Darwin & Dinosaurs


How do Darwin and Dinosaurs go together?

Darwin and dinosaurs are two parts of a story that forever altered our understanding of the world. Charles Darwin grew up in England in the early 1800s and became fascinated with geology and biology just as major discoveries were taking place, including that the world was millions of years old (not thousands), and that ancient beasts like dinosaurs had existed and gone extinct. Armed with his studies and this knowledge, Darwin boarded HMS Beagle and set out on a five-year-long global quest to learn more.


Did Darwin discover evolution?

Contrary to popular belief, scientists before Darwin had already noticed that species evolve. Darwin simply provided the enduring theory as to how and why: natural selection. Natural selection says that some members of a species have special traits that make them more likely to survive and procreate, thus passing those traits down to the next generation. Meanwhile, average or weak members are less likely to survive, and their mediocre traits eventually thin out or go away completely. Therefore, as a whole, each generation is theoretically a tiny bit better equipped for their environment than the previous one. Over the course of a couple million generations, a dinosaur can become a bird.


So what's in the exhibit?

The exhibit includes full and partial casts of 14 dinosaurs, including a massive quetzalcoatlus, an albertosaurus, and a pteranodon. On the 1st floor, you can touch dinosaur bones, learn about early discoveries, and see examples of how some of yesterday's dinosaurs evolved into today's birds. On the 2nd floor, you'll find several dozen original artifacts representing Charles Darwin’s life, work, and voyage, including a first-edition copy of On the Origin of Species, the book that made him a household name. You'll also be able to watch five short films on evolution (each 10-20 minutes long) and play with interactive technology, including a massive, fast-paced, kid-friendly touchscreen game that helps visitors understand natural selection.


Fun facts:

  • Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809 -- the same day as Abraham Lincoln.
  • Mary Anning discovered some of the world's first dinosaur fossils when she was a kid growing up in England. In 1826, she opened a fossil shop and was the inspiration for the rhyme, "she sells seashells by the seashore."
  • The quetzalcoatlus was the largest flying creature in history. The one in this exhibit was 17 feet tall and had a 34-foot wingspan.
  • The Hungry Birds game on the 2nd floor is on one of the largest touchscreens in the world, at 12'x7'. That's roughly the size of 5,000 iPhones.
  • Darwin never spoke out against religion. Most Christian churches now consider his theories compatible with their beliefs.