-1 | The history of life

The memories of a lifetime
The fascinating story of life, a complex evolution of forms regulated by dramatic environmental changes, mutating geography and chance. Following the thread of human evolution over the past 5 billion years.

In this gallery, fossil remains accompany us on an incredible journey back in time, from the appearance of the first molecules to the evolution of dinosaurs and mammals following the thread of “our” history - that of a bizarre thinking mammal. The first floor of the exhibition depicts the natural phenomena that led to the formation of the Earth and, just over half a billion years later, to the origin of the first life forms. After the remains of some of the oldest traces of life on Earth, stromatolites, you can meet the mysterious Ediacara life forms, dating back to some 600 million years ago: a different structural organisation that reveals an alternative way of being “animal”.

Following this is the incredible diversity of fauna that comes with the explosion of life in the seas. The bizarre organisms of the Burgess Shale Fauna, an extraordinary evolutionary laboratory over 500 million years old, lead to the discovery of the fabulous forms of arthropods and the first representative of the group of animals to which we ourselves belong, the Chordates. The encounter with the bizarre jawless fish in the Silurian period and with the armoured fish of the successive Devonian period gives us the key to discover a now largely extinct element of biodiversity.
The next chapter in the long evolutionary history belongs to small plants with no leaves or flowers, wingless insects and stocky amphibians. Through getting to know their shapes the visitor retraces the first steps of a new era, that of an Earth that is being populated.

The part devoted to terrestrial reptiles holds one of the largest archives at the European level of fossil footprints of Paleozoic and Mesozoic reptiles and dinosaurs. You can learn to recognise the characteristics of the great reptiles footsteps and admire the imposing life size skeletons. The dinosaurs gallery leads you on a journey which looks at their habits, discoveries which have been made, and in particular traces found in Italy and even in the Dolomites where, until the end of the last century, their discovery had been considered unlikely.
With marine reptiles, you are immersed in the waters of the Triassic. Notosauri, plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs... the seas are full of large and small reptiles with surprising eating habits and lifestyles.

Dinosaurs and marine reptiles accompany you up until the mass extinction of the Cretaceous-Tertiary: a catastrophic event in the history of life. With the extinction of the dinosaurs, the chapter on the evolutionary history of mammals begins. The rapid diversification of this group is narrated by fossils and current specimens that illustrate the evolution of different reproductive, feeding and locomotion strategies.
Man among primates, primates among mammals, mammals as the branch of a single, large, intricate family tree whose roots lie in a remote era, the era of life's history.

Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? Special stories revealed by DNA
The DNA gallery offers the visitor an evocative experience, based on a unifying tale about DNA and all forms of life - including our own.
The first visual experience is the “Tree of Life”, a dynamic nine metre long projection, which reveals the relentless unfolding of the evolutionary trail and the connections between species.

The uniqueness of DNA, its operating mechanisms and evolutionary processes are at the centre of three multimedia audio-visual installations entitled “Where do we come from?”, “What are we?”and  “Where are we going?”.

The stories are enriched with special objects and artefacts different from those seen so far in the museum. How much DNA do we share with other organisms? What do a shell and the human heart have in common? These and many other questions are answered in the DNA gallery.

The Tropical greenhouse: Udzungwa, a Afromontana rainforest
With an area of 600 square metres, the tropical greenhouse recreates a strip of rainforest from the Udzungwa Mountains, a centre of diversity and endemism in Tropical East Africa in Tanzania. Crossing the threshold of the greenhouse, you are greeted by the warm and humid tropics, inviting you into the pristine forests of tropical Africa, where you will find waterfalls and vertical cliffs, swirling waters and lush forest.

The route starts from the Kilombero Valley and continues on to the moist submontane forest, encountering along the way a kaleidoscopic diversity of shapes and colours belonging to unique plants and animals.
Among the many unique plants and exclusive to tropical Africa, you will find the Tabernaemontana genus, with its large white flowers similar to those of jasmines, tree-ferns of the Cyathea genus, the well-known Saintpaulie that have their centre of diversity here, wild bananas and giant bean plants, and a huge vine of the Entada genus.

Once you have reached the plateau on top of the small cliff, you can explore traditional vegetable gardens and villages passing by a small market where you can observe tropical fruits and vegetables. The greenhouse will also house animals, birds such as Livingstone's Turaco (Tauraco livingtonii), and reptiles such as the Three-Horned Chameleon (Trioceros deremensis) and pygmy chameleons (Rampholeon acuminatus and others).
The greenhouse setting will also reflect the issues of global and sustainability, highlighting research projects and international efforts for the protection of forests and the fight against poverty, inviting you to actively support them.

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    Astatotilapia calliptera
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    Coccodrillo del Nilo sul fiume Kilombero
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    Costa del lago Tanganika
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    Camaleonte pigmeo
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    Camaleonte pigmeo
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    Neolamprologus leleupi
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    Riva sabbiosa del fiume Kilombero
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    Serra del Muse
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    Serra del Muse
Large aquariums: Water islands, evolution laboratories
Before entering the greenhouse, you will find a number of large aquariums.
The fish in these aquariums are representative of the fish biodiversity of the Great Lakes and Tanzanian rivers (Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika, Kilombero River) and belong mainly to the large family of cichlids that in the great lakes of the Rift Valley in East Africa have given rise to one of the most spectacular phenomena of speciation in relative isolation (an aquatic version of what happened with the finches of the Galapagos islands, though probably even faster and on a bigger scale).
The exhibits were bred in captivity by professional breeders and are confident, calm and curious, and, mostly, they reproduce easily even in the limited space that hosts them.