By Land then By Sea

Stop by the prehistoric whale exhibit for evidence of one of evolution's biggest surprises: the ancestors of these ocean giants once lived on land! That's why you'll notice our whale skeletons—suspended high above the museum atrium—both have tiny back legs, even though they didn’t use them for walking at this point in their evolution.

At 45 feet long, Basilosaurus was as big as a modern humpback whale, but much slimmer. Remains from the long, slender mammal were thought by early scientists to be from a prehistoric sea serpent. Dorudon more closely resembles a modern toothed whale, with a size and shape like an orca. These two lived at the same time some 38 million years ago, and Basilosaurus probably even ate young Dorudons!

For more on the first whales' amazing evolutionary journey from land to sea, come see them hanging in our five-story atrium!