tells about the development of life on Earth from ancient times to the present.
In the showcases you can see fossils of ancient animals and plants as well as precise
replicas of ancient terrestrial and sea dinosaurs. The exhibition includes
moving models of dinosaurs, a sculptural reconstruction of ancient mammals, and
beautiful paintings. A short video will take you back to the days of
prehistoric Earth and unfold the exciting history of life on our planet.
The unity of organic life. The main regularities of microevolution.
Even seemingly unlike organisms, in fact, have many similarities. The showcase demonstrates some evidence of the unity of the organic world. You can carefully examine the skeletons of vertebrate animals and notice their great similarity. Despite many differences caused by different lifestyles and systematic affiliation of the animals, all skeletons have the same principle of structure.
Paleontology studies ancient inhabitants of Earth. Usually paleontologists carefully examine fossil bones, teeth, shells of prehistoric animals, imprints of leaves and barks of plants. Every paleontological discovery is unique, because usually the remains of organisms get destroyed quickly; they need very rare and specific conditions to remain relatively untouched.
Turned into fossils
Many aquatic organisms build their skeletons by taking various chemical compounds from sea water. After their death these mineral skeletons often accumulate into huge clusters and become a basis of biogenic sedimentary rocks. In showcases you can see biogenic rocks and traces of ancient living organisms.
The first living organisms appeared in the Precambrian, over 3.5 billion years ago.
There is not much information about living beings on Earth at such a distant time. First creatures lived in water. In the Precambrian showcase, you will find the earliest evidence of stromatolites. The most ancient stromatolites have an age of about 3.5 billion years.
The imprints of amazing soft-bodied organisms can be found next to the stromatolites. These organisms have a very unusual structure. They were found in rocks dating 600 million years ago.
The largest amount of prints of the Vendian animals was found in the White Sea in Russia. Similar fossils were found on various continents.
The Cambrian, the Ordovician, the Silurian
In the beginning of the ancient life era, the Paleozoic era, there was a revolution in a skeleton structure. Many animals acquired shells and other mobile shelters. Seas and oceans were full of life. Fossil remains of the early Paleozoic marine animals are displayed in the showcases № 7, 8 and 9. Many creatures of ancient seas had a very bizarre appearance. In shallow waters there were colonies of ancient corals, sea lilies and cystoids. Prehistoric trilobites had hard shells for protection and looked like giant wood lice (sometimes up to 80 cm in length). In the showcase № 9 there is a plate with sea scorpions. These formidable predators could be two meters long and were armed with not only claws, but also a poisonous thorn at the end of the tail. Life starts to develop on land in the Silurian.
Phylogeny of jawless species
Ancient jawless agnathans were ancestors of modern fish. These vertebrates lived in the Paleozoic seas and were relatives of modern lampreys and hagfish. Sculptural reconstructions give an idea of the appearance of these ancient vertebrates.
Phylogeny of fish
Fish appeared about 400 million years ago, their ancestors were the ancient agnathans. The showcase includes a family tree where you can see both ancient and modern fish to trace kinship relationships of different groups.
The Devonian is often called the "age of fish". The picture and the back of the showcase depict a huge predator Dunkleosteus. The size of this prehistoric armored fish reached 9 meters. In the showcase you can see the fossil remains of placoderms and lobe-finned fish as well as the fossils of invertebrates typical for this period. Life is actively developing on land. Insects, ancient amphibians and by the end of the period first forests appeared.
The Carboniferous or coal-bearing period was marked by large forests of giant ferns, horsetails and lycopods. In the showcase you can see fossil remains of plants typical for this period. Amphibians actively evolved during the Carboniferous period. Reptiles appeared by the end of this time. Insects actively started to develop and thrive. The wingspan of huge ancient dragonflies reached up to 80 centimeters. There was a sea in the Moscow oblast at that time. The showcase displays fossil remains of some marine creatures typical for our region.
The Permian is the last period of the Paleozoic Era. The period was named after the city in Russia near which first typical fossils were found.
Reptiles came up to the stage at the end of the Paleozoic Era. The showcase displays exact replicas of skeletons and plastic reconstructions of a large herbivorous lizard, pareiasaurs, and an impressive predator inostrancevia as well as various fossils of flora and fauna typical for this period.
The second half of the Permian period was marked by mass extinction of marine invertebrates.
Phylogeny of reptiles
Reptiles appeared in the Carboniferous, about 300 million years ago. They became quite numerous and diverse towards the end of the Paleozoic, and reached their peak in the Mesozoic. Currently, the class of reptiles includes over 8,000 species of crocodiles, snakes, lizards, turtles and the Rhynchocephalia.
The most successful classes of modern vertebrates including birds and mammals are descendants of ancient reptiles. The ancestors of birds are usually considered to be small predatory dinosaurs, and the ancestors of mammals were mammal-like reptiles. The chart shows kinship relationships between different groups of ancient and modern reptiles.
Marine reptiles of the Mesozoic
The Mesozoic is the period when reptiles prospered on land and in water. You can see well-preserved skeletons of marine reptiles such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs in the showcase.
Ichthyosaurs were excellent swimmers and looked like dolphins. They were air-breathing animals, but never left water. Ichthyosaurs gave viviparous birth, and their babies were fully prepared for life in the water. They fed on fish and cephalopods, developing a great speed in pursuit of prey. Plesiosaurs were giant reptiles with long necks and small heads. They fed on small fish and cephalopods.
Showcase № 17. The Mesozoic Era
The Mesozoic Era is the time when reptiles reigned on land, in air and water. The Mesozoic Era is divided into 3 periods: the Triassic, the Jurassic, and the Cretaceous. The showcase displays fossil remains of typical plants and animals. Dinosaurs are the most well-known creatures, the word means “terrible reptiles” in Greek. There were some very important developments during the Mesozoic. It was the time when currently dominant groups of animals and plants appeared: mammals in the Triassic, birds in the Jurassic, and first flowering plants in the Cretaceous.
Reptiles of the Cretaceous
Young visitors especially enjoy the moving models of dinosaurs. In the showcase “Reptiles of the Cretaceous” you can see the reconstructions of fossil remains which were found in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. They lived on this territory at the end of the Cretaceous, about 70-80 million years ago.
The Paleogene is the first period of the new Cenozoic era. The showcase includes fossils of plants and vertebrate animals typical for this time, for example, you can see a skull of a huge bird Phorusrhacos. The back panel of the showcase shows an image of this formidable predator that lived in South America. Many mammals such as Uintatherium were typical for the Paleogene and had a very unusual appearance. Here you can also find a valuable collection of fossil flora of the Paleogene.
The Neogene. The Pleistocene
The showcase gives information about animals typical for two periods of the Cenozoic Era: the Neogene and the Quaternary period. The landscapes of steppe type appeared at the beginning of the Neogene and it’s when Ungulates started to actively evolve. The showcase represents skulls and various fragments of Ungulates as well as predatory animals of the Neogene period. This time is characterized by peculiar “mammoth” fauna. It included mammoths, woolly rhinoceros, cave bears, cave hyenas, muskoxen, reindeers, wolves, Arctic foxes and other animals. Some of these species went extinct, many survived to the present day. In the showcase you can see the lower jaw and tusks of a mammoth, the skull of a woolly rhinoceros, the skull of a cave bear and cave hyena. Humans appeared in the Quaternary period, and their activities in many respects determined the development of evolution on Earth.
In the hall dedicated to the development of organic life on Earth you can touch original fossils dating back millions of years and find some other interactive exhibits which will help you to understand the science of evolution and the past of our wonderful planet.