The Natural History Museum, with its mission to inspire wonder, discovery, and responsibility, recognizes that evolutionary biology is fundamental to understanding biological diversity and is critical for both scientific research and museums. The Museum welcomes people of all beliefs and backgrounds to join us as we explore, through science, the wonders of the natural world.
To see our Evolution Statement in full, click here
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Traces of ancient life. Fossils are remains of animals and plants that have been preserved by natural processes over time. Most fossils capture only the hardest parts of an organism such as its shell or skeleton, although some fossils are formed from animal impressions (footprints) or byproducts (like dung!). The Museum’s collection of fossils is so large that we have four separate departments to administer it.
450 million years of animals with backbones. The Vertebrate Paleontology Department is responsible for one of the largest collections of fossil vertebrates in the country, spanning more than 450 million years of evolution. Among our best specimens are fossil birds, marine vertebrates — from jawless fish to whales, and mammals from American and Mexican cave deposits.
Half a billion years of animals without backbones. Our Department of Invertebrate Paleontology cares for fossil invertebrates. This collection spans more than half a billion years of Earth history, and contains representative specimens of all major invertebrate animals, including sponges, corals, trilobites, ammonites, clams, snails, and brachiopods. Learn more >
Roaming the well-populated Mesozoic. The Dinosaur Institute safeguards and builds through fieldwork, the Museum’s collection of dinosaurs and other four-legged vertebrates that lived during the Mesozoic era when the number and types of species on the planet reached a high point. Our extensive collection reflects this diverse population and includes all major groups of dinosaurs.
Living the L.A. life, 50,000 years ago. The Rancho La Brea Department cares for millions of spe cimens representing more than 600 different species of animals and plants that have been recovered from the La Brea Tar Pits. This collection is particularly rich in carnivorous mammals and birds, and provides an incredibly detailed picture of what life was like in the Los Angeles Basin between 11,000 and 50,000 years ago.