world's major animal phyla. Both Canada's Burgess Shale and the Chengjiang Fossil Site in China's Yunnan Province contain vast amount of fossil records showing the unprecedented diversity of life during this period.

The Volatile Ancient Oceans
The warm oceans was the cradle for nurturing life. Diverse trilobites swam around the ancient oceans, similar to the variegated butterflies in the air. The cephalopod nautilus is characterized by its unique chamber structures and septa, making it readily able to adjust the level of gas and liquid in its body, nimbly rising and sinking. Apparently, the design for the submarine came from the nautilus.

A New Era for Fish
The evolutionary history of vertebrates is seemingly an arduous journey of these organisms grasping for land from the water. The origin of this massive disembarking endeavor can be found among the roaming fish in the water. In the middle of the Paleozoic Era, fish ruled the sea, from jawless agnathans, evolving into ruthless cartilaginous fish, and then various types of bony fish, or osteichthyes, before finally the fins developed into four limbs that were able to lift the body onto the land, leading them to explore unknown worlds.

The Age of Dinosaurs
The Mesozoic Era was the main time in which dinosaurs lived. These ancient rulers of the world included the huge sauropods, the ferocious theropods, and the centrosaurus, with their decorative frills. In the water, ichthyosaurus, plesiosaurs and thalattosaurs were close relatives of the dinosaurs.
There was yet another type of theropods that was restless and had a tiny body, perhaps running fast on the ground, perhaps gliding from the trees they lived, but finally they spread their wings and took flight — birds.

 Mammals' New Era
The dinosaurs extincted at the end of the Mesozoic Era, and mammals, after lying dormant for what seemed like an eternity, finally saw the light of day. With an endothermic system regulating body temperature, they were able to face an array of challenging environments. Mammals are viviparous(embryo develops inside mother), have mammary glands(female), and take care of their offsprings, which increases their chances for survival. Mammal's diverse types of teeth and locomotion also give them a competitive advantage in the ecological niche.

Whales Returned to the Sea
For some mammals, there seemed to exist this longing for the ocean, particularly for mammals like cetaceans, which eventually returned to the ocean. In order to adapt to the marine environment, cetaceans developed fusiform bodies, pectoral fins and vestigial hind limbs, and their noses moved to the back as a blowhole for breathing. Despite living in the sea with fish, whales and dolphins are 100 percent mammals.

Primate Evolution
Primates include prosimians and simians(anthropoids). The family of prosimian primates includes lemurs, slow lorises, and tarsiers. Simians consist of New World monkeys, Old World monkeys, gibbons, orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees. Humans evolved from the simian family of primates and have only existed on earth for a thousandth of the 3.5-billion-year history oflife.