Permanent Exhibition » Gallery of Evolution

  • View of the Evolution Gallery - Zicht over de Evolutiegalerij - Vue sur la Galerie de l'Évolution
  • Scene (Evolution - Evolutie)
  • Scene (Evolution - Evolutie)
  • Scholar group visiting the Gallery of Evolution
  • View of the Gallery of Evolution

Gallery of Evolution

In this gallery, you will travel through billions of years of the Earth’s history, stopping off at six key moments in the evolution of life on earth: the Cambrian explosion, the proliferation of aquatic life during the Devonian era, the conquest of land during the Carboniferous period, the swarming seas of the Jurassic era, the appearance of mammals in the Eocene period, and the impact of humans in the present day.

Follow the adventure of life on earth, from the very first forms of primitive life, to giant fish with impressive jaws, giant predatory birds, whales with feet, up to human beings. We even take a little trip into the future!

Remarkable Elements

The Cogs of Evolution
  • Animated films on evolutionary mechanisms
  • Can you copy a fragment of DNA, without making a mistake?

The ‘satellite zone’ is located midway on this journey through the history of life (at the end of the hall, opposite the geode). Here, you can discover the mechanisms of microevolution and the genetics that underlie these changes.

These mechanisms govern evolutionary processes. With the interactive exhibits in this zone, understanding ideas such as DNA, mutation, genetic variation, and speciation becomes child’s play!

Cambrian Marvels
  • Reconstruction of the Cambrian Marrella splendens
  • Model of the Cambrian species Hallucigenia sparsa

With five eyes, 24 feet, rows of spines, or an armour of small plates, these strange fossil creatures discovered in the Burgess Shale in Canada certainly capture the imagination. They lived during the Cambrian period, the first key period in the history of Life.

Our model-maker worked for five months to meticulously recreate of five of these fantastic animals.

Sea Lilies
  • Crinoid Fossil

Surrounded by marine monsters of the Jurassic era – in the gallery, as they were in ancient oceans – these fossil crinoids, also known as sea lilies, are a feast for the eyes.

Crinoids similar to their Jurassic ancestors still cover tropical seabeds today. They were believed to be extinct for a long time – in fact, these modern species were only identified after the discovery of their fossil ancestors!

The Messel Fossils
  • Fossil of Eurohippus messelensis, a primitive horse, found in Messel
  • Palaeochiropteryx sp., a fossilised bat from Messel
  • Eopelobates wagneri, a fossil frog from Messel

The Messel Pit, near Frankfurt in Germany, is an exceptional fossil deposit dating from the Eocene era, 47 million years ago. The Gallery of Evolution displays some of the most beautiful examples, including mammals (like Eurohippus messelensis shown here), insects, fish, frogs, crocodiles, snakes, lizards, tortoises, and birds.

Don’t miss the fossil of Hallensia matthesi, a small primitive horse that is particularly rare: this is the only specimen in the world that is on show to the public!

In the 250 years of the Natural Sciences Hall, you will discover how all of these magnificent fossils were very nearly buried under a landfill.

Magnificent Giants from the Past
  • Dyatrima, a species of giant flightless bird
  • Dunkleosteus marsaisi, a placoderm fish from the Devonian period
  • Dorudon atrox, one of the intermediary species between modern whales and their terrestrial ancestors

Trilobites dozens of centimetres long; dragonflies with 30cm wingspans; marine reptiles whose skull alone measures between 1m and 1.3m, as you can see for yourself in the Gallery of Evolution, dinosaurs are far from being the only giant animals in the history of the Earth.

The Present
  • Belgian Blue cow

Evolution is not limited to the past: species continue to change. Today, however, human beings are having an undeniable impact on life on our planet. Artificial selection, genetic modifications, overfishing, selective hunting, the destruction of ecosystems, and the introduction of exotic species are all human factors that are causing important changes and even the extinction of many species. However, new species are also appearing without human intervention.

In the Gallery of Evolution, discover the metro mosquito, the desert fish, and many other species that have recently appeared due to or completely independently of the influence of humans.

Animals of the Future
  • Propellonectes russeli, the imagined descendent of the Northern Giant Petrel
  • Trichopteryx dixoni, the imagined descendent of the common brushtail possum
  • Corticochaeris gouldi, the imagined descendent of the capybara

50 million years from now will our planet be populated by enormous rodents, or flying myriapods? It’s not very likely, but from time to time, the museum lets its imagination take over!

That is why here in the Gallery of Evolution you will find five futuristic animals: the scientists who ‘created’ them based them on evolutionary models. Evolution repeats itself continuously, so by observing the past, they can try to imagine what life might look like in the distant future.

Go to top