Treasures of life are everywhere


Beauty and wonder can be found all around us. Living organisms have continued to thrive in all environments, be it the deepest seas or the frozen poles, on the highest mountains or in the hottest deserts. Over the last 3.7 billion years, life has evolved and bloomed to inhabit every corner of our planet. This rich diversity across genes, species and habitats, as well as life’s miraculous ability to find a way is one of earth’s true treasures.

Many of the treasures in this gallery reveal how the large variety of shape and guises taken by nature’s diversity is influenced by the environment and the species uncanny ability to adapt to it. Extinct creatures, such as the dodo, demonstrate the threat humanity poses to nature’s treasures, while the discovery of new species hints at nature’s ever evolving variety and ability to survive.

  

Highlights 
Dodo bird model

Dodo model
  
 
The dodo was driven to extinction by the arrival of humans on the island of Mauritius. Although far from unique in this respect, the dodo is now most well-known for this reason. But despite its fame, no full dodo skeletons exist from a single individual. This model shows the dodo with a much thinner, more upright, body shape than was initially thought, and is based on modern interpretations of the bird’s anatomy.

Sabre-toothed cat

Sabre-toothed cat
USA
Pleistocene Period, 12,000 years old
Imagine meeting this killer cat after dark. If you had been living in the Americas up to 12,000 years ago, it is possible you would have done just that. Lion-sized with terrifying teeth, this species ambushed large plant-eating mammals, such as bison, giant ground sloths, camels, horses and possibly young mammoths. Smilodon died out at the end of the last ice age – it is one of the few sabre-toothed cats that would have encountered humans.


Silver chafer beetle, Central America

Silver chafer beetle
 Central America
 
 
This beetle’s highly reflective wing cases confuse predators such as birds, reptiles and monkeys. Instead of a mouthful of food, they think they are simply seeing a giant water droplet, a common sight in the wet cloud forests of Central America. The metallic sheen is a base layer of colour pigment covered by several colourless, thin layers, causing optical interference in much the same way as the thin layer of aluminium on a compact disk.

Giant ground sloth

Giant ground sloth
 Argentina
Pleistocene Period, 12,000 years old
 
For a predator to bring down a giant sloth was a feat of epic proportions. Its hide was thicker than an elephant’s, and adults weighed about 1,500 kilogrammes. These giant mammals grazed on plants and lived in open habitats in the temperate regions of South America until about 12,000 years ago.