From snakes to snails and whelks to whales, animals’ body plans are a blueprint for the way they live.
Visitor numbers for the Museum of Natural History’s First Animals crossed the 150,000 mark at the turn of the year, putting the exhibition firmly on course to be the most successful to date in its Contemporary Science and Society series. The museum will therefore be extending the exhibition until 1 September 2020 alongside additional programming that will focus on exploring the significance of preserving our geological heritage.
First Animals takes you back in time 600 million years, to when the very origins of all animals – including humans – began to develop in the world’s oceans. Arguably one of the most important evolutionary events in Earth’s history, the Cambrian explosion took place over a period of just 20 million years during which the Earth saw a huge increase in new life forms, many of which laid the foundations for the body plans of all subsequent animal life.
For the first time ever, over 60 incredibly well-preserved specimens, each hundreds of millions of years old, have travelled to Oxford from sites across the globe. This includes a significant loan of 55 fossils from Yunnan University in Chengjiang, China, along with other evidence from Burgess Shale, Canada and Sirius Passet, Greenland.
Another highlight of the exhibition has been the museum’s interactive Cambrian Diver installation, which allows users to explore a 360-degree ocean in a virtual submersible craft. On the dive visitors can learn more about some of the key animals in the exhibition, and how they existed as part of the very first animal ecosystems.
First Animals runs until 1 September 2020 at the Museum of Natural History alongside a programme of events, talks and workshops. Entry is free.
Read more about the First Animals exhibition
View exhibition events programme