Vanished Worlds

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Ending mid-September 2016

This fall, the Museum of the Earth’s temporary exhibit will give visitors a glimpse into the history, art, and science behind one of our nation’s greatest treasures. The Smithsonian permanently transferred several models and dioramas to the Museum of the Earth, including detailed dioramas, prehistoric plant sculptures, and an enormous dinosaur. Visitors will discover the history of each piece and the past life it depicts, what aspects are now considered scientifically inaccurate and why, and the artistic technique used to create each piece.

Ediacaran Life

Ediacaran Life: The Ediacara fossils include some of the oldest known animal fossils. Beyond that, they are poorly understood. At various times they have been considered animals, algae, lichens, fungi, or even a completely separate group with no living relatives. Lived more than 545 million years ago.

Silurian Sea

Silurian Sea: During the Silurian, Earth experienced a steadier climate, an increase in diversity of marine life, and some of the first land plants and animals. Underwater, an amazing variety of plants and animals depended on each other for food and shelter. Lived about 423 million years ago.

Quetzalcoatlus

Quetzalcoatlus: A modern depiction of the pterosaur, a flying reptile with a wingspan the size of some small fighter jets (30-40 feet). Lived about 68 million years ago. Image courtesy of Mark Witton and Darren Naish

Stegosaurus

Stegosaurus: During the Jurassic Period, dinosaurs, including Stegosaurus, roamed a warm world among plants such as ginkgos, conifers, and ferns under insect-filled skies. Stegosaurus was about the size of a small bus, and could have protected itself from predators like Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus by swinging its tail spikes to intimidate, confuse, and injure them. Lived about 148 million years ago. Modern illustration by Linda Bucklin.