The Hall of Biodiversity presents a vivid portrait of the beauty and abundance of life on Earth, highlighting both biodiversity and the factors that threaten it.
Ecological biodiversity is illustrated by a 2,500-square-foot walk-through diorama that depicts part of the Dzanga-Sangha rain forest, one of Earth’s most diverse ecosystems. Featuring more than 160 species of flora and fauna, the diorama uses video and sound to re-create the ecosystem at dawn, at an elephant clearing, and degraded by human intervention along a road.
The hall’s Spectrum of Life exhibit showcases the diversity of life resulting from 3.5 billion years of evolution. More than 1,500 specimens and models, from microorganisms to terrestrial and aquatic giants, are organized into 28 groups along the 100-foot-long installation.
Underscoring threats to biodiversity, a timeline of the five previous mass extinctions includes examples of species lost. A nearby display case features examples of extinct and threatened species, including the long-extinct Dodo bird and the threatened Siberian tiger. A multi-screen video installation provides a tour of nine ecosystems and explores perils to preservation, and a regularly updated BioBulletin video features the latest in biodiversity research.
The Dodo is a lesson in extinction. Found by Dutch soldiers around 1600 on an island in the Indian Ocean, the Dodo became extinct less than 80 years later because of deforestation, hunting, and destruction of their nests by animals brought to the island by the Dutch.
In the past, natural events caused large-scale transformations of the environment and five global mass extinctions. Now, ecosystems are again undergoing a massive loss of biodiversity. This time, the changes are caused mainly by human activity.
Microscopically small and usually just a single cell, protists are complex, varied organisms that represent more than 30 different phyla (the bulk of eukaryotic diversity on Earth). Some are photosynthetic, some are pathogens, and their modes of locomotion vary.
Tigers are audacious carnivores, bringing down large animals with a flying tackle and forcing their canines into the victim's throat or spine. Researchers now use "camera traps"—cameras linked to a beam-triggering mechanism—to estimate tiger populations.
The Dzanga-Sangha Rain Forest is home to some of the highest concentrations of forest elephants and lowland gorillas in Africa along with many other mammals, birds, plant species, and thousands of insects and microorganisms.
The Spectrum of Life is an evolutionary trip through the amazing diversity of life on Earth. The 1,500 specimens represent a wide range of bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals, from the smallest microorganisms to terrestrial and aquatic giants.