Dynamics of Evolution

January 1, 1980 – March 1, 1990

National Museum of Natural History
10th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC

1st Floor, Center, behind escalators (Hall 10) Floor Plan

In this hall is an impressive array of preserved specimens, skeletons, skins, and shells—all from the museum's collections and all examples of the great diversity of life that has come about through evolution.

The process of evolution is explained here, providing a framework for understanding other exhibitions in the museum. A prominent tower of human faces makes it immediately clear that there is a great deal of variation among living organisms. The role of genes and DNA in producing this variation is explained with family photographs of 3 and 4 generations, models of snapdragons, and a short film.

A life-size diorama of an eastern woodland scene convincingly demonstrates the struggle for existence a predators stalk their prey, and plants and animals compete for space and food. In the section on natural selection, 2 male elk in a diorama battle for a watching female, and insects and other animals display the camouflage evolved to protect them from predators or the vivid "warning" colorations that signal harmfulness to predators.

Two polar bears and a brown bear highlight the theme of differentiation, or the evolution of new species. The exhibition closes with the story of the evolution of the modern horse from an animal not much bigger than a house cat.