National Museum of Natural History
10th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
1st Floor, East Wing, near Dinosaurs Hall Floor Plan
Fantastic marine fossils tell the story of evolution and extinction in the seas in three acts: the Paleozoic Era (540 to 250 million years ago), when odd prehistoric creatures such as trilobites abounded; the Mesozoic Era (250 to 65 million years ago), when marine reptiles such as mososaurs appeared; and the Cenozoic Era (65 million years ago to today), when the numbers and kinds of shelled animals increased, and when the primitive whale took to the seas.
Through sound and lighting, the hall gives the feeling of being underwater in the marine realm. Among the approximately 2,000 fossils on exhibit are the Zygorhiza (early whale) and the ichthyosaur (early swimming reptile). To bring these creatures to life, the exhibition features a series of murals showing the fleshed-out animals these fossils once were and a full-scale diorama of a 250-million-year-old reef made of more than 100,000 models.