Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life and Land

Free admission

Drawing upon the Museum's internationally acclaimed fossil collections, the exhibition encapsulates the last 65 million years of Earth's history (since the extinction of the dinosaurs), using the Florida Platform as the stage on which this fascinating story is told.

 

Exhibit Highlights

  • Shark Jaw Row
    Enter the exhibit past shark jaws ranging in height from 2-9 feet, including the jaw of the extinct giant — Megalodon — largest shark that ever lived.
  • Before Florida Formed
    The exhibition begins with five extinction events described in dioramas that lead visitors onto the Florida Platform at about 65 million years ago, also known as the Dawn of the Age of Mammals.
  • Walk through Time
    Travel around the exhibit’s central island and witness the fossil history of Florida during the Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs. See Florida's first land animals and an amazing parade of life through the ages. The exhibit ends with the arrival of humans in Florida near the end of the Pleistocene.
  • Fossils and More
    Be visually awed by full skeletal mounts and sculptures in exciting life-like postures, and touch bronze sculptures (one-sixth scale models) of what the animals looked like in life. Each time period includes numerous animals, artwork, video and more.
  • Temporary and Epilogue Galleries
    Enjoy fossil-related temporary displays and learn about Earth’s Sixth Extinction — a modern crisis caused by humans.

 

 

Did you know?

  • More than 90 percent of the exhibit's 500 fossils are real, and many were found within 100 miles of Gainesville.
  • About 3 million years ago (Pliocene), North and South America became connected by a land bridge that allowed animals to move between continents. Armadillos, ground sloths and glyptodonts went north, while bears, camels, horses and dogs went south (among others!).
  • Florida’s geological history spans at least 500 million years.
  • A sea turtle is Florida’s oldest known vertebrate fossil — 100 million years old — from the Age of Dinosaurs (Mesozoic), when ocean covered the state.

 

Related Resources

Charles Knight study painting

Seven study paintings and a self-portrait by renowned paleo-artist Charles R. Knight (1874-1953) are on temporary display in the Florida Fossils exhibit. Knight completed the paintings, on loan from his granddaughter Rhoda Knight Kalt of New York, nearly a century ago as studies for some of his famous large murals. They include many animals that once lived in Florida, and Knight visited the state many times throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. Knight was a master of the depiction of nature and a pioneer in the art of “re-animating” long-extinct and unfamiliar animals. More than any other artist, he has framed our views of life in the distant past. Knight’s murals depicting ancient life grace the halls of America’s greatest natural history museums, including the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Field Museum in Chicago.

 

We thank our sponsors!

This exhibition is made possible by a generous gift from:

  • Reed and Barbara Toomey


Gallery funding provided by:

  • Jon and Beverly Thompson
  • State of Florida


Additional support provided by:

  • AEC Charitable Trust
  • Stephen and Rena Jacobson
  • Cliff and Pat Jeremiah
  • Roger and Anne Portell