Being large, an adaptation for survival
The Museum has just launched a new exhibition module within one of our permanent exhibitions: The Big Animals Platform.
The permanent exhibition «Planet Life» takes us on a journey through the history of life in its first section, ‘Biography of the Earth’, which also shows how the various species and forms of life have evolved. The second section, ‘Earth Today’, is divided into different thematic areas –fossils, animals, plants, fungi, microbes, rocks and minerals– where the Museum’s collections take centre stage and the concepts that explain what we find on Earth today are presented.
In the middle of the ‘Earth Today’ section, a module dedicated to big animals has been opened. It shows how the size of animals is important to their survival.
Being big has certain advantages, such as:
- A long life expectancy.
- Low mortality.
- Few or no natural predators able to kill an adult specimen.
- Slow population growth.
At the same time, however, big animals are more vulnerable to overexploitation by humans.
What can we see in this new module?
- The skeleton of a white rhinoceros, Ceratotherium simum (Burchell, 1817), the largest species of rhinoceros. The northern white rhino used to live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but is almost extinct due to hunting and warfare in the area. The southern rhino lives in South Africa, where there are an estimated 16,000 rhinos in existence.
- A naturalized skin of an African forest elephant, Loxodonta cyclotis (Matschie, 1900), the smaller of the two African species. Currently, their habitats are fragmented and in poor condition.
- A specimen of the leatherback sea turtle, Dermochelys coriacea (Vandelli, 1761), the largest of marine sea turtles. It is highly threatened by pollution, fishing nets, and the urbanization of coastal areas where it lays its eggs. The species is currently on the verge of extinction.
- A specimen of the giant clam, Tridacna gigas (Linnaeus, 1758), the largest bi-valve mollusc. So many are collected (for food, decoration, or aquariums) that their populations have been shrinking rapidly and they are already extinct in many places. One of the clams at greatest danger of extinction.
- A naturalized skin of a Nile crocodile, Crocodylus niloticus (Laurenti, 1768), the largest living reptile after the marine crocodile. Hunting and changes to the river have reduced its area of distribution.